Obedience Training(Part 2 of 6) by Doreen Gray
Last time we discussed walking on a loose lead. This time we will work on getting better position on the dog.
To begin with, we cannot stay at this same level, we must continue to improve on the "heeling." We will work on this in a variety of lessons. By now, your dog should be walking next to you as soon as you start out.
It is very important to take your first step with your left foot. This is the closest leg to the dog and he will begin to see this as a "signal." Also, when you start, command the dog to "fuss" (pronounced foose). The reason for this is that "heel" sounds too much like "here" to your dog.
At this time I should explain to you where the correct heel position is; the dog should have the head/shoulder area even with the leg seam of your pants. (It is preferable to keep the shoulder even with the seam).
It will also be helpful to you, if while you practice, you teach the dog what "hurry" and "easy" OR "slow" mean. Do this while you are walking in a straight line. Vary your speed. When you slow down, first tell the dog "easy," slow down considerably. When you say easy, draw it out, saying "eeeeasy," say it softly, pretend you are trying to calm the dog, because that is just the effect that you want.
When you speed up, tell the dog "hurry," then immediately increase your speed to a near jog. When you say hurry, say it in a happy voice and try to excite the dog "up" into position.
The last thing we need to talk about this time is the "halt." When you stop, you need to PLAN it out. The right way to do this is NOT a military type of halt. If you do it this way, your dog will have no warning and you will force the dog to be ahead of you when you stop. This is what we refer to as "forged." This will be your fault entirely.
Ok, you need to do this at a normal walk for now. Start out and decide where you want to stop. As you get close to the spot, tell the dog easy, easy and halt. It really takes THREE steps to give you dog time to figure it out. The first easy you say, should be while you are stepping up with your right foot. So it would be, easy (right foot), easy (left foot), and halt (right foot stops, bring left foot up even with right). You should slow down more with each time you say easy. Help your dog into a "sit" WHILE you stop. Always face forward, DO NOT TURN TOWARD THE DOG TO HELP TUCK THE SIT.
To "tuck" a sit, you will face forward, bend at the knee and reach behind the dog and tuck under the rump. Hold lead up, snugly, so the dog cannot move forward. After a few times the dog should try to beat you to the tuck. When this happens, he’s learning what you want. Decrease your "help" but continue to bend and act as though you are ready to do it if necessary. Shortly you will bend less and less, as the dog responds correctly. As the dog increases his (correct) response, decrease your response until you stop, he sits in unison. TAKE YOUR TIME.
This is called the automatic sit. When you stop, the dog is to automatically sit. DO NOT LET THE DOG UP RIGHT AWAY. Have him gradually sit longer and longer each time, until you reach several minutes. This is a really handy lesson. Just think, you are out for a walk, you meet a friend and stop for a minute to talk, as you stop, your dog automatically sits and WAITS by your side until you tell him to get up. You look like a training pro.
These things will take a lot of practice. You will also need to start out in a quiet place and increase distractions as you progress. DO NOT think the dog will be able to handle distractions right away. This is where you need to help him. Train smart, it is worth it!
Hint: THE MORE YOU PRAISE THE DOG FOR CORRECT RESPONSES, THE BETTER HE WILL DO. DO NOT BE STINGY WITH YOUR PRAISE !!!
Until next time, Happy Heeling!
(Doreen has had Mastiffs for eight years, Rottweilers for ten years and has spent the last six years training. She is licensed by the National Dog Trainers Association and has been teaching for the three years. Several articles on training have been written for the National Dog Trainers Newsletter. Her focus is on CGC, TDI and behavioral work, primarily with Mastiffs. Two of her Rotts are obedience titled).