Heelwork

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Heelwork is a great foundation for agility.  The dog learns to face in the direction the handler is facing and learns to go forward with the handler.  It also teaches the dog some self control and is a great exercise for focus.  When doing rally, good heelwork is the cornerstone of many of the exercises since you mostly need to move from one station to another with the dog at heel in order to complete each of the exercises. 

Jilly has done very little in the way of formal heelwork and the first thing I've taught her is how to get into the right position.  This should be on my left side facing forwards and her attention should be focused on me.  I'm using treats to encourage her to get into the right position and to reward her when she gets it right.  To start with the treats are both a lure and a reward. 

 

 

Here's some little video clips of Jilly starting her first formal heelwork.

 

In the video you can see how slowly I'm taking it.  I want to set Jilly up for as much success as possible and marching off down the length of the garden isn't an option.  Here she's just learning the right position and then taking a step or two forward. Each time she gets it right she gets a bit of turkey! 

This is enough for Jilly to think about.  Later on we did a little bit more heelwork and in the video below you can see how much progress she's made already. 

 

  As you can see, Jilly had begun to understand what she needed to do by the second little training session.  She was able to walk a two or three paces in the right position and each time she was rewarded.  She didn't get any reward for jumping up or turning away and so it's much better for to get it right if she can and then she gets the turkey.

When she fully understands walking in a straight line to heel we can introduce some turns. 


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At nine months old Jilly understands the heel position much better but she is distracted when we're outside the garden.  She needs to learn to change pace and to run beside me without jumping up.  One way puppies are taught as a foundation for agility is to work in circles.  First the dog runs on the outside of the handler and then on the inside.  We need more practice at this but Jilly is coming along.  By the time she starts her agility classes she should have a fairly good understanding of what's required.

 

 

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