Gimme used to try to talk me into starting a training session by pestering me with heeling. Also whenever we were learning something new and she was frustrated or confused, she'd dive into heel. So initially I know she had a really good attitude about heel, I just have to work to get it back.
Kathy and Candy have been kind enough to review some videos from the assessment day, and this Thursday and Sunday. Plus both have been good enough to give me loads of feedback and endure my lengthy discussions. So here's what I've learned...
The harshest "correction" I use with her is to take her by the collar and walk her away from something, but in reviewing the video I can see these hands-on interruptions are more intrusive than I thought. She's clearly not afraid of me or my hands, but she also understands this means she's "wrong" and she gets hurt feelings and it shakes her confidence. We need to go back to training on leash until we get through some of these holes - so I don't have reason to put my hands on her to interrupt something. Gimme is also very sensitive to tone of voice - aren't all dogs?
Handling to improve...
I've developed some bad training habits, which need to change. Some aren't necessarily bad, but are wrong for what I need to do, which is to really go back to basics.
- I discovered the picture in my head of what heeling looks like has gotten skewed. I stood Gimme beside me in both heel and side, feeding her lots of treats which increases her reward history for position, and studied the picture of how it looks.
- For the time being we're going back on-leash, so I can keep her from practicing things I don't want.
- I'm using the bait bag again. While I retrain the basics, sometimes I need to rapid-reward. Also treats in pocket and mouth are too clumsy and late, and Gimme jumps up to get them - another bad habit I've let develop.
- I discovered my internal clock is seriously broken. So I searched and found my waist timers. I'll set them for 2.5 minutes to remind me to change to something different, maybe with play or something fun between.
- Vary the rewards - throw treats, treats at my side, play, run away, or "Feed Fred".
- Clearly separate training and testing
- I need to clean up my training...
♥ I must pick one criteria to work on at a time - if someone watching doesn't know which criteria you are rewarding, Gimme will be confused too.
♥ Our “heel” weak areas (she’s better at “side”) are forging, wideness, and lack of duration. I must plan ahead how to get behavior so I can reward it.
♥ Increment everything and don't raise the criteria too much at one time.
♥ Maintain criteria and don't proceed if something isn’t up to par. Its too easy to get focused on stations instead of the space between them. As my assessment video clearly showed, too many problems at stations stem from poor attention/heeling between the behaviors.
♥ If something isn’t working, break off training and reassess sooner rather than later.
"Once is a mistake, twice is a trend, and three is
a lifestyle. Never get to three." ~ Morgan Spector
Things to work on...
We'll really be going back to basics. Gimme used to love heeling, so much so that I always said I'd accidentally done something right. Somehow I've lost that and I need to get it back. So these are the goals I’m focusing on, plus some ideas of how to get there from here:
- We need to transition from every-time perimeter walk to performance mode when she enters the building - its a training hole of my own making.
♥ To start we'll walk perimeter at a distance from stuff, in look-but-don't-touch mode with click/treats for offered attention.
♥ Over time we’ll increase the distance from the distractions, until we can walk into the center of the training area and just spend a few moments looking around.
♥ Finally, I want to get to where she can look and be satisfied from the alcove. She can do this in nosework, so I know we can get there.
- work on “Control Unleashed” style reorienting at doors/gates/etc
- keep heeling, attention/focus number one priority – making sure the space between stations is the fun part...
- practice ring entry, set up and the start of heeling using an alcove inside the door so we have a space to get ready and a ring gate
- practice start routine - walk loose lead to start, "setup", remove leash and drop it, then cue "heel" and go
- finding heel/side game with a thrown treat makes heel/side very exciting
♥ work from every angle (around the clock)
♥ every position relative to me
♥ over time increase difficulty by to making it hard to get into position so she has to push in to get rewarded
- practice a lot of change of sides when heeling
when working courses, focus on the better stations, so they serve as a confidence boosting reward for good attention/heeling
♥ isolate training of needs-work behaviors from heeling
- get "wait" on a verbal (w/o palm flash hand signal)