Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Heeling Work

We've been doing obedience work lately, specifically, heeling. I've been taking my dogs to my office building on the weekends (twice now, but planning on weekly), because there is a TON of completely empty space and nobody stopping me from using it! It's great for working heeling! There are pretty much zero distractions, since it's mostly empty hallways, but it's a different place so that in itself is a bit of a distraction.
With Lok, I'm really just doing a tiny bit of heeling interspersed with other things and trying to make it super fun for him! I ruined him for obedience by entering him in a Rally trial two years ago. He got his novice title and never wanted to do obedience again, especially heeling. And now that his sight is completely gone he has that to contend with as well. But I'd really love to get him in the ring again someday--only if he wants to of course--and show the world what a blind dog can do! He can still do all his obedience behaviors with some auditory position markers. For his swing finish, I snap my fingers behind my leg, so he knows how far back to go. For heeling, I pat my leg the whole time so he knows where I am. And for front, I snap my fingers in front of me. I will also cue turns--"turn" for right and "pivot" for left. That's really all the modification he needs and he's been doing great and having fun with it!

Jun has always been good at heeling--a bit forgy, but enthusiastic and she has fun with it! We've been working on left circles. She does not seem to bend well to the left (she has spent most of her insane little life spinning in circles to the right, so not surprising) and while her right circles are beautiful and her left pivots are awesome, she can't keep a bend to the left and when heeling a left circle she is constantly crashing into my legs.

I've gotten a ton of great suggestions to help work on this. Next Monday she is going to see a canine physical therapist who can tell me whether she has any physical issues preventing her from bending left and give us some exercises to strengthen and balance her left side. In the mean time, I've done a couple of things that have worked out really well. First, working large circles and cuing a left spin every few steps. This has really helped to keep her in position and bending left. I've also been treating to the inside and slightly behind her head so she has to bend to reach the treat.

Another thing that has helped is paying more attention to my shoulders. In order to circle properly, she should react to the position of my shoulder and adjust her position accordingly. So when my shoulder moves back for a left turn, she ought to swing her butt back to stay in position. She's known pivots forever, but I wasn't sure if she cued off my shoulder or not. I tested it by sitting her in a heel position and rotating my shoulder forward and back---and she changed her position to stay in alignment! So since she already knew that, I paid a little more attention to my handling and keeping my shoulders square on straight lines while cuing turns with my shoulders. We worked on this last night at the pet supply store--heeling left around a square display shelf as an inside barrier, and I could not believe how well she did! She stayed in position perfectly, no forging, took her cues to turn from my shoulders, and the inside barrier seemed to help her understand to bend around the corners! I am really excited to keep working on this!

We are also still working on Jun's go-out. It's been somewhat slow progress, but progress nonetheless, and as of last night she went to stand with all 4 feet on her mat across my entire house!!! My house is TINY. The farthest away from her I can get is about 10 steps, but this 10 steps took us weeks, so I am excited!! We'll have to start taking this one on the road and working it in the hallways at work. 

Jun's new trick: I am free shaping a limp (or trying at least)! Jun hasn't done much pure free shaping so this is an experiment. Step one: hold up your left paw in a sit position. Check! Step two: hold up your left paw in a stand--started to get this last night! Step one and two are the easy part, but she's already doing better than Lok ever did.

Elo is just learning loose leash walking. I am determined to have one dog that knows this skill!! He is doing great, as usual! We're still working on cue discrimination--I've found he regresses if we skip a week or so. :( Oh well. And we've starting building the foundation for a handstand (just working rear-foot targeting right now)! He may never be able to do any tricks on cue, but that's not gonna stop me from teaching them anyway!


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