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Discussion Starter #21
We've been practicing. Noelle can do the three minute sit and five minute down in my house, so hopefully that will go better in class. Her finish is better and she gets the idea of, "Get in there," and scooting over. We worked on a kick back stand. That was fun. I found a video on YouTube of a woman working with a smaller dog. She gave some great ideas on how to help Noelle get the idea of standing without walking forward.


I will have to figure out some kind of a small platform for sits. But, we're still having fun together.
 

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Discussion Starter #22
Back from another class. Long sit and long down she nailed those this week, even with someone walking around the ring. She did that perfectly. Recalls went well. Stand for exam is improving.

Noelle gave good eye contact and focus for heeling, and then lost her focus, and I got it back, and lost it, and... Figure eight was the worst this week because I couldn't keep her attention. She was either interested in the other dogs or bouncing to get the cookie in my hand.

What I see when we are heeling around the ring in class is this. Teacher says: Forward.
Noelle looks at me, I look at her, and we start off heeling together, Noelle's eyes are locked on and her head is up and we are in sync. We are rocking this thing.

Five steps, ten steps, twelve steps, and Noelle looks around, starts to pull ahead of me, or sniff the floor, or wants to flirt with the dog ahead of her.

Teacher says, About turn

Crap, I don't know where Noelle's brain is and we're supposed to do an about turn, and Noelle is sniffing the floor, and the other students are heading toward us, darn it, we're in the way, get it together! Cajole Noelle into a sloppy about turn, but at least we are walking together. Okay, her head is up and we're back heeling again.

Repeat this for several minutes. Noelle is either heeling with magnificent focus, or she's off on her own agenda. No middle ground with Noelle. She gives me 100% or zero. So my questions for this week's practice are...

1. How do I help Noelle lengthen her attention span? It seems like this is the number one issue for her. She can only pay attention for so long before her focus breaks down. This is especially true in the beginning of class when we are heeling around the ring in a group.

2. Practicing figure eights in the house. Ideas for poles?

Noelle is a delightful dog with an eager desire to please. When Noelle knows what I want, she gives it with all her heart and spirit. The problem is I have no idea what I am doing with this competition style training. It's very different than service dog work. We have a long way to go, but we're on our way. The trainer told me today she thinks I should work toward competing. Made me happy.
 

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Attentive heeling seems like it should be the easiest thing to teach, but it is the hardest and at the same time the most important skill an obedience ring dog can develop. Here is what you need to do. I am guessing the teams do the heeling going around the edge of the ring, if not you will have to look for a little variation on where to go. If you think Noelle can reliably do five steps of attentive heeling then ask for four and tell her yes and give a treat while she has her head up at heel. Since you won't want to be in the way of other teams step out of the line that is going around towards the middle of the ring. Only praise and reward for good heads up heel. Little bit by little bit you will be able to take 6, 10 and 20 steps. Any time she looks away give your correction word (uh oh, oops, whatever) and stop. Do some static attention work before you move again. There isn't much way to teach nice heeling other than by doing it and helping the dog to understand that looking away ends the game. As she gets better you can also move your cookie up higher along the side of your body and since she is a bigger mini you should eventually be able to hold a long strip of string cheese or something similar (shredded chicken of sliced strips of hot dog) hanging out of the corner of the left side of your mouth. As you work to fade the food target you can put it inside your mouth and either spit bits to her or hand them to her from your mouth letting her see it is coming from your face as she maintains eye contact to your face. I often have my novice folks heel across the ring in lines with lots of releases when getting to the gate to help develop drive and a sense of heeling as fun. After a couple of straight across the ring normals with gate parties then I add in pace changes, about turns and halts.

If you get to the facility with time before class starts then warm up her attention with the five cookie exercise I have described in Javelin's training thread. Both Lily and Javelin know it well and once the dog understands that game you can increase the duration of attention by increasing the intervals between the cookies. You can add the ability to ignore distractions by having a person come in and stand near the dog. Explain to the person that you are going to use their moving away as the reward for maintaining attention. Have them stand quietly without moving or talking until Noelle has maintained her focus for three seconds. Tell her yes and give a treat while she still is giving the attention. Then add duration to the person's presence and Noelle's attention. Eventually you can have the person move their hands over her head. She can give an eye flick to that, but then has to keep attention before the person stops moving their hands then backs away. If you don't get there early enough to warm up her attention before class starts stay outside the ring for a couple of minutes to warm her up before you jump into the heel pattern.

I have traffic cones (medium size ones from Lowes) that I use for practicing figure eights and some of the rally signs at home, but you could use two chairs as well. Remember that in a trial the figure eight posts will always be people without dogs, so practice with people sometimes too. A dog that can maintain attention for a figure eight with a person they know as a post is telling you they really understand the exercise. Lily and Javelin routinely do figure eights with my mom and good friends who they know well. They never look at any of those people or their dogs, but it took lots of practice to get there.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
I've seen dogs heeling where they are glued to their handler's leg. If the handler moves in any direction, the dog moves with them like they are magnetized. I want Noelle to heel like that. She can, and does, in 15 or 20 step bursts, but the consistency is not there. I want it though, so we will work on it.

We did get massive praise from the trainer during our slow heel. Noelle was locked on me like a laser beam and we crept along super slow with the leash completely slack. The trainer ran over to us and said, WOW. So, that was cool. Noelle knows heads up heeling and can do it, and enjoys it, especially the speed changes, but she loses focus and I need to know how to get it back quickly.

It was only our third novice class. I really can't be too hard on myself, considering Noelle flunked three CGC classes because she couldn't pay attention. And we've worked on service dog manners for the past year. Obedience trial training is so much more precise than service dog work, but the duration of a trial event is way shorter than, say, going to the mall. Noelle can learn to do this, assuming that I can learn to do this. I am far more concerned with handler error and skills than I am with Noelle. If I know what I am doing, Noelle follows my lead. I need to build handler skills and those will come with practice.

The club opens on Mondays at two pm for practice. I think I'll go in early Monday afternoons. My kid works about 10 minutes from the club, and my kid is visually impaired, so she doesn't drive. My daughter often works until 4 on Monday. If I took Noelle to the club for some training, and then went to pick my kid up at work, went home, ate dinner, and returned to class, that would work well.

Oh, and when you do a figure eight, do you start out moving with your dog doing a left turn, or a right turn? Is there an insider secret handshake I should know?

Thanks for coming with me on this journey, Lily. I could not do this without your guidance.
 

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Most of the mistakes dogs make are because the handler has made a mistake, either giving a sloppy cue or thinking the dog understands the exercise when they don't really get it. Noelle has a good vision of what heeling is, but if she isn't consistent then she doesn't totally understand it yet. It took a year of doing those baby steps to get Javelin to be a great straight line, no pace changes or formal halts heeler. By having invested that time now teaching him pace changes, halt sits and turns is going well and with another 6 months I think he will be one of those no points off types of dogs on heeling. Later (have to go to work soon) I will give you some pointers about your handling cues.

In the meantime as to the figure 8 I virtually always start to the left (dog on the inside) with both Lily and Javelin but if I think their work on it is goofy I will throw them the surprise of going to the right. I know great handlers who use both ways with their dogs so it really doesn't matter which you do. I like having the dog on the inside first so that they have to keep it under control. You can also do things like odd pace changes go super slow on the dog outside leg where normally they need to hurry up, fast with dog on the inside where normally they go slowly, about turns in the middle, go around one post two or three times. We call that crazy eights at my club. If someone tells me they want to do crazy eights I call a regular pattern while they do what they want and the dog has to pay attention to their handler while ignoring me as the "judge."
 

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A little humor for working so hard.................:D
 

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Molly those cartoons are very funny and it is very appropriate to remind that obedience should not be too too serious and gloomy.

Here are some thoughts on handler errors in heeling. Once the dog is starting to know where heel is, stop looking for them to be there. If you look towards your left shoulder or behind it to see where the dog is the dog will be lagging. Keep your shoulders square over your hips. If you lean your shoulders you will cause forging (left shoulder forward of your hips) or lagging (left shoulder behind your hips). Keep your pace consistent on your normal, don't adjust to the dog. For pace changes go as slow or as fast as is comfortable for you. Make the pace changes clear to see for the judge, don't worry if the dog doesn't change its gait as long as it stays at heel. If your fast isn't super fast and your dog is big the dog may not really change its pace to stay with you. The judge watches you and that the dog stays at heel, they don't judge the dog's gait. Give body language cues for pace changes, turns and halts. It would be hard to explain these now. I will try to get video for you on this.
 

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Discussion Starter #28
Molly, those gave me the giggles. And I needed those.

Okay, I will think about those body language cues. I think another thing I need to work on is rewarding Noelle when she's doing it right, and telling her "No, watch me," when she looks away. Because I did that yesterday and she was able to stay with me much better.

I would love to see footwork videos and body language videos, because I need to practice moving. Like I said, this is all very new to me. We're on our way, though and that makes me happy.
 

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I think all of us neophytes go through months of doing all the wrong body positions, especially when we have a smaller dog - bending over sideways to get our treat dispensing hand near their nose, turning our head back to look at the dog etc. Every class the trainer tells us not to look at our dogs - and the figure eight always makes people turn their head back and the trainer warning us not to as it causes dogs to lag.

That body language can be so subtle and yet so critical. I tell people our training is like competition ball room dancing - the communication is so critical and the movements can be so small. It took me a long time when signalling Babykins to come sit in heel position, I used to swing my arm out naturally when I called her to heel - I've finally realized that I have to keep it touching my leg so she comes in very close.

One of my trainers says that dogs are naturally right or left handed - the other trainers don't agree - so I don't know who is right - but this trainer felt that each dog had a preference of which side is better for them to start the figure eight. We always start to the right - where she is on my outside. But like Catherine we do all kinds of things with figure 8 and serpentine shapes to break up the monotony and patterning of the figure 8 so the dog learns to heel - and not just perform a figure 8.

I find heeling is the most difficult and we struggle with it too. Sometimes everything is perfect and it just feels so good and then it's just a mess. And while I love watching dogs that can twist their head up and look at their handler with adoration - it's a lot easier for taller dogs - heeling is about the dog following your movements and keeping in heel position - they don't have to have their head cranked up - they could be focused on your leg, or your hand resting on your stomach etc. And they are watching your head, shoulders, etc.
 

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Click-N-treat you are right that you have to tell Noelle when she is right so she comes to understand heeling fully and deeply. As some of you may have noticed I often rail against people who say their twelve week old puppy heels perfectly. I have never seen a puppy that had a clue about heeling, although plenty of puppies do learn quickly to give a loose leash walk. Try that five cookie game for attention and you will have less corrections to give and her responses will be snappier.

Skylar you are very correct that heads up heeling is much easier for those of us who have taller dogs. It is very difficult for a small dog to maintain that heads up position. Small dogs can instead be taught to watch the handler's left knee for cues. If you need to have a treat on the dog's nose it might work to use a long handled wooden spoon with the treat stuck on the spoon blade. Your analogy to ball room dancing is very spot on. It is a dance and your dog is your partner who hopefully learns to be very attuned to you as the leading partner.
 

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Discussion Starter #31
I started training Noelle heads up heeling from the start with a long spoon on a stick and peanut butter. It saved my back. No, puppies can't heel perfectly. Heeling perfectly is a really hard skill. I don't want to have Noelle wrap her head around my leg to see my face. And I don't want her to lag behind. Body language is important. So is footwork.

I feel like I'm all over the place in class. There are some other trainers who are way more advanced and have zero patience for me and Noelle. I got a very strong, "What are you doing here with us?" vibe from two other handlers in class.

Yes, it's awesome that your dog got a 198 on her second leg last week. That's something to be proud of. But, eye rolling and sneering at me isn't helping. It's making me a little paranoid and giving me a HURRY UP AND TRAIN NOELLE NOW feeling. And a, "You're not good enough," feeling too.

I'll have to figure out how to avoid them and focus on my own dog. "Don't try to win over the haters, you are not the jackass whisperer." Good advice, but hard when people are glaring at you in class.
 

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Wow I am sorry there are some snooty types there. I have two friends who have OTChs (one of them has several and another has one on a Pomeranian, so both very accomplished trainers). The one with the Pom is my private lesson instructor and who I took Lily to to fix her utility routine. The one with the several OTChs (goldens) is found by some people to be snobby but I find her to be generous in trying to help people fix things and I have learned a lot from her while she trains in my open and utility classes. Hopefully you can figure out how to tune out their bad vibe and focus on the encouragement of the instructor.

I know you understand what I mean about heeling vs. loose leash, but I think a lot of people don't. It is hard sometimes to get people who are happy with loose leash to understand that they don't have heeling when they think they do (thinking about some beginner and novice teams who have trained with me at my club). And yes for Noelle her focus point should probably be your knee or your hip because to give heads up with your face as a focal point she would end up wrapping in front of your left leg. That isn't what judges want to see and can result in lost points because you end up bumping each other (especially on left turns).
 

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I have found with all my classes, that the first few sessions you feel like an outsider - especially since there will be a core of people who know each other. Eventually you will be welcomed into the club and most people will be friendly. There will always be a few highly competitive people who are snooty - I just ignore them.

At one club I just started a new session and two handlers showed up with golden retrievers pulling strongly ahead of them on the leashes and both women using two hands to try and control them. I groaned inside because I have seen one of the women - she's ahead of us in agility and her dogs are all over the place. I actually chose a different agility class to get away from one of her unruly dogs. Turns out the second person is the breeder who bred all the dogs that they both own. Groan - these dogs are wild. Shockingly it turns out both had older dogs that had some limited success in AKC rally. The trainer spent a long time with these two and it changed the dynamics of the class. At first I was a little upset, but then I realized it's good distraction training for my dog. While these dogs couldn't do the long sit or stay, I was thrilled my dog remained in place the whole time. She was distracted with heeling at times with these new dogs - but in a competition there will be all kinds of dogs and people waiting around the ring so she needs to learn to deal with it. I do understand how the other people feel - you have disrupted the flow. However I know that Noelle is a well behaved poodle and you will soon be completely up to speed in class and the other members will be happy that you joined the class.
 

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Discussion Starter #34
You're right of course. It is a drop in class and people of different levels are always going to be dropping in. Noelle has made good progress in the three weeks we've been there. The ring noodling has been cut by 80%. She made it through the long down and the long sit without getting up. We're not going to stop coming. And once I am better at understanding the flow of the class, I am sure I'll have an easier time of it.

There are no dogs in my class like those two goldens. That would be frustrating. I think I'll make an effort to stay far away from the snooty ladies. Hopefully their dogs will move on to Open class soon. The rest of the dogs in my class are around Noelle's level. Great at some skills, ok at others, struggling with some. What's interesting is seeing what the different dogs find hard.

Two dogs have a really hard time with recall. They stay when they should come. Noelle is off leash on recall and not a problem, no matter what is going on in the ring. When other dogs break stays, she stays put. Noelle is in the right class and learning the right stuff. The snooty people will have to deal with it, but... I will make an effort to keep out of their way.
 

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I got a very strong, "What are you doing here with us?" vibe from two other handlers in class.

And a, "You're not good enough," feeling too.

I'll have to figure out how to avoid them and focus on my own dog. "Don't try to win over the haters, you are not the jackass whisperer." Good advice, but hard when people are glaring at you in class.
Oh, do I ever know what you're talking about! My first AKC class with Maizie was like that, not with my classmates who were all outsider beginners too LOL, but with the more advanced people on the premises. My first barn hunt was like that, too--no one talked to us. The rally class I'm taking with Frosty was also like that...come to think of it, ALL of my classes have started like that! It's very stressful at first, but like Skylar said, they will accept you with time. It's so silly that adults can be that way, but it's the way it is in the dog world (and certainly the horse world, and probably lots of other things). Just focus on your girl while the insecure people calm down and accept you into their pack.
 

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Discussion Starter #36
Heeling is not loose leash walking, not at all. I taught her heads up, look at my face because she's not really that tiny. Noelle is 19 inches at the withers. I reward from my left hand, not my mouth because I saw she was going ahead and not staying at my side.

Heeling is a peppy upbeat game we play. Her head's up, turned toward me, and we walk together like we're in a ball room dance. It is wonderfully synchronized, and then it isn't, and then it is, and then it isn't.

Heeling, for Noelle, seems to feel... optional. Oh we're heeling, this is great fun, and I'm done now, let me snoop on the floor. Oh, we're heeling again. Cool. And we're getting close to that doberman and, oh, got a sniff. Wait, we're heeling again.

I am very good at praising my dog. I am very good at letting her know when she got it right. I am super good at rewarding and I have great timing. Do you see what is missing?
Correction. I keep forgetting about correction. Duh!

No, heel.

I started using that this week. The second she turned her head, No, heel! And she turned her head back up. Walk two steps, reward. Wow, that made a huge difference. Her attention flickered instead of disappearing all together.

Now I'm turning my attention to duration, because she knows how to head's up heel next to me. It's that she thinks these things are voluntary and the duration is up to her. No, these things are mandatory, and the duration is up to me.

We're making progress, though. I can't imagine what she'll be able to do in six months or a year. Wow this is fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #37
Thank's Zooey's Mom. I needed to hear that. Yes, we will keep coming and keep improving and once I have a better sense of what I am doing, I'm sure the snooty people will calm down. Or move on to Open class. Ha!
 

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Discussion Starter #38
Figure eight footwork discovery! Last night, I started practicing turns with Noelle and realized she has a whole lot easier time moving in heel if we start out walking straight, or if we make a right turn. When I turn left, I turn into the dog. So, we practiced taking diagonal steps to the right in heel last night. Heel, slight right step. We made a full figure eight with no problem. She has a difficult time following my lead if we start out moving to the left. I'll train moving to the left, of course, but for figure eights, we start out moving right.

Also, laundry hampers make good posts. Ha!
 

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Sounds like you are starting to figure out how to work with Noelle in a way that she understands the most, Click!

I've only taken a beginner puppy class with Shae and I started a couple weeks after a few people in the class. Shae was a mess - all over the place mentally, just wanting to see the other dogs. No one ever really gave me dirty looks, but it felt like there was a bit of judgement - "the lady with the crazy puppy". I did my best to stay in the back corner of the training arena - that helped Shae with less distractions, but then I didn't feel so guilty like I was being a distraction when Shae was acting up. I did a drop in class with the same trainer working on some beginner agility stuff and I felt like an alien/outsider. The other two dogs in the class were only a month older than Shae, but were calm, off leash reliable working on the agility items on command. The trainer didn't play favourites, but obviously she was more familiar with the other two people since they had been working together longer.

Don't take the snobbishness to heart. Set your own expectations on what you want to accomplish in the class and take away from it and be satisfied with that. Don't worry about what other people think - just do your thing.

When Shae and I went to class, a lot of times my objectives were very simple (like walking 10 steps on a loose leash, sitting for 5 secs when I take a step backward, etc) and most other people would have been like are you crazy, that's all you want her to do. But class was really difficult for Shae - it was distracting and new and there were lots of people and dogs, lots of excited people praising their puppies. Halfway through our set of classes, I really adjusted my expectations and usually when I expected the least I was more relaxed and Shae performed the best.

Any little thing learned and improved is a step in the right direction! Don't worry about being perfect, just do your best and enjoy the experience. Noelle will get there when you are both ready! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #40
Thank you for your kindness, Gal, I really needed that. Noelle was exactly like Shea. We took three CGC classes and I heard, "She has a lot of puppy in her." During the last one, Noelle was 18 months old and still too silly for class. Noelle is maturing much more slowly than my husky mix did. Husky mix had her CGC at nine months. Noelle got her CGC at 20 months.

What I've noticed about my poodle is she is a whole lot like a gifted child. Gifted kids are super far ahead in some areas and lag behind in others. A seven-year-old gifted child can read like a 7th grader, carry on a conversation like an 8th grader, comprehend tons of information really fast. But, they have the emotional maturity of a five-year-old. Remembering that my poodle learns like a gifted child helps me a lot.

Many gifted children and poodles are...

Emotionally sensitive. Aware of things other people miss. Have lots of energy. Super curious. Learn rapidly. Mature slowly.

Knowing this about Noelle is helping me figure out how to train her. Both of our dogs will get where they need to go if we're patient and kind.
 
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