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Discussion Starter #701
That's so smart, Catherine. Yes, break the behavior down to the atomic level and build it from there. You can't make steel without iron and carbon. Make sure the iron and carbon parts are perfect before combining them into steely solid behavior. I have watched utility break down with directed jumping in three different ways.

1. Go out and hunt a cookie.
2. Mistake the jump cue for a recall. (easy to do if your recall hand signal looks like a jump cue)
3. Taking the wrong jump.

I'm training go out completely separate from directed jumping. Just like I trained finish completely separately from front. Go out and sit is challenging on its own. Run straight between the jumps. Do not jump. Do not run to the judge. Do not run to the ring gate and say hi to the dogs in the other rings. Do not walk. Do not get lost on the way there. We'll do at least a thousand and one repetitions of just go out and sit before I'll ever ask for a jump.

I watched Bridget Carlsen's utility with her NOC dog. That dog shot away from her at full speed and spun around so fast and sat it looked like magic. But, of course, it's not magic. It's breaking the behaviors down, all of them, at the atomic level. Can your dog turn and sit in front? Can your dog turn and sit six inches away from you? If you throw a treat and send the dog to the treat, can the dog turn and sit three feet from you? If the behavior breaks down, back up to the last successful spot and start again.

I train my dog like every step is a ladder rung. If one rung is weak, the whole behavior is going to fall apart. At the same time, there's an art to figuring out how quickly to send the dog up the ladder, so they don't plateau and get stuck. That's why, with the tap light, I moved quickly to sit by the tap light, but don't turn it on. The last thing I want is for Noelle to think the game is run and hunt for a tap light. Still, it was gratifying to see how quickly she understood the game. And it's all games! That's what makes training dogs so much fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #702
I just discovered we can do Trick Dog testing via video clips. So, Noelle and I are working on Trick Dog Advanced. I'm sending videos to my favorite trainer, Liz. Training silly dog tricks has been helpful since I can't go to class and work on Rally and Obedience. Noelle just mastered yanking a tissue out of a box on the cue, Achoo! It's a cute trick and fun to train.

Any evaluator who can do CGC tests can also sign off on trick dog titles. Just something to consider if you're home, and you are home, right?
465847
 

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Discussion Starter #703
This afternoon was beautiful and sunny. After playing ball with Noelle for a while, I put a bag of treats in my pocket and started walking the heel pattern in my yard. I didn't call Noelle, or encourage her in any way. I just changed my posture and started walking. When Noelle showed up in heel position, I marked it, and gave her a treat. Heeling with me was her choice. And she chose to heel with me! It was so much fun.

I think this might be my favorite way to reinforce heeling. The key to the game is heeling is the dog's choice, not your choice. So, the dog is free to run away and chase butterflies. My job is to practice my heeling footwork and keep my mouth shut. When Noelle arrived in heel position and made eye contact, I gave her a treat and kept walking. At first, I just walked a rectangle. Then I added the dreaded about turns. And would you believe Noelle made all of the about turns with me? Outside? With a gazillion other distractions? Wow.

I stopped and she sat. I stopped again and she realized she was too far forward, stepped backward, and then sat in heel. Yes, I almost fainted! We will continue playing choose to heel, only I'll upgrade my snacks from dog treats to chicken. I want Noelle to believe that heeling is the most fun thing we can do together.

I've also started dancing with Noelle. Nothing serious, just a few rally moves in time with music. It's fun, good exercise, and relaxing for me. Heel forward, heel backward, left about turn, heel forward, heel backward, circle right, side step right... That kind of thing. I haven't gotten serious with any choreography, or planned anything. Maybe we can practice a little dance routine over the summer. I'd like that. I think Noelle would, too.
 

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Nice! I'll have to try that with the boys and see what their response is. Neely, now 8, often finds anything besides heeling to be more interesting, but young Hobbes (7.5 months) seems to like to be with me.
 

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Discussion Starter #705
If you play, use your highest value treats. Noelle already knows this game, so I was able to get a response with low value treats. The hardest part of this game is on my end. I always want to encourage Noelle to heel with me, and call her back if she gets out of position, and all that. But, the strongest behaviors in my dog's repertoire are behaviors she herself chooses and finds rewarding. I heel in the most formal posture I can muster, and just work on my footwork. The dog shows up, treat as close to continuously as you can manage. Open bar! Treat every other step. The dog leaves heel position, closed bar. You keep walking nonetheless. If your timing is good, the dog pretty quickly figures out that heel position is where they get paid. If you have supper yummy stuff, especially with a puppy, this game can make heeling very rewarding.

Another way I play this game is I pretend the last thing I want is for Noelle to heel. So, I am playful and fun, and tell her to go away. "Ew, a poodle." "I didn't ask for a poodle." "Can I lose the poodle if I stop? No, she's still here!" That kind of happy rally style prattle, making sure I am clearly being silly. If I am happy, and silly, and playful with Noelle, she buys into the heeling game.

The greatest bonus to this game? Exercise for YOU, which is getting very difficult these days. Pace change, and run often. Let me know if you play. Enjoy.
 

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Click, I like those ideas! I've been able to put together an outdoor training area in my way-back yard. The yard closer to the house is the pee, poop, and no-work zone and the interesting things happen in the other yard.
 

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Discussion Starter #708
Noelle is 16 inches at the withers, which makes her an oversize mini/small standard. Her mouth is where my hand rests while heeling, which makes it easy to pass treats. Here's what you do with a small dog. You need a paint stick and either cheese in a can, Kong stuffing, meat baby food, or liverwurst. Put treat goo on the end of your paint stick. Hold the paint stick in your left hand, across your belly, goo pointing right. Dip the paint stick down for your dog to lick, return the paint stick across your belly with the goo pointing right. To get really accurate heeling, pay attention to your treat delivery. You want your dog's head positioned ears even with your pants seam. So, when your dog is in the exact position you want, bring your stick down along the side of your pants. Practice this motion without your dog, and without treat goo, so you can feel how fluidly to move the paint stick. Dip along your pants leg, treat, return to middle. Then practice this same motion while walking.

The dog should be off leash for this practice anyway, so you don't have to worry about how to hold a leash. Remember, this game relies on the dog making the choice to heel. The dog can't make a choice on a leash. If you want to prime the pump, so to speak, let the dog lick some treat off the stick, and then without any warning, run away with the stick. If your treat was tasty enough, your dog will race after you. Wait, where did you go? How do I get more of that stuff? Oh, all I gotta do is walk next to you and I get yummy stuff? Wow.

Treats are dog money. If I said I would pay you $1.00 to find a ring in my yard, you could find a million more interesting things to do. If I said I would pay you $1,000,000 to find the ring, you'd search every blade of grass. So, high value reward for high value behavior. I consider heeling $1,000,000 behavior and pay my dog accordingly.
 

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Tried some play and heeling with both dogs this afternoon. I'm very hopeful! Hobbes is very happy to stay right with me, and Neely's attention is improving. Neely has always been my "social" dog, wishing to go investigate the judges and stewards, and making me work to keep his attention between exercises. Hobbes is more reserved with new people, so I hope that will work in my favor.

M
 

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Thank you! That was a fun game. I tried this afternoon with Annie in the backyard, and while she couldn't be completely free (I had to call her back if she started thinking of visiting the neighbours, as the yard is not fenced), she had a good time volun-heeling. Annie wasn't particularly great at it, but I suspect now that we have groceries in the house and I can use something more appetizing, that might improve :) Thanks Click!
 

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I love this game of voluntary heeling. Click, you're so smart.
 
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After having a minor meltdown after I tried to trim her face, Peggy was in a mood. So we headed outside for some play heeling. It was such a good way to reset her brain, use up the last of the cheese I'd intended to use while grooming, and remind us both that she is in fact a Very Good Girl.

Thanks for the inspiration, Click! The only thing I did differently was maintain total silence. I sensed Peggy needed this to regain a little calm. She thought it was great fun and even followed me straight inside afterwards, wanting to continue.
 

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Discussion Starter #714
Oh, I didn't invent this training method. Far wiser trainers came up with this one. I just pulled it out of the toolkit and remembered how much fun it was. I hope you get a chance to play this game.
 

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😂 I know. Usually I'd have just let her blow off steam. But it was her choice, and she chose to join the strange human walking silently around the yard. I love seeing her choose calm. And now she's snoozing hard.
 

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I find silence to be very useful. Javelin especially will stare off into space when I stop at first, but then he always redirects to me with a look that says something along the lines of "hey mom what are you doing? Please tell me what to do."

As to places to do things if you don't have a big enough house and/or a fenced in yard you can see if it is possible to use a tennis or basketball court that is fenced and allowed to be used. Go early.
 

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Discussion Starter #719
My rally class reopened today. It was at a different building, but with our favorite trainer, Liz. Noelle was too distracted by being in a new space to do much more than sniff. I decided to ignore the signs for the most part and just did some nice heads up heeling and about turns.

It was funny, because Liz was wearing a mask and Noelle didn't recognize her right away. But, then Liz pulled down her mask and said, "Hi, Noelle."

Noelle exploded with joy. Racing around the ring, leaping on Liz, racing around the ring again. Kissing and hugging Liz, and then going around the ring at full speed again. This was happy zoomies, not stress zoomies. Noelle missed Liz so badly. No wonder she went bananas. I don't think I've seen Noelle that happy in a very long time. Ah well, it wasn't like I was planning on anything different happening. I think Noelle will settle down in the ring in about three weeks or so.

It felt good to be back in the rally ring, though. Yes, it sure did.
 

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My rally class reopened today. It was at a different building, but with our favorite trainer, Liz. Noelle was too distracted by being in a new space to do much more than sniff. I decided to ignore the signs for the most part and just did some nice heads up heeling and about turns.

It was funny, because Liz was wearing a mask and Noelle didn't recognize her right away. But, then Liz pulled down her mask and said, "Hi, Noelle."

Noelle exploded with joy. Racing around the ring, leaping on Liz, racing around the ring again. Kissing and hugging Liz, and then going around the ring at full speed again. This was happy zoomies, not stress zoomies. Noelle missed Liz so badly. No wonder she went bananas. I don't think I've seen Noelle that happy in a very long time. Ah well, it wasn't like I was planning on anything different happening. I think Noelle will settle down in the ring in about three weeks or so.

It felt good to be back in the rally ring, though. Yes, it sure did.
That’s great that you’re back, it must feel good. We’re back too, only for outside right now, but I’ll take it!
 
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