We've been training quite a bit lately, even though I haven't posted for a few days. We have been really focusing on our heeling this past week. One of my friends at the club has been helping me a lot by watching us and drawing some things to my attention that I didn't realize I was doing - or not doing. I'm coming to the realization that when Jackson sometimes lags or goes wide it's likely because he doesn't know what I'm going to do next! I've really tried to pay closer attention to making my movements smoother - and more predictable. I tend to be 'jerky' and too abrupt sometimes and am failing to give him the cues he needs to anticipate my next move. Among other things, I'm not consistent with how I do the 'halt' or how I change pace. So, this past week I've been practicing how I move and I'm really trying to be consistent. In addition to concentrating on my movements, I'm keeping him close and not letting him lag or go wide. We now have zero tolerance for lagging : ) Not surprisingly, I've really started noticing a substantial improvement in our heeling.
To practice we do short intervals of forward, right turn or about turn - then break it off and set up again and continue doing short heeling segments with lots of praise and rewards when he stays in heel position. This exercise is focusing on him staying close and driving out of the turns. It was pointed out that I tend to slow down after I turn, which in turn slows him down instead of him driving to keep in heel position as he turns.
To work on smoothing out my walking, we set up three pylons in a row across the ring and my job is to keep my eyes on the pylon I'm approaching and walk straight and at a smooth, even pace as we weave in and around the pylons. It's hard sometimes to keep looking straight ahead instead of turning to keep an eye on where he is. I just need to be more confident that he is with me.
It's really all about the heeling basics, which I think we tend to think we're doing okay with, until someone points out to us all the miscues - uneven pace, shoulder position, head turns, etc. - we are giving our dogs without knowing, and they really do pick up on the slightest movements. Tomorrow I'm going shopping to try to find a metronome to help me keep my pace smooth and even! Hmmmmm, I wonder where you buy metronomes?