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off-leash heeling

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What is the best correction to use when you are working on off-leash heeling with the dog, and he veers away or starts getting too far ahead? Jes heels perfectly on-leash, and does very well off-leash as well, but will sometimes get ahead of me or veer off for a smell or if he wants to go that way instead of this way. I can get him back immediately with just a verbal correction (a little "ah!" sound I make meaning "wrong"), but he does it repeatedly, so I am thinking a different correction is needed. I tried grabbing his ear briefly or the scruff of his neck, and giving a little tug, like tugging on the leash when teaching on-leash heeling, but I abandonded that very quickly because it was teaching him to shy away from me. I want him to have a solid off-leash heel. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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Attach a short tab to his collar. Work with it on him at the same time the leash is on him at first so he doesn't associate it with a correction. After you have spent a few days reviewing the leash work with the tab on remove the leash and try your off leash work. If he steps out of place you can quickly grab the tab, give the leash type correction and be standing straight again without losing momentum. If you have to correct him more than a couple of times, snap the leash back on and do some more leash work for a few minutes before taking it off again. I always keep my leash in my hand or around my neck when I'm training this until the dog is really solid. That way I have it ready to snap on and off quickly.


By doing this you are in a way tricking the dog into believing you have an invisible leash on him. Or that's how it seems to work anyway. Once he has the idea that he can't ever wander you can remove the tab but keep it in your hand in case you want to snap it back on for a refresher - the same as you did with the leash. If you need to grab him at this point, grabbing the collar should be enough to bring him back, however usually by this time you shouldn't have to grab him. You can always go back a few steps in the training if he starts to wander again.


I also mix my pace up so the dog has no idea what speed I'm going to go next. That and throwing in some unexpected turns and zig zags makes them pay closer attention. With tons of praise for whats right and throwing in a game or two here and there, the whole exercise becomes a game. My dogs almost seem to be laughing when we're training. They seem to love the challenge of trying to figure out what direction we're going next.

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Also, try using a light line. A light line should no be confused with a light leash.


A light line is a very fine cord or nylon line that weighs nothing. It is attached to a 6" long dowel or bar that fits in your hand. The other end of the line is a loop that slips over the dowel. So, if you hold it in your hand, the line goes from dowel under your dogs collar and back up to the dowel.


The line should be short so that as you have your hand at your thigh (just left of heeling position) the line is TIGHT enough so that you can give a quick correction just by shifting your wrist a tiny bit.


The point of this: The dog should not easily be able to see the line. There is no latch or clip on the dogs collar - a weigh that he can surely feel. He thinks he's off leash, but you still have the chance to give a correction.


Once you get consistent (never go in a straight line!) with the light line, you can easily slide the loop off the dowel and the line comes out from his collar and he doesn't even feel it!


These are easy to make yourself and are very, very handy for off leash training. Basically, you can use it all the time and then go into the ring without and he won't even know. (In theory!)



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What a great idea. Thanks so much. I'm going to try both the short tab (at first) and then later the light line (a strong fishingline should work fine). I love these boards. I always get help when I need it. It's one of the best things about the internet for me.

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