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Stop Forging in Heel through Reward Placement!

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

When I first jumped into the world of obedience I of course had no idea all that I didn't know. Training heelwork was super fun. I knew that focus was important (thank goodnes for that!!), but it turns out I had no idea where heel position actually was. And The Corgi decided that the best place to be was in front of me. Remarkably he wasn't all that "wrapped" in front, just way, way ahead, and looking back over his shoulder happily to encourage me to come along. And by the time I learned where he was actually supposed to be, he had a huge history of being there. Plus his natural temperament clearly leant himself to loving that position! I experimented with so many things to help get him back. Lots of left pivots in place to get him thinking about backing up. (most effective!) Actually cuing him to backup around me in a fun backward circle. Stopping my forward motion and backing away from him so he had to come back to start again. (least effective!) But throughout all I was primarily focused on feeding in "perfect position." Hand straight down at my side so that if he wanted to eat he had to backup just slightly to get it. And it worked, somewhat. I was successfully able to take him from rear feet being aligned with my feet(!) to more of his ribcage in line with my feet. Down to a minor forging level. In a trial, the huge forging would sometimes come back as Lance was the ultimate show dog. He lived for the audience! (And oh man, if he was "creative" and the audience laughed at some ridiculous thing he did like tossing the glove in the air and catching it, then he would be SO proud of himself.) Everyone loved to watch The Corgi. What finally helped get his forging under control, most of the time, in trials was to change where I actually delivered the reward. Reward placement is HUGE. Screw feeding in perfect position. Feed in an exaggerated position that counteracts the error your dog is making!! And it worked. I was successfully able to take Lance's now minor to moderate forging and get it to the point where we frequently lost zero points in heeling. Well, at least most of the time! Handling Forging In case of forging? You want to feed way, way back. So far back that you want behind your butt. Or even have the dog duck behind you to eat it on your right side! Forge and wrapped? Deliver the reward still on the outside of hteir head, or have them do a left spin to come back behind you to pull their butt in. Remember, everything the dog does between the marker cue to actually putting the food/toy in their mouth will effect the behavior you're training. Here is an example video of how you can feed way behind your back with the treat still on the outside of the dog's head to pull their butt way bheind you. Great for dogs who forge and crab!! Lance is now quite old and has a hard time backing up here so i switch to Zumi in the 2nd half:

Here is an example of having the dog fully pop over to my right side to get the reward. Loot does a left spin before coming over as he is prone to crabbing out and this puls his butt in. He's still very new to heeling and to this marker cue so my hand helps spin him out:

Backing into Heel

One skill I want to teach all my dogs is how to first resist moving to the reward held in my right hand. (That's all that "zen hand" work I mention in every class!). But I also want to teach them how to get back into heel automatically if they are tempted to come forward, or if I screw up and feed them there! The more backing thoughts they have, the more it will translate into the heeling itself to stay back. I purposefully feed in front of my body (only for this exercise!) and then encourage the dog to backup/pivot into heel again. Use a flat front foot target to get them started, or a rear foot target behind you!!!

Same thing, but now with a rear foot target to help him:

It's not as simple as click and treat your dog. Not even as simple as feed in perfect position! Look at the dog in front of you and note what errors they are prone to making. Then try and deliver the reward in a way that exaggerates the opposite!

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