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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Learning to Heel ... Finally!

Another beautiful picture of Treasure from the sheltie picnic! 

It's been a year since taking Treasure through obedience classes.  I had started teaching her to heel then, but it just wasn't happening the way I had hoped.  I wanted her to learn to lean into my leg, so she could feel it moving and know which direction to come with me.  Treasure tends to want to walk slightly away from my leg, and she cues very well with a slight jiggle of the leash, but keeping her in heel position with a loose leash is tricky because she can't see to reference where she needs to be in relation to my leg.  I've been wanting to try using a solid leash to give her more feedback as to my position, speed, etc. 

Well, today I finally made a solid leash ... I know, I know, what took me so long?!  I let her sniff it before putting it on her, just to let her know what this new thing was.  It worked like a charm!  Of course, she had already learned to walk in the direction that she feels very light collar pressure, either from a leash, or from my hand lightly guiding her by the collar.  This made the transition to the solid leash very smooth.

We walked short distances, after which I stopped to give her a treat and a pet.  I kept a very light contact between Treasure's collar and the solid leash.  It was nice to be able to stand up straight and walk in a normal manner, but I was still able to guide her on her level through the leash snap.  An about turn went well, but slowly.  As she gains confidence, I'm sure her speed will return.  She walks much faster with the solid leash on a straight path than she does with a regular leash.  I think this is because she is getting more information from the contact on the solid leash, so she feels more confident stepping out. 

When I touch her collar, she will scoot forward very quickly, knowing that she can trust me not to run her into anything. When she walks on her own, she goes much slower to avoid smacking her nose on things.  So it makes sense that having a light contact on the leash gives her that same confidence.  

I also introduced her to a collar cue for sit, as in sitting when I halt.  I moved the solid leash at a slight angle and at the same time lifted very lightly under her chin.  I gave the cue immediately before giving her the sit cue she already knows of touching her rear end.  By the third time, she sat with only the collar cue before I could touch her.  Good girl!  Of course, she is a very smart girl and she does love those treats!! 

In other training, we are working again on stays ... sort of got lazy working on those.  She will now roll over, but she prefers going to her right side.  She will roll the other way, too, but only after she first rolls to the right.  She is learning to sit up and beg.  When we first tried it, she was very off balance, but now she is starting to balance for short periods of time.  We continue to work on shaking hands.  Sometimes she will lift a paw, but not consistently. 

We continue to work on K9 nosework.  She did a demo and amazed everyone at the sheltie picnic last weekend!  I am pairing odor with her hides now.  The first couple we did with odor, she definitely realized something was different and took a few extra seconds to sniff the odor before eating her treats.  Our official nosework training kit came yesterday, so ... happy scenting! 

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