Training and Behavior: Eyes on Me
How to train attention heeling for obedience.
M. Christine Zink, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Q: I’m starting to train for novice obedience with my 14-month-old German Shepherd Dog. My instructor mentioned teaching “attention heeling.” What is it and how can I train it?
A: Attention heeling is a type of heeling in which your dog trots at your side with its head up, looking at you the entire time. This type of heeling looks nice in the obedience ring and makes it simple to score high points in rally obedience competition. It’s also useful when you walk by something distracting and would like your dog to completely focus on you.
Start by having your dog sit at your left side. Show it a treat so it looks up at you, then reward it. After a few repetitions, your dog will stare at you, hoping for a snack. At this point, say the word “ready,” then reward with a treat for continuing to look at you after you give the command. If your dog looks away, just ignore it for a moment to let it know this was not correct, then try again. Practice having your dog look at you until it will watch you for up to 30 seconds without looking away, even in the presence of tantalizing temptations, such as other dogs, toys and even food on the ground.
Once your dog is an expert at watching you, say “ready” when it is looking away. If it looks to you, reward. If not, practice attention more before trying to use the word to get its attention. When your dog understands the Ready command, ask it to sit at your side and say “ready.” Then, lean forward and take one big step forward with your left foot. Your dog should move with you, continuing to look at you. If it does, give it a piece of food, making sure it’s still watching you. Then say “OK!” to release your dog, and play with it wildly.
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