Monday, October 31, 2011

Titan practices heeling position, October 30

Here is Titan, the super star puppy of Fox Valley Police & Schutzhund Club.  His legs have grown exponentially and this week he looked more like a coyote and less like the fuzzball he was last month.  Eventually he will become a Noble German Shepherd Dog!  Notice the matching blaze orange of Titan and his handler.

First Titan waits patiently while Rich loads the treats.  I learned this from Debbie Zappia.  Place your treats on a chair or table and only carry a few in your hand. The dog learns not to mug the container by covering/protecting it with your hand and marking/rewarding when he moves off the food and waits.  Now, re-loading becomes an activity the dog and handler do together! You take the dog with you, using a leash at first if you need to, and it not only allows the dog to be active but connects you to the dog.  This is different from what I have seen advocated elsewhere, where you race away from the dog.  Never leave your dog behind!

Next, Rich warms up Titan with some "spins". Particularly with the long-backed dogs, I like to warm them up with some exercises like this before we do alot of demanding physical movements.  This is the warm-up to your fitness class, and it also lets you measure whether the dog is in the right frame of mind and ready to work.  Spin to both directions.  Dogs, like people and horses (and probably other animals, as well) have a side preference, so be sure to work the off-side.  I tell handlers to think of the "wax on, wax off" of the Karate Kid.  If you want to spin to the left, sweep your hand across the front of your body from right to left, and vice versa.  The spins move into a front position and also begin to shape the return to heel.

With the front position, the handler continues to take baby steps backwards so that the position is close to the handler and the dog moves his rear end up to his front, instead of rocking back.

And next, Rich works with Titan to shape the proper head position for heeling, adopting the Knut Fuchs method of working with the dog between his legs.  This allows him to shape the head position without having to nag with a leash or worry that the dog is not in correct physical position.

As they begin to move, you an see the beginning of the drive off the rear that results in the extended, flashy forehand movement.

and when Rich moves him to heel position, it looks something like this...