Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Heel Backward

We usually think of heeling with your dog as a forward movement, but once your dog understands heel position, you can teach her to heel backwards, too.

How to teach heel backwards:

1. Start next to a fence or wall, with your dog between you and the barrier. This will help guide your dog to take straight steps.

2. Show your dog a treat in your left hand then heel forward several steps. While in motion, suddenly bend forward and hold the treat below your dog's chin so her chin tucks toward her chest. Let her nibble the treat.

3. Without halting, shift into reverse and take one or two small steps backward, pushing the treat toward your dog's chest to encourage her to move with you. When she moves any paw backwards, say, "Yes!" Let her eat the treat.

4. Repeat several time, until she gets the idea of stepping backward to get the treat. When she's easily taking one step, urge her backward until she moves another paw, then "Yes!" and another treat. Add a left hand signal, gesturing a back-up waving motion, and a verbal cue, "Back up," while making the hand gesture.

5. Phase out the treat; instead, tuck it between your thumb and forefinger, and release it to your dog when she steps back. Switch to signaling without a treat, still rewarding with one when she steps back. Gradually decrease the amount you bend forward when cueing, eventually not bending at all.

6. Increase to three backward steps or more. Gradually move farther from the wall until your dog does not need it to move straight.

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