Before introducing your dog to focus heeling, your dog should have enough food or toy drive, be socialized and confident with his or her surroundings. Your dog should have been introduced to a corrective collar. At Hot Dog On A Leash, we usually start focus heeling with food, so the dog will remain calm, focused and learn more quickly. Once your dog has learned the basic commands and basic positions, we can use prey/toys to reward behavior.
So start with your dog in the basic sit position and just work on focus and eye contact. Some people call this the look command. To keep focus, you will need to have food in your left hand. This allows you the handler to manipulate the dogs head to the desired position and eye contact. Do this in increments of 5 seconds and build to 30 seconds. As the time increase, start to introduce distractions. The reward must be given immediately after each timed session. You must maintain eye contact and be sure the reward is not given out of position.
During this foundation, your dog will become distracted and lose focus. Your dog must immediately be corrected verbally as well as with the leash and collar. The correction should be a quick snap of the leash, and the snap should be again on the same eye line between you and your dog.
The amount of correction will depend on your dog and the age of the dog. Once you can maintain 30 seconds of focus/eye contact with distractions in the core sit position, we can then start focus heeling.
Start off with five paces of focus heeling and then sit and reward. Work in increments of 5 paces up to 30. And if your dog loses focus or becomes distracted the correction should be given immediately. Once you have gained focus for the desired paces, stop, sit and reward you brilliant dog.
After you t]have accomplished 30 paces of consistent heeling with good focus you can start to make 90 degrees right and left turns. You can also change the speed of heeling. Make sure you give the dog the heel command when changing speeds and of course remember your dog can lose focus at any time or get distracted. If this happens, give a correction. After you regain focus for 5 to 10 paces reward your dog immediately. At this point in the training, you should begin to decrease your handler help, lengthen your heeling patterns and intervals at which you reward your dog.
As your dog starts to understand focus, attention, heel, sit and primary position, you can start to wean your dog from food and start demanding the behaviors they have learned. When your dog displays the same level of focus, you can now reward them with a toy. The toy must come from your pocket and be shown to your dog from the same eye line between you and your dog. This is so your dog can understand the reward is coming from maintaining focus and attention.
We wish you luck and hope that this article helps with any questions you may have. As always, call Hot Dog On A Leash for all your training needs