I guess there's as many different approaches to heeling as there are dogs and dog owners. My way with the last ones has been this one though:
I start indoors with out any disturbance.
With a treat in your left hand, help the dog to a sitting position. Position yourself in what you find the perfect heel pose.
Say: Heel and click if you use a clicker or just reward the dog.
Take a small step forward and repeat. Take a step halfway forward halfway to the right and repeat the heeling moments.
This is what I do 2-4 repetitions at each session, over and over again until I feel that the dog is becoming confident and starting to follow the movements of my feet.
Separately but at the same time I teach the word SIT, STAND and LAYING DOWN. Using treats that helps the dog in to position, with fast and jumping movements. The smaller in size the dog is the easier to make it jump in to the movement, as gravity will not be an issue, for a small dog.
Then I continue to stand along a wall, helping the dog in to position with the scents of the treat in my left hand. Adding the word heel each time the dog sits down in the right area on my left side. Stepping it up, when the dog is confident, with correcting the position if it is not straight, to much behind or in front. Still with a treat helping it in to the right spot.
Parallel with this I start to prolong the sit, stand and laying down position with holding the rewarding treat over the dogs head while I move my feet. This is to help the dog to separate heel from sitting.
When the dog is finding the position on it's own, I start to take that step halfway forward and halfway to the right again.
Then I start to teach the word for back, by laying the dog down. Standing in front of it toe to toe. And just saying the word BACK is usually enough to make it jump up to sitting. I do this work separately.
Now I start to say the word heel before I move and if necessary help the dog in to position. I add both hide and seek, where the dog has to find me and the position to get the reward and small steps to the side. I still work a long walls, go back to the basics with a treat and help the dog in, to build up confidence.
Now I add hind control exercises, but with Ebba I actually started the hind control at 8 weeks of age, but I don't find that necessary as the dog has a hard time getting that control right at that age and it can do more damage than boost in the confidence area.
Now I start to make small patterns like 1 step forward, one 1/8 turn, one step back, another 1/8 turn. This is a work that can be made very complicated and fun.
And it's not until this I actually start to add disturbance. The dog shall be confident and I shall be sure to succeed, or I will be breaking the dog down, and that's pointless.
When the dog is confident and feels sure, my experience is that they start to correct themselves. It's then there's a point in withholding the reward or have different things as reward. Things that the dog appreciates more or less.
With Becca it was just recently that she started to correct herself, and she started when delivering a retrieve to back and while backing turning her hindquarters into the right spot. That's when the lack of reward can be used, until that it will be pointless and the dog will not understand why it's not rewarded.
Ebba is after 8 weeks of training definitely not there yet except when retrieving rabbit, which she loves and can be rewarded with.
Iza started to correct her heeling position after just a few days of training, but to think of that as being confident should have been wrong, she needed more help to make sure what was the perfect spot, or she would try 5000 different ways and never become certain about the command.
So though I've been working with the same method it's still different with each dog and the amount of time before a dog is confident with the word heel will always differ 🤗😅
And yes Rallylydnad is definitely a great way to improve the distance you and your dog can keep the heeling position!
Well all of us write here, both humans and dogs ;) At least that was the plan but it seems it´s mostly me Robyn who´s attached to the keyboard...