Logan – part 9 – heelwork and skills


Heelwork this evening. We have been working on heelwork for the last couple of months. I have experimented with different locations to try to find a place which is challenging for him to work in, but not too overwhelming that he can’t work. Retail park car parks in the evening and industrial estates are a good choice but I have to be careful where. A few weeks ago, I went out with him to do some heelwork training and didn’t notice a traffic cone which was nearby. He did notice it and one dead traffic cone, one wound up dog and one harrassed Johnny later, we put him back in the car, drove to another location and started again.

In December, a traffic cone incident would have meant I would have had to scrub training for the next several hours, allowing his adrenaline to come back down to manageable levels so he could concentrate. That evening, we rallied, I gave him a drink of water and we chilled for about 10 minutes and tried again with good success. These successes are important for my resilence too as not enough reinforcement for me takes it’s toll.

One of the many remnants from his previous life is that he associates wide open green spaces such as fields and parks with chasing toys. If he doesn’t get to chase the toy, he will bark frustratedly at me (more on this in the future). I started doing heelwork with him indoors at The Vet Creche, then in car parks. I have to be aware of shrubbery in retail car parks as he tends to do some impromtu landscaping! I have found a local car park which is quiet in the evening and has tarmac, monobloc and grass. This gives us three surfaces to change between. He also has to be aware of the step up the curb onto the grass. The grass traps much more smells then tarmac does, so he really has to concentrate to stay with me rather than go off sniffing.

Skills we are working on during heelwork – cues and reinforcement (as always), body position in relation to me, moving from one surface type to another, stepping up while walking with me, body movement (left and right turns, inside and outside turns), focus on me and ignoring other reinforcers (which does back to discrimination/cues and reinforcement – the reinforcement isn’t always about what I have), and ignoring traffic cones.

We also did some work tonight at the end on traffic cones, but on reflection I am going to change it a little as I am not happy with they way I did it, again, more on that later. I do need to keep you wanting to come back.

All in all, much success after our setback yesterday. His bounce back is improving and so is mine.

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