OB300: Heeling Games

Posted in Obedience Games

Instructor: Denise Fenzi

Course Details

Lack of motivation in heeling is one of the prime reasons that people give up on the sports of obedience and rally. Rather than seeing heeling as a dynamic, intense interaction between partners, heeling is often seen as a drudgery that must be endured as part of general training.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Done well, heeling is an intense, exciting dance between engaged partners requiring absolute concentration and energy. When heeling is practiced as a series of specific behaviors – left turns, right turns, change of pace, etc. - the dance is lost. This class will teach you how to practice heeling as a game – with the end result that your performance will be sharper, more interesting, and with much improved focus and endurance.

This course will help participants learn to create excitement and interest in heel work with their dogs, rather than focusing on the actual skill of heeling.  By increasing their attractiveness as a heeling partner, external reward schedules can be decreased at the same time that natural attention is being developed.  

Denise will introduce one concept at a time, and then will provide games to help you apply that concept. This class will cover the concepts of opposition reflex, increasing dog involvement through movement, appropriate reward placement, developing rhythm, making the expected unexpected, and more!

Gold member participants will have regular opportunities to develop their heeling games by submitting videos for review and participating in interactive forums. Bronze level participants will also have full access to lecture, video and reading forums 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but will not submit videos nor post questions in the forum.

Precision Heeling is a prerequisite if you wish to take this class at Gold.  If you are not at gold, there are no prerequisites and you will find the games valuable regardless of how your dog learned to heel. 

To be eligible for this class, a dog needs a few steps of good quality heeling but not much more than that!

Special note:  This class will end on November 9th, two days earlier than the schoolwide ending date of Nov 11th.


Lecture #1: Adding Horizontal Movement

fly and thru/leg weaving

Lecture #2: Adding Vertical Movement

hand touches with escape, jumps and tunnels 

Lecture #3: Patterns vs. Unpredictable

understanding the tradeoffs and selecting appropriately

Lecture #4: Opposition Reflex

how to use it, when to use it, combining with pocket hand, warning signs!

Lecture #5: Sit at heel/Exploding Tree

creating speed and explosive releases at heel; regaining precision with control

Lecture #6: Heeling with a Toy

how to do it, when to do it, and why to do it!

Lecture #7: Right Circles to Improve Momentum

balancing drive with control, circles within circles

Lecture #8: Get Rythym!

duplicate the ring experience, identify weak points in heeling

Lecture #9: Get Rythym in Sync!

Metronome heeling with a dog

Lecture #10: Making the Unexpected Expected

Using incompatable behaviors to improve heeling, considering the temperament of the dog when selecting behavior pairs

Lecture #11: Creating your Future

balancing drives, games and precision - what makes sense for your team?

Lecture #12: Reducing Reinforcers

The role of games in reducing reinforcers



There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.

Gold level registration will be by lottery, there's no silver level, registration for bronze will begin at 11:30AM PDT.  Please do not enter the lottery for a Gold spot if you have not taken Precision Heeling at any level.

Prerequisites and Equipment

To qualify for a Gold or Silver level participant spot, you MUST have taken the prerequisiste course “Precision heeling” at any level of participation. Bronze level participants have no prerequisites; however, all participants who choose to take this class without taking Precision Heeling must recognize that precision heeling concepts will be referenced and will not be reviewed here.  If you have heeling then this course will benefit you, even if you did not take Denise's Precision Heeling course to get it!

This class (taken at any level) will be a prerequisite for Gold or Silver Level spots in "Advanced Heeling," 

Equipment needed:  toys or treats, video camera/access to YouTube upload (Gold only), a cone or other vertical object for your dog to circle.  Near the end of class we'll need a metronome (available for free as a smartphone app).

Space required: “Ideal” space is open with good footing.  This class is not suitable for an indoor "home" space

If you have not taken the pre-requisite class OB200: Precision Heeling, you can purchase the lecture portion from our Prerequisites Purchase page.


Course Testimonials


Denise has used her creative talents to craft fun and useful heeling activities that engage the dog while building confidence and promoting greater precision. Heeling Games creates a win win situation for dog and handler. SallyM             

I love how Denise is able to figure out the dog's and handlers so quickly and hone in on what works for the team. She is incredibly positive, and makes the courses helpful and fun.              

Heeling Games has been an awesome class really helping us to build drive and enthusiasm for heeling. Lilly and I have really enjoyed all of the games and I can see how they are going to be an extremely useful way to continue to build drive and a love of heeling. Melita R.               

I found this class excellent and it has confirmed what I have always believed that play is so important to your dog. As I have a young Golden Retriever I want to build her drive and desire to want to do it. These heeling games are a wonderful way of doing it. Your lectures are very clear and I now have a bank of knowledge that I can refer to and put into practice as we move forward with our training. Thank you Denise for these wonderful lectures.            

Finally, someone who realizes not everyone has the "perfect" high drive dog. It was really great to hear things to try with dogs less motivated by toys, etc.           

This course was just what my dog and I needed to improve our connection with each other. The emphasis on games helped her look forward to focusing on me and not to worry about heeling so much. Thank you for all the good ideas, videos, comments, etc.            

I was completely blown away by your commitment to the students and your individualized problem solving. You give a LOT, and your input is invaluable. Aside from your phenomenal teaching, this class was just plain fun. My dog loved it and I picked up many, many tools to put in my training toolbox. We learned things in this class we can incorporate into any training session and can pull out any time to inject some liveliness into our work. I think this has been the most personally valuable FDSA class I have taken so far, and am so glad you recommended it for us.             

This class provided great ideas for improving heeling. I have used the techniques with. Both my dogs, a medium drive BC and a low drive GSD. Both improved their heeling because Denise showed us how to make heeling fun and interesting. Cheryl M.          I was hesitant to take a gold level spot because I did not think I could learn much by submitting 1-2 minute videos for the instructor to critique. WRONG! I was amazed at how much I learned by having Denise evaluate my dog's (and my) performance on the video. There is no question that my dog's heeling improved because of this class. Sue Y.             

Love the courses!! Denise is amazing!! She teaches with all the tools that a truly GREAT instructor has! These classes have filled in the gaps that other instructors either don't have the knowledge to truly teach or don't want to share. Leslie W.  

My dog has always been much less enthusiastic about heeling than about agility, and is not terribly treat motivated. While I did play some games with him before taking this class, the course suggestions greatly expanded our repertoire, and the videos were very helpful in showing how to incorporate the play with the heeling. At our last session, my dog actually wanted to keep working rather than play with his ball -- and he is ball-obsessive! Thanks! Kathryn K.