E320: Julie Flanery - "Learning to Love Heelwork"

Julie joins me to talk about the importance of building enthusiasm into your heelwork right from the start, and how to avoid (or overcome!) training plateaus during the process of training your dog a beautiful heel. 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Julie Flannery here with me to talk about heel work. Hi Julie. Welcome back to the podcast.

Julie Flanery: Hi Melissa. Thank you for having me.

Melissa Breau: Super excited to talk about this. To start us out, do you wanna just share a little bit about you and your current canine crew? Yeah, so I've been teaching for FDSA since two 16. Before that I, and actually during that I've owned my own training center, which in 2018 I sold to a close friend of mine who's an excellent trainer so that I could spend more time both teaching, doing lessons, doing workshops, seminars, webinars, and also I run a freestyle and rally free titling sport venue. So that has kept me super, super busy and I'm really excited to say that we are at a point in the growth of that particular organization that we are now taking it nonprofit. So there will be a board that oversees that and some of the work that I've been doing with it will be soon delegated to other people and then I'll be able to spend even more time teaching, which is something I really, really, really love.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Super exciting. You wanna talk about your puppers?

Julie Flanery: Yes. I'm currently down to one, Phee. is my Australian Shepherd Shi Tzu Cross. That was supposed to be a Border Collie poodle cross, but she's turned into a really great little dog. I had my doubts at times, but I'm really enjoying working with her.

I lost my Tibetan Terrier Kashi just this past year and am still at a point where I'm not quite sure I'm ready to get another dog. I'm really enjoying having just one dog and focusing on her and developing her as a stronger athlete. She, in spite of her, always giving me her all, I don't think that she will ever be a really top level performance dog.

She just doesn't quite have the stamina. But she's, she's turned out into a really, really great little dog and, and she's done very, very well in our sports so far. So I'm really happy to be working with her.

Melissa Breau: Super exciting. It's super fun. Yeah. So I wanted to chat about heeling today. There are definitely quite a few approaches out there when it comes to teaching heel work. Do you wanna talk a little bit about what you focus on when you're starting to teach a new dog to heal?

Julie Flanery: Yeah, a couple of things. Both in teaching new dogs to heel, but also teaching handlers in what heeling is really all about. So when I, when I think that most of the time when a dog handler team go into a sport and start to learn about heel work, the instruction that they get, the coaching that they get, the primary focus on heel work has been traditionally on the technical side, the precision, the accuracy, the position. And oftentimes when we coach students, we give them exercises that focus on that technical aspect of heel work. And heeling is a very, very technical activity and we do want the dogs to understand what that criteria is.

But oftentimes when we look at those, those things, we tend to kind of focus on, you know, the proximity, the, the position in relation to the handler. We focus on the halts, the starts, the stops, and we don't always focus on the other piece of heel work that we also want our dogs to project. And that is the animation, the lift, the joy. I think when we see a beautiful heeling team, we aren't just seeing the precision aspects, the accuracy, those technical aspects, but what draws us into those teams is actually the whole picture, the, the animation and the dynamism and the lift and the joy that the dog exudes as he's heeling with his owner and vice versa, the, the joy that we see in the handler as they're working with that dog. And so I think that's a piece that is left out of most of the instruction that is provided for heel work. We talk about all of those other aspects and it's a huge piece of heel work. Obviously it's an important piece of heel work, but I think that if we start with the difficult aspects, the technical aspects, that it can be very, very easy to kind of squelch the enthusiasm that we also want. And I think it can become a little bit, not really mundane, but oh repetitive for the dog and it tends to be not very active, which dogs love to be active and I think that can lead to some not very joyful heel work.

And that's not really what we want. When we think about heel work, we're thinking of the whole picture and not just the technical aspects of it. So when I start teaching heel work to a dog, I don't necessarily start with position, maybe in the same way that others do. So I actually start with a lot of activity and action and engagement. And I sneak in some pieces of some little itty bitty bits of proximity to the handler is this first starting piece that I add.

I do include some of the precision early on using props and platforms, but it's still a very active, active way to teach position. There's not a lot of, oh, I guess I, the dog doesn't feel confined in a place when I'm training the position aspect, we're sneaking that in. But early on it's all about movement. And I don't really worry about the precision or the accuracy when I first start.

What I want is the dog is engaged that he wants to play this silly game that we call heel work because they have no idea what they're in for. And if we start right away with putting a lot of requirements of precision and accuracy, it's not a game they're gonna wanna play for very long. So I like to make sure that when I start, it's about engagement, it's about movement, it's about seeking out the handler and then we start to refine that and I start to train more precision and accuracy skills. How I combine it with a lot of what I call construct games. And these construct games are the foundation for all of my heel work training. I know everybody who's listening has heard the phrase add the work to the play, not the play to the work. Okay. And yet, even though we know we should be doing that, it's a hard thing to do. So I have a set of construct games that are the foundation for all of the heeling exercises I do. So that when I move into the precision and the accuracy and the more technical aspects of heel work, I can actually use those games as part of reinforcement for the more technical aspects.

What happens is if I start with my games and these more active movement type exercises, those become very reinforcing to the dog. They're super fun, they're heavily reinforced with food and toys and other forms of play. And then when we start to sneak in a little bit of heel work, okay, that little bit of heel work becomes really reinforcing because it's attached, literally attached to the games. And then when we move into adding in some technical aspects, we reinforce those technical aspects with those already familiar and heavily reinforced games. So the dog will start to bring these pieces together because we have, on one side we have all of our construct games that are fun and enjoyable, and they start to teach the dog about proximity.

They start to teach the dog about collection, they start to teach the dog about where they wanna be in relation to the handler. And then when we get a little bit more precise about our criteria, we use those same construct games to reinforce the technical aspects. So all of the games lead to heeling and the heeling leads to games which lead to heeling.

And the dog starts to merge these two criteria together. The aspect of joy and lift and collection and animation with the technical aspects that we're also training on this other side over here and the dog, because of the reinforcement history that they have for each piece of this, they start to bring these two. And then we start to see a combination of nice precision and accuracy and that beautiful animation that we wanna see in our dogs that say to us, wow, this is kind of a cool thing to do. Thanks mom, for letting me do it with you today.

Melissa Breau: So I think you kinda dove into what I was gonna ask you next, which was why it's important, right? To separate out the precision and building joy into our hero walk and kind of which heel work and which comes first. So it sounds like the enthusiasm piece kind of has to be there.

Julie Flanery: Yes.

Melissa Breau: For you to layer in the precision is that…?

Julie Flaneruy: That's exactly right. And I don't think that we as instructors or you know, when we go to a class to learn heel work or you know, go take private lessons, I don't think that that's what our, what many handlers are getting. I think they're getting the technical aspects which are great, but I think they're missing out on learning about these other aspects, which to me it, you know, if you have one without the other, that to me that's inadequate. I want both of these things. But it's hard to find a place where you can learn how to integrate both of these things because so much instruction and coaching is weighted to the technical aspects and the precision and the accuracy exercises. So this probably gets into what I was gonna ask you next, which is, you know, I think a lot of people kind of get stuck when they're teaching heel work. They kind of work on some skills and they come into like a pivot platform, right? And then they like kinda hit a plateau and they don't really know where to go next and they can't get off the platform or they can't, they, they kinda just get stuck, right? I think that oftentimes handlers don't have a clear understanding of the purpose of the props they are using. And so if you don't have a clear understanding of the purpose of the prop you are using and you don't have a clear understanding of the entire process of the use of that prop, introducing it, reinforcing it, getting the criterion that you need out of it and then removing it, okay, then it's super easy to get stuck on the props and specifically the pivot platforms because in heel work we use them so much. I mean, that is, to me, the pivot platform is where I start to add movement to heel work. It's where I teach my dog the importance of their being aware of how to work their rear end. It's also where I put strength on the cue.

And that might be a little bit different from what some handlers do. I know some handlers don't put a cue on their heel work for a very long time. And in most cases I don't put a cue to my heel work for a long time either in certain areas, aspects, the games, for example, there's not a cue that is attached, just the action of heeling is attached.

But our props serve the incredibly important aspect of creating the exact criteria that we want our dog to do when they heal the exact technical criteria, meaning the precise position in relation to the handler. And if I want my dog to associate that precise proximity in relation to me, the accuracy, if I want them to associate all of that criteria with my cue, and I know that I can get that criteria with my prop, that is where I'm going to introduce my cue because I know my dog will meet criteria when I'm using props. So I start with standing platforms for my technical criteria. It's all done with shaping and then with games to add some interest and fun and to associate the, even just the aspect of learning and position on a platform can be integrated with the game so that the dog is saying, oh yeah, I know this is really fun. This is when we played this game and there were lots of cookies and movement. And we're sneaking in that little bit of precision and accuracy through the use of the standing platform. So when my dog starts to hear the cue with the criteria that the standing platform is giving me, and I am also associating that cue now with the fun and the enjoyment of the games with the pivot platform, this is where I start to solidify that cue and add movement. And again, still we can play games with pivot platforms and the dog again is now associating the queue with the pivots, the pivot platform and the games themselves. Now, when we remove those tools, those props, those props are a queue for the dogs to give us the criteria that we want.

So if I remove those cues, the dog is going to struggle unless I replace the cue of the prop with my new heel work queue. So that's why I start adding my queue when I'm working my props, because the props give me the exact criteria that I want my cue to mean and it allows me to remove the props more easily. The other thing that can happen is that we'll get stuck on a prop, like a pivot platform or a standing platform or whatever props you're using because we are using them for so long that the dog starts to think they are part of the behavior and they're unable to give you the criteria without the prop present. So the other thing that I like to do is use a variety of props to create the exact same criteria.

So just because I'm moving on to a pivot platform doesn't mean I'm going to stop working with a standing platform. And just because I have the standing platform that will give me the criteria I want doesn't mean I'm not also going to add maybe some training gates in there as well. Because now removing that prop from the process is not near as difficult because no single prop is attached to this, to the exact criteria that I want from my dog. And each one of those props also includes the one constant other than the criteria. And that is my verbal heel cue. So now I can connect my heel cue with my heel criteria in that process of removing the props and it won't be near as difficult. In general, I think two things happen with props.

Number one, handlers tend to stay on them for too long initially without moving through the process. And number two, once they remove them, they don't go back there to refresh and make it easy and enjoyable for the dog again, and associate that technical criteria with that high rate of reward that we often add to our use of props. So I think props have a,

for me, a huge place in my heel work training. I think it's important when you use props that you fully understand their purpose, the process, and how to eliminate them from the behavior itself.

Melissa Breau: That makes a lot of sense. So then how do you take, you know, if, if we're talking about the importance of kind of having that clarity around the cues and removing the prop and, and you know, all those pieces, how do you take what then is a fairly simple behavior, a fairly short behavior that you've put all this work into and actually add some duration into staying in heel position and building, you know, what ultimately becomes heel work? Those, you know, from those little pieces to like the bigger stretches of work?

Julie Flanery: This is an easy question and a hard question because I think all of us have built duration in behaviors, right? We teach a sit and we've included duration as part of that criteria. We teach downs and we've included duration as part of that criteria. So I think there's a, there's a certain level of understanding on how to build duration in behaviors and in heel work it's not all that different. So duration is all about do it until right, do it until I release you, do it until I give you another cue. Do it. And until you hear your marker, it's always about do it until, so the first thing we wanna make sure is that the dogs have an understanding of that concept of do it until so sit, until I release you, whatever that, whatever that behavior is. And I think oftentimes handlers are not near as consistent as they think they are at maintaining their release cues. And so do it until whatever happens next is a very fluid kind of concept for most handlers. I think the first thing is that if we strengthen up how we apply the concept of duration in other areas of training, our dog will have a much more firm concept of both building duration and delayed reinforcement because there's no reinforcement until the end of duration. And I think also we tend to, when we build duration, we, and again this is with any type of behavior that we're working with, we tend to build to very predictable short periods of duration. We don't vary that duration, we don't extend that duration. And so I think it's important for something as technical as heel work and as difficult as he'll work because heel work is probably the most difficult skill I will ever teach my dog in spite of the fact of teaching my dogs hundreds of skills for the sport of freestyle. And so I wanna make sure that my dog has a good understanding of the concept of duration and that I'm being a good handler in teaching them the do it until concept.

Okay. In terms of heel work specifically, the cool thing is that through our, our construct games that we start with, one of which is a hand touch, we've already started to add in our do it until behavior. So when I start teaching my heel work, my dog is going to certainly start small few steps, just like any duration, start low and increase your your duration, which is your criteria incrementally. But my dog already has a built-in do it until for the construct games and that do it until is until I present my hand for a hand touch. So my dog who has a lot of value in the games, including the hand touch, understands where that hand touch is gonna be presented, understands that it's going to be coming from above their head, is now going to start to increase their animation and lift as I take those few extra steps in building my duration because they have every expectation that my hand is going to appear, which starts my reward event. So there is a very real anticipation of something super enjoyable that's about to happen if I just do a few more steps of heeling, which we've already associated with really fun stuff.

So again, we start with the games, we add in a little bit of heel work as part of the game and then the dog is working until they see that hand touch start to appear. They're anticipating that hand touch, which then starts the games again. So that heel work is sandwiched in between the games and the dog learns that as that it's always, always going to end the duration of the heel work is always going to end initially with a hand touch which starts the games. So in essence what we're doing is we're creating, we're almost creating a secondary reinforcer out of our heel work because our heel work predicts the hand touch which predicts the primary reward. So our heel work takes on the value of a secondary reinforcer, which I think is really the coolest part about the way I like to train heel work. It's super interesting and it's certainly different I think from, you know, most of the approaches that I've heard are talked to people about for building duration in heel work. Yeah, well and there it's not, that's not the only way I build duration. I mean obviously there are other things just like when you use a lot of different props to create your criteria that you want so that the dog has an understanding of that criteria and not the prop itself.

When I do duration work, obviously I'm not always going to have the hand touch available to me. And so I do build in other ways of building duration ping ponging for example, which is the same way I build duration and other behaviors. And if I use that same type of process in building duration with heel work as I do in other behaviors. And if I avoid making those leaps of duration too long in too much of a leap from one duration to the next, from one sliver of criterion to the next, then my dog is going to see this as just one more piece of the behavior I'm learning because he is learned it with all of those other things. I think one problem that I see often with he'll work in duration is that they aren't thinking about the little bits enough or long enough or reinforcing those little bits for strongly enough before they start to add duration, add the number of steps and then they add way too many too soon and too early in the process. And what we start to get is a dog that starts to lose confidence because reinforcement isn't coming in an appropriate amount of time given the skill that you have taught them. And they start to wonder, am I doing it wrong? So they lose concentration and they lose focus and they start to lose animation and excitement because they, the information that we normally provide them through our reinforcement is no longer there. And what do we as handlers often do? We just keep going forward hoping that our dog will show us something that we can reinforce and what we've actually done, the only thing we've reinforced is a lack of confidence. So I think that people need to really look at their, what is, what are they communicating to the dog when they ask for duration and are they slicing those criterion finely enough so the dog understands it's just a little more and they know what they are going to get at the end of that duration. They can predict what happens at the end of duration. So yeah, yeah, again, there are lots of different ways to build duration.

Most all of them work as long as you stick with the basic tenets of you don't ask for too much too soon and you make sure that your reinforcement is equal or greater to the criterion that you're asking for in terms of duration that you're not asking for a lot and just giving a little duration. Heel work is a very, very, very expensive behavior.

And part of what I love about the way I do it is from very early on I associate the little bits and then the longer bits of heel work with something super enjoyable to the dog. Basically your heel work is sandwiched in between something the dog loves. So it becomes part of that. So duration, to me, duration isn't the problem issue that I think a lot of people have with it.

I think the other thing that often happens with duration is that heel work is a very physically taxing activity for the dog. If you look at the type of, of the way we want the dog to carry their body, if you think of the, for those of us that like a flashier heel or that like a lifted heel, an animated heel with the head up and a little bit of a prance, that's an extremely difficult task for our dogs to maintain with duration. And so if you haven't physically prepared your dog for that, it doesn't matter how well you've reinforced, it doesn't matter how well he knows his job in heel work, at some point his body will tire, he won't have the strength and stamina to maintain it. So I think that having a fitness regimen for your dog, creating, helping build the muscles and the strength and what your dog needs to actually give you that level of skill with duration, it's something that handlers really have to look at. It's not that your dog is unwilling, sometimes it truly is that your dog is unable because as much as you have prepared them for the physical for the skill that they're going to have to provide to you, we haven't really prepared them for the duration that they will have to do something physically demanding. That makes sense. Speaking of physical skills, right? I think we hear about collection all the time in other sports agility and disc, but looking over your class syllabus was, I think it may be the first time I've seen it kind of talked about in relation specifically to heel work.

Melissa Breau: So can you tell me more about that? Kinda what role are collection momentum playing in heel work?

Julie Flanery: Yeah. Okay. So this is really cool cuz the, that momentum into collection piece is what transitions the dog from the fast active moving games into finding that precise position with animation and lift. So the first time that my dogs do any forward moving heel work is out of running.

Okay, so let's say I use some food bowling and one of the construct games is food bowling. I think all of us use cookie tosses in our training. The way I use food bowling, the application of it and how the handler uses the mechanics of food bowling is what actually makes it useful for heel work. Okay. So there's a lot of that in what I teach or what are the actual mechanics of these construct games that allow the dog to literally find heel position and want to get there. So I will bowl my dog's first bits of, of heeling might only be a couple of steps, but those first bits of heeling that are just a couple of steps include the animation and the joy that I want the games to bring me.

So I will do my game of food bowling. Part of my game of food bowling is turning my back to the dog. So he is moving towards me from behind me. He is anticipating either a piece of bowled food to go right low past my left side or he is anticipating my hand target that will also be at my left side. That brings him, not necessarily brings him into heel position though it certainly will early on, but when I start getting those little stretches of heeling, it's because I'm withholding that hand a little bit and he's anticipating where it's going to be presented. So food, bowling dog is running, getting food, bowling, I turn my back, I start moving briskly. He knows my back means one of two things.

Either I'm gonna present a hand target right where he should be in heel position or I'm going to bowl a piece of food. Those things bring two pieces to the table. If I'm going to bowl a piece of food, he's going to speed up, right? Cuz he's anticipating that bowl piece of food. If I'm going to present my hand target, he wants to be hyper aware of where that hand target is coming.

So as he is moving into me, if I start to present that hand target, he needs to collect his speed. He doesn't wanna blow past me cuz then he misses that hand target, which goes into more games. And so he's gonna collect himself and all of that forward energy, that momentum that was carrying him forward into food bowling, that energy has to go somewhere and that energy is going to go upward.

And you're going to see a lift in the chest. The head is going to go up because he knows where the hand target's going to be. You are going to see a little bit of prance in the step and they're going to shift their weight to the rear end to push from the rear and lift at the front. And as I see that just before I present my hand target, I can mark that either by clicking or marking or my hand target becomes the marker. So now using just the two games of food, bowling and hand touch, I've created that sense of joy in the game because it's a really fun game that's heavily reinforced and I've created forward momentum combined with anima anticipation of my hand target to cause the dog to collect that energy and move it upward because outside of these games, I'm also doing some platform work and some pivot work. So that has been heavily reinforced and the dog is choosing to slide into that position and that gives me my first few steps of heeling that I can mark and then go into my games and re my reward event again. So that's where that collection and or that momentum and collection comes in. It gives us an opportunity to mark and reward that picture of joyful heeling just for two steps to start. But then we start, as we start to withhold our hand target, we build duration in that exact same picture of joyful heeling.

Melissa Breau: I love that and I love that you kind of talked about how the momentum is piece by piece right. Of the collection to get the picture. So I wanna shift gears a little bit and kind of talk about the other end of the leash here. What is the handler's role when we're talking about heel work and maybe what skills does the handler have of the team really need to have or bring to the table, you know, if any for, for really good heel work.

Julie Flanery: I think that the handler has a lot of roles as he does always in training. I mean there it's always, without the handler, we don't have training, right? The handler is the one training the dog. So, the biggest thing is to be able to clearly communicate the criteria to the dog so that they know what to give you and you have an opportunity to reward that criteria. That is huge. I think a lot of times when we go into teaching our dog to heal, we don't really have a clear picture in our heads of what both, all of the technical aspects are. Well, how far from the, from the handler, where do I want my dog shoulder? Where, where do I want my dog's head? Where do I want my dog to prance? Do I want my dog to walk? Do I want my dog to tuck? How do I want my dog to look? How do I want my dog to feel? How do I want my dog to feel? That should be a huge piece of your criterion for heel work as it should be in all training. But I'm not sure that we really think about that very much when we go into teaching something as technical as heel work.

So to be able to clearly communicate that criteria, you need to have a clear picture yourself of what it is that you actually want. I think the other piece of this is that it's your responsibility to build a desire in the dog to want to work with you. You need to build a reason for the dog to opt into these sessions because they can be very, very difficult. I've said this before, it is not the dog's responsibility to create a successful session that is the handler's responsibility. And that goes to both the technical aspects, the technical criteria of whatever it is you're teaching and the emotional criteria of whatever you're teaching. Thank you Amy Cook for teaching me that huge lesson about 10 years ago because that was a piece I think probably before about 10 years ago that I as a handler was missing.

And I totally credit Amy to opening my eyes in that regard and trying to really integrate that into all of my training. That t has got to be the number one criterion for the handler is to give the dog a reason to engage in this really hard work we're asking them to do.

Melissa Breau: All right, so what about misunderstandings or misconceptions? What are some common things maybe that students don't understand or kind of have a misconception around when we're thinking about or teaching heel work? Can you set the record straight?

Julie Flanery: I think the biggest one, and you probably already know this, is that heel work is boring and we hear that all the time.

Melissa Breau: Oh, yep.

Julie Flanery: And the second one is, the second one I hear all the time is my dog hates heeling. Okay, dogs. I think handlers hate heeling is part of it. And I, and I think it's cause it's a very technical thing to train. And I think that that technical aspect of it not only tends to take the joy away from the dog, but it takes the joy away from the handler as well. But I will totally set the record straight that heeling does not have to be boring.

It does not actually even need to be difficult, the enjoyment that both you and your dog can get out of training heel work. I just, it's one of my favorite things to train and I get to train a lot of things for freestyle, a lot of things. But I really, really love to train heel work because there are so many things, so many aspects of it and so many ways that you can put the fun into it. You know, we have a tendency that when we're training heel work, when our dog gets excited and exuberant, we tend to respond to that with control, right? I want my dog exuberant, I want my dog, you know, up and happy.

I can shape that into being a part of my technical components. I don't want to squelch that enthusiasm. I wanna funnel that enthusiasm. And I think a lot of times handlers don't know what to do with that enthusiasm and we tend to try to control it because we want that precise, accurate position and could, by controlling the dog is the only way we know how to get it sometimes.

But I'm here to say that's a huge misconception. You can totally get your accuracy and precision and the joy and keep the enthusiasm. You just need to know how to funnel it and shape it to the criteria that you want. I love that.

Melissa Breau: So when this comes out, you'll have just done or be doing a webinar, you doing a webinar on July 6th

Julie Flanery: Yes.

Melissa Breau: On building a love of heeling, so specifically what you were just talking about and it's only one hour. So how are you gonna cram in one hour to get them to know how are you gonna get your dog to love to heel work?

Julie Flanery: So it's a, it's a little taste I guess of the course that I'll be offering in August. Joy of heeling, one joy of heeling is split up into two sections. Joy of heeling, one focuses a lot on the games. Joy of Heeling two focuses a lot on problem solving and then integrating the more technical aspects with the games as well so that that webinar is taking just some of the things and giving you highlights and some things to think about changes you, changes you can actually make right away. You don't even have to take my class to see some changes in your dog by watching the webinar and applying some of these five things. So, but it's really just a taste kind of an overview to maybe get you thinking a little bit more about how can I help my dog really enjoy this difficult task of heel work?

How can I start to enjoy that difficult task of heel work? Because we have a tendency not to train the things we don't enjoy. Well, heel work is something you're gonna want in just about any ring sport that you engage in. If you are in rally obedience, freestyle, rally free heel work to music, a lot of the other ring sports, any of the bite sports, all of those you are going to be required to do heel work and in some sports, quite a large amount of heel work. And if that is something neither you or your dog enjoy doing, you have seriously cut yourself and your dog short of what could be. So hopefully people are interested enough in this and what we've talked about today that they wanna learn a little bit more and maybe decide if they wanna go ahead and, and take the full six week course.

Melissa Breau: Heck yeah. Is there anything else you wanna share or talk about in terms of the class or the webinar and just maybe who should join or what they should know maybe about it to kinda help them make that choice position?

Julie Flanery: You know, I don't really think so. I mean anybody. Okay. I just think any, cuz you know, I guess I'm a little biased. I think anybody should love heeling and anybody that wants to experience that type of connection with their dog should be taking these courses.

Melissa Breau: Anybody fair enough

Julie Flanery: Anybody that enough at this point doesn't like heeling, thinks their dog doesn't like to heel. If you're one of those people that has said, my dog hates to heel or I don't like heeling, I don't, or I don't know how to get that joy out of my dog when I teach them to heel, that's who this course is for. It's anybody who wants to think outside the box a little bit about heel work training and help their dogs see the type of joy and connection that you can feel together in practicing heel work.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. I love that. Any final thoughts or key points you wanna listeners with?

Julie Flanery: Come on. The bigger topic of heel work, it is something that you constantly have to maintain. Heel work is not something you train and then your dog always has it, it is also, as I said earlier, a very expensive activity, meaning you will always have to reinforce it and you'll have to reinforce it to a level and degree greater than most all of your other training if you want to keep that joyful attitude in your dog.

So both the technical aspects and the enjoyment aspects are the, this is a maintenance skill from the get-go. You are never done training your heel work. So just be prepared for that. Cause I think there's, there are a lot of other behaviors that we feel like, yeah, our dogs can maintain that pretty easily and, and we don't really have to reinforce that at all anymore.

I mean there's a lot, a lot of skills that I don't really reinforce with food or toys or the, you know, how we normally might reinforce behavior. I do include a lot of personal play in my training. I think that if you, and this speaks back to duration, that one of the things that is really gonna help with your maintenance of this activity and of you building duration with this activity is that if your dog has experience with both tangible food and toys and non-tangible personal play, petting, voice, facial expressions, all of those things that we provide to our dogs as reinforcement. I think if your dog has experience with both of those types of reinforcements, building duration and maintenance is going to be much easier for both you and your dog.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Julie, this has been excellent.

Julie Flanery: Thank you. I had a really good time. I love talking to you about this stuff.

Melissa Breau: And thanks to all our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week with Tracy McLennan to talk about Prey Drive in dogs. If you haven't already subscribed to the podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to have your next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available, today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast, music provided royalty free by bensound.com. The track featured here is called Buddy Audio. Editing provided by Chris Lang. Thanks again for tuning in. Happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

E321: Tracey McLennan - "Studying Prey Drive"
E319: The Truth About High Drive Dogs

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