The next step in heeling is to reduce the reliance on treats. To do this, teach your dog to target the treat in your
hand and maintain her focus there even when she’s not able to continually pull off bits of the treat. You can also
start closing your hand more and more until the treat is hidden in your fist. This forms a transitional point in which
your dog targets your fist on the assumption that there’s a treat. From there, you can move more effectively into
a random schedule of reinforcement. In other words, start
delivering treats at random intervals while also varying the size of the reward. Provide “jackpot” rewards at moments
when your dog is doing well. This way you’re reinforcing desirable behavior.
The sequence shown here is just an example; repeat this exercise as often as you like, and work on left
turns, right turns, and changing your pace to keep it interesting and challenging for your dog. Also, use your
best judgment to evaluate how often to reward her. If you’re constantly losing her attention, use a better treat or
increase the frequency of rewards, then later try spacing out the increments between rewards again.
In addition, if she’s not doing well, such as by veering from your side in pursuit of something more interesting,
say “ah-ah” as a negative marker, and then use your treat to get her attention and to refocus her on you.
In sit, get your dog’s attention with the treat
between your fingers.
Bring the treat up along your waist, and
close it within your fist, while keeping her
attention focused on it.
Say, “Heel,” and begin walking, practicing the
heel exercise as before. See how long you
can walk and keep her focused during the
heel. Remember, lure your dog through turns
by bringing the treat closer to her nose.
Periodically while heeling, reward your dog
with a treat, all the while trying to extend
the periods between rewards, but without
losing your dog’s focus during heeling. Keep
reinforcing her attention on the treat while
delivering treats randomly.
As always, finish in a sit …
… and reward with a treat and a positive
marker, saying, “Good sit.”