Thanks for taking the time to post this, I am just beginning to prepare my border collie for obedience and haven’t taught him heel. How many sessions do you usually spend walking backwards? I realize that it varies by dog, but I have a tendency to raise criteria too fast so it would be nice to have a guideline to slow me down. Do you treat while moving at your left side, stop to treat, or do you throw the treat on the ground and wait for the dog to return to position?
It’s really hard to tell how many sessions is necessary. With a dog that is used to training (and likes it), but has no previous learning of heeling AND with a good trainer, it’s a pretty fast process. I usually get all three components with a puppy in the first session. On the other hand, I have students that have to struggle with some element of it for a lot longer. Let the dog be your guide! When you love his attention, move to attitude, when you love his attitude, move on to position. When he has great attention, attitude and position – do duration!
You might get it all in a few short sessions and then decide to start turning around and rewaring correct position in the right direction. But you might then decide to go back and only work on focus while you walk backwards in an environment that is distracting for your young dog. So with a puppy, I can work on different stages depending on the level of distractions. I will turn around and walk forward when everything feels perfect in a session.
I reward the dog from my left hand, at my side, in the position where I want the dog to be, or slightly beyond. I keep walking and let the dog drive to me to get the food. Only exception is for a dog that is too high, bumping into me and charging ahead even when I walk backwards. Then I will stop and feed. Biggest problem people get is that the dog isn’t coming close enough and that comes from 1) teaching eye contact (dog can’t look you in the eyes and be in the correct position at the same time – I never teach my dogs to look at my face, but they have excellent attention anyway) or 2) Stopping and rewarding and reaching to the dog to reward instead of having dog drive into position to get the reward.