14 minutes | Oct 1st 2019

Kathy Santo's Dog Sense Episode 5: How Many Heels Do You Need?

Kathy: Welcome to Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense Episode Five: How Many Heels Do You Need? And I'm here with my trainer and good friend, Sarah, who is out in Colorado. How's the weather out there?

Sarah: The weather is absolutely beautiful. How are you guys doing in Jersey?

Kathy: I think it's the first official day of Fall.

Sarah: It’s getting there.

Kathy: Yeah, I'm not, I'm not ready for the cold weather, which I know you love. 

Sarah: Yes, I do.

Kathy: But anyway, so in classes lately I've been realizing that my students have lovely formal Heels. They have not-so-lovely when they're not on a formal command. And I kind of wanted to sort of flesh this out and talk about the difference between formal heel and informal heel and everything in between. So, when you tell your dog to heel, when I tell my dog to Heel, there's a message conveyed and that means, “Stand next to me, pay attention whether it's peripherally or with your head up and change pace with me, change direction with me. Basically you and I are in sync.” And to some degree or another. I mean there's competition heeling that we do that's really high level, and then there's the sort of pet student who has that, but maybe it's a little bit looser. But either way, the dog has a very strong understanding of paying attention to your body language. But I've noticed that when the dogs aren’t on a formal Heel, pandemonium breaks out, riots occur and the dog doesn't look anything like a trained dog. And I think that's a problem.

Sarah: Absolutely. So what we had talked about briefly before is that, so when you put your dog on a leash and you start walking, what is the dog's expectation and understanding of how they should be behaving in that specific scenario when no verbal command is given. Because, like you said, we have the formal Heel where, you know, the dog sits next to us beautifully walking, heeling, looking up at us, all that. But what you're going to go into further, I think is something that most owners don't even think of, or they just think that the dogs should automatically know it and they don't. So while we're not connecting a verbal command to it, it's something that still has to be taught.

Kathy: I feel like the leash should be the cue. 

Sarah: Yeah.

Kathy: Right? I clip it on you, we are now conjoined and there's an expectation I have, but it's not fair to have that expectation if you've not taught it to the dog. And so the dog is like, “Well you didn't say Heel, so that's why I'm pulling towards that tree.” And so I think there's a middle ground. I think it's not formal and it's not, “Sniff, be a dog, and go potty.” I think there's something in between. And what I've been telling my students to call it, I mean I don't care what they call it, but we were saying, “Here we go.” And “Here we go,” to me, is a moving version of what I called, “Standby.” Now, when I was teaching seminars, I would have my dog out for demos as seminar people do. And there's a point where, you know, you do this demo, people ask questions and you're going to do another one, and you don't necessarily want to put the dog on Place or in the crate. You want the dog near you, but you don't want the dog disconnecting and just going off into the raspberry bushes. So, I taught my dog “Standby” and basically what that means is, “You're off duty, but we're going to do something again soon. So sort of stay connected with me.” And then when I wanted the dog to do something, then it would be a request. So I feel like this Heel that we're talking about is the moving version of “Standby.” Do you know what I mean?

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. And that sounds perfect because you'd be walking with them, it would be a loose leash Heel around the neighborhood, but they would not be able to pull you to the tree to pee on it or pull you to a person walking by to go say, “Hello.” The dog would understand that because they're on the leash, they still need to be kind of paying attention to you. They don't have to be looking at you, they don't have to be totally in-tune to you, but they still need to be aware of you. And I think that's so important.

Kathy: Right. So let's do a couple examples. If I had a dog who was on no command, it was, “Okay, go play,” and I walked up to you. Quite likely, my dog would go up to you, maybe try to get a scritch, maybe sniff your feet, you know, just be a dog. And I could decide whether that was appropriate or not. If I asked my dog for formal Heeling and I walked up to you, I'd walk up to and my dog would be looking at me and when I stopped, my dog would be sitting next to me and my dog would remain in that position until I gave him a release command or another cue to do something else like, “Lie down” and go to Place. So the middle ground in that is, I say to my dog, “Here we go,” or whatever you want to call it, and we walk towards you and I stop and my dog is not expected to sit. He could actually come across the front of me. He could hang out around me, he could be at the end of his leash without tension, but he couldn't interact with you, he couldn't grab crap off the ground. He’s just sorta, like, hanging out. And the importance of that, I feel, is if you're walking with the dog and they're just, sort of, in this mode and somebody walks by you with a stroller with a kid in it, or a bag of groceries, or even, like, a really cool leather coat. Like, I don't want my dog licking you or, like, sniffing you. Right? And they do that and you know it wouldn't be cool if you had a kid who did that, right? Reached out and grabbed somebody's bag. So it's kind of like that. So what you're saying is, “I'm not going to make you maintain position, but I'm going to make you maintain some general rules of society. Don't lick people.”

Sarah: So when you're teaching this to students, you are putting a verbal command on it. It's not implied with just the leash?

Kathy: No, I'm clipping on the leash and say, “Here we go,” and my hope is that, eventually, that will be the cue. Although, it's not going to be really important to me, because if I don't give you a cue then you're on an, “Okay, go play.” You know what I mean? So those are my three different ways I walk, Now here's how we're teaching it. I have the students completely changing up their hand position. Because, normally, they have the leash in the left hand or the right hand and it's on their hip. For this, I have both hands set on my body. 

Sarah: Okay.

Kathy: So the picture looks different. So their expectation of what we're doing, if they notice you, is going to be something other than Heeling. And I have them say, “Here we go,” and we start walking super slowly. Like, “La-la-la,” like looking around. I'm not locked in on the dog, my body isn't oriented that way. I don't have that, I guess that intensity that comes with we are Heeling now. You know what I mean? Because it's not about big control. It's just about, “I want you to show me what you understand.” And what I'm finding is the dogs are like, “Wow, what's this?” They're interested because you're totally different. 

Sarah: And also because you’re not giving them any cues or anything. They are kind of looking at you a little bit more frequently being like, “All right, well, what's next?” Like, “What do I do?” 

Kathy: Right. And it's really, sort of, soft body movements. It's not like sharp turns. You're just sort of moving with your dog. And I'm finding the dogs are getting more in tune with the people because there's not as much direction. Because once I say, “Here we go,” I'm not repeating it. And if you go off into a direction I'm not, I'm going to gently take you by the collar and guide you into my, kind of my hula hoop area. I'm not guiding you to my leg again cause that's Heeling, right? 

Sarah: Right. 

Kathy: Guiding you into the space around me. And they're figuring this out pretty darn quickly, which is exciting. And it doesn't matter how much training you have personally or your dog has, they're getting this. And I think because it's an easy concept. Don't put tension on the leash, when you do, I'm going to bring you back, and when you have a loose leash, the world is your oyster to some degree. 

Sarah: Yeah. Yep. So then the reward for the dog. So we talked about...So if they do apply tension on the leash, collar grab, back them up into your little bubble, your hula hoop. And then when the dog, maybe after a couple of reps, then learns, “All right, if I stay in this kind of general vicinity, I have a little bit more freedom.” You’re marking, rewarding it with just some food or...

Kathy: You know, you could do food. It depends on how much your dog lights up about food. You know, because I don't want to create that crazy, like, “Whoa. Yay!” And then my dog is, like, at the end of the leash again. So in the beginning I'm just being very soothing,“Good boy.” Because that's going to be my whole countenance. It's very low key. It's very “West Coast.” I'm never “West Coast,” so it makes my dog go, “what is happening?” And so you just get that super chill vibe. Now we're practicing it in a controlled area. We’re not going out into, you know, the farmer's market, or a busy street, or a parking lot where there's cars and people. I'm literally taking this step by step in my house in a hallway or in the training building where we have nobody else in a room. It's gotta be low key. Then we started to set up distractions. So what I did with my classes this week, was after they had the concept and they were familiar with it and they were doing really well, I gave them the option of approaching objects. So I had...objects are really interesting because you think, “Oh, we're going to put down a bowl with food in it.” But that's really not what you encounter on walks. Right? So handful of leaves. I had a Stacey sweatshirt  there on the floor, a bag, somebody's bag, somebody’s Dunkin Donuts cup, right? Food on a chair. So we're walking through this minefield and basically asking the dog, “What do you understand about when we're on, ‘Here we go?’ Do you think you can go there? Do you understand the, ‘stay with me?’” And they're like, “I could go over there. That's a cool Dunkin donuts cup.” We’re like, “Oh yeah, I think so too. But no, you can't do that.” 

Sarah: Are you doing this with the Beginner classes or more Intermediate or Advanced? 

Kathy: I'm not doing this with Beginners yet. 

Sarah: Okay. 

Kathy: I think with some of the Beginners, we're still working on, “How do you hold the leash.” 

Sarah: Right. Right. 

Kathy: You know, markers, reward, verbal thing. 

Sarah: Right. And the Beginner dogs may not have the impulse control to be able to work through some of those challenges too. 

Kathy: And they don't have a background history in Collar Grab either. 

Sarah: Right. Right. 

Kathy: So if they start reaching for the collar and they haven't built reinforcement and value for it, the dogs, you'd be like, “Yeah, now I'm gonna run farther from you.” Somebody asked if they can put the leash around their waist. I'm not a fan of it. I guess you could, but I just feel like in the beginning stages I'd want you to have both hands on the leash just in case something heinous occurs. 

Sarah: Yup. Okay, so what were some of the distractions you guys are working through? 

Kathy: People. So then we had a lineup of people and I had everybody against the wall with their dog in a Sit or a Down/Stay. And then one person was the working person and they would walk up to a person and they would decide how many feet away worked for their dog. And so I think three and four feet were pretty much great. Now again, remember that the dogs with these people are trained. So I'm not just walking up to somebody with a dog who's wild, it’s on a Sit/Stay. So they walk up, they say, “Hey, how are you?” And the dog’s, like, “I don't know what I should do. Like, should I sit? Maybe I'll just stand here”. And then they would say, “Here we go, go to the next person.” So that was a big deal would amp that with the people who they were talking to me, like, “Oh, my God! What a cute dog!” You know? Then seeing if the dog was going to fall for that, and then adding on, they had food in their hand and then they were playing with their dog excitedly, so there's a dog distraction so you can really level it up. Also, location changes are important. So it's in the school, it's in the front of the school, it's at their house. It's everywhere. “Can your dog do this no matter what?” And I was thinking that those people who had an issue with their dog being too crazy when people come to the house that they would love this. 

Sarah: Yeah. 

Kathy: Right? Because what's your biggest problem? Your dog runs up to people. So snap them on a leash, take them to the foyer, open the door, and the dog is like, “Hey, you know, I can't go see you, but I understand that this is my space.” And I think the reward for the dog at some point becomes intrinsic because it's less structured. They can do more, right? They can move a little more, they can see a little more, but it's not that formal, “At my left side thing.”

Sarah: Yeah. It also provides a looser walk for the dog where they can experience the environment a little bit more fully than if they were on a formal or a little bit more focused Heel. So some dogs who may be reactive or they're just, they're too amped by their environment, you want to start them on those other ones. But then when you want to start to challenge the dog, you move back to this kind of heel, you're then able to let them experience the environment a little bit more and see if they're able to have those good decision making skills to make the right choice.

Kathy: Exactly. And I think it gives the owner a better experience, too, because once you have this nailed down, you know you're not doing as much work and you're actually having a conversation with people and you look normal. You're not going to get your finger up going, “Right here. Sit.” Right. We're having new conversations and relationships with people. They’re like, “Wow. You, you do have eyes. It's cool.” 

Sarah: Yeah.

Kathy: So I think we're gonna run with that a lot more in classes. Again, Puppy and Beginners, they're not going to do it, but I think Beginner II, Intermediate, Advanced, we're just going to throw that at them and everybody's responding to it really well. The students are thrilled. The dogs, I think, are thrilled and it's a quick win when you're at that level. So everybody feels good about the process.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. 

Kathy: Alright. Anything else? 

Sarah: Nope, I think we're good.

Kathy: All right, cool. So that is it for this episode of Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense. Thank you so much for spending some time with us and I hope you guys will join us again soon. If you have any comments or show ideas, please reach out to us through our website at kathysantodogtraining.com and as always, if you like what you hear, jump over to whichever subscription service you downloaded from and like rate, subscribe, tell a friend and share this episode somewhere to help spread the word so we can continue to create an awesome community of dog lovers and learners. Happy training, everyone!

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