One thing that I am really taking away from the Precision Heeling class that I am loosely going through with Tessa is that I believe it would be best to return to a head 'sup style of heeling with her, rather than have her continue to heel with her natural head-straight-forward style.
Speedy was a natural head 'sup heeler. I didn't really need to teach him to heel with his head up - he just did it. As a result, his eyes were always riveted on me and he often moved with that lovely high step prance. It made an attractive picture, especially when he was really "on" mentally.
I deliberately trained a head 'sup heel (on both sides) with Dean. I started training him to heel by standing with him in position and I would click/treat, click/treat offered eye contact in position. When we started moving, his eyes were on me. Although he does not have the high step prance that Speedy did, he does move very fluidly and elegantly when his head is up and his eyes are on me as he moves in heel or side position.
When Tessa came along, I ran into difficulties that I didn't have with either of them. She was very reluctant to offer eye contact. This was a major personal issue of hers. I thought at that time, "well, I'll just let her do this in the way that is natural to her". Whether my training is to blame, or the head position she has chosen, it just isn't working for us as a team. We aren't really connected when we are moving together with her in position. She is often with me, but it is more like we move when we are doing Agility. I don't have the level of focus I would really like.
Tessa is much more comfortable with the idea of eye contact now. I think she is at a point where she could learn a head 'sup heel. And I think it would be very beautiful for her to move that way.
It will take a lot of training. We are really starting at square one with it. But I think the end result could be well worth the work.
Here is Tessa just working on her eye contact. I am using the pivot platform solely to "ground" her to one spot. I don't mind the pivots or the wiggling, but if I had her on the ground, she would be offering a lot of other behaviors. You can see that once she figures out that the eye contact is getting the click/treat, she stops most of that movement to offer the eye contact. She's super smart!!
Yes, I need to work with a treat that she doesn't have to crunch up!! I actually took another video yesterday of just the eye contact using something soft, and she did maintain the upright head position. I need to upload that one.
Just one point of clarification - we are not doing exactly what the Precision Heeling students are doing in this video. I have added in the shaping/capturing of the upright head position for myself, based on other work I have done.
So, we shall see where this goes!! I'd love to put together some really beautiful Heelwork to Music and Dogs Can Dance Challenge performances if Tessa gets the hang of this.
I think we can do it!