Sometimes goals are deliberate. I know what I want, I make a plan to train it, I work with my dog, and we eventually master the skill.
But sometimes goals just kind of happen! I am not really thinking that I want to do anything in particular and then suddenly I realize that I am working toward something and I want to continue and actually make it a goal.
That has happened with Tessa's heeling.
Tessa has never been a fantastic heeling dog. She started out with so much aversion to coming in close to me that I pretty much decided from the get-go that heeling would never be a very strong skill of hers.
That was a good decision at the time. Knowing her, I honestly do believe that if I had pressed the issue early on, I could have easily poisoned the behavior and sapped any desire to actually try right out of her.
So, at first I accepted her heeling flaws. She lagged horribly. She was tentative. Heeling was just something that we had to do sometimes. It was definitely not something that I would have thought about showcasing. We focused more on tricks and other behaviors and I accepted mediocre movement in heel and side position.
This is changing. Tessa is actually starting to become a very nice heeler. She is starting to develop power, style, and clear desire, even just a little precision!
Even though I actually did not work through a whole lot of it, the Precision Heeling class that we took at the bronze level during the last session of Fenzi Academy classes did help. Tessa's comfort level in position is definitely growing. Her understanding of where she is supposed to be is starting to develop. And when she drives up into correct position and moves there for any duration, she is really, really pretty!! And pretty will always win me over!
This session we are taking an IPO heeling class! +R based, of course! It might seem completely strange to have a sheepdog work IPO style heeling, but I believe that study of this particular style of heeling will benefit our Freestyle and HTM heelwork. The IPO style features power, precision, turns and pace changes, and - most of all - duration. This is one area where studying Obedience heeling has fallen short for us - for musical dog sports we need duration. And not just duration, but power, precision, and style over a considerable duration.
I am doing this at bronze level, so we will see how it goes. But I've been watching some of the gold level videos and I am really excited to jump in and try some of what I see with her.
So, Tessa and I have a new goal now - the Quest for the Amazing Heeling Tessa. I realize now that she can be quite good at heelwork. And it is clear that she is ready for this! and I'm ready! So we shall run with it!