Monday, March 2, 2009

Cookie Turns as taught by Nancy Patton

Actually with the drawings I sent, the foot work is mostly for training the dog to read your signals, and for you to get an idea. There is no way you'd want to do it quite like drawn in actual competition.

Remember these are for training only.

We even said little things to the dog as we did them.

First there is a way to hold the leash. It's always tight with the dog snugged up to your leg/hip so that part of your body acts as a fulcrum for the dog to turn on.

The leash - at the dog's neck height, is run behind both your legs/hips (with a Papillon it's much more difficult - but I did it - you have to duck walk/waddle), gathered up, or allowed to drag behind you, as you want to hold the leash in your right hand at your pants seam - do NOT move this hand, it keeps the dog snug into your leg, you do NOT need to pull on it - just hold it tight.

I use String Cheese for treats in my left hand - holding it in a way that has the dogs head in exactly the position (just not distance from me) that I would like for him to heel - it can be heads up heeling (you really shouldn't want your dog to wrap, rather have the head up and tilted), or the head can be held level as the dog normally carries it - that's your and the dog's choice.

The clicker is held in the right hand along with the leash, you will click for any rear end movement on the left turn which should be the one you start training. The right and about are easy. Do the LEFT first.

I get in position - not the dog, I know what I want - the dog doesn't so I just don't go there.

With the perfect sized dog you can tuck your left elbow into your waist and hold the left hand with the cheese out and where you want the dogs head to be. AKC and UKC both tell you what that is - you pick it exactly and that's where you help your dog be when you get into position.

I let the dog nibble on the cheese as I move forward a step or two - you can decide how many steps you want to take before you actually start the turn.

At first the dog learns to turn with right foot cues for all 3 turns. By the time you're ready for actual ring competition he should be able to turn with either foot cues so you can turn promptly when you hear the judge give the command. It is NOT necessary to turn with the next step, still you're want to become proficient before competing.

Remember we're starting with the left turn, you get in position, snugging your dog up to your leg/hip, holding your left hand in the correct position for the dog to be in correct heel position (with my Labs that meant I was just holding my bent arm out in mid air - that's hard) (with the sheltie I could tuck my elbow into my waist - that's easy) (with the Papillon, the leash was around my lower legs about at the ankle, my knees bent, duck walking with my hand holding the cheese way down low - hurts your back).

So here is what I said and did with my dogs, each word means I'm moving a foot and they are slow small steps- I'm helping the dog learn how to move his body on cue/command, to keep it under control.





Angle Right "Cookie" (right foot step) - which is the word I use for this turn to left and to keep the dog in heel position. angle right (the toe of the right foot makes a "slight" angle at the big toe of the left foot -left foot is facing straight ahead.

Cross Over - Left foot (it's kind of a ballet move I think) the left foot goes completely across the right foot so you're standing strangely and you will have to move the right foot out of the dogs way or he might step on your shoe and remove it from your foot.

Balance - Right -balance - the balance is the movement of the right foot getting out of the way.

I click at any movement of the rear, you do NOT have to look to know the dog moves his rear, you can feel it though the leash. If that's hard for you, then get someone to click for you, do NOT NOT NOT look back. You want the dog staying in heel position, your turning your head and shoulder back to look will push him out of position.

If necessary to get the dog to move his rear you may have to take another step or three. Be sure to have your left foot/let forward when you treat.

I only do 4 of these turns at a time, regardless of how well the dog and I do.

This is working on muscle memory.


The words for the right turns, are




Angle Right - the right foot angles slightly to the right for the cue (it's a bit more then for the left turn but in the OPPOSITE direction).

Left Come around - Be careful with your left foot when doing this, some of us (me) have the tendency to swing our left heel out, which causes the dog to move out of the way. Click and feed the dog by your left pants seam.

Your hand/arm still being in the same position as before, with the leash wrapped around your legs/hips should have him in the correct place. Yeah!


There a couple of basic ways for you to do the foot work to help the dog understand what you want, both consist of keeping your feet close together and under your hips (no big steps).

The most common way to to make T's with your feet, plant the left foot the right foot swings in front of the left toes until the instep is more or less touching those left toes.

Do a 180 turn with your left foot (keep the right foot planted for this) until the heel of the left foot is at the instep of the right foot.

Take a small step forward with the right foot.

The other way has a nice little saying Nancy Patton taught us.

It's toe toe rotate go!

Left foot short step forward and plant (that's the first toe above)
Right toes go to the left toes (second toe above)
Rotate your left foot on the heel so it's 180 degrees turned
Go -- is bringing your right foot forward (short step)

some basic things that help the dogs understand turns. When doing straight line heeling you are taking nice steps that fit you and the dog - so you look pretty moving together.

Plan on shortening one stride when you hear the judge give the turn cue, in training it will be your left stride (this is telling the dog something is going to happen, but he doesn't know what it is yet). The next step, which is the right foot will tell the dog what you're going to do, the right foot, with this method gives the turn cue.

When coming out of a turn the first step is always shorter, it helps the dog maintain his position, the next step is your regular heeling stride.

When teaching these turns do them slowly, you need to work on what you're doing also, don't get upset if they are not quite right, you will smooth it out.

These are excellent cues for agility also.

Something people don't realize is how much their shoulders (and of course their heads as they are attached to the neck to the shoulders) turn with just a simple right foot movement. So don't try to over do these turns, always work on them being as subtle as possible, not blatant.

When changing pace while heeling it's important to look at different spots before you, slows means look closer to you, normal would be out a bit where you usually heel, fast would be out farther. For halts, use the shorter stride as the first cue to the dog, the next step to let him know what you're going to do. Up sits are wonderful for this.

Putting all the pieces together is easy if you want to compete, the dog and you know the principals, now you just get smooth and beautiful as you move along (stiffly as is required).

Jody B
Jersey Village, TX

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