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Discussion Starter #1
So I've trained Beau to heel and he's a pleasure to walk on leash, and making good progress heeling off leash too- except for one thing now. Awhile back I got him a set of saddlebags which he has no issues with wearing. . Actually seems to know its sort of his job to carry our stuff. My problem is that I cant get him to move out alittle from his original heel position- so the saddlebag on his right side is constantly rubbing my left leg. Have tried using leash pressure to guide him off alittle bit but he always drifts closer. Tried frequently bumping him hard with my left leg to make being that close more uncomfortable for him. Have given him my approval when he gets where I want him but he always drifts back closer. He's being stubborn, the dog lives to please, enjoys his training immensely, and takes it seriously when I work him- so I'm obviously not figuring out how to communicate this to him.
Any suggestions?
 

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Hm. Sounds like he might not have enough body awareness to figure out how close his body + the packs are to you. There are ways to help develop that, but if I had this issue I'd take an easier way out.

Teach him, on a different cue than what you're currently using for his heel, a second position that's either a little ahead of you or a little behind. That way you're giving him clear direction and it'll be impossible for the packs to hit you. I think moving forward or back by a foot or so will be clearer to him than moving a couple inches to one side.
 

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"I'm obviously not figuring out how to communicate this to him."


FEED him *out there*. Like the old saying, feed for (desired) position.

And I agree with daysleepers, teach a new / separate cue.
 

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Reward when he is off your leg ONLY.

Let's look at the clock. You are moving forward, dog heeling on your left side. You are facing 12:00 O Clock. Have your dog Fuss or Heel. The INSTANT you feel him OFF your left leg say YES! and toss the ball (or food if it where he can easily see the food) to the 8:00 O Clock position so he must turn away from you to the left to get the reward.

Play tug (if you are using a ball on a rope) then out the ball and start walking right out saying "Fuss" and keep on walking (make him catch up). Rinse and repeat.

PRESSURE (correction or leash guidance) makes crowing worse. Leash pressure to the left will cause him to move right and into you (oppositional reflex).

I carry the ball outside the dog's head on the dog's left. The dog's head is up and focused on me (shoulder area, not face because that causes the butt to swing out). dog is NOT looking at the ball (this training is part of impulse control).

Another place I reward is straight up slightly in front and away from my body. The reward MUST always come form your left hand (reward in the right makes the dog wrap and crowd).

Current dog the ball is under my arm and reward I simply raise my elbow and drop the ball. This dog has been taught this way from the start and does not crowd (at this point).
 

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No need for a separate cue. Just reframe your heeling.

This crowding is common in my sport. Most of the time it is caused by incorrect reward handling and placement (reward in the right hand and fed/tossed from the right hand) OR from corrections (the dog now is unsure so crowds trying to be right).
 

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There is another way to push a dog off your leg (hard bumps with your leg rarely work and believe me.. I see that used a LOT by people including experienced people). That bump again often causes the dog to lean in harder because they become unsure what they are supposed to do.

A technique I have used is to crowd the dog by walking at a slight angle into him/her. So if you are facing 12:00 O'Clock and the dog is parallel to you but crowding a bit simply walk at an angle toward 11:00 O'Clock or between 11:00 O'Clock and 10"00 O'Clock. Now YOU are crowding HIM and most dogs will want to get out of your way.

You keep pushing into him (and act a bit like you might step on him.. and I have NEVER seen a dog allow himself to be stepped on) and the instant he is off your leg, mark it (I use YES!) and throw the reward to 8:00 O'Clock.

When he will stay off your leg for a few steps, reward.. and build on duration. Use the bridge word (I use a long drawn out "good..") to mark it when he is getting it right but you are building duration. The bridge word lets him know "you are doing it right, keep going because a reward is coming" and then at some point a few steps after reward (as long as he is still off your leg).

It is important to be aware under stress he may go back to crowding since it is likely a default behavior and is indicative of his stress or concern. The stress can be environmental (loose dog, people approaching etc.) or it can be from you being stressed (pheromones, body language, bad day at work etc.).

This does not mean you cannot get him off your leg most of the time.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for all the advice everyone! Got some good info here to try out. He doesnt crowd when he's not wearing his saddlebags, but I swear its like he's trying to hold his normal heel position even though the packs cause us to bump and rub against each other when they're on. I've tried crowding him back, walking in figure eights and circles with him on the inside with no luck......which is irritating cause thats how we train from the get go and he seemed to learn his initial heel very well that way. Haven't tried food rewards yet, but will. He's not very food motivated so that may not work. I like the idea of using a marker and dropping a ball when he's where he needs to be, that sounds like it may be the kind of thing that'll work with him. I'm going to attempt to avoid using a separate cue for this, but hey, if I have to then I have to. Just got back from a trip so haven't worked on it over the weekend, gonna start this evening when it cools down outside.
 

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Thanks for all the advice everyone! Got some good info here to try out. He doesnt crowd when he's not wearing his saddlebags, but I swear its like he's trying to hold his normal heel position even though the packs cause us to bump and rub against each other when they're on. .
This is it exactly. He is doing what you taught him and he is going to do that because it was successful. You created the muscle memory.

Of course, he is a smart dog and maybe he is trying to tell you to carry the darn pack. His job is to heel..... haha!
 
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