From Jo Ann Mather, (email@example.com)
This is a summary of my understanding of the Choose-to-heel method, as developed by Dawn Jecs. Let me preface with the statement that I don't see this as a cure-all for heeling ills. I'm sure there are trainers out there who have a much more sophisticated way of teaching heeling, and that's fine. But this is simple, easy to do, and, if nothing else, will get you a dog who looks to YOU as security -- that is, if he gets distracted or frightened, he will not take off for the tall timber, but will come to you instead.
Begin with your dog, off leash, in an enclosed area. A tennis court, if you have access to one, works well. You will need a large supply of tiny, really yummy treats. I use cremated hot dogs or teentsie pieces of Rollover (Oinker Roll in some parts of the country.) Holding a treat in your left hand and holding your hand in position as you would when heeling, begin walking briskly. Say nothing -- just walk. Your dog may pay no attention to you at first -- may start checking out the surroundings, etc. Eventually, though, he will get curious and wonder what you're doing and come investigate. When he gets close to you and in approximately heel position, stop, and quickly give him the treat. Say nothing -- no "good boy", etc. Just treat him. Then, turning abruptly toward him, begin walking briskly again. When he reaches heel position, again, stop and treat him, then turn toward him again and begin walking. Again, treat when he gets into heel position.
If you are holding your hand close to your waist, as you do when heeling, he will pretty soon start coming around in front of you, trying to get at your hand. Be sure you do NOT treat him when he is in this position. Move your hand to your side and treat him when he is there. Continue working in this fashion, until he gets the idea where he is supposed to be to get treated.
There are more steps to this -- you gradually add distractions, delay giving the food, etc. Dawn does do seminars and workshops on this technique and if she comes to your part of the country, she's well worth your time and money. She's very upbeat and personable, as well. I also understand she has a videotape coming out or maybe it's already out.
Problems with the technique -- your dog learns to heel off leash. Sometimes dogs who have not been introduced to the leash properly after being trained with this technique can't handle being ON leash!
This is a TOTALLY POSITIVE technique. The dog is NEVER told NO or that he is wrong -- he is just NOT REWARDED for being in the wrong position.
A book is now available: Choose-to-Heel: The First Steps, in workbook format. To order, send $19.95 plus $4 shipping and handling to Dawn Jecs, 15004 66th Ave East, Puyallup, WA 98373. Visa and Mastercard are also accepted.