If you are training your dog for obedience trials or the show ring, then you already know that having him walk with his head up is just part of good form. However, “Heads-up!” has plenty of use for the home dog owner as well because it will instantly get your canine’s attention when you’re out and about.
For example: Imagine you are walking your dog in the neighborhood and they suddenly get fixated on another dog and get distracted. Pretty soon you can have a situation on your hands if you are not able to get your canine’s attention back on you and the walk!
Another benefit? If you have a sniffer dog that likes to regularly try to pull you into the bushes for a good smell, this is a great alternative behavior to get your dog used to for more pleasant walks.
Read on to find out how!
Being able to get your dog’s attention during a walk with the 'heads-up' command is relatively easy to train for most dogs 6 months or older, especially if they already have good leash manners. Expect your companion to have a solid understanding of 'heads-up' within a few weeks of regular practice.
A “Heads-up!” walk is when your dog keeps their eye on an elevated focal point of your choosing, usually somewhere on your body. The location of the focal point depends on the type of work you plan to do with your dog, their natural gait, as well as personal preference.
If you are planning to train your dog for competition in obedience, then you will want to make sure that your regular 'heel' already includes 'heads-up' from the beginning. In such cases, you will usually want your left forearm as the focal point for the best form and to prevent forging, that is, the dog trying to get ahead of you during the 'heel'.
For less formal settings, you may want to make the focal point for 'heads-up' to be your face, a common preference for professional trainers because it really intensifies your dog’s attention on what you might ask for next.
The 'heads-up' walk is special. It would be hard for your dog to maintain it all the time, and might even hurt their neck. Save it for practice, special occasions, alternative behaviors for problem walkers, or the show ring!
This guide assumes that your dog already knows how to walk besides you, in other words, 'heel'. If you do not care about perfect heel form, then as long as your dog already has leash walking basics down, you are ready to teach 'heads-up'.
Some things to have ready:
Remember to choose a focal point before you get started, and stay consistent. Once you have decided on that, then grab your clicker, your treat pouch and let’s get busy!