OB700: Shaped Precision Heeling: No props, no lures and no editing!

Instructor: Denise Fenzi

Course Details

28 days of shaped precision heeling!

This class is completely unique from anything Denise has done before.   Instead of laying out skills and lectures to teach a dog to heel, she recorded all of her training sessions, shaping two of her dogs, Brito and Lyra, to heel on the right-hand side; a skill new to all of them.

Denise specifically designed the process to be a shaping process rather than a luring one. Without using a  leash,  disc or a cookie in the hand close to the dog, you can learn how to teach your dog to heel “with precision”

There is no formal lecture included with these lessons; instead, you will have a process of learning by observation. To clearly understand this, please see the sample lectures that are placed here for your consideration.

This is a class for advanced trainers! Denise will assume that you have the skill of shaping, and that you are able to deduce by watching what she is reinforcing, where she is offering support and what she is ignoring altogether.   If you are a more novice trainer, the regular precision heeling class will be a much better initial choice.

If your primary goal is to teach the skill of precision heeling, it is suggested that this class be purchased in conjunction with the original precision heeling class.  If, on the other hand, your primary goal is to see how an experienced trainer moves forward with the process of teaching a skill (any skill!) then this might be just the ticket for you!

You will have a chance to observe that while both dogs started out the same way, many decisions were made to accommodate the fact that they were making different decisions themselves within the learning process! Therefore, you will see Denise’s training decisions diverge for both dogs, come together in the middle, and diverge again towards the end, as Lyra progressed more quickly and showed different talents than Brito.

The videos are completely unedited, therefore you will also have a chance to see what happens in real time with how the sessions start and end, what happens when the dogs get distracted or leaves to contemplate food on the table rather than working, or how Denise might respond when the dog gets bored by the whole thing and simply walks away. You will see the occasional stress behavior like sniffing or scratching,  sessions that go on for too long, and the effects of repetition and drilling on a dog’s attitude. You will also see how Denise addresses each of these things, simply as a result of the natural training process.

There are a total of approximately 60 videos, 30 for each dog. On those days when the dogs are trained more than one time, those videos have either been combined into one longer video, or labeled “a” or “b”. For example Lyra: Day 15b would be Lyra’s second session on the 15th day.

Both dogs make excellent progress towards the following precision heeling behaviors: a few steps forwards, a few steps pulling away from the dog (to emphasize rear end movement), pivot left and pivot right of about 180° each direction, and a few steps of heeling backwards. In all cases, the dogs are trained and worked slowly and methodically, with particular attention to developing body awareness and a high level of accuracy.

In Lyra’s case, a toy is added to the process at various points to encourage her to show more energy. She ends the process working outdoors at a more normal pace, using a toy for her reward. This will give the viewer an opportunity to learn more about your choices when combining precision with a toy and handling higher levels of motivation.

In Brito’s case, you will see that most of the work focuses on food, though there is some addition of toys, with the various problems that come with that!   He ends the program working both in the house and outdoors, with food being used in a playful fashion to build drive. With Brito, Denise constantly alternates between building energy and maintaining precision.  Overall, he does not progress as far as Lyra.

In the beginning of the process, Lyra represents a dog that shows low energy and motivation to learn.

As the videos progress, Denise speaks more and more to the camera to explain what she is doing and why.

While the purpose of this program is to teach heeling, the reality is that it provides a unique glimpse into the reality of a professional dog trainer’s process. It is not linear. It is not clean. There are lots of points when the work is downright messy, poor decisions get made, and other decisions have to be made to rectify those mistakes.

And...it’s all okay. You’ll get there!

For each lecture, Denise recommends that you open it up, read the brief sentences that describe what you will find there, watch the video, and then move onto the next one.

Welcome to 28 days of heeling with Lyra and Brito!

A note on the progression:

Because I was not sure what I was going to do with these videos, I collected all of them in a file and made decisions later. As a result, you will notice that I change from the start of the program to the end. For example, in the beginning, I almost never talked to the camera, but as I continued I talked more and more. That was because I decided it would have value later on. So if it looks somewhat disjointed, I apologize for that.

I also want to note that a couple of videos are missing. That is because I thought I had recorded a session and discovered afterward that I had not, or that the file had become corrupted.  But because these are unedited and in process, I also can’t make them up. So I didn’t! They’re simply not there.

What should you watch?

If you want to avoid the tedium of watching 28 days worth of training, which days or videos should you focus on?

The million-dollar question right there!

There is no answer to that question which is why I included every last one. The fact is, training is a process. It’s not like there are days that matter and days that don’t. Every day matters; sometimes it will be obvious that it mattered by the dog’s light bulb change of behavior. Other days you won’t think the dog is learning at all, but when you look back one or two weeks later you will discover that indeed, learning has been taking place.

By the way, human training is equally slow. So while I fully understand a person’s desire to get to the “good” parts, it simply doesn’t work that way.The best I can do is to provide very short descriptions to go with each video. If something jumps out at you, watch it! If not, move on by.


Please note that I "wrote" more on Brito's lecture descriptions than on Lyra's, so that may help you get oriented if you're struggling overall, but Lyra had far more trouble in the beginning than Brito, so that might factor into your decision of where to start as well.

Why the portrait orientation?

In these videos, I felt that having my shoulders and head in the video was important, so most of them are done in portait orientation.  This is on purpose.   Be aware that you can use the "full screen" button in the lower right hand corner of the video to increase the size to your full screen, and you'll see much more detail that way.

A note on shaping, lures, and discs

My personal preference is to use all of these; shaping as appropriate, lures as needed, and discs to help the dog develop some muscle memory. But again, because I specifically designed this program not to include those things, I did not do so. There is no doubt my mind that I could have progressed much more easily and quickly if I had.

So now that the program is over, I will indeed include these things!   The trick is to be strategic about your use of aids. Use them as needed, and then get rid of them before they become an integral part of the dog’s ability to perform.  But as training aids?  Well, that’s good!