Happy Heeling: Intro to Pocket Hand

May 25, 2024

One useful tool for teaching heeling is the pocket hand.  It works great for helping the dog learn the position and working on rear end movement.  Pocket hand is super versatile and can be used by itself or combined with other heeling methods.  It does a great job helping you train a dog to really understand how to heel.


Like all other prompts, the pocket hand must be faded, but it’s easy to bring back if your dog struggles.  You want to quickly get to the point where you only use it if your dog needs some extra help, and then it goes away again.


Get Comfortable with Pocket Hand


To start, hold the treat in your hand in between your thumb and pointer finger.  Keep the rest of your fingers straight and along the outside of the dog’s muzzle. Anchor your wrist to your side.  If you want the dog to move the rear end, you simply rotate your wrist counterclockwise slightly.  If the dog wants the treat, he/she will need to move the rear in to be able to turn his/her head left and get the treat.  You then reward that effort with a marker and release the treat.



Start by feeding your dog a few treats on your left side.  Start to get comfortable with how the treat feels in your hand, what your dog’s muzzle feels like in your hand, and release the treat after you mark.  At this point, the dog should be on your left, but don’t worry about exact heel position.



Little Dogs


You can teach small dogs pocket hand, too!  For the initial training, sit in a chair, get on your knees, or put your dog up on something secure, like a bed.  You can fade the pocket hand up fairly quickly, so if you do the beginning steps on the floor with the dog, you shouldn’t have to bend over too much once you stand up.  Here is a video of Denise and Brito working on the early stages of pocket hand.



Stay tuned for part two of our pocket hand series!  If you want to learn more about pocket hand, and lots of other ways to teach your dog to heel, join me for my FDSA online class, From Pivots to Practical Heeling.  We’ll cover all the steps from the pivot bowl to moving forward!

Does the thought of teaching heeling seem overwhelming?

If teaching heeling is on your to-do list and you want a simple solid plan, this class is for you!  We’ll start on the bowl and cover everything from getting off the bowl to moving forward, executing turns, pace changes, and more!

We’ll also go over some fun games to keep heeling fresh and fun!

Join me to get off the bowl and moving forward!

Registration opens on May 22nd.  The 6-week class will start on June 1st!


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