Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A heeling we will go

I love you guys. And when I go into the obedience ring in two weeks, with my left arm stuck to my pants with orange duct tape, I’m going to tell the judge it was ALL RILDA’S IDEA!!!!! Rilda, will you be stewarding at the Tri-City/Cedar Rapids cluster? Because I may need you to explain this to the judge.

Okay, discounting the suggestions to tape my arm to my side, the comments and e-mails I’ve gotten show the jury is split about 50/50 on the arm up/arm down dilema. Small dog folk generally agree that “arm down” is the way to go. As a rule, folks with bigger dogs thought “arm up” was the answer, except for Belinda and I really liked her comment: “A longtime Belgian competitor around here(Al Breece) always said your left hand down and swinging “claimed” the air space you owned between your leg and your dog.” In other words, it’s the DOG’S job to stay out of YOUR way, not the other way around.

That’s the problem I’m having and Kathy described it exactly: when she heeled with her left arm down, she ended up smacking Jazz in the face. I think if you heel with your arm down, heel position becomes a much more exact spot (and more demanding for the dog to maintain) because if the dog varies from it, he’s going to run into your hand . . . or your hand is going to run into him. With your arm up and your hand at your waist (the I'm-trying-not-to-barf position), he has more freedom to forge/crowd without actually making body contact. Is this a good thing? You decide.

Several nice people wrote to say they show big dogs and are having the exact same problem or they have gone from a big dog to a small dog and their demon-possessed arm refuses to hang naturally at their sides no matter how badly they want it to. (Clearly, more duct tape candidates.) Oh dear. You know what that means? There are people out there just like me! My mother always told me I was one of a kind. She lied.

Some people were surprised I would even consider heeling with my arm down, since at 24”, Phoenix is considered a big dog and at 5’5” (yeah, we'll go with that) I am no Amazon woman. The biggest reason I like heeling with my left arm down is it relaxes my body posture and keeps me from being tense. You’d better believe Phoenix reads that. The very act of clamping my arm across my waistline seems to lock me into overall rigidity. The flip side is, I catch myself holding my left arm very still because I don’t want to swat him in the face . . . which is a heel position problem, not necessarily an arm up/arm down problem . . . which I am finally realizing.

The Maligator and I have two weeks to work on this before the Tri-City/Cedar Rapids cluster at the end of the month. Those shows will see us returning to the Novice ring by default. We are sooooo not ready for Open, the clubs aren’t offering the non-regular classes and darned if I’m going to stay home from a show that is only 7 miles from my house! Not only that, it’s a Malinois supported entry on Saturday. So I clearly HAVE to enter and Novice is our only option. What the heck. It will be nice to test-drive some hopefully improved heelwork and do sits/downs with me staying in the ring.

Plus I may get to show Katie in Open for Jen, who is 8.99 months along with Baby Howard and due in a matter of weeks. Oh, what joy to go in the ring with a Sheltie again!

I’ll leave you with some various heeling pics of Phoenix and me. Or at least, my legs.

This was taken when 'Nix was maybe 1 year old. We're working Figure 8s at a match. I was doing some light collar pops to encourage him to drive around the outside turn. He looks great, my left leg is wide.

This was the set up for the Heel On Lead at my club's trials this spring, his first CD leg. Love that watch, you handsome man!

This was from a Novice run at a ring rental match. Naughty little dog! Actually, this is very representative of life with Phoenix. It's all about the teeth. Thanks, Sheryl Mc., for the great images.


  1. I haven't committed to stewarding yet. It will depend on my "Camp" schedule. It may be a last minute commitment if they still need help. If I am in the building, I'll bring the orange tape so don't worry about that. Arm down. You can grab little dogs quicker that way.

  2. I have to keep my arm up for Rah, because our size difference is nil (he's close to 30" and I'm barely over 5 feet!) - so when my arm swings, there's no way for him to maintain any sort of position without completely reteaching heel position.

    Which I may need to do, because he forges and wraps -- however, I tried the arm down and it didn't help. For schutzhund I put my arm on the outside of his body, actually.

  3. I am going to be at the CR show for once!! I can't wait to see how this goes!