Now, I know I need to take some responsibility for it. After all, I've been training dogs for 5 years now (!) and I know what I'm doing. But the stress of feeling like I needed to "keep up" during obedience classes definitely contributed to using the "quick fix" of corrections rather than moving slower (at first) with encouragement and rewards. So those little leash pops for heeling infringements seeped in. At one point, he was lagging so badly on our right about turns that I considered buying a check chain to fix the lag.
And as we know, that would be a bad idea because Vertigo would "Bite and bite and bite."
The other day he and I went on a walk and I decided to work on heeling. And he just wasn't focusing, so out came those leash pops. And the more I popped that leash, the worse he lagged, and the farther down at the ground he looked. He would not look me in the face. What happened to that peppy little puppy who would prance like a horse when we played the heel game?
It all finally came together and I came back to my senses when I went to obedience training without Vertigo this week (he had a cough). I watched the rest of my class work on their heel work and well, it's a lot easier to pick out others' mistakes than your own. One pair in particular, the trainer kept popping her dog for infringements and from the outside I could see, it was making the dog even more confused and frustrated than it already was. Then of course it finally clicked that I'd been doing the exact same thing.
So, starting now (well, starting 2 days ago) I'm taking the corrections back out. Of everything. He barks at "Ellie" across the street when she's out AGAIN and I tell him "oops" and call him towards me, using a lure if need be. I will practice heel in different situations using treats and especially his tennis ball, to get that pep back in his step. I will remind him that "down" is fun and stop correcting him for a slow one.
I'm still not gonna be perfect. I know that. But I owe it to Vertigo, myself, and the public who watches me train, to be a better trainer and a better person.