I want to improve Gwynn's response to "heel". [The command we use is "close" or "stay close".] She, and Al to a lesser extent, tend to walk too far ahead of me, even pulling on the leashes, when excited by some compelling upcoming attraction (example: when we're approaching the playground and they know the ball is waiting). When I say, "Close!", I want them to walk exactly abreast of me, on my left on- or off-leash, as close as possible without getting stepped-on.
They're often good at this during undistracted walking, and will tighten up/come in closer when I pat my thigh and say "closer!", but they cannot restrain themselves when the ball is waiting ahead. I stop and make them come back, but they don't get it, and we slow to a slug's pace.
I've thought of using a long bamboo stick to restrain them -- holding just in front of them as an obstacle/reminder.
Note: part of this problem originates in my carelessness when Gwynn was a pup. I was sloppy, didn't realize how important it was to be on the same page with my wife Lori. Lori wanted the dog at heel on her left, the standard position; I thought it would be OK if she walked ahead, as long as she didn't pull on the leash. I thought the puppy would be smart enough to figure out that the rules were somewhat different with me and Lori. Wrong, too complicated, asking too much of the dog. So make sure everybody in the family knows and accepts the training plan, uses the same criteria, and exactly the same words, and knows precisely what those words mean.
Maybe most important was my failure in releasing them: I'd forget to release them, so they quickly learned they needed to obey "Close!" until I stopped paying attention. Big mistake. I learned that *I*, too, have to obey things like "stay" and "Close".