By Sean O’Shea
I often get asked by clients and other folks why I recommend the “Heel” command and what is the value of it? It’s a very good question. For me, it goes much, much deeper than just the aesthetic of having a dog walk next to you (although it does look good! :)), and there’s some obvious practical value of having a dog in a well managed physical position, close to your side to keep him or her out of trouble and harm’s way. But in my opinion that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are some really valuable state of mind and relationship benefits as well. Let’s take a look at a few!
-Dogs have to utilize a ton of impulse control and focus to keep themselves next to you on the walk in the face of many distractions and exciting triggers. This ends up being a fantastic training and state of mind exercise for the dog.
-The physical position of the dog indicates the mental position as well – or in other words, if the dog is working to keep himself next to me, I know he’s focused on me instead of the environment, I know he’s managing himself, and I also know that his intensity level is under control. (Most dogs as soon as they get agitated or stimulated start to move around and lose position either farther back or forward, and these are great warning signs.)
-A respectful, polite, courteous, and tuned-in state of mind isn’t the state of mind that reacts to dogs and other things in the environment.
-Having your dog honor your request to walk in a certain position, at a certain pace, and ignoring distractions, is a huge positive relationship builder.
-Dogs who are paying attention, respectful, polite, and courteously walking in a heel feel far less inspired, entitled, and empowered to bark, lunge, and disagree with things they disapprove of in their environment.
-Dogs in a heel, that are practicing self-control are far less stressed and anxious, and therefore far less apt to make poor decisions around dogs, people, cars, bikes etc.
-Dogs in a heel are actually deeply connected to their owners. They therefore feel far less stress and anxiety because they are being guided/led through the world rather than being in charge of assessing and sorting out what is safe and what is dangerous constantly. (Especially important for nervous, anxious, fearful dogs, who make up the majority of reactive cases.)
-Asking more of your dog makes you a leader. A dog with a leader is relaxed and comfortable. A dog who is a leader is stressed and anxious.
-Dogs being respectful on-leash tend to be respectful to the environment. Dogs being brats on-leash tend to be brats to the environment.
-If the dog is using 75% of their mental focus on keeping themselves in a heel position! that only leaves 25% to get into trouble with.
If you haven’t worked on “Heel” with your dog yet, and you’d like to benefit from some of these juicy “Heel/Healing” results, drop me a comment and I’ll connect you with a link to my video that shows how easy it is to create this very cool command. 🙂
Here are a few links of mine to help you with healing your heeling!
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Our groundbreaking do-it-yourself training video/PDF training booklet Learn to Train The Good Dog Way: The Foundation is now available for pre-order at a discounted price – click on the picture below to watch the new TEASER video, and click HERE to order your copy!