Competitive heeling - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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Old 05-06-2013, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
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Competitive heeling

I feel like all of my questions on here are so simple, but here it is:

I have always been taught that the "correct" way to walk a dog is with the leash in your right hand and across your body.
I have been through several puppy/tricks/ misc classes, 6 rally classes and my first sub novice obedience class and I have ALWAYS had my leash in my right hand. No one ever said anything about it, so I never even thought that could be wrong.

Last week in Rally class when we were about to start our second run, our instructor corrected me and said "leash in your left hand" when I looked confused and said Really? She looked at me like I was a complete idiot and said, "Yeah, like in ALL obedience trials, obedience is always left hand."

I have no doubt that she is right... but it is news to me and the fact that this is the first time she has noticed me doing it "wrong" after 6 classes seemed a little strange.

I have been searching for the last hour for a definitive answer. I checked several obedience sites, the AKC website and watched tons of CD trial youtube videos (where it seems about 50/50 for right or left hand heeling).

So... should I always have my leash in my left hand in competition? Is it a preference or is it an actual rule that you would be NQ-ed for? I am obviously willing to change, but leash in left hand feels so foreign to me, it will take some practice on my part to get used to it.

Again, I apologize for what must be a very simple question, we are just starting out and it seems there is A LOT to learn.
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Old 05-06-2013, 08:28 PM Thread Starter
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Ok so I managed to find the current AKC regulations and it seems like either hand (or both) is ok.

But I still have to wonder why the instructor was so adamant about left hand heeling?? Is that the current trend in obedience maybe?
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Old 05-06-2013, 08:41 PM
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I was going to respond earlier but I started second guessing myself. In AKC either is acceptable but you can't change hands during the trial. So if start in right must do every exercise with right. In other organizations, leash must be in left. So... During training I use right so I can correct of needed but in trial I always use left.
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Old 05-06-2013, 08:47 PM
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I must be weird...I've always used my left hand. But I'm left handed. It makes no sense to me to hold your lead across your body.

Drives me even more nuts when I see people holding onto a leash with two hands xD

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Old 05-06-2013, 09:03 PM
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I must be weird...I've always used my left hand. But I'm left handed. It makes no sense to me to hold your lead across your body.

I guess it depends on your training style. You have more leverage for corrections holding the leash cross body. Also for more advanced titles with no leash you can start conditioning the dog to your left hand moving freely. For me its all about swinging my left arm while dog is heeling on my left side. If I need a correction (I also use a nagging method for focus heeling) I can use my right. If a dog forges, I put the leash behind me and hold it in my right hand. If dog forges all I have to do is stop or take a step back and dog self corrects.
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Old 05-06-2013, 09:46 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all of the responses. I guess I grew up learning that right was correct because it gives you more control on a normal walk/basic training where leash corrections were necessary.

I can see that left has its advantages, but it just feels so weird to hold the leash in my left hand.
She is great with on and off leash training and responds really well to very minute hand signals, so strong leash corrections are not much of a concern at this point, so I guess I could do either hand. Maybe I will see what our ob trainer advises?
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:21 PM
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I usually hold the leash in my right hand because it's easier for me to reward my dog in position if I have the treats in my left hand. If I use my right hand, those milliseconds of anticipation tend to pull the dog out of position and then I get a bit of wrapping.

In novice-level obedience and Rally you get dinged if the leash goes taut, and holding the leash in your left hand gives you slightly more leeway since there's a little bit more slack, so some instructors prefer to teach it that way for that reason.

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Old 05-06-2013, 11:37 PM
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I hold the leash in my left hand so that I DON'T pull the leash across my body. It pulls the dog into you when you give a correction. It can also depend on how long your training leash is. I use a shorter leash because I have small hands and have trouble wadding up a 6 ft. leash in my hand.
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:52 PM
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Oh yes, that reminds me of something else I meant to mention: if you are in the habit of correcting your dog often, and you do it reflexively in the ring, you are likely to get dinged for that. In this case you might want to develop a habit of holding the leash differently for trialing so that YOU, not the dog, are trained to develop the correct muscle memory. It's easy to revert to old habits while stressed in competition!

I don't use leash corrections (I've always taught my dogs to heel via free shaping and heeling games) but I've seen other competitors lose points for reflexively correcting their dogs in the ring. And of course any harsh correction will result in an immediate NQ.

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Old 05-07-2013, 12:02 AM
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I will give a correction in a trial. I don't let my dogs get away with anything just because we are in a trial. I have seen way too many trial wise dogs. Oh Mom/Dad cant correct me because people are watching. Bull crap! I will gladly write off the cost as a training experience.
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