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It seems that the left side heel is pretty standard. Every book, class, and competition seems to default to it.

As I was out running with my dog again this morning my mind was wandering and I started to wonder about this. Trail etiquette has people staying to the right and faster traffic passing to the left (hopefully with a shouted warning, but often that isn't even given). So, why would we place a dog on the left where they must meet all oncoming people, bikes, dogs and be in the way of passing bikes and roller blades? Even with a well trained dog, you're putting them in the most likely path of conflict. I had never really thought about this until I noticed I instinctively end up moving the dog to my right when I see poorly trained dogs or carefree kids coming. I also recalled a guy in my neighborhood who has a well trained dog that does an excellent off leash heel while he rides his bicycle. But the guy has to ride up the left side of all the jogging paths into oncoming traffic and yell ahead asking people to move over because the dog only heels on his left side.

I am thinking about introducing a directional heel, so we can do either side on command. Anybody else teach this?

Any idea about why the left handed heel is still such a standard?
 

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Unless it's competition and there are rules, you can have your dog heel on any side you want. If you want either side, train it and use a different word.
 

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I've been wondering many of the same things. I've just decided to go with my right since that is the best for me. I am right handed and because of the standard of walking on the right side of paths. If I had a dollar for every unruly dog that came up to me that was being walked to the owner's left..or the toddler that waddles over.. I'd be rich. Plus, with my dog on my right, I have more control and the dog has less to worry about. I wish more people that trail or path walk put their dog on their right. Also, we walk on a bike trail often. Only a small percentage of bikers ever announce they are coming from behind. This is a hazard in so many respects. I call walking to my right in heel position "with me" so that leaves "heel" open if I happen to need it in the future.
 

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It was pointed by many GSD breed historians including Max Stephanitz himself that German Shepherd dogs were designed for war and police work. Originally, your dog has to be at your left thigh because your right hand holds your weapon. But, during training. it was noticed that dogs tend to be on the left of their leader, and this behavior is absolutely natural to canines, typically a pack of wolves moves through the terrain, right flank is led by alphas and betas whilst younger inferiors run after on the left. This technique is used in Husky racing as well.
There's a big difference for your dog in where to park his body - on your bed, or on the floor, their levels means change in status for him. If you know what you do in training - you may get fantastic results, but what if you don't? If I knew your dog then I could tell you about advantages and disadvantages of training to heel on both sides.
 

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I am thinking about introducing a directional heel, so we can do either side on command. Anybody else teach this?

Any idea about why the left handed heel is still such a standard?
As Jax said, the left side heel is necessary for competition. That does not mean that you can't have a right side command, as she also points out, and in some sports, such as agility, you will need to be able to work your dog on both sides.

If you don't plan on competing in obedience and don't see the need to ever have a left side heel, then go ahead and train it on your right. If you think you may want a left and right heel, then train both sides.

When I'm out on the trail with my dogs, I'll sometimes move to the far left, especially when large groups are coming towards me, so my dog is still on my left, but I'm between him/her and the people coming towards us. If there's plenty of room, I don't bother, but sometimes there will be families with small children or a couple of moms with babies in strollers. I think it's just common courtesy to not expect them to walk right by my large dog, no matter how well behaved they're being.
 

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Another thing to consider, for me, is that I have a weak knee, and I walk with a trekking pole. The weak knee is the right one, so I use the pole in my left hand. It will make more sense for me to keep my future shepherd to my right side, where my free hand is. I am sure many others with some physical issues/limitations may have the same issue.
 

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Or, if you are in a hurry to squeeze through a crowd during some festival, by slapping on your right or on your left thigh you can signal your dog to change sides in places when someone in front of you is walking too slow.
 

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For me, the horse is on my right when being led. If I am wheeling a bicycle, it is on my right, I get on horse/bike from the left... I'm right handed so it just works in my situation to have the dog on the left.
 

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Out on the trail, street or alley, heel your dog wherever it is safest for your both. If you can direct your companion to one side or the other based on the environmental circumstances, great.

Close side heeling can be especially dangerous if you are running. No matter how well trained and synched your dog is, if a sudden, unforeseen animal bolts in front of you, a loose aggressive dog, bicyclist lacking “etiquette”, etc can result in a fall.

If you are a runner, or the path is narrow, you may find the dog slightly ahead of you (or even behind) with a little lead tension is safest to avert an entanglement.
 

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I like my dog on the left. Of course, I'm left-handed, so take that with a grain of salt. ;)
 

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As Jax said, the left side heel is necessary for competition. That does not mean that you can't have a right side command, as she also points out, and in some sports, such as agility, you will need to be able to work your dog on both sides.

If you don't plan on competing in obedience and don't see the need to ever have a left side heel, then go ahead and train it on your right. If you think you may want a left and right heel, then train both sides.

When I'm out on the trail with my dogs, I'll sometimes move to the far left, especially when large groups are coming towards me, so my dog is still on my left, but I'm between him/her and the people coming towards us. If there's plenty of room, I don't bother, but sometimes there will be families with small children or a couple of moms with babies in strollers. I think it's just common courtesy to not expect them to walk right by my large dog, no matter how well behaved they're being.
Our 4 yr old Nita has a preferred side due to her obedience training. Her agility instructor pointed it out and we are working on evening her out :) She is definitely more fluid and works easier one way vs the other way.
 

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Because most people are right-handed....somebody already said that...right?


SuperTakingAWildGuessG
 

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Most people ARE right handed. So, from earliest history, whatever needs your dominant hand is on that side. Horses are always on the handler's right, the horse's left, for that very reason. Most horses won't even let you mount from their "off" side. A person's weapon/tool (from sword to gun, hunt horn to stock whip) will be sheathed or held to be used by the right hand.

So, to this day, not only dogs, but hawks, are worked with their handlers left hand ;)
 

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It kind of makes sense. Think of the rules of the road. If you, like me, live on a road with no sidewalks and wanted to walk your dog, then you would walk against traffic (ride with traffic).

So your dog would be farther away from the cars and fast moving traffic.

Trails are a new thing. I would imagine. Even there though, I would think bicycles would ride on the right, and people would walk on the left facing traffic with the dog on the outside probably in the grass. If something is coming at you, you can step off the trail, or they can move around you.

vehicles, if they don't all ride on the right, would have a harder time -- less response time if they came head on with another vehicle. This makes me NUTSO when people teach their brats to ride their bikes facing traffic. Kid on wrong side is going 10 miles an hour, car 55 miles and hour, the impact/response time is 65mph. Kid on right side is going 10 mph, car is going 55 mph, the impact/response time is 45 mph -- much safer. Pedestrians are going so slow that we had best just see them and move over -- have to maintain control of a vehicle. But when you have a vehicle moving at a certain speed you have less time to react if they are on the wrong side of the road.

I don't think any of the obedience stuff was set up with trails in mind.
 

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I want my dog passing on the same side as someone else's dog so we can joust with them head on and see who's dog wins.
 

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Yes. I need a left and right hand heel. I live on a narrow winding road without sidewalks and plenty of traffic. There are places where I need to walk on the right side of the road for safety's sake and keep my dog off the road.
 

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I want my dog passing on the same side as someone else's dog so we can joust with them head on and see who's dog wins.
If I was drinking something at the moment I read this I would have spit it out from laughing:grin2:
 

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I put a right side pet walk on my dogs cause it made more sense. They still contact heel on the left because tradition. I think the next competition dog I do will do defense of handler on the right side and heel on the left just for clarity.
 
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