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Have you taught your dogs to heel?

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Discussion Starter #1
Why do we teach our dogs to heel?

I understand if you're doing IPO or something similar, but if you just have a family dog, why heeling? I get loose-leash walking, control over your dog and recall. If heeling teaches the dog to focus on the handler, what other ways can this focus be built?

I am asking because I have noticed that people and trainers spend a lot of time on heeling (it's one of the first things we teach our pups). And there are different kinds of heeling. One of my trainers calls heeling "work". What is that heeling achieves that nothing else does? Another way to ask this is would be: why don't we teach doggy pushups instead of heeling? (this is an absurd example, I know)

Maybe it's not important really, and I have misunderstood... I know this is a very basic question. I'd like your opinion, please, as I am ruminating and can think of nothing else.
 

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I believe it has to do with focusing the dogs attention, and creating a pack leader mentality.
Interesting question.
 

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"heel" is a position. I would say that yes, there are different levels of heeling. Someone who wants only pet obedience would just need the position to maneuver thru crowds. Sport would want the focus from the dog. But again..."heel" is a POSITION, not focus.
 

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I believe it has to do with focusing the dogs attention, and creating a pack leader mentality.
Interesting question.
It really has nothing to do with pack leader mentality. It's just a position. It's important for the dog to know for various reasons. The level of focus required just depends on what you want for the end results. My dogs "with me" is more a pet heel. I don't care if they look around but they need to be in position. Fuss is on the field and they need to be focused on me because points are involved. It's just that simple.
 

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For a pet it's useful when navigating through a crowd,think farmer's market or craft fair.Or when you're out somewhere walking with your dog off leash and you need him by your side for a short time - critters,other dogs,cats,ATV riders,etc.I have Samson heel off and on whenever he's off leash for a walk down our road,when a car comes along or when we pass by a neighbor's driveway.
 

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I use the heel postion for two reasons:
1. Establish rules and a relationship with pup. At the beginning and end of every walk, I ask pup to heel while we walk down the driveway and little way down the street. Pup is pretty high energy so he has a tendency to lung and forge when we first get outside. Heeling seems to give him something to think about during that first 30 seconds to a minute. After that, he is usually on a long lead or off-leash. Pup has figured out that the sooner he settles down, the sooner he gets more freedom.
2. Navigating around people and other obstacles. Since I give pup a lot of freedom, I like to make sure that I have complete control in high-risk situations like when a car passes or we are walking past other dogs. I also like to use heel to help people around us feel safe that pup is under my control. Whenever someone looks uncomfortable, I cue pup to heel and hold a nice tight leash. Moms and dads with strollers and little kids seem to appreciate that my giant furball comes and walks quietly by my side as they pass.
 

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I don't teach a focused heel (because I don't do competitive obedience), but I have a "with me" command that means the dog has to stay at my side off leash regardless of what else is going on. Walk with me or run with me or stay stationary with me if I'm not moving.

I can use it to walk the dog through big areas with wildlife or farm animals, or other dogs. Or to the first obstacle in an agility course. Or through a street festival. Anywhere, really.

Conceptually, for me, it is the dog mentally yielding and keeping position instead of wandering off, chasing something interesting, or ignoring me. Without being on a rope. I don't care if the dog is looking around, but it needs to say with me.

It's incredibly useful.
 

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Why do we teach our dogs to heel?

I understand if you're doing IPO or something similar, but if you just have a family dog, why heeling? I get loose-leash walking, control over your dog and recall. If heeling teaches the dog to focus on the handler, what other ways can this focus be built?

I am asking because I have noticed that people and trainers spend a lot of time on heeling (it's one of the first things we teach our pups). And there are different kinds of heeling. One of my trainers calls heeling "work". What is that heeling achieves that nothing else does? Another way to ask this is would be: why don't we teach doggy pushups instead of heeling? (this is an absurd example, I know)

Maybe it's not important really, and I have misunderstood... I know this is a very basic question. I'd like your opinion, please, as I am ruminating and can think of nothing else.
I taught a "pet" with me as well as a focused heel. I want my dog to walk beside me nicely when the walk is for me. I'm not going to have a dog that's pulling and yanking and tugging while I'm trying to enjoy myself on a walk.
When it was a walk for Kias, such as an unpopulated nature trail or a quick walk around the block, I would use a flexi leash and let him do whatever he liked.
 

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useful and convenient... just like any other OB command. i don’t know that it’s so important.. like a solid recall for instance.
 

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I picked other because my oldest dog was taught on and off leash heeling... but I never used the command so my others were never taught.

I find I use loose leash walking, whether the leash is 6' or 1' for leashed walking and for off leash I use here which means put a 6' invisible leash on yourself. If I need them closer, each subsequent here brings them a foot or two closer.
 

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When I was a kid, a fellow in the town near my cottage had two pit bulls that healed in a pair at his side perfectly. It fascinated me that he could walk them off leash and under perfect control. Later I taught an Irish Setter, the first dog that I trained, to heal. I loved being able to walk that dog off leash.
Heal to me means staying tight at my side. sitting when I stop, and never breaking the heal; no matter what distractions present themselves. Being able to stay in position at all speeds, if I turn quickly either way, walk forwards and backwards, and to do it all really sharp.
I think it is a fun skill to teach for both me and the dog. What I value is having it proofed to the level where you can really trust that your dog will not chase a squirrel,or a rabbit nor will he react to other dogs no matter how they freak out. Another benefit is that it also communicates to people who are nervous about GSDs that your dog is under control.
It clearly isn't a requirement for a pet, but it's useful and a lot of fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
A couple of you mention that heel is a "position". Can you explain a little further, please?
I think of heeling as a movement command, heel, and move away.... But now I am thinking I misunderstood.

do folks also lead off with the same foot? I use my left (as I was taught).
 

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A couple of you mention that heel is a "position". Can you explain a little further, please?
I think of heeling as a movement command, heel, and move away.... But now I am thinking I misunderstood.

do folks also lead off with the same foot? I use my left (as I was taught).
The position of Heel/Fuss is the same when stationary or moving. The dog's shoulder should be parallel with your hip. The position in relation to your body should not change. Watch an IPO routine. Stationary, slow, fast, normal. the call out from the blind is Hier! Fuss! Calling back to the basic position that is stationary at that time.
 

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Something that I forgot to mention... Heeling is enjoyable. I don't want to turn my dog into a robot by killing his natural drive. But, it is kind of a rush to have an animal like a German Shepherd walk politely at your side even though there are more interesting things he could be doing. It is especially cool because he is not there because of a tight leash or a loud voice. He is there because you have a strong relationship with your dog. He is there because he 'knows' that if he follows your rules he will earn the right to loads of fun.

Today's adventure was chasing frogs down by the pond. Pup doesn't seem to like the way frogs taste. He just picks them up gently with his mouth and tosses them when he catches one.
 

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IMO, a precise, focused heel is for competition obedience and for dogs in aggressive crowds as military and police dogs, it keeps the dog focused on the handler to facilitate control. Outside of competitive heeling, I let my dog walk ahead of me on a walk. If I need to call him to a static heel position, I have that option. Otherwise, if I pass people on a walk, I shorten up on the leash and keep him to my left side and put some distance between my dog and me and others I walk past.
 

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It really has nothing to do with pack leader mentality. It's just a position. It's important for the dog to know for various reasons. The level of focus required just depends on what you want for the end results. My dogs "with me" is more a pet heel. I don't care if they look around but they need to be in position. Fuss is on the field and they need to be focused on me because points are involved. It's just that simple.
It’s still a position but diff results. My boy knows with me in position but also knows fuss is look at me in position.
 
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