Thoughts on Heel: Left or Right Side?

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Which side should a dog heel on? Left or right?

Traditionally heel is done on the left side. Why I’m not sure. Whether this is a hunter introduced thing as is suggested or is it due to the fact that in England where dog training first became competitive and where they drive on the wrong side of the road, the left, I’m not sure. I suspect that it is a bit of both. Is it imperative that your dog heel on the left? No.

There is something to be said for heeling left when walking on the roadway. This puts the dog out of traffic, if you are walking facing traffic as you should be. This only applies in countries where they drive on the correct side of the road however, that is, the right.

But if you are walking on the sidewalk heeling on the left isn’t as convenient. Heeling on the right would be preferable as this would put you between your dog and others sharing the side walk, if pedestrians stay right as they should. It would put you and whoever else is walking their dog on their right further from each dog. Two humans between the dogs. Another reason to teach heeling on the right is riding a bike with your dog or roller blading with your dog. On the right the dog will be out of traffic to a greater extent. So heeling on the right has definite benefits.

Which is correct? That depends. If you are going to be showing your dog then you have to heel the conventional way, the left. Judges are very traditional in these events, anything but the left is likely to get you tossed. Why not teach your dog both? One reason is because it does confuse the dog. If you’re going to England by all means heel on the left. At least you’ll look “right” when on the wrong side of the road.

You can teach your dog to heel on the left when walking and then to be on the right when riding a bike. However I suggest you use a different word than “heel” as the command. The first time I used the command “heel” on a bike the dog immediately tried to go around the front wheel to get to the “heel” side and almost ended up getting run over. The second time I used “heel” on the bike she tried to go back behind the bike to get to the left side. Things got interesting to say the least. I learned right then and there never to wrap the lead around the handle bars and/or my wrist .

After sitting on the curb for a bit to calm my nerves and think, I settled on the command “Bike” and she now knows to not get her shoulder past my knee. Took her all of 10 minutes to learn it at that. “Bike” means the same as heel, I just use it when I’m on the bicycle is all. She looks at me like I’m the idiot if I try to use it when I’m walking even if I want her to walk on the right side. But "heel" and "bike" don’t confuse either one of us and I confuse a lot easier than she does.

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