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Correcting Improper Heeling Techniques

Did you ever happen to notice dogs that are supposedly trained to heel do everything but heel. People walking with their dogs where the only thing that resembles a heel is the fact that the dog is relatively close to their left side, give or take a yard or two. Even in the "professional circles" like on the Schutzhund field and the AKC obedience ring on any given day you could find a million variations to the command heel. None of which are correct.

Here are some examples so-called good heeling techniques:

1. you see dogs constantly jumping on the handler/owner

2. you see dogs walking with their head draped over the handler/owner's left leg looking at the right leg

3. you see dogs with their rear-ends 45 degrees out of line from where their heads are

4. you see dogs some dogs completely drape their whole bodies around the leg of the handler/owner

5. you see dogs looking straight up at the handler/owner so if the handler/owner walked into a wall the dog would just stupidly follow because he/she is not looking where he/she is going

6. you see dogs so close to the owner's leg you cannot even get a pin between them

7. you see dogs that you know have been taught to heel with food because they are constantly nudging the handler/owner's hands with their mouths and not looking where they are going

8. you see dogs that when they heel they walk right across the handler/owner's legs

9. and one of my all time favorites is the handler/owner who has taught his dog to heel with a ball either in his hand or shirt pocket.- the dog's eyes never leave the spot where the imaginary ball is hidden
Heeling is a specific exercise which has specific dictates.

The dog should be approximately two inches away from the handler/owner's left leg. The dog's shoulders should be even with the handler/owner knee. The dog is supposed to be directly parallel next to the handler/owner. And lastly, the dog is supposed to be looking straight ahead keep pace with the left leg with his peripheral vision. Any distortion of these dictates mean that the dog is not heeling. The heeling distortions mentioned above are all man-made errors either due to lack of knowledge or not being able to rectify the wrong heeling into the right heeling. If your dog is not blatantly doing the incorrect heeling mentioned above and you wish to test how accurately he/she is heeling here is a simple test.

Take a friend with you to a relatively nice sized shopping center that has the parking spaces marked out with paint. Find the longest paint line and you stand to the right of it. Have your friend stand about 10 feet behind you. Place your dog in the sit position exactly on the paint line, then begin to heel. Your friend will be able to gauge your accuracy in your heeling technique by watching the dogs feet on the painted line. Another test is have your friend watch you heel from the left side about 20 feet away. This will show the side positioning of the dog relative to your leg. If from this test you discover minor adjustments have to be made, you have the painted lines, you have the dog and your have your friend watching so get to work.

Written by Neal Seaman

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Aldo's Acres, Inc.
2810 Wise Road, Conway, South Carolina 29526
Phone: 843-365-5021

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