I often get asked by clients and people in general, why I suggest the “Heel” command when walking your dog and its value.
It goes beyond having a dog, or several dogs, walking next to you look nice. There’s great value in having a dog walk next to you, close by your side, keeping them out of trouble and harms way. But that’s just the start. There are some great state of mind and relationship benefits as well.
Here are a few:
Dogs have to use a ton of impulse control and focus to keep themselves next to you on the walk in the face of many distractions and triggers. This can end up being a great training and state of mind exercise for the dog. The physical position of the dog indicates the mental position as well, or in other words, if the dog is working to keep himself next to me I know he is focused on me instead of the environment around him. I know he’s managing himself and I also know that his intensity level is under control. Most dogs, as soon as they get agitated or stimulated, start to move around and lose position either further back or pulling forward.
A dog who is tuned in to you does not have the state of mind that reacts to other dogs and other things in the environment. Having your dog walk next to you in a certain position at the pace you set and ignoring distractions is a huge positive relationship builder. Dogs who are paying attention in the heel are far less likely to bark, lunge or disagree with things they are unsure of or disagree with in the environment they’re walking in.
Dogs in a heel are practicing self-control and are far less stressed and anxious and therefore less apt to make poor decisions around dogs, people, cars, bikes, etc. Dogs in a heel are actually deeply connected to there owners. They therefore feel far less stress and anxiety because they’re being guided through their world rather than having to be in charge of assessing and sorting out what is safe and what is not constantly. This is especially important for nervous, anxious, fearful dogs who make up a great deal of the reactive cases.
Asking more of your dog makes you a leader and a dog with a leader is relaxed and comfortable. A dog who has to be the leader is stressed and anxious. Dogs being respectful on leash tend to be respectful to the environment around them. Dogs being so called brats on the leash tend to be brats in there surrounding environment. If you think about it this way, if the dog is using 75% of there mental focus on keeping themselves in a heel position that leaves them only 25% to get into trouble with.
If you have not worked on “Heel” with your dog yet, try it and you will start to see the benefits especially if you’re consistent and practice it.
And of course, I’m always here to help you if needed. Drop me a line anytime!