The Importance Of The “Heel” Command
If you’ve hired a dog trainer in the past, you’ve probably been told to use the “heel” command. Most dog trainers will advise you to make the dog walk right by your side and now allow your dog to pull, greet, or sniff another dog on walks.
So, why is it so important for your dog to learn the “heel” command? Why can’t he change sides and roam around as he pleases? If the walk is meant for him, why can’t he do whatever he wants?
Walking is not just about exercising your dog. It’s also a great way to challenge him mentally. A walk should not be boring and predictable. It should be fun and adventurous for both you and your dog.
The Heel Position
When your dog is in the heel position, his paw should be right by the heel of your foot. If he is in the correct stance, he should be able to see you from the corner of his eye.
When your dog leaves the heel position, he can no longer see you. If your dog does not have eyes on you, there is no way for him to react to your body movements, change of direction, and sudden stops during a walk.
In the dog world, whoever is in front of the pack is considered the leader. The leader decides where and how fast the walk should be. When you let your dog walk in front of you, the following will happen:
- He will decide which direction to take
- He will be the first to greet any dog or person that approaches the two of you
- He will choose the speed of the walk; either too fast or too slow
- He will decide when to stop and for how long
Although you may be OK with these minor occurrences now, if you continue to allow this behavior, there can be dangerous consequences down the road.
A dog that thinks he is the leader will choose not listen to any command you may give them in the future. This type of dog does not do well with authority and obedience training.
If you don’t enforce leash training, there is a good chance that your dog will pull you into a dangerous situation, like a busy street with oncoming traffic. Letting your dog walk ahead of you can bring about unexpected hazards and you will not have enough time to react.
Pulling on the leash can also damage the trachea if your dog is wearing a neck collar. A common sign of this is if your dog is gaging and choking while you are on walks.
When your dog makes frequent stops and wants to sniff everything, he is showing you that the walk is boring him. You have not made the walk interesting enough, therefore he is creating his own adventure.
A dog who refuses to walk after a short period of time is not a tired dog. Most of the time, he is simply refusing to follow you around or join your “pack”.
Allowing your dog to pull on the leash can put him at risk of approaching potentially aggressive dogs, which could lead to serious injuries. Instead, it is your responsibility to initiate every greeting.
Tips to making your walk more fun for your dog:
- Leave your phone at home and spend this time bonding with your dog
- Constantly talk to them in an excited tone to get their attention
- Do not take the same path every day
- Change your pace: Switch back and forth from a brisk walk to a jog, making your dog adjust to different speeds
- Make sudden direction changes and encourage your dog to follow
- Incorporate some basic obedience training into your daily walks to keep your dogs’ mind sharp
Enjoy the walk…