Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking
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Thread: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

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    Senior Member Poly's Avatar
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    Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    I notice a lot of unnecessary confusion about these two skills. There shouldn't be.

    But first - a statement. Your dog can pass ANY CGC test and ANY therapy dog test that I know of without learning heeling at all. Are you shocked? Good.

    What your dog does need for those tests - and for good socialization in general - is a skill in loose-leash walking (LLW). That means the dog walking with you on-lead, responsive to your movements and pace, with the lead hanging loose. How long is the lead? Generally speaking, as long as you choose to make it. It could be six-feet, three-feet, or whatever is appropriate for the situation and whatever you are comfortable with (some of those tests do require a specific lead length). Which side is the dog on? You should eventually teach LLW on either side.

    LLW should not require a special cue - being on -lead with you and stepping off is enough of a signal that loose-leash walking time is here. However, if you want to teach a cue, go ahead and do it - just be consistent about it.

    Although you COULD use a flexi-lead for LLW (though not for those tests), it's not that easy to do. Most of the people who use a flexi and SAY that they are doing LLW with their dog actually aren't.

    But isn't a dog that is heeling under "more" control than a dog that is LLW? Maybe yes and maybe no. Teaching your dog to be under control in different situations is another learned skill that doesn't actually depend on whether the dog is heeling.

    LLW and heeling are also taught differently, but I won't get into those specifics here.

    Does that mean you shouldn't teach your dog to heel? Well, I'm not going to tell you what you should and shouldn't teach your dog. But heeling is NOT a necessary socialization skill. LLW is. Unless you are training for companion events or other sports that require it, you don't need to teach heeling at all.

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    Senior Member Zoey's Mommy's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Great points. For years I've been intent on making my dog heel, thinking it was good for them.... I guess mid 30's has brought on a certain amount of laziness, the softies, what have you; I'd much prefer my dog to loose leash walk now. It's just more enjoyable! They're my bff's, and they aren't entering Westminster. after all, there is no measure of their awesomeness!
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    Senior Member KBLover's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by Poly View Post
    Unless you are training for companion events or other sports that require it, you don't need to teach heeling at all.
    I disagree only with this little bit here.

    Heel is a position, and there are times I don't want Wally ahead just keeping the leash loose, sometimes I want him fixed at my side. (walking beside another owner and dog, for example, or if there's kids around with food and he wants to "explore" the kids - he could keep the leesh loose and still get in people's way on the sidewalk, etc). Having heel is useful for us to get that position without confusion. One word - he comes back and stays at my side. I don't think it's useful just for competition.

    Wally's latent learning position.

    Believe in yourself, be the type of dog owner you want to be and you won’t need labels." - Dr. Abrantes

    "I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand. " -Confucious says why I love shaping in a sentence.

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    Senior Member qingcong's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by KBLover View Post
    I disagree only with this little bit here.

    Heel is a position, and there are times I don't want Wally ahead just keeping the leash loose, sometimes I want him fixed at my side. (walking beside another owner and dog, for example, or if there's kids around with food and he wants to "explore" the kids - he could keep the leesh loose and still get in people's way on the sidewalk, etc). Having heel is useful for us to get that position without confusion. One word - he comes back and stays at my side. I don't think it's useful just for competition.


    What you present is a problem scenario, and heeling is one of among many possible solutions for the problem.

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    Senior Member KBLover's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by qingcong View Post
    What you present is a problem scenario, and heeling is one of among many possible solutions for the problem.
    Which means it's not useful for JUST sports/competitions.

    Wally's latent learning position.

    Believe in yourself, be the type of dog owner you want to be and you won’t need labels." - Dr. Abrantes

    "I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand. " -Confucious says why I love shaping in a sentence.

    "Once you've entered the battle, you've already lost." -Amaryllis' mom on dog and child training.

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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Walking through dense crowds comes to mind.


    Just an FYI, if anyone's interested -- "competition heeling" per se, does not require that the dog have steady eye contact with the handler; the dog is only expected to remain in heel position at all times during the excercise. ie: no extra points are awarded for unwavering eye contact.

    Somewhat relevant to this discussion, I think.

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    Senior Member climber's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by qingcong View Post
    What you present is a problem scenario, and heeling is one of among many possible solutions for the problem.
    What about if you want to walk with your dog off leash, but have the dog stay near you and under control? IMO heeling is useful for much, much more than just competitions - in fact, if you have a solid heel, you have a loose leash when you want it. I'm not saying loose leash walking is useless - it isn't, but for me, heeling is useful for more than competitions only, it's useful day-to-day.

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    Super Moderator Curbside Prophet's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    I see heeling very differently than just "a position." I think this idea truly comes from the competition arena. To me, heeling is very much an active behavior, no different than teaching the dog to beg, or sit, or retrieve, or whatever. I suppose how you get the behavior and how you utilize it, is what separates it from other behaviors.

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    Senior Member Poly's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by KBLover View Post
    I disagree only with this little bit here.

    Heel is a position, and there are times I don't want Wally ahead just keeping the leash loose, sometimes I want him fixed at my side. (walking beside another owner and dog, for example, or if there's kids around with food and he wants to "explore" the kids - he could keep the leesh loose and still get in people's way on the sidewalk, etc). Having heel is useful for us to get that position without confusion. One word - he comes back and stays at my side. I don't think it's useful just for competition.

    In the situations you describe, you DO only need LLW. Not anything else or anything extra. Just that one behavior. That's my point.

    If your dog is doing ACTUAL Loose Leash Walking (and not what some people call LLW), he is NOT exploring or going up to other people. He is walking with you on a loose leash under your control. The distance he is away from you is determined by the length of the leash.

    If the pathway is narrow or if you just want him to be closer to you for any reason, shorten the leash (or use a shorter leash). If you want him on one side or the other, have the leash on that side. If you taught LLW correctly, your dog is where he is to keep the leash loose. You shouldn't really need to verbally cue him or do anything more (although you can teach cues if you want to). The leash itself is all the signal that you need. You can maintain the LLW very close on either side - your dog ALMOST brushing against your leg or your foot - or ranging further out. The leash length determines that - it is always loose.

    Having your dog so close as to be bumping into you or stepping on your foot is generally not a good idea. Many dogs simply don't like it, and a big dog can also knock you off balance. And most dogs do prefer a bit of 'space' while walking, all things being equal. But you can get as close as needed.

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    Senior Member Poly's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by climber View Post
    What about if you want to walk with your dog off leash, but have the dog stay near you and under control? IMO heeling is useful for much, much more than just competitions - in fact, if you have a solid heel, you have a loose leash when you want it. I'm not saying loose leash walking is useless - it isn't, but for me, heeling is useful for more than competitions only, it's useful day-to-day.
    Obviously, Loose LEASH Walking means walking with a leash. If you're working or walking with your dog off-leash, it is something else. These days, most people don't have many chances, if any, to walk with their dogs off-leash, BTW.

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    Senior Member climber's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by Poly View Post
    Obviously, Loose LEASH Walking means walking with a leash. If you're working or walking with your dog off-leash, it is something else. These days, most people don't have many chances, if any, to walk with their dogs off-leash, BTW.
    Understood, if you're working/walking with your dog off leash, it is something else - heeling. Heeling can happen on leash as well as off leash, and heeling on leash is in essence LLW.

    I wasn't trying to be combative, as I stated that I do not consider LLW useless. I was simply providing a different point of view. If you train a heel, it transfers well to LLW. Training LLW does not transfer as well to heeling. If you have no interest in having your dog off leash (when it is possible), LLW is all that is needed.

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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by climber View Post
    If you train a heel, it transfers well to LLW.
    I don't think that's necessrily true. I had Penny in obedience classes, which apparently had an emphasis on competition Obedience (I didn't know that; I thought it was a manners class for pets). She had a beautiful competition Heel. But I have NEVER been able to get her to walk on a loose leash. Competition obedience is pretty much useless for everyday life, IMO.

    To me, heel position is with the dog's nose by your left knee. Is that the same thing you're talking about or something different? I can't imagine walking off-leash like that. I hate heel position even with the dog on-leash (I keep stepping on the dog), so off-leash I definitely wouldn't want a dog heeling like that.

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    Senior Member climber's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Personally, I do not like a "wrapped" heel, or a focused heel for my dogs. For me, a heel position is the dogs right shoulder blade even with my knee. Not the nose, not with the head wrapped around the front of my leg staring up at my face, etc. The dog can look wherever he wants, so long as he checks in with me and maintains position I'm good with it. Sometimes he watches the handler and has a little space between us (inches, not feet), other times he'll look away at something else and use contact to maintain position.

    For our dog, once he knew heel, he knew where "home base" was - on leash or off. In fact, it's his default position - if he gets confused about what he should be doing when we're training, he returns to heel position. Maybe that's what is causing confusion here, the definition of heel (in particular, my definition, as there are many). I did not train a focused "Schutzhund heel".

    Once he knew heel, for us it transferred perfectly to LLW - just my experience.

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    Senior Member Poly's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by climber View Post
    ... heeling on leash is in essence LLW.
    ... If you train a heel, it transfers well to LLW. .
    Perhaps. IME, there are too many 'extra' factors involved in heeling - starting with the step-off and continuing with the strict position requirements, the precise halts, etc - to make that general statement.

    But if in your experience you have found that to be the case, good for you.

    And I don't consider that you are being combative by simply relating your experiences.
    Last edited by Poly; 03-24-2012 at 10:45 AM.

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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Quote Originally Posted by Willowy View Post
    Competition obedience is pretty much useless for everyday life, IMO.
    Uh, you did mean competition "heeling", .... didn't you ?

    Not trying to be combative either, just curious if that's what you actually meant.

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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    A trainer/behavorist has been working with my dog and me on her reactivity. I am finding that heeling is useful and helpful in managing her especially when I have to make a smooth, fast turn. My dog is almost as big as I am. I have to say, so far I am loving the difference I see.

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    Senior Member Greater Swiss's Avatar
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    Re: Heeling vs. Loose Leash Walking

    Good thread to bring up Poly. For ages we were trying to get Caeda to actually heel and it was going horribly. One day I gave up on it and all I asked for was no tension on the leash (except maybe if I was turning fast, just enough tension to remind her to follow), and suddenly our walks got SO much better and enjoyable for us both!
    I do disagree a little bit on the use of the Flexi though....we use it for our "training hikes" (we've tried lots of long lines, and the tangling was too much, the flexi prevents a lot). She has learned quite well the difference between the mild tension of the flexi and the "end of the leash" tension. We also used the flexi to teach her "eh eh" as a bit of a cue for "you're getting out of range, come closer". This has actually translated a bit onto a regular lead, we're just saying it when she is closer to us, reminding her that her limit is only 3-4 feet instead of 10-15. Not a regular training thing, but it has translated a bit for us to LLW on a shorter lead.
    saharazin has a good point too. I want to teach a heel simply for the exercise in concentration and self control (both of which Caeda can lack in new places). Competition heel/obedience could be a really good tool for that as well as being good for the odd time you need your dog REALLY close to you.

    Some people say that doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, I call it training my dog

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