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I know that the heel position is the left side though I'm not entirely sure why. I'm guessing it has something to do with hunters being right handed and thus carrying their guns on their right side.

Anyway, I'm trying to teach Zero to heel as a way to prepare him for possibly taking the CGC. My problem is that the leash has to be kept very taut on the left side when you're training and I'm having difficulties doing this. I broke my left wrist about a year ago and have suffered with arthritis in it ever since. My doc says I'll probably have it my entire life, but that's neither here nor there. The fact is, when Zero pulls on the leash in my left hand, it's sore at best and painful at worse. By the end of the walk, it's always painful.

My right hand doesn't have this problem and I'm right handed to begin with. Can I simply have him heel on my right side? I'm not wanting to do any formal obedience with him now although who knows that might happen down the road.
 

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I don't see why not. As far as I know the CGC doesn't require a heel on the left(although I don't know for sure). I have Jake trained to heel on the right at a 'Let's Go!' command, mostly because when walking down the street it is both easier for me to handle him there and because I prefer to be between him and any cars that may pass. I much prefer him on the right rather than the left.
 

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I'm not sure why the leash need to be so taut as you are teaching this, but you can certainly teach him to heel on the right instead. Webster heels on my left normally, but on my right when Kim's along. Kim heels on either side depending on what I ask for. And if you want to teach him to heel on the left eventually, it will likely be easy after he already has the idea on your right since you will be expanding on a known concept.

If you goal is the CGC, though, keep in mind: they don't care which side he's on or even if he's in anything close to a heel...they want to see a loose lead and him paying some sort of attention to you.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm not sure why the leash need to be so taut as you are teaching this, but you can certainly teach him to heel on the right instead. Webster heels on my left normally, but on my right when Kim's along. Kim heels on either side depending on what I ask for. And if you want to teach him to heel on the left eventually, it will likely be easy after he already has the idea on your right since you will be expanding on a known concept.

If you goal is the CGC, though, keep in mind: they don't care which side he's on or even if he's in anything close to a heel...they want to see a loose lead and him paying some sort of attention to you.
Part of why I'm teaching the heel is he gets very, very distracted on walks. He'll be fine and on a pretty loose lead and then he'll see a cat. Game over. Or he'll see another dog. Game over. Or a butter fly will come by. You get the picture. I think a heel will teach him to focus on me more on walks.
 

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I don't see why you couldn't.

All he needs is a decent loose lead walking, so I wouldn't stress the heel too much.
 

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Shaina, it's nice to know that CGC doesn't care about right/left or a formal heel. I've been toying with the idea of getting Kit certified at some point down the road, and frankly, either of those things could be a problem.

I decided to teach Kit to heel on the right side only. That way biking is easier because she's not out in the middle of the road. I didn't want to confuse her by having it one way on the bike and the other way on a walk, so she's always on the right. Come to think of it, this is more convenient anyway, in case we pass someone on the sidewalk, because I'm between her and them. HOWEVER, I hold the leash in my left hand. This was recommended in our obedience class so that I could have the hand nearest the dog available to dole out treats. If I remember correctly, it felt a little strange at first, but it's such a habit now that I still hold it there even though I'm not giving treats anymore. I'm a lefty, though, so I do everything backwards.

So, to answer the original question, I think you could have Zero on your left (if you prefer) and still hold the leash in your right hand where it's more comfortable for you.
 

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GottaLuvMutts makes a good point....just cause the dog is on the left doesn't mean the leash has to be. I always hold the leash in my right hand, which I generally keep around my belt buckle as I walk. The leash crosses in front of me and Alvin walks on my left. It feels a little more stable to have my body between my hand and whatever weird thing might happen on Alvin's end of the leash.
 

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I've got a four foot leash and if the dog is on the left then the loop of the leash is usually in my right hand while my left hand holds the leash further down and keeps it taut or loose or whatever. This is my typical method.
 

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I trained Viggo to walk at heel on either side, depending on the command given.

"Heel" means to be at my left side, his shoulder even with my left leg. "Side" means to be at my right side, his shoulder even with my right leg. "With Me" means to be in my general vicinity but not in a strict heel or side position, with or without a lead on.

When we were learning agility, we were taught this because it makes it easier for him to run on either my right or left side, depending on the course of obstacles.

Dogs are smart enough to differentiate if you use different commands. Good luck!
 

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CARO rally allows people to compete with the dog heeling left or right as well. I know someone with standard schnauzers that has gotten one dog to advanced heeling on the right only.

I usually have the leash in my right hand, and the heeling dog on my left. If I reward, Usually the reward happens with my left hand and I don't want the leash in it.
 

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FWIW for agility training you do BOTH. And I do it 3 ways (just to keep it confusing).

1.) HEEL: Left side, looking at my face, must be parallel to the direction of travel and with her eye a but forward of my pant leg seam. This is a very intense exercise and the dog is to be 100% focused on me.

2.) BY ME: Left side, dog can look around, does not have to be perfect and her shoulder is never forward of my pant seem (sort of a Heel "at ease")

3.) SIDE: Dog is in heel position on my right side. Must pay attention to me for direction but is not as intense as HEEL.

All three positions I teach an automatic SIT when I stop. With By Me and Side, if I say "Attention" she needs to look at my face until I release her or give another command cue. Usually, the attention span I ask for it not very long as I have something else I want her to do but she needs to look at me to get the directions.

Heel includes my attention word and she must do both at the same time until released as well as auto sit in the correct position. Heel is wildly focused and intense. It is very tiring for both the handler and the dog and so it must be because it is the position used for formal obedience trials.

If I was going for my dog's CGC I would not hesitate to use the SIDE command if it is easier. I taught Atka SIDE in one sesssion with a clicker and treats after she had a kindergarten Heel on her and a High School BY ME on her.

You should be able to teach this to Zero.. and I would use a different word than Heel. It will go faster if you do since there is nothing to unlearn.
 

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Elena is correct.

The "obedience competition heel" - which is used for other events as well - is much more than simply controlled walking on your left side. It is a very precise exercise- actually, multiple exercises - and not all that easy to teach especially at the advanced level. It requires intense focus and attention for the dog and precise footwork for you, and it is especially difficult to achieve when there are distractions about - but that is exactly where you need to aim your teaching if you are interested in that competition. It creates tension in your dog and must have a release associated with it.

Controlled moving following your direction is required for many different activities but is not heeling nor should it be taught as such. The moving may be at a walk, a trot, or a run. It may be left or right side or not even at your side at all. It's often necessary to teach these differently for the different activities. For example, you want a different type of control for rally (which is more like obedience) than you do for agility than you do for tracking than you do for herding , etc., etc. You may or may not need a specific release. In agility, for example, the exercises themselves serve as the release. Dogs - and handlers - that are doing these activities need to keep this all straight.

Controlled walking - usually on a leash - is more of a socialization activity that all dogs should learn. It must be demonstrated for CGC, therapy certification, and some other activities but really it should be part of your dog's overall behavior. Again, this should be taught separately because you want to avoid tension here.
 
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