Pam Haynes (http://www.thedogschool.org.uk) and I had an interesting discussion yesterday, about why so many of our clients expect their dogs to heel when out on a walk. What is that all about? It is like asking a bloke to sit with a straight back and only sip tea when he's the pub...
(I know, a bit of a weird allegory...)
The whole point of taking your dog for a walk is surely to allow him to do doggie things, such as sniffing the ground, marking up the area, meeting doggie friends, etc. Your dog can't do these things on a tight lead, walking right by your side and why should he?
Is it another remnant of all the dominance training on TV? Dogs should never walk in front of you, a la Ceasar Milan? Or is it something else?
The way I see it, your dog should be able to walk next to you in a controlled maner (work on a focus exercise!) if you are going through town, in a crowded space, etc, but when you are out on a walk with them they should be allowed to sniff on a nice long lead (go to http://www.activateyourdog.com and get yourself a canal lead - they are the best!) or they should be off lead.
Consider this, why do you take your dog for a walk? Is it for your benefit or for your dogs? I sincerely hope the answer comes back 'it's for my dog'...
In class we train walking on a slack lead, but we don't really train heel. Heel is something you do in competetive obedience. It looks great, but it is very hard for the dog to sustain for a longer period of time, which is why you see so many of the highest ranking competetive obedience dogs dragging their owners around when they are out of the show ring. Teaching your dog to heel in a very specific environment (the show ring) is VERY different to teaching him to heel in an every day situation.
What do you think? Do you expect your dog to heel? If so, when do you expect your dog to heel?