Every now and then there are people asking whether we can train their dog just to do the off leash heel because their dog is perfect every other way. We know that the off leash heel is probably the most attention catching part of the videos that we create with the dogs that we train. We know that very well and that is what most people want, they want the dogs to look cool walking beside without a leash. When clients come to us, this is one of the main things that they enquire too, whether the dogs can walk off leash after trainings. While the answer is yes, because thats what we do, teaching dogs to heel during walks and making it reliable off leash, this is something that we almost never advocate. We advocate bringing dogs out, walking a dog properly, we do not ever focus on off leash heel/heel/loose leash walking as part of a dog’s overall training or stability outcome.
Years ago, we thought off leash heel was kick ass, it’s THE thing to do, THE outcome to create. We weren’t the only ones who can teach to dogs heel off leash, we weren’t the first either. Today, we understand and know for a fact that heeling, whether on leash or not, loose leash walking, is nothing more than a gimmick unless you’ve worked the dog from inside out. Every dog that we shoot on video doing off leash walk, the dogs do it for a minimum of 30minutes, under different distractions, 99% of the time in an environment that the dog has never been too. We are immensely proud of the dog when we manage to get that video, because all the dogs came with different issues, especially dogs that were fearful, having them walk passed their fear without flight calls for a celebration. But here’s what we do not do today. We never encourage owners to do the off leash heel unless it’s for fun, for short practices. We never do it even with our own dogs unless we feel like we want to show the whole world we can or when we need to throw away poop bags. We never do it unless the dog is ready inside out.
Many times people seek trainers or seek solutions because of one single issue, very often for bad walking skills, some times for fear, some times for aggression, some times for potty issues. The points often missed when trainers or owners do training with their dogs are the dog’s overall well-being, mental and physical stability and focus. When you work with the dog on one single issue, a lot of times you can have success within a short time frame. Many dogs can be taught or trained to heel on leash or off leash, or do a loose leash walk in less than 1hour. The problem with this is when this newly taught skill is not inter-linkable or relatable to the dog because the dog has not been taught how to successfully use this skill anywhere else other than doing a perfect heel or a loose leash walk when there is no one around, when the sky is dark, or when the walk is less than 5minutes, most importantly, what the heel or loose leash walk really meant deep down. We say it often, every dog is different and when we say this, we really mean it. While we could train one dog on a perfect down with insane distractions on Day 2, we would never do it to another dog until its Day 11 on training. If you have successfully train every dog that you have been engaged to train, the same way, within the same timeframe, you probably haven’t met enough dogs. The thing with dog training or dog issues in general is that many issues, many behaviours and many problems are interlinked, a ripple effect. Unless you have worked the dog from the inside, most of the time, the success from pinpointing a single issue, is short lived. One could fix aggression towards dogs within an hour, why not. One could teach a dog not to rush out the door in 30minutes. But these ‘fixes’ are going to be transferred into other areas to form other issues.
The essence of training a dog, the essence of having a good dog, the essence of having an incredible bond with your dog and the essence of having an all-round okay dog lies in the amount of time, effort and patience spent correctly and properly to work with one single dog, from inside out. This allows the dog to grow and to be stable from the inside and it allows the trainer to catch the tiniest mistake and handpick areas to work on. This is why group trainings are rarely efficient, effective and beneficial. Working with more than one dog at once creates not only mediocre results but also an unstable dog. This is our take on why working with dogs is more than just a heel, more than just a single focus result.
A good heel, a good walk, an enjoyable outing, a happy meal with dog, happens when the dog is self aware of what the owner is communicating, what the environment calls for, regardless of the duration, distractions, uncontrollable environment, and the dog is coherent with it.