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Why Dogs Heel on the Left (And Other Mysteries)

Posted by Awesome Doggies

dog-heeling-on-leftHave you ever wondered why dogs are trained to heel on the left? Or whether your dog is right pawed or left pawed? And why do we mount a horse from the left? As a matter of fact, why do we do almost anything from the left?

The reason goes back in history of course, and it has to do with personal safety. In the olden days, men mounted their horse on the left and their swords hung on the left of the horse for easy access, because most people were right-handed. Even now, tack for horses is still made to be put on from the left side. We live in a (mostly) right-handed world.

The tradition of training of a dog to heel on the left follows basically the same principle as the mounting of the horse. For most people, their right hand is usually the stronger hand, so when you are walking dogs, the theory is that you want them on your left side, so that you can hold the leash with your left hand, leaving the stronger dominant hand free to defend yourself in case of danger. In today's modern world where personal security is less likely to require combat (we hope!!), many dog owners train their dogs to heel on either side, although this often is simply due to a lack of knowledge of the traditional "correct" way of doing things, more than a conscious choice.

Statistics show that over 80% of the people in the world are right-handed, which means it is most common to train your dog on the left. There is no real reason for it, it's just the way things have always been, and the dogs don't seem to mind. Trainers typically signal commands with their right hands, so that's another reason it makes sense to train dogs to heel on the left side.

dog-paw-testDogs are known to be either right pawed or left pawed; something that most people never think about. The best way to find out which paw your dog uses most is by placing some peanut butter or other favorite treat in a Kong. Place the Kong on the floor and see which paw your dog uses most to touch the Kong. Repeat the test over a period of time and keep track of the results. If he uses his right paw 2/3 of the time (say 66 times out of 100), then he is right-pawed. Make sure that you don't count the times that he uses both paws.


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