Common Dog Training Question #1… Why Do Dogs Heel On The Left?

It’s a fair question: Why do we ask our dogs to heel on our left side?

Yellow Lab Puppy Adventure Dog Ranch

Pancho the Yellow Lab Puppy checking out his agility skills

For that matter, why do we do so many things to the left?

Why do we mount a horse from the left side?

The reason is basically the same. We have our dog’s heel to our left because this is a right handed world.

Going back in time to the olden days, back when the real men wore swords, it was necessary to mount horses from the left side for safety purposes. (For  both the horses sake as well as the riders.) With the sword hanging on the left side (for right handed riders), it was simply easier, and more comfortable to mount from the left. Consequently, all of the tack produced for horses has always been made to be buckled, put on and taken off from the left, too. When it comes to dogs, a similar logic has traditionally been applied.

When working with a dog it is assumed that the handler would want their right hand (typically the stronger, more dominant hand,) free. By using the left hand to hold the leash, this leaves the handler’s right side unimpeded. So the dog is traditionally heeled /walked on the left. There is at least one other reason for heeling a dog on the left hand side. In the hunting world, Gun dogs are traditionally heeled on the left… this is most likely done so that the ejecting shells and cartridge casings won’t hit the dog in the head when the gun is actually fired.

Today owners often teach their dogs to heel on either side, which is an owner’s prerogative. This is easier to accomplish after you’ve got the left side heel, down pat…

Many dog activities rely on training a dog from the left because the trainer or owner needs to keep the right hand free to signal. Many herding and hunting dog trainers train their dogs from the left because they need to have their right hands free for using equipment, like firing guns, throwing bumpers and/or giving hand signals.

So many people in the world are right handed (approximately 80 percent) that training dogs from the left has simply become the standard way of training. It’s not necessarily good or bad, it’s just the usual way of doing things. Dogs probably don’t care which side is used.

I’ve been known to walk the dog on the opposite side of the road, in order to keep them on my left, but also to keep them as far away as possible from approaching traffic.

On the other hand, dogs do seem to be right-pawed or left-pawed themselves.

How To Determine Paw Dominance:

Fill a Kong toy with peanut butter or another food your dog loves. Place the Kong on the floor for your dog. Record which paw your dog uses to touch the toy first — and continue tracking which paw the dog uses until he has made a total of 100 touches on the Kong. (Don’t record touches with both paws at the same time.) Dogs that use their left paw 64 times (or more) are left-pawed; dogs that use their right paw 64 times or more are right-pawed. If your dog has fewer than 64 uses of either paw then he is ambidextrous.

You may already have some idea of whether your dog is left or right-pawed. Does he always paw at you with one particular paw? Does he try to pick things up with one of his paws? These can be tip-offs that he favors one of his paws over the other.

If you’re not hunting with your dog, there is really no solid reason why your dog “needs” to heel on the left. It just happens to be a de facto training standard now, mostly due to the fact that the majority of people are right handed.

I hope this answers a few questions…. Or at the very least, makes you think of new questions.

Until Next time,


The Alpha Dogs’ Wife

I’m the “Alpha Dog’s” wife… Life Partner and Co-owner of Adventure Dog Ranch, The Vacation Destination for Dogs!

A place where socialize, exercise and have fun. You don’t have to feel guilty when you take a vacation, your dog can have his very own vacation with us!

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About adventuredogs

I'm the "Alpha Dog's" wife... Life Partner and Co-owner of Adventure Dog Ranch, The Vacation Destination for Dogs! A place where canines socialize, exercise and have fun. You don't have to feel guilty when you take a vacation, your dog can have his very own vacation with us!
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6 Responses to Common Dog Training Question #1… Why Do Dogs Heel On The Left?

  1. L. McCullough says:

    You should credit dogtrainingblogger for the content of this post!

    • The reason I did not credit them is that I purchased the rights to this and about 30 other articles via something called “Private Label Rights” for Re-Branding I can only assume that they did the same thing. The difference between my article and theirs is that I actually changed and altered the article to suit my own writing style and they posted it verbatim. This is the only article that I have used PLR content on and it has been my last. Feel free to ask the folks at if they purchased PLR content or if they sold it. I am honest but I bought the content for rebranding and I will not make that mistake again.

  2. Dana Ortiz says:

    If both canines are on the left hand side, when two strangers meet, the canine are NOT face to face, simple. 🙂

    • Dana, I’m not sure which post you are referring to, or perhaps it is a comment by another, but I agree with you.

      If the dogs are in an appropriate “heel” position, (meaning the dogs are at the person’s “heel,” left side, *go figure,*) The humans can pass, while coming from opposite directions, side by side; with the dogs on the outside of the formation.

  3. Roscoe says:

    Excepting sword-logic, all of these observations are UK-based, no? As in, “left-side drive”?

    And the use of “he” rather than “they”??? Antique! Outright Latin!
    A gaggle of Brexiteers!

    • Wrong side of the pond my friend… I’m one of those brash North American’s. Born and bred in a little town North of Seattle, called Alderwood Manor, WA USA.

      I still believe that the left hand heel is a gun dog thing, you know, so that the shell casings don’t hit the poor pooch in the noggin’ when one is shooting waterfowl for supper.

      As far as my pronoun choices go, I tend to write the way I speak. Having had no proper writing experience past 10th grade English classes that I mostly slept through, I’m certain I completely blow it, frequently. If I’ve made grammatical errors, I’d love to hear the explanation so that I can fix my errors in future writings. Hope you enjoyed it regardless.


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