Thursday, January 28, 2010


I hate the word "heeling". Merriam-Webster defines it as "to move along at someone's heels"

Hard to find fault with that, I suppose, yet I do.

When I'm walking with my hubby, I certainly don't tell him to "heel" and he'd better not tell me to - at least, not if he wants anything remotely resembling an edible dinner for the rest of the week. We walk side-by-side because we want to, because it's really hard to hold a conversation in any other formation, and because that's the way companionable adults walk.

When my son was little I also expected him to walk next to me, and I held his hand to make sure he was successful. I wanted him beside me so I knew where he was and to reduce the likelihood of him getting into harm or harm getting to him.

The word "heel" never came to mind.

If you've read my past posts, you may have noted my subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) objection to some of the common terminology used with dogs. For example, I try very hard not to use the word "command". I don't command my son to do things - I either "ask" him or I "tell" him. I figure if those words are good enough for my son, they are good enough for my dogs.

I also try very hard to not use the word "train" and instead prefer "teach". (Yes, I am aware of what I named this blog, but if I had put "Teaching" there instead, the vast majority of people would assume I meant kids and be totally confused. At times, one must concede to convention.)

Back to "heeling", and more specifically, what does it have to do with Dance?

In a word, everything.

Remember Extracurricular Activities? They are suppose to broaden my boys' (the furry ones) experiences and give them a taste of actual applications when possible. For better or worse, "heeling" is a huge part of many dog activities that I might consider in the future - Obedience, Rally, and Freestyle all jumping to mind but I'm sure there are others.

Verbiage dislike aside, I simply can't avoid the activity.

But that doesn't mean I can't have fun with it.

What is heeling? What is it really? It is moving in sync with someone else. That's it. I move, you move. I stop, you stop. I turn, you turn.

And THAT is how we finally get to Dance.

What is traditional dance? Moving in sync with someone else. I move, you move. I stop, you stop. I turn, you turn. Sometimes we move in the same direction (Waltzing) and sometimes we don't (Square Dancing) but it all involves synchronized movement.

This connection between heeling and dancing certainly isn't anything I invented, but I personally made the connection a few years ago when Beau was doing Rally. At one of the last trials we were at, the judge had put together a lovely course that was full of curves and turns. It was somewhere amidst that sea of signs and cones that I realized Beau and I were, in fact, dancing. He was focused on me and I on him, and we moved together as one.

One has to understand Beau's total indifference to Rally to truly get the magic of that moment. For whatever reason, this one particular course had moved him on a deeper level. And as he looked up at me while we weaved and turned our way across the floor, for one brief moment, we sparkled.

And that is the magic of Dance.

(To see the definition of the new Elective - Dance, click HERE.)

1 comment:

Lise Whippetwalker, Bringer of Dog Treats said...

I agree with you about "command". When I read or hear about "commanding" your dog to do something I always giggle as I imagine turning to my dog and saying, "I command you! SIT!"