How to Train Your Dog to Heel With a Prong Collar

Easy
3-5 Days
General

Introduction

It’s not uncommon for you to see another dog owner passing by on the street, dragging behind an over-eager dog that is wheezing and panting excitedly as it pulls and strains against its leash. It might be a little amusing to see the dog taking the owner for a walk, but this sort of behavior can also be dangerous. Leash pulling can cause damage to the dog’s neck or throat and it can be much easier for an excited dog to slip out of a collar and run off with no guarantee of returning without a strong recall.

‘Heel’ is the most important command when out on a walk, as it can relieve much of the dangerous tension that can harm both your dog and you. It can also mean that your walks are much more pleasant and your dog will be much less likely to bolt towards whatever distraction draws his focus. There are a number of strategies and tools that exist to help you teach the perfect ‘heel’, but the prong collar, in particular, tends to be one of the more popular tools out there.

Defining Tasks

Prong collars, when used appropriately, utilize interlocking links with metal prongs that apply pressure to the area around your dog’s neck when force is applied to the leash. This creates a tension in the form of a correction if a dog tries to pull against the leash. Though the prong collar can be an effective tool, it requires caution and awareness to avoid doing any damage to your dog’s neck area. A proper fit and a well-informed owner can go a long way to making sure your dog can succeed at a ‘heel’ by your side without resorting to using the prong collar incorrectly to achieve the same goal.

Getting Started

First and foremost, you’ll need to find a prong collar with the appropriate fit for your dog. An improperly fitted collar can be dangerous, as too small will cause pain and too large may allow for your dog to escape. A prong collar should also be fitted behind the ears and up towards the head of your dog, rather than around the base of the neck. If you’re unsure of the size or fit of the prong, do some research with your dog’s size and neck width in mind.

Other than that, you may need a handful of treats, a nice and sturdy leash, and a little bit of persistence to obtain the results you want. Rushing a ‘heel’ with a prong collar can be damaging, so it’s important to take your time when helping your dog understand what you want from him.

The Boundary Method

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Step
1
Adjust the fit of the collar
This method will only be effective if the collar is fitted appropriately. A poorly fitted collar will hurt rather than help.
Step
2
Keep your dog on a short leash
The leash should not have tension, but it shouldn’t allow for your dog to wander. The goal is for him to understand that you’d like him at your side and not drifting here and there.
Step
3
Start with a small area
Don’t anticipate a long walk to begin with. Find an area to walk where there are few distractions at first and where you can walk at least a few yards in any direction.
Step
4
Start walking
Pick a direction to start in and begin to walk at a slow pace. Your dog should begin to follow.
Step
5
Turn and walk in the other direction
If your dog begins to overtake you, turn around and begin walking in the other direction with a slight pop of the leash. Use the word ‘heel’ to help him attribute the movement to the word. Any attempt he makes to continue in the initial direction will be met with pressure from the prong collar and will coax him to follow you instead.
Step
6
Repeat the process
It will take some time for your dog to grasp that the easiest way to continue walking without being interrupted is to follow your direction at all times. Repetition will help him understand how to avoid the correction from the prong collar.
Step
7
Extend your walks
Over the next few days, you can increase the amount of time you spend walking before you turn and go in the opposite direction. Try going in multiple and unpredictable directions to keep your dog thinking and learning.
Step
8
Walk regularly
Your dog will need regular walks for him to remember your instructions. Take him for walks in different places with different types of distractions, using the boundaries you set in place with the prong collar. His ‘heel’ will improve over time.
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The Guidance Method

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Step
1
Find a treat your dog enjoys
Make sure it’s tasty and appealing enough to overpower any possible distractions on your walk. Feel free to use treats you’ve never used before. It could prove to be interesting for your dog.
Step
2
Find a place to train
This area should be small and relatively quiet to begin with so your dog will have an easier time focusing on you.
Step
3
Entice your dog with the treat
This can be done by holding the treat a few inches from her nose so she can smell it. Do not give it to her until she performs what you are asking, however.
Step
4
Walk a few steps
With the treat held in front of her nose, take a few steps forward and allow your dog to follow your hand while you guide her down at your side. Reward her with the treat when she takes those steps with you successfully and say ‘heel’ as she does so.
Step
5
Reward frequently at first
This is a slower process, so you’ll need to reward often. Increase the amount of steps you take with your dog before rewarding as you go. Have lots of treats handy.
Step
6
Maintain focus
If your dog's focus drifts from the treat, give a small pop of the leash to divert her attention back to you and the reward you have in mind for her.
Step
7
Switch up your directions
Guide your dog in multiple directions to maintain her focus as you make changes in your path. Reward her for making quick turns. Continue to use the command ‘heel’ as she performs what you want her to.
Step
8
Get rid of the treats
Reward less and less frequently over time as your dog becomes more reliable, until you can reward randomly and then eliminate the treats altogether if desired. However, you can still choose to carry treats on walks with you to reinforce your training from time to time.
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The Stop-and-Go Method

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Step
1
Use the ‘sit’
If your dog is not already familiar with the ‘sit’ command, get him familiar with it. It should not take more than one or two training sessions for him to fully understand how to sit properly.
Step
2
Head outside
With the prong collar fitted appropriately, take your dog out and let him adjust to the pressure of the collar.
Step
3
When you stop, your dog stops
As you’re walking, stop in place and have your dog perform a ‘sit’. Give a gentle pull upwards of the leash to apply a small amount of pressure with the prongs to encourage him to do so. Do not continue the walk until he sits. His reward is the continuation of the walk.
Step
4
Keep walking
Once he sits, you can continue your walk with the command ‘heel’. If he gets ahead of you or tries to pull, give a gentle pop of the leash and have him perform another ‘sit’. Once he does, turn and walk in the opposite direction.
Step
5
Continue to alternate
Keep walking with the occasional ‘sit’ and a ‘heel’ to follow up as you start moving again. Repeat as many times as necessary for him to adjust to what you’re asking him.
Step
6
Challenge your dog
If he seems to be grasping the concept, try going for longer periods of time before you ask him to ‘sit’. Weave in and out of obstacles and go around in circles. Reward your dog with gradually longer walks or runs if you feel comfortable doing so.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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