How to Train a Dog to Heel on the Trail

How to Train a Dog to Heel on the Trail
There is nothing better than a well-behaved dog on the trail, nor is there a much worse experience than a dog who will not take commands. If you use these steps and stick to them, you will be pleased to take your beloved dog with you anywhere from a walk downtown to the Appalachian Trail, and your dog and you will be well-received by strangers along the way.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Build a Heeling Stick

Things You’ll Need:
  • Pinch collar or choke chain
  • 4-foot section of aluminum conduit
  • Small rope, about 3/8-inch diameter
  • Epoxy or good glue
  • Dog snap
  • 2 buckets
Step 1
Coat the end of the rope with epoxy and run it up the conduit about 6 inches.
Step 2
Run the rope through the dog snap and cut it so it will go up in the pipe the same distance.
Step 3
Coat this end with epoxy and shove it up in the pipe along side the other rope until the snap is secure but can still swing freely.
Step 4
Allow to dry for about 24 hours.

Fitting a Choke-type Collar

Step 1
Choose a collar that has adjustable links. Remove or install links until you can put two fingers between the collar and your dog's neck. This will insure a safe and proper fit.
Step 2
Put on the collar and play with the student to take his mind off the collar. After the dog has gotten accustomed to the collar, let him smell the stick to get used to it and know it's not harmful.
Step 3
Jerk or snap the collar to make a correction; never pull or tug hard. A pinch or choke-type color is used differently from a buckle or regular collar. The idea is to correct with the snap and reward with the release.

Setting the Stage

Step 1
Set the buckets up on a flat surface about 16 feet apart in a level place with few or no distractions for the dog.
Step 2
Walk around the buckets in a figure-eight pattern with the dog on the inside or outside of you.
Step 3
Say different words or commands to the dog when you are at different positions in the pattern.

Training Exercise

Step 1
Hold the heeling stick tightly against your body so it will hang out and the dog's head will be held in the proper location for walking, just abreast of your knee. It doesn't matter which side you heel your dog on as long as you are consistent each time you train.
Step 2
Heel the dog around the buckets with you on the inside, between the dog and the bucket. When you are in this position, keep saying the command "Heel." Say the command in a stern fashion, but do not yell at or ask the dog.
Step 3
Continue heeling around the course with the dog on the outside, giving the "heel" command. When you get to the other end of the figure-eight, the dog will be on the inside; at this point, change the command to another word, such as "here" or "nay." The dog will learn to associate the word with spinning in that direction or backing up.
Step 4
Do these exercises once a day, and in a week or 2 you will be able to take off the pinch collar and put a regular collar on the dog. Keep repeating the exercises until the dog is fluent with the commands.

Tips & Warnings

The reason for the different commands is that you can stand in one spot with your dog beside you and if the situation arises, you can with one word, "Heel" or "Nay" move the dog with you backwards and put your body between your dog and danger or something you don't want your dog to see or be close to, such as an animal or a car.
Keep some small treats with you and give one to your dog once in a while for a job well done; it will do wonders to smooth over any corrections made. Just don't overdo it.
When you come upon a hiker or dog on the trail, turn slightly to put your body between your dog and the intruder and sit your dog.
It is polite and safe to always ask an owner before petting or approaching a dog. Expect the same from others.
When going around the bucket with the dog on the inside, slightly turn to the dog to back him up while commanding "Nay." It will make it easier for the dog to learn.
Make sure to get the proper fit on your pinch or choke collar. You can take out or replace links with the better brands.
In today's society, it is good to have a dog along on the trail, their senses are far superior to ours, but we have to learn how to interpret them.

Article Written By Dennis Seabright

Denny Seabright has been writing for since Nov. of 2008 with most articles being in the "How to" category. Graduating from James Wood High school in 1976 and going straight into the work force left little room for formal education but writing has always been dear to his heart.

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