Hello again dog lovers and friends!
Here’s hoping you had some fun times with your fur babies during the Holidays, and now you are set for a brand New Year. I’ll miss all of the pajama time at home with my pup, but someone around here has to go back to work!
Now, when I say “let’s talk about what your dog is wearing” … I’m obviously not talking about their PJ’s or a winter coat;) Although, they do need those at times, and they just look so darn cute in them.
I’m talking about what your pup is wearing around his neck, or his chest, his body, his nose, his face, his head … good grief! That is a lot to choose from, isn’t it? We just want to stop the pulling.
Hey, I am all about having options, because every dog is different. And as a Certified K-9 Trainer for over 10 years now, I’ve worked with just about everything out there. I really wanted to learn why we have turned towards using these different “attachments” to our dogs, and also why we sometimes play switch-up-change-up way too often.
We are looking for answers. But sometimes that leads us in the wrong direction with our pups.
Also, I was thinking maybe you got a new puppy, or adopted a dog for Christmas …. and you are wondering how to get started?
Let’s Go Shopping For Your Dog
Nothing really wrong with a traditional, flat, cloth or leather collar. It’s just like strapping something belt-like around their neck so you could keep a hold of them. That is where most people start, and it makes sense.
That’s because dogs are accustomed to being controlled by their necks. Think of it this way: the mama dog in a wolf pack or litter of puppies controls them how? By picking them up by the neck, and moving them around. So it is logical that the original way we began to become the parents of a dog, is by buying them a nice collar.
“Yay! It’s blue, doesn’t it look pretty on her!”
Okay, pretty is nice. Functional is better. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going completely against a regular, flat collar. I do go against a collar that is not doing it’s job, though. By that, I mean if you are getting your arm yanked out of the socket by a dog that has not been taught NOT to pull on the lead …. then a flat collar isn’t going to do it for you.
The problem is, some of those stronger collars out there look scary. And, perhaps you have not been taught how to use them properly? Otherwise they would not look so intimidating.
Trust me, I get a lot of pullers when I train. In fact, that is usually the number one problem people need help with. “My dog is going to give me a face plant if I can’t stop this pulling. What do I do?”
My first question: “What kind of collar do you have on your pup?”
The answer is usually a flat collar, or a harness. Hmmmm. Well, a harness is not a collar … so we are getting away from the initial plan of controlling a dog by putting something around his neck. Remember, that is what they learned from their mama’s from the day they were born.
Don’t get me wrong, now. Harnesses do work on some dogs …. especially the little guys. But if you are calling me telling me your dog is pulling your arm out of the socket, harness isn’t working!
Next step up: Martingale collar. You may not recognize the name, a number of my clients didn’t at first, but you’ll know it when you see it. Search it on the web or go to your pet shop and ask.
You can see how it will naturally “snug up” on your dog’s neck when they begin to pull on you. It’s still a flat collar, but with a twist. Those loops tighten it up just enough to mimic what mama was doing to them in the litter. It’s a natural correction.
They feel the squeeze, and stop the pulling … usually. ALSO, just as important: have you ever had your dog twist around and manage to “beck out” of a regular flat collar when they see a bunny or something they want to chase? Yup. Then they are off and running. With a martingale collar fitted properly, they won’t be able to do that.
It should be snug. If you can slip more than two fingers up under it when it’s on his neck, it’s too loose. Trust me, you are not choking him. He’ll let you know if that is happening. You are bettering the quality of life for both of you. He can’t slip away, and he will hopefully quit pulling.
Is Your Dog Comfortable With What He Is Wearing?
To me, comfort and function go hand-in-hand. That is why properly fitting your dog with whatever you choose for them is important. Follow what we talked about already, and get some hands-on help if you are still not sure.
Now, in my experience working with my own pups, and so many others …. I definitely found one training collar I have always been on the fence about. Not that they cannot be effective! They can. But I have my reasons for being apprehensive about this particular one.
I realize this kind of talk can bring some of you out saying “Hey, you are wrong … this works fine for me and my dog!”. That is perfectly okay. I love to hear your thoughts and experiences. If you poke around enough, you will find all kinds of opinions on this one.
I’m talking about head collars. There are different reference names for them, but you know what I am talking about. This is the one that puts part of the collar over the dog’s nose.
The main negative I have here, is that I have worked with a lot of dogs that were introduced to this by their owners because they were real PULLERS! Understood.
However, a lot of dogs spend most of their walking time trying to wipe this type of collar off their faces with their paws! Walking a dog is one of the most important bonding experiences you can have with them. They need to enjoy it. Wrestling with something strapped across their nose is not what they had in mind.
Now, on the positive. A few of the clients I have worked with during one-on-one training have dogs that walk beautifully on their head collars. There was no pulling, no stress from the dog trying to wipe the collar off … and we had some lovely walks.
And make no mistake, I’m always honest with the people I work with.
“I’m not always a fan of head collars”, I will say. “But if it works for you and your dog, then stick with it.”
If you and your dog are both comfy, you are good to go.
Let’s Take The Steps To Stop The Pulling
First step here, make a choice … just one choice, and give it a chance to work by learning how to use it.
I worked with a very nice lady yesterday who has a big Chocolate Lab who tends to pull on the lead. She had talked to several people, and by the time I got to her, she had a harness and a slip lead on him at the same time. Understandable. She just wanted to stop the pulling.
“Let’s just use the lead, and lose the harness”, I told her. This is a lead that loops around your dog’s neck, and will snug up like a martingale collar when he starts to pull. All the same principle.
Start walking. Talk to your dog. Have a conversation …. they are good listeners! This will also help keep their focus on you. Keep your happy voice.
The minute you feel him pulling, immediately change direction. Do a complete 180, and say “With me!”. Don’t wait for him, keep moving in your new direction until he gives and follows. “Good boy!”. He’ll get it.
When he stops resisting and follows along, you lighten up on the lead … as a reward. “With me, good boy!”… “With me, good girl!”
This will be your life for a bit, over and over again. But once they get it, it will stick. Then you won’t be doing 180’s every five steps! You’ll just use the command, and give a little tug on that lead to remind him when he gets distracted. Tug and release. Reward. “Good boy!” Always praise when they do it right.
Feel free to talk to me about the more advanced collars, if these steps are still not working for you. I’m talking about prong collars, shock collars, etc. I have worked with all of them. I even put a shock collar on my arm once, to see what it actually feels like!
It isn’t as scary as you think. You just need to be POSITIVE you are using these devices correctly. I’ll be happy to help you.
More To Come From Tampa The Dog And Me
Tampa the dog taught me the patience it takes to reach goals when training dogs.
He became so advanced with walking….he was always off leash. But that was one of the requirements we had to meet to become certified in Search and Rescue. You don’t have to press your dog to go that far to have a happy, calm relationship. We just want you to enjoy the fulfillment of the human-animal bond.
Remember, you can read all about that in his book I am still working on! Tampa’s Story is coming soon. In the meantime, get to know him a little bit here, and I will keep sharing his wisdom to help you with your own pups.
We want to build happy homes together. So please reach out when you need, before you even consider giving up on your own dog. There is usually always an answer.
Wishing you health and happiness always, and I look forward to hearing from you!