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Training tools, the taboo of dog training.

If you’re at all involved in the dog community I’m sure you have read, seen, and/or heard folks bicker or maybe full out brawl about what training methods to use. You have one person accusing the other of abuse and the other person accusing the first person of being a snowflake. It seems to be a never-ending story about who’s right and who’s wrong.

Well I’m here to tell you something, all training styles have a place and time to be used. Your personal dog may thrive off positive reinforcement, but your neighbor’s dog needs a mixture of the 4 training quadrants and may use a prong collar for their tool of choice. Does that mean your dog is spoiled and your neighbor’s dog is abused? NO! It simply means that the dogs have two different learning styles. Add the human and lifestyle to the mix and you may find that the training styles may change again. Anyways, I can go on forever about different training styles and mixing them up, but that’s not what I want to focus this blog on. I want to focus on proper wear and use of each tool, so let’s begin:

Clicker/Marker Training: Used to teach new behaviors. I won’t go into too much detail, as I have another blog written strictly for clicker training, but remember for this to effectively work, your marker or clicker MUST be “Charged”. For more information, please check out my blog, “Clicker Training 101.”

Flat Collar: Some folks use flat collars as an accessory or a place to hold dog tags, such as rabies. Then there are some people that use it as a training tool. If you’re going to use it as a training tool, please fit it to where it sits right behind your dog’s ears. I don’t recommend using a flat collar for training as it can cause damage to the dog’s throat and can even cause breathing issues.

Choke Chain/ Slip lead/ Dominant Dog collar: Choke chains should set high on the dog’s neck, right behind the ears. When putting the collar on it should be a sideways “P” when slipping over your dog’s head. Once on correctly, the collar will fasten itself down on the dog if he or she is pulling or if handler applies correction. Proper use is a quick snap or applying some pressure and release. I do not recommend this collar to any newbie as it can cause more harm than good if not used properly.

Harness: There are many harnesses on the market. Some are geared towards sport dogs while others are geared towards the average pet owner. I’m going to focus on the pet owner for section. Most harnesses are designed to teach your dog to pull. They have recently come out with a non-pull or front clip harnesses on the market that may work for some dogs. Due to the variety of harnesses it’s best to read the instructions or have a professional fit your harness properly to your dog. I do not recommend a harness for obedience training, nevertheless I do recommend a good harness to be used for going on runs.

Muzzle: There are a several different muzzles on the market depending what you’re looking to use one for. The first one I’m going to talk about is the cloth muzzle. The cloth muzzle should be form fitting and not allow room for your dog to nip or bite. Cloth muzzles should only be used for short periods at a time and should not exceed 20 minutes, as it does not allow your dog to pant. If you want a muzzle for longer periods of time I’d consider a basket muzzle. Basket muzzles are not form fitting, but should be not be longer than your dog’s nose length. The muzzle should be bigger than your dog’s muzzle circumference to allow panting. Basket muzzles should be cinched on tightly enough so that the dog can not take it’s paws and pull it over his or hers nose.

Martingale: Martingale are used to prevent your dog from slipping out of their collar and/or for light corrections in obedience training. Martingales, if the only collar being used, should be high on your dog’s neck and tight enough to where it doesn’t slide down. To use as a correction, you simply snap the leash which applies pressure the collar and then release. The noise and a little pressure from the collar is usually enough to get your dog’s attention.

Prong Collar: Prong collars are those barbaric collars you see at the pet store. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, they’re not barbaric and can cause less damage the previous collars I have mentioned. There are different size prongs on the market and can be overwhelming if you do not know what you’re looking for. General rule of thumb, the more links you can fit on a collar the more the collar will work in your favor. Prong collars should be fitted to sit high and tight on your dog’s neck to work properly. Using this collar is simple, start out by have a loose leash and quickly snap the leash in the angle that is opposite of the dog and immediately release pressure afterwards.

Electronic Collar: Like previous training tools we have talked about, there are about a million and one types of ecollars on the market. I would highly recommend to avoid cheap ecollars on the market, anything under $120 stay away from it!  If you’re interested in using ecollars with your dog, please consult a professional to teach you proper technique and use. Like other collars, the ecollar should be placed high on your dog’s neck and should be tight enough that the prongs on the collar should be making contact with your dog’s skin.

These are just a few tools that can be found on the market to train your dog. Before purchasing any of the above please do your research and even contact a trainer in your area that has experience with said tool you’re interested in. You can cause emotional and physical damage to your dog if not used properly, so it’s best to do it right the first time around. I will add that your dog should be desensitized to the tool of your choice before being put to use. Meaning take the time to introduce your dog to the new thing he or she will be wearing. Remember there’s no rush in dog training.