Collars, Collars, Collars Part 2

Hello!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article entitled “Collars, Collars, Collars,” which touched on the negative effects that certain types of abrasive collars can have on your dog physically and psychologically. This week I will be talking about a few positive tools that you can use to train your dog.

Everyday Collars

Buckle Collar

CollarThis is the most common collar worn by dogs. My dog’s always wear collars that hold their rabies tag, city tag, and name tag with our phone numbers on it. This way, if they do get lost they are easily returned back to me. Remember to fit your dog’s collar properly. If it is too tight it will be very uncomfortable, and if it is too loose, it can slip off or get caught on something. When the collar is fitted properly, you should easily be able to slide two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck.

 Martingale Collar

Martingale Collar copyThis is another common collar choice which both of my dogs use. When the dog tries to pull their head out of the collar, the tension on the leash pulls the small loop taut, which makes the large loop smaller and tighter on the neck– preventing them from slipping it off. When adjusted properly the dog is never choked, but the collar stays snug around the dog’s neck (just behind the ears) until the pressure is released. For more information on this collar click here.

Harness

I always recommend that all of my clients walk their dogs on some kind of harness. As mentioned in my previous article, dogs have sensitive necks and one wrong pull, something very serious can be damaged. Dog’s also have an opposition reflex, this means that if they feel something pulling against their neck, they will automatically want to pull away from it.

Regular Harness

HarnessIf your dog is already trained to walk on a loose leash, I recommend a regular harness. If your dog is a puller, you may want to start with a positive walking tool first, and graduate to one of these in the future.

Easy Walk Harness

Easywalk2The Easy Walk harness is a tool used to discourage your dog from pulling. The leash attaches to the front of the chest, therefore putting the tension on the body steering your dog to the side making it easy to redirect their attention to you. I have had great success with this type of harness and recommend it to all of my clients who have dogs with leash issues.  For more information on this type of harness click here.

Other Training Tools

Halti

HaltiA Halti, similar to the Easy Walk, is a great tool if your dog is a puller on the leash and/or has a hard time focusing on you. When they move forward with tension on the leash, the halti gently turns their head breaking their focus so you can change their attention to be on you. REMEMBER these training tools are just aids. You need to put in the time to work with your dog so you don’t have to use these aids forever.

Backpack

Many dogs enjoy having a job to do during a walk. If you find that your dog doesn’t easily focus on you and is very excitable while walking, try a backpack. Another plus to this is that they can carry water and snacks, for the both of you!

Remember, when using any kind of new “hardware” on your dog, there will be a transition period. Never force your dog to wear something they don’t want to or they will have a bad association with the tool. Train your dog that wearing these things is fun and good things happen when he does.

  • Start small, every time your dog looks at the harness, give him a treat. If he takes a step towards the harness, treat. When he smells the harness, treat.
  • Pick up the harness, treat your dog, and put it down. Do this exercise a few times and when he is comfortable move onto the next step.
  • Put the harness around his body but don’t do it up. Treat, take it off and do it again.
  • Now you are ready to get walking! Put the harness on, give some treats, and off you go!
  • REMEMBER, if your dog ever gets uncomfortable during any of these steps, back up to the previous step and go through the motions at a slower page.

When preparing for a walk, get yourself completely ready to go, then get the harness on so you are out the door as soon as it is on. You don’t want to give your dog anytime to dwell or think about the tool making them uncomfortable. In my experience, the dogs will try to get it off for the first few minutes of the walk and then adjust and realize that they are doing something fun whether they are wearing a harness or not.

What do you use when training your dog to walk on a loose leash? Let me know in the comments below!

Collars, Collars, Collars

As you already know, I am a Positive Reinforcement (Force-Free) Dog Trainer. Something I see ALL of the time is people using abrasive collars on their dogs such as pinch, choke, or shock collars. As a PRDT, I do not use, nor train people to use, these methods as it is scientifically proven to be detrimental to your dog’s training success. It may seem like your dog is walking nicely, but he is only doing it to avoid punishment. Once you put on a regular harness, or collar, you will be right back where you started. This is also associating events that happen on your walk with a negative experience, such as other dogs walking by, children playing, or whatever it may be. You can see how this can have a negative effect on your dog’s psychological well-being.

These forms of collars can cause not only psychological damage to your dog, but also some pretty serious medical issues. Dog’s (same as people) have very sensitive necks that many medical issues, such as hypothyroidism, ear and eye issues, nerve damage, etc, can be linked. If you are interested in learning some of the more serious medical issues that these collars can cause check out this article here. I always walk my dogs on some sort of harness, whether it be no pull or regular, depending on your dogs walking style, and I always recommend my clients to do the same.

Pinch/Prong Collars

Pitbull-prong-dog-collar-pinch-collar-prong-collarWhen we first got Kali, she was terrible on leash, a huge puller, very typical Malamute. I hadn’t tried any forms of “no pull” devices yet, and wasn’t very educated in the subject. Off I went to the pet store to ask some questions and see what they recommended for us to try. The FIRST item that they recommended was a pinch collar. Not only, did they not give me any other choices, they also said that this is a “humane and pain-free” option to teach your dog not to pull. Pain-free??? I would like to see her put it on her neck and give it a good yank. When there are are tons of pointy pieces of metal jutting into your neck, it is not “pain-free.” Thankfully, I questioned it, and ended up trying out an easy-walk harness instead. ALWAYS QUESTION PEOPLE IN THE PET INDUSTRY, INCLUDING TRAINERS. If you think something is off, or are not feeling comfortable with a certain technique or recommendation, ask as many questions as you need to. Also, go with your gut, it will usually guide you in the right direction.

Many people say that the prong collar “emulates the correction of a mother’s teeth.” This is A MYTH and is not correct. These collars can cause many health issues, as mentioned in the article above, and can go as far as becoming embedded in your dog’s neck. One quick jerk is all it takes. The more pressure you are putting on your dog’s neck, the more pressure they will feel emotionally. You want your dog to remain under threshold the entire time you are on your walk, this will be next to impossible with this type of tension on their neck. Dog’s have a natural instinct to pull forwards when something is pulling them back, therefore making the entire experience painful and frustrating. The behavioral issues that this can cause your dog are limitless.

If you would like to take a more in depth look on the effects of this type of collar, check out this article here.

Choke Collars

choke-dog-collarChoke collars have basically the same negative effects on your dog’s mental and physical health as the prong collar. One of the big differences is however, that they can choke themselves to death. There is nothing stopping this type of collar from tightening to the point of actual choking on your dog’s neck. Again, the natural instinct of your dog to pull away from something putting tension on their neck comes into play, causing a negative experience on walks, as well as a negative experience relating to the surroundings. For more information about the effects of the choke collar, check out this article here.

Shock Collars

D58134All of these collars have similar negative effects on your dog’s well-being, however the shock collar is a whole other ball game. Some people say that the shock is just like a tap on the shoulder, while others say that it is more of a zap, similar to sticking your finger in a electrical socket. Well, which is it? It seems that only a dog can answer this question, and since they can’t tell us, it is important for us to know their body language. A dog who is being trained positively has a loose body, tail wag, open mouth, and they show a willingness to learn and please you. A dog being trained with a shock collar will have a closed mouth, possibly yawning, stiff body and tail, ears back, whale eyes, and a general nervousness about them.  For more information about shock collars, check out this article here.

Notice the body language of the dogs in these pictures? Stiff postures, ears back, and on high alert. If you ever see a dog wearing one of these collars, compare their body language to that of your positively reinforced dog. There will be a huge difference between them.

Wouldn’t you rather focus your training sessions and walks on the positive, rather than on the negative? You especially do not want to use any of the aforementioned training methods with a fearful or aggressive dog. These techniques will just enhance their issues and very likely cause more harm than good.

What kind of collar does your dog wear? What worked for you when training your dog to walk on leash? Let me know in the comments below!

Weekend Crate Training Plan

Crate training is seen in two lights; it is cruel to confine your dog to a kennel, and it is good for them to have their own safe place for down time. I believe that the crate is a great retreat for your pooch, as well as an amazing training tool.

happy-dog-crate-300x225

A few positive aspects to using a crate:

  • Can be used as a training tool for house training, and preventing him from being destructive.
  • As a safe and effective way to transport your dog.
  • Creates a place of their own, which is especially important for dogs with fear and anxiety issues.

A few tips about crate training:

  • Never use the crate as a punishment, you do not want your dog to be afraid to go in there.
  • Always associate the crate with something good, feed him in there, give him a special bone, chew, or toy that he only gets when going into the crate.
  • Put the crate somewhere permanent, dogs thrive off of consistency. If you keep the crate in the dining room, your dog will get used to that being “his place”. Once you move it for a dinner party, he will get confused and be unsure of what to do.
  • If you’re dog is having a lot of trouble adjusting, try a different type such as wire vs plastic. Sometimes this small fix can make a world of difference.
  • Make sure to make it comfortable with blankets, a dog bed, or even a shirt with your scent inside.
  • Always exercise your dog before he goes into his crate. 30-60 minutes of physical exercise, paired with mental stimulation (obedience training, treat games, etc) is preferred.
  • Leave the door to the crate open so that your dog has access to it whenever he wants. He now feels comfortable here, and it will be his safe place if he ever feels uncomfortable, or just wants to take an uninterrupted snooze.
  • Make sure to let your dog out to the bathroom before he goes in and after he comes out of the crate.

Recommended time lengths to crate your dog:

  • 8–10 weeks 30–60 minutes
  • 11–14 weeks 1–3 hours
  • 15–16 weeks 3–4 hours
  • 17+ weeks 4–5 hours

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, a crate can be detrimental to their issues depending on the severity. If your dog is having a lot of uses in the crate, defecating or urinating, soaked with saliva, damage to the crate, moving the crate, or excessive howling, please contact a professional trainer near you.

I have had great success with the Weekend Crate Training plan as have my clients, so here it is:

Friday

During this phase, the crate door always stays open.

  • When your dog isn’t looking, toss a few tasty treats inside the crate to spark their investigation. Make sure to use something extra tasty that they only get during training time.
  • Leave the crate door open and every time your dog looks towards it, walks towards it, takes a step in, etc, give him a lot of treats and praise.
  • Periodically leave extra special treats inside like a kong, bone, or toy.
  • Feed them their dinner inside the crate. If they are too uncomfortable to go all the way inside at this point, try leaving it just inside by the door or even just outside the door.
  • Over the next couple of days you will be rewarding your dog for going towards and into the crate, make sure to have a bunch of training treats ready because you will be using them!

Saturday Morning

Get your treats, toys, and bones ready!

  • Decide on the verbal cue you will use to send your dog to his crate. You can use “Go to your bed” or whatever you would like. Start using the verbal cue once your dog is going inside every time. If you add it in too early, they will get confused and not understand what you are asking.
  • Start by either sitting on the floor or in a chair beside the crate. Show your dog one of the treats and toss it in. Once he goes in to eat it, give a lot of praise and feed her another treat while inside.
  • Use your release cue, again, “okay” or “break” whatever you would like to use, so they know they can come out again. Don’t reward when they leave the crate so he learns that good things happen when he is inside.
  • REPEAT these steps about 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. After you have finished the two, end the session.

Later on in the morning….Now you are getting your dog to earn the treat. Instead of tossing a treat in for them to follow you will be using your verbal cue and rewarding once he goes inside.

  • First, warm up with a few reps of tossing the treat in and using the verbal cue.
  • Give your cue and point to the crate instead of tossing in the treat. If he is being stubborn, try your “point” in the same motion as tossing in the treat.
  • Once your dog goes in, then give a lot of praise and treats while he is still inside.
  • Use your release command for your dog to come out.
  • REPEAT these steps about 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. After you have finished the two, end the session.

If your dog isn’t catching onto the cue or seems nervous, step back to tossing the treat in first and wait until he understands and feels more comfortable.

Saturday Afternoon

During this phase, you will start getting your dog used to being in the crate with the door closed.

  • First, warm up and do a few repetitions of the last step, remembering to release him every time.
  • Do the same thing, reward him for going in, and then gently close the door, give him a few treats and praise with the door closed
  • Give your release cue, open the door, and let your dog out
  • If your dog seems to be too nervous with the door closed all the way, break this down into two parts, start with the door halfway closed and then transition to fully closed.
  • REPEAT these steps 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. As you go through your repetitions, increase the time the door is closed. Do 1 second, then 5 seconds, then 8 seconds, then back to 5, then 10, then 8, and so on. Make sure to mix up the times.

Saturday Evening

Once your dog is comfortable sitting the crate with the door closed you are going to start getting them ready for alone time.

  • First, warm up with a few repetitions from the last step, but each time start to slowly move away and then back to the crate.
  • Release your dog, go through the same steps, once the crate door is closed, treat.
  • Now, with the door still closed, stand up, treat, take a few steps away, then go back and treat again.
  • Open the door and release your dog.
  • REPEAT these steps 10 times, each time walking in a different direction. After a short break, start again increasing the time your dog is left alone in the crate. Do 5 seconds, then 10, then 8, 15, and so on. Be generous, give a lot of treats for now, and as your dog gets more comfortable being in the crate, you can gradually start giving less.
  • After these repetitions, take about a half hour to an hour break, and repeat the steps again. Start leaving the room, only for a second, and then releasing your dog. Gradually build up the time as we did before, try to get to him being in the crate for 1 minute while you walk around the room, briefly leave, and come back. REMEMBER if you go through the steps too quickly, you will have to step back or even start over.

Sunday Morning

Now you will be working on getting your dog comfortable with longer periods in the crate. Grab your treats, and a kong stuffed with something delicious, or a favorite bone or toy as well as something to occupy yourself.

  • Ask your dog to go in the crate and close him in with the kong, bone, or toy and get yourself comfortable watching TV, reading a book, or whatever you choose to do in that room. Leave him in there for about 30 minutes.
  • If your dog finishes the kong or bone, you can continue to give him a few treats here and there as long as he is staying quiet.
  • After the half hour is up, release your dog and take away the bone, kong, or toy. DO NOT give him any treats when he comes out or make a big deal out of it. You want him to learn that good things happen while he is inside the crate, not when he is released.

At this time, your dog may start to wine, or bark while being left alone inside. My suggestion here is to ignore him completely. If you release him, or treat him for this behavior he is learning that if he makes noise he will get your attention. Once he has stopped, then reward him with a few treats.  This step can be frustrating in some cases, but if you are consistent, your dog will learn that it is in his best interest to be quiet and relax.

Sunday Afternoon

Now it is time to give your dog some alone time in the crate. Make sure to exercise your dog before this step, take him to the park, for a walk or run, play fetch, and also do some basic obedience training and maybe even some mind games. .

  • Ask your dog to go into his crate. Give him his kong, bone, or toy, and leave the room.
  • Stay out of the room for 10 minutes, then return and release him. If he hasn’t finished his kong or bone, take it away (he only gets these treats while in the crate). If your dog is making noise, don’t return until he has stopped for 5-10 seconds.
  • REPEAT the exercise, after a short break.

Sunday Evening

If your dog can calmly stay in his crate for an hour while you work around the house, it is time to try leaving completely.

  • Ask your dog to go in his crate and give him his special treat.
  • Without saying any goodbyes. leave the room and house for 10 minutes.
  • When you return, calmly let your dog out of the crate and take away his treat.
  • REMEMBER your dog will feel more comfortable going in and out of his crate if it seems like no big deal. Don’t give him any indication that you are leaving, or be overly excited when you return home.
  • REPEAT this exercise as often as possible before going to bed with bathroom breaks and exercise between. Gradually increase each time you are out of the house until you get to about an hour or even longer.

THAT’S IT! You have (hopefully successfully) completed the Weekend Crate Training plan. Now you are ready to start crating your dog every time you leave the house, and overnight (if you wish).

REMEMBER if you are having any issues at all, don’t hesitate to consult a professional in your area. For a more in depth look at crate training check out the ASPCA website.

Is your dog crate trained? How was the process for you? What worked and what didn’t? Let me know in the comments below!