Most of us prepared for our new canine arrivals by making a trip to the local pet store and getting a few things. A cute collar and lead are usually among the first items we buy. How functional they actually end up being depends largely on what you buy. Rhinestones on nylon? Cotton web? Leather? How many of us bought that first collar and lead thinking of function or just as a fashion accessory? While there is nothing wrong with a pretty collar and lead (I have quite a few fancy ones myself), functionality is very important.
A simple buckle collar and lead set will work just fine. Make sure the lead clip isn’t too heavy for the size dog you have and make sure collars fit correctly. Far too many folks leave them too loose and end up with their dog backing out of it. This can have tragic consequences. Buckle collars are fine for any dog as long as you can control the dog. Dogs that are super hard pullers should try a head collar or slip collar. There is nothing wrong with either if they are fitted properly. Any collar used for training should fit high on the neck behind the jawline, not lying down around all of the strong neck muscles that are meeting with the chest and shoulder muscles. This does you no good whatsoever and can constrict the trachea. Also make sure it is put on correctly or it will not release correctly. When you are standing in front of your dog to put on the collar, it should look like a “P.” The live ring (the ring to which your lead is attached) should come over top of the dog’s neck when they are on your left. If it comes under their neck, it will not release properly. It should look as it does in the picture below.
I will touch on prong collars only because they are a piece of equipment many are curious about. They are not medieval torture devices, and when used properly are very effective training tools. The prongs do not dig into the skin but rather pinch it together, creating a larger area of pressure. They are not sharp, but dull and round. Just like any other training collar, you should consult a professional before attempting to use this piece of equipment so that you will know how to properly fit and use it. It is not for every dog. Another important thing to remember is to never ever leave any type of training collar on your dog for any longer than you are training. These collars are not for everyday wear. They are for training only.
As far as leads go, I prefer leather, as it is strong and ends up very soft with regular use. It will not burn your hands like a nylon or cotton lead if your dog decides to take off after something and rip the lead across your skin. It is also easier to grip and accordion up the slack. Your focus should be on your dog, not on picking up surplus lead. Large dogs need a traffic lead (24 inches) or a 4 foot lead. Little dogs, a 4-footer. In the beginning you will not be doing any distance work so 6 foot leads and longer training leads are not needed until later. Retractable leads are not appropriate for obedience work. They are bulky and awkward and you will never get the hang of the appropriate amount of slack your lead should have. They will also burn the **** out of your hand should you try to grab it. You have no reaction time with this type of lead so do yourself a favor and don’t use it for obedience training.
You want to make sure you are holding your lead correctly as well. Don’t wrap the lead around your hand, wrist or arm. Even the smallest of dogs can dislocate an arm or at the very least a finger if they spy something and catch you off guard. Your thumb goes through the handle, then you grasp the lead with your fingers. This allows you to release or drop the lead easily should you need to with little to no tangling.
Armed with our treats, treat bag, collar, lead and dog, we went outside for some learnin’! The first thing we worked on was attention. It is far easier to work with your dog (walk, communicate, etc) if they are looking at you. Get whatever motivator you are using and place it in front of the dog’s nose. With your dog on your left in a sitting or standing position, trace an imaginary line from the dog’s nose/mouth where you have the treat, up to your eyes while saying “Watch.” When the dog’s eyes meet yours, even for a second, praise (“Good girl! Good watch!”) and give the dog the treat (or the reward of your choice).
If you start a pup out very young with the Watch command, heeling will be much easier later. Think about it–a dog that is looking you in the face is not going to be able to pull ahead of you. Obedience is something you can practice throughout your day. I usually incorporate a bit of it into walks. If you set aside training times for your dog, you want to keep it short and upbeat. A good session is anywhere from 10-15 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to train only when you are in a good mood because your dog will pick up on your emotional state. You should always be jovial, animated and use your best squeaky voice. If your neighbors think you’re nuts, you’re doing it right.
Next lesson: Sit and Down.
It’s that time again! Time for the Thursday blog hops! Today we are participating in the Thoughtless Thursday Blog Hop hosted by Ruckus the Eskie and Love Is Being Owned By A Husky as well as the Thursday Barks & Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like A Dog. Remember to like, comment and follow so that everyone can increase their readership and make new blogging friends!