Equipment: What are you Wearing?
The topic of equipment with respect to dog training has always been a very hot button issue. Decades ago, it was commonplace to put a choke chain (a metal chain collar that puts pressure on the dog’s throat when he/she pulls) around the dog’s neck and head out for a walk. Then we ramped it up to a prong collar (metal spikes that go into the dog’s neck when he/she pulls) and now we are seeing even more shock collars used out in the world to manage behavior from a distance. I know there are a lot of trainers out there that still think all of this is not only acceptable, but necessary. I would whole heartedly disagree, and here is why.
I am not a fan of using equipment as a crutch, period. What I mean by this is if you have to use a prong collar, or worse, a shock collar to get from point A to point B then you clearly do not have a trained dog, much less any sort of reliability. Everything that I do as a professional trainer is based on the relationship between human and dog, which means you actually have to work at it! Most people lose steam with their training programs after a period of time, thinking the dog should be trained by now. It is certainly easier to use a piece of equipment that prevents irritating habits such a pulling on leash, but it is next to impossible to move away from this equipment. I am totally on board with equipment that acts as a facilitator, just not a crutch. I like martingale collars for young dogs, and I love some of the front-clip no pull harness options, and I will even pull out a head collar for an extreme case of bad leash manners. Regardless though, you must practice the behaviors you want your dog to master. My ultimate goal for all of my clients is off leash reliability and solid voice control. It all goes back to relationship, practice and consistency.
On another note, and this is the most important part of what I am trying to convey: equipment that causes physical or psychological harm is inhumane! There is no justifying that in my world. Just know that using an electronic collar without the skill and impeccable timing necessary is dangerous and very unfair to the recipient. There are so many better ways to get to the end result. No, it will not happen instantly, but isn’t your best pal worth the effort?
We are such a society of quick fixes! Have a headache? Take an Advil. In a hurry? Cut off the person in front of you to get to your destination faster. Here is the truth: dog training is a lifelong process and there are absolutely no quick fixes. Make the commitment to incorporate training into your everyday life and you and your dog will not regret it. Most importantly, be fair, be consistent, be a good leader and have fun!
All for now!