By Margie McConnell, DWD Instructor
As a dog owner and trainer I, like you, want what is best for my puppy. I want a well-behaved, obedient, loving companion. Often this means “thinking outside of the box”.
Dogs are the only mammal lead around by their necks. This is not always ideal, especially if you have a puller. Constant pulling on the leash can do a great deal of harm including choking, neck injuries, and, on rare occasions, permanent damage to the esophagus or trachea. Pulling also releases endorphins so it becomes a self-rewarding behaviour.
That being said, the flat collar, like all collars and harnesses, needs to be considered equipment, and, as such, used correctly. I want you to take your puppy for a walk and count how many times you give a correction with your leash. Now, count the seconds you spend holding the leash tight. I bet you’re surprised at how often you correct and even more surprised at how long you spend being pulled along.
If you are going to continue with a flat collar please start using the 1 second rule. As fast as you say WHOA is the amount of time you are allowed to tug on the leash. This may mean 100’s of tugs on a walk but you are accomplishing two things:
- You are improving your timing. When your dog pulls a quick WHOA and release will inhibit pulling much faster than trying to yank and drag your dog. Remember: things in motion tend to stay in motion. If your dog has forward momentum hanging on for dear life is not going to fix the problem.
- You are off of your dog’s neck. Using the Whoa and release, you are giving a quick correction. This is far more likely to get you pup’s attention.
Another great tool that you always have is your voice. When walking, talking to your dog is the one of the best ways to get their attention. Practice calling your puppy to come. When she sees something of interest be proactive by running backwards a few steps and calling her to COME. When your pup responds say “YES” and reward with a treat. Practice this multiple times and your dog will soon be following you.
You can also use your voice to keep your dog’s attention on walks. A happy, positive conversation will keep your dog engaged with you. Think about going for a walk with a friend and being totally ignored. Not much fun right? Talk to your dog, tell them about your day, praise frequently and you will soon have a more attentive walking partner.
Remember to reward frequently when your pup is walking nicely. This can be done with a treat, your voice or a pat. I tend to use all three to keep things interesting for my dog. Also consider where you walk. Taking the same route day after day can lead to boredom, boredom can lead to unwanted behaviours. Go new places, see new things, let your pup sniff and meet new people and dogs. This is their walk as much as it is yours so make it fun for both of you.