The creativity of trainers and those who supply them with additional tools is never-ending. To the new or casual trainer there appears a dizzying array of devices. Though many are useful, they shouldn’t be viewed as substitutes for training knowledge.
Before using any of the tools discussed below, be sure your dog is in good health. Even the gentlest of collars or training regimes can do harm if the dog has a skin sore or twisted dew claw.
An excellent attention-getting device, the clicker is a palm-sized, hand-held plastic and metal unit which emits a loud ‘click-clack’ noise when pressed and released. It can save a lot of wear on the trainers voice and is distinctive and readily audible, even against common background noise.
The trainer can use a clicker to draw the attention of a distracted dog. It’s more commonly used, though, as a reward or ‘begin’ sound when the animal exhibits desired behavior or to start a behavior.
Leashes and Collars
The variety of leashes available is astounding, running the gamut from two-foot control leashes, usually of nylon or leather, to the 30-foot extendable-retractable nylon cord type.
For near work, such as training ‘sit’, ‘stay’ (for example, ‘don’t run after the cat’ or ‘don’t go out the door before me’) the two to four foot leash is an excellent tool. The extendable leash is useful only by trainers who want to obey their dog. The human (whether male or female) should always be the ‘alpha male’ of the pack and the alpha always leads.
Collars come in a variety of buckle, snap, nylon, leather combinations. Provided the snaps and nylon are good quality they can be fully strong enough for even large dogs. They should be adjusted carefully, though, so they don’t slip off easily when the dog moves a head toward the ground and away to escape.
This trainer is adamantly opposed to spike collars – which can easily damage a smaller dog and tend to engender fear even in larger ones. Similarly, choke collars are discouraged. Dogs have very strong neck muscles, but a sharp tug on the front of the throat can bruise or even collapse a trachea. Also, too often choke collars are put on backwards (an easy mistake to make), which makes them counter-productive and dangerous.
Similar to leashes, chest halter leashes and even full vests can help to strengthen the trainers advantage while avoiding excessive pressure on the dog’s throat.
The potential downside is that the animal experiences no discomfort from pulling, so this limits training completely to positive re-enforcement. Originally designed to be used with seeing-eye and other aid dogs, the chest-halter can encourage pulling – the opposite of the usual goal.
Nevertheless, for those who need extra control over a strong dog or when regular collars and leashes won’t serve they’re valuable.
For short-term barking and biting control muzzles may sometimes be helpful or even necessary. The downside to using one is the dog never learns through other means to suppress barking. The muzzle becomes a substitute for the more difficult, long-term solution of obeying ‘no-bark’ commands.
There are dozens of other dog-related items: no-bark collars, electric fences, chemical sprays, head collars, etc. But these are as much control devices as training tools.
And, of course, there are the training tools that remain perpetual and highly effective favorites: love and respect. Treat your dog as you would a loving companion and it will be much easier to produce desired behavior.