Tools for Training and Managing Your Dog’s Behavior
In our previous post, we discussed the distinct difference between training your dog and managing your pup’s behavior. While both training and behavior management have their merits, the most effective program is generally a combination of both.
We also briefly covered some of the tools used to aid in training and behavior management, but felt it worthy of its own post to dive deeper into some of the most common tools available and how to use them.
Whether you’re training your dog to roll over or working on basic commands such as sit, down, and stay, training your pup always involves teaching him something new. There’s a considerable amount of training tools on the market today, but we’ve broken down the basic categories for you below.
A good leash is without a doubt your first and most important item when it comes to training a dog. Among other things, leashes can be used to help train specific commands such as sit, stay, come, heel, leave it, and focus. Leashing your pup allows you to remain in control of your dog and keep him out of harm’s way – ensuring he remains safe from other dogs, humans and cars. Leashes can vary by length, width, fabric, and purpose.
There are several types of collars that can be used to aid in the training process. Each has a specific purpose and can be used for various training techniques.
- Flat collars: These collars lay flat against your dog’s neck and are generally fastened with a metal or plastic buckle, making them ideal for everyday use. They’re great for holding identification and rabies tags, however, it can be relatively easy for a dog to slip out. You should be sure to regularly check the fit of the collar and exercise caution when walking a dog on a leash with only a flat collar.
- Martingale collars: Martingale collars are similar to flat collars in that they are often made of similar fabric and lay flat on your pup’s neck. These collars have a small chain or fabric loop on them that tightens when your dog pulls, making them more difficult to slip out of than a flat collar. Because these collars are made out of fabric, they are soft on your dog’s neck and when properly fitted, they close just enough to prevent them slipping out of the collar. These collars are comfortable, dependable, and can often be a trainer’s best friend!
- Prong collar: These collars, which are made from interconnected metal links, are generally only used during training sessions and walks as they do not hold any identifying information like a flat collar. Before using a prong collar, it’s important to ensure the proper fit, with the collar just behind your dog’s ears and below the jawline.
- Remote collar: Like a flat collar, remote collars lay flat on your dog’s neck; however, they have the addition of two metals probes that touch your dog’s neck. Accompanying the collar is a remote, allowing you to send small vibrations to the prongs touching your dog’s neck. While not widely popular, remote collars are a great, harmless training tool when used properly as they allow for better control of your dog at long distances. Remote collars should never be used as a negative reinforcement tool, but rather as form of additional communication with your dog.
Treats are a great training tool – particularly for food-motivated dogs – and are used to reward good behavior. For example, if you are working to teach sit, you can use a treat to not only lure your dog into the sit position but also to reward them once in the sit position. There are various types of treats; however, most people find the treats specifically referred to as training treats to be the best option as they are quite small and are easy to carry while training.
As we mentioned in our last post, knowledge is the ultimate training tool. By learning more about your dog’s breed, temperament, energy level, exercise needs, and ability to socialize, you’ll be able to better meet your pup’s specific needs. Breeds such as a border collies or Australian shepherds need a lot of exercise, whereas English bulldogs wouldn’t require as much exercise or stimulation. No matter what kind of dog you decide to love, make sure you take the time to learn about their specific breed and the training your pup needs for a happy and healthy life.
Tools for Managing Behavior
Just like for training, there are a variety of tools designed to help in behavior management. From crates to special collars, these tools are all meant to help you control your dog’s exposure to the world around them.
Having a collar designed specifically to aid in behavior management (like the martingale, prong and remote collars) allows you to better control your dog’s behavior. For example, if your dog is leash aggressive toward other dogs while on walks, having a strong collar can help disengage your dog from the trigger as you maneuver your dog to a different place to avoid the trigger.
Harnesses & Headcollars
There are several types of harnesses and headcollars that can assist with behavior management, such as no-pull harnesses and head-halters.
- No-pull harness: A no-pull harness is designed to minimize pulling, typically connecting to the leash from the front of your dog’s chest. These harnesses are a safe and gentle and are generally made out of a fabric similar to a leash or flat collar. When using a harness, proper fit is essential to avoid the dog slipping out of it, or getting fabric burns.
- Gentle-leader/head-halter: Gentle-leaders, a type of head-halter, are headcollars that wrap securely and safely around your dog’s nose. As such, the nose loop gently moves a dog’s head when pulling occurs; however, it still allows your dog to pant and bark, unlike a muzzle. Similar to the leads used on horses, a head-halter or gentle-leader allows you to control whether your dog pulls and in which direction they walk. These are particularly helpful for a dog that has aggressive tendencies, such as fear or leash aggression toward other dogs or humans.
Crates can be a great behavior management tool to use in the home. If your dog has confidence, security, or fear aggression issues, utilizing a crate at home will help keep your dog, your guests and your home safe. For dogs that chew when they’re feeling anxious, being in a crate can not only reduce anxiety but also prevent them from chewing on your couch or shoes. Additionally, crates are a great way to help your dog feel secure when you have guests arrive at your house. By having the dog in the crate while your guests arrive, you can both prevent your dog from slipping out of the house, while keeping them from feeling anxious, aggressive or overly excited, thereby preventing the likelihood of an accidental bite.
All in all, a few properly utilized behavior management or training tools can go a long way. With so many different types out there, it’s well worth it to do your homework when selecting the right tools for you and your pup.
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