Dog Disneyland Season

If you have a dog and live in a part of the country that has season changes, your dog has gone completely bonkers and is excited and overly stimulated by everything, right?  Dog Disneyland Season has arrived!  Young dogs, especially, have all gone nuts with the cooler weather, new smells, new sounds, and especially the abundance of squirrels, rabbits, and the like.

After several weeks of amazing progress, my pup Casey has lost his mind and gets overly excited and stimulated by everything – as have most other dogs I know. Much as it’s fun to watch, it’s also an exercise in patience, right?

crazy-dogOh well.  The good news is that they’ll eventually get used to it, settle down, and remember to use their brains.

If you don’t already know this, one thing to watch is for their excitement going over the top and getting them in trouble – especially if you take your pup to a dog park.  Overly excited and stimulated dogs can get into fights.  Personally, I’m restricting Casey’s park trips only to times when there are very few dogs in the park.  And he’s spending a lot more time on a long line where he can run around a bit and burn off steam but I can hang onto him when he loses it.

Patience!  They will find their brains again.  Eventually.  I’m reminding myself to laugh at the silliness and not get frustrated by the total lack of focus.  After all, how often do you get to go to Disneyland for a whole season?

Dog training collars – which to use?

As with everything to do with dog training, you will get very different answers about what kind of training collar to use with your dog depending on who you ask.  Each type of collar – buckle collar, slip leash, Martingale collar, prong collar or choke chain – has its own benefits, so this article will cover many of the types of collars available and a bit of info on where they’re used.  Hopefully this will help you decide what will work best for you and your pup.

First, it’s important to understand that some types of training collars should only be used during training sessions. When you’re not actively training your dog, they should be in their regular collar. Specifically, these include the prong collar and choke chain.

Buckle collars

buckle collar stripedA regular buckle collar works just fine for most dogs as a training collar. The trick is to make sure it’s set at the right length for your dog. Many dogs are wearing collars that are much too loose to be effective.  Ideally, the collar should only be long enough that you can slide 2 fingers under it – and that’s all!  If you slide 3, 4 or more fingers in your dog’s collar, tighten it.  Other than making sure it doesn’t fall off them, it is safer and gives you more control.

Slip leash

Slip leashIt’s amazing how much you can train a dog with a simple slip lead.  I use them often. They’re nice because they loosen when the dog is walking nicely, and tighten when they’re not.  In other words, the degree of tension is totally dependent on the dog – assuming you are handling the leash properly. Since I like being hands-free as much as possible, these also are nice because they easily roll up and slip into a pocket.

Martingale collars

martingale collarOriginally designed for greyhounds, these make great training collars for many dogs.  They’re buckle collars, but work much like a slip lead, prong collar or choke chain because the degree of tension is totally dependent on the dog. They tighten or loosen depending on the dog’s tension. I’m surprised more people don’t use them.  My new pup Casey is in one whenever he’s having one of “those” days where he doesn’t think he needs to listen (and I disagree).

Prong collars and choke chains

These collars generate a lot of passion – from those who love them and from those who see them as tools of torture.  As with most things, to me it totally depends on the dog whether or not these are appropriate tools to use.  One thing, for sure, is neither of these are ever to be used as regular collars – they should be used as training tools only. They work like a slip lead in that they tighten only when the dog pulls, but otherwise hang loose around their neck. They are not tools of torture. On the other hand, I personally don’t think they’re necessary unless you have a very strong or very intense dog  that doesn’t respond to other methods.  If that’s the case, they’re absolutely appropriate to use and I’ve used them in the past.  Less so, now that I understand better how to communicate with my dog.  Still, they can be valuable tools when used properly.

prong collarProng collars are very effective with a strong or stubborn dog. They have teeth set at angle so that when the dog pulls, the feeling on their neck is similar to how a mother dog disciplines a puppy by putting her teeth on their neck.To test this yourself, go into a pet store and put one around your arm or wrist and give a quick tug on it.  That will give you a sense of how it feels to the dog.  Why your wrist and not your neck?  Because your wrist more accurately reflects how most dog’s necks are built.

choke chain collarChoke chains are just chains that tighten around the dog’s neck and work like a slip lead except they are made of chain. They’re often used on strong, powerful dogs. Never ever use them as a regular collar because they can be very dangerous if they are not put on the dog properly, and the dog needs to be under supervision at all times when wearing one.  To be honest, I’ve only ever used a choke chain a few times, so I’m not competent to comment on them.  I will say that I have seen them used effectively.  But if you’re going to use one, make sure you know how to properly put it on and are working with someone who is very familiar with them.

How I choose what collar to use

My personal preference is to start with the softest, most gentle initial method (buckle collar or slip lead) and work on having the dog want to do what I ask. Then, as needed, I gradually move up the tool list until I find the right balance between asking the dog to do something and then telling them that they have to do it anyway.  For example, for the first 2 weeks I had Casey, he was in a Martingale.  Now that he’s starting get the idea, he’s in a regular collar most days. I do foresee that I may need to get him a prong collar at some point for those occasions where he gets so excited that he loses his ability to pay attention. He is party Husky, after all…  Time will tell with that, since he’s only been with me for 3 weeks.

Hopefully, this bit of info will give you some good things to consider when you’re trying to decide what to use with your pup.

Dog parks – yes or no?

black-white dogs playingCasey is a tired puppy. He had his first-ever trip to a dog park today.  While many trainers discourage people from taking their dogs to a dog park, my personal perspective is that the answer to the question of whether or not you should go to a dog park is “it depends.” The up side of dog parks is learning socialization skills with other dogs and free range play to release pent up energy.  The down side is that owners may not pay attention to their dogs who are misbehaving, and there is the chance of picking up a disease or infection of some kind.  Here are some things to think about on both sides of the issue.

Dog Park Down Sides

I recommend keeping your dog out of dog parks when

  • The park is too small to support the number of dogs in it.  Your pup needs room to run and be alone if they so choose and a one acre park is a postage stamp – not a park. It’s hard for a dog to be properly socialized when they don’t have room and can’t easily avoid dogs they don’t want to be social with.
  • Dog owners stand around at one end of the park and pay no attention to what their dog is doing. This means there are probably dogs there who do not play nicely and fights can begin.
  • It’s a big flat space with nothing interesting to explore (i.e., trees, water, items to play on, and the like). Unless you have a retrieving dog, there is absolutely nothing of interest to dogs other than each other, and that can become a problem if a dog just wants to be left alone.
  • dog park mudThere is no grass – just dirt.  Beyond the mess (especially if it’s been raining), what fun is that? And how healthy is it likely to be?
  • There are no rules about vaccinations for park attendance and/or there is standing water that gets slimy.  Both of these instances raise the risk of infection or disease, which is not something you want your pup exposed to.

Dog Park Up Sides

Here are the good things about dog parks when the items listed above aren’t an issue.

  • Well behaved dogs in a dog park are a great way for a pup to learn proper socialization skills.  Nobody can teach a dog proper play manners better than other dogs.
  • It’s great for you because you can meet other dog owners who understand
  • Responsible dog owners keep an eye out for their own dogs and will alert you if your dog is doing something they know you don’t want.
  • dogs playingThey can run, play, and burn off steam
  • Because it’s an enclosed space where they can safely be off leash, it can be a great way to work on commands like “come” where they learn to come to you even if they’re free of the leash. That’s one of the things I’m doing to teach Casey.  He’ll be off and heading out of sight and I’ll call him.  So far, he’s doing really well about listening and comes running back. yay! But if he ignores me, I know he can’t go anywhere and get into trouble.
  • You get to return home with a very tired and very happy pup.  Such as you see here:

tired pup after 1st park trip 100115