The Right Tools for the Job.
When you first bring a puppy or dog into your home you want to know you have the right tools to keep them safe and happy. The pet equipment industry is huge but there are lots of things on the market that can actually do more harm than good. In this article we explore what items would benefit you and your dog which we would recommend you stay clear of!
Collar and Dog Tag
The dog tag needs to have your details clearly printed it. This is a legal requirement but also something that is desirable. If your doggo went missing, they could be just a phone call away! Any pet shop or key cutting service will be able to provide dog tags.
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Standard lead and long line lead
Investing in a good quality standard lead is next. This tool will be what you use when walking your dog in public environments where there are lots of exciting distractions around. You need to be able to rehearse your loose lead walking without the risk of being tangled.
The long line lead is essential when practicing recall and training your dog to stay close to you. You can get many different measurements from 5m up to 20m lengths. Without the risk of your dog running off because there’s a really interesting smell, the long line lead allows your dog to be free and then call them back to you. It also helps to set expectations on how far your dog can be away from you and stops them rehearsing behaviours like chasing deer or running to the dog at the other side of the park.
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This is not essential but makes training a lot easier. Having a little bag or pouch that you can have clipped onto you means your treats are close to your body allowing easy access. Not only does it make your life easier but it serves as a visual indicator to your dog that training is going to take place.
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A clicker is also not essential but many people enjoy working with them. Whilst Nici (founder of PAWS) uses her voice as a marking tool, others prefer a clicker to indicate their dog has offered the correct behaviour. They definitely would need getting used to and not too expensive but they’re worth trying.
Small dog blanket or flat bed
It is important to have a space that your dog knows they can settle on and acts as a visual tool. The aim with this resource is for your dog to settle on the blanket/bed even with many distractions around them.
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Using a harness is completely up to you. There are pros and cons to using and not using them. A harness means taking pressure off the neck if your dog pulls as well as you‘ll have more control. On the other hand, a harness can accidentally condition your dog to pull more because they enjoy the pressure across their body, leading to more reactive behaviours. If you do want to invest in a harness, then purchasing a Y shaped harness is the best choice. Many harnesses have a T shape, this presses on their shoulders which restricts their movement.
PAWS recommends ‘The Perfect Fit’ harness.
This is purchased in three parts:
the front Y piece
the tummy strap
the back piece
It is designed so that you can mix and match to perfectly fit your dog. The website shows you exactly how to accurately take measurements and is easy to navigate.
What we want to avoid:
electric shock collars
pet corrector cans
These tools have a quick success rate but are a method of training that is based on control. PAWS promotes force free, positive reinforcement training. These tools aren’t necessary and force the dog to display the correct behaviours through fear, pain and/or discomfort. If you have a dog trainer that relies on aversives, they are either unaware of (or simply ignoring) the most recent advances in behavioural science and are possibly too impatient to take advantage of more effective and humane training methods and tools. Your dog’s good behavior shouldn’t rely on whether they’re wearing a specific kind of collar. It’s much more rewarding as a dog owner to see your dog make good decisions because you’ve taught them what behaviours are rewarding and make you happy! Aversives can potentially create strong negative associations in your dog’s mind and have a massive negative impact on the mental state. This leads to an increase in anxiety and fear which can then result in fear reactivity and aggression.
Dog training is supposed to be fun, stimulating and enjoyable for your dog as well as yourself but the use of aversives kills the dog’s motivation to train, work harder and more often. On the whole these tools aren’t safe and are detrimental to our dogs wellbeing. No one should expect instant results from training; it takes work and time.