dog-training equipment

We had our first workshop in McConnelsville, Ohio (Morgan County), in preparation for Anne Deliman’s Canine Follies later this month.

Six dogs were brought to this training session with at least two handlers saying they weren’t doing the follies performance, they just wanted some training.

It was a rather long drive and long training event (1 hour on the road, 3 hours training) for not much money, but I’m interested in getting folks from our neighboring counties to look at dog training as a social event for themselves and their dogs.

I think everyone learned a little bit about positive reinforcement training, about clicker training, about synchronized movement (drill team) training, and about how to build a trick from a natural or shaped behavior.

Let me say one thing about dog-training equipment. Local stores sell the most painful assortment of leashes I’ve ever seen. Not painful to the dog — painful to the handlers!

Every time I see one of those stupid chain leashes I immediately trade the student for one that doesn’t tear up their hands. In my opinion there’s only one good use for those darned things — to put it together with your real leash if your dog likes to chew on the leash. Sometimes a chain wrapped around a leash will discourage chewing just because it’s distasteful to the dog. Otherwise, I’d like to dig a hole big enough for all of them and dump ’em in.

There there are the colorful little 1/2-inch fiber leashes. They come in a multitude of colors, so kids love to buy them. They look pretty, and clean up nicely, but — if you’ve ever had a dog pull one of them through your fingers — you know they’re dangerous.

The edge of these leashes is as sharp as a piece of paper. Invariably the 1/2-inch version is on a 45-50-pound dog. One good yank and you’ve got a cut on your finger. Because they’re 6-feet long people will wrap the leash half a dozen times around their hand, adding to the danger and possible injury.

So the first discussion I had with the trainers in McConnelsville was this — the leash should be designed to be safe on the dog and comfortable in your hand. Then I traded them their decorative leashes and chain leashes for nice 3/4″ slip leads.

And I had the usual child student arrive with her dog on a choke chain, so we switched her chain lead to the dead ring before starting our discussion of leashes. The choke chain is like a book bag. It’s only worn when you’re going to train and study. You don’t eat or sleep with it on. You don’t have it on while relaxing in the evening in front of the television set.

Choke chains scare the crap out of me ever since I went to a SAR training event 15 years ago and witnessed a woman walking back to the training area from her car carrying her dead puppy. The puppy was wearing his very first choke chain and had fallen asleep in her arms, so she’d returned him to her car and come back to the training area. He woke up, climbed over the back of the front seat, snagged his choke chain in the head rest and hung himself. She was devastated.

We allow choke chains from first-timers here, folks who aren’t aware of the dangers, but they work with the leash hooked on the dead ring OR they remove it in favor of another collar. They rarely show up the second week with a choke collar on.

Of course, we always have one or two beginners who arrive with anti-jump harnesses, pinch (also called prong) collars, or any number of other devices some marketing genious decided would curb the dog-like behavior of dogs without any effort on behalf of the trainer.

Sort of like those diet pills which — taken twice daily! — make weight loss possible without having to change the way you eat or live.  Except in the small print it explains that typical weight loss, with no change of lifestyle or diet, consists of about 3 pounds. “I lost 114 pounds on ___-edrine without dieting or exercising!”  In small letters, “not typical weight loss.” And they show a 20-year-old girl with 6-pack abs — all from 2 pills a day. WHAT a miracle drug.

With dogs there’s no miracle equipment that can change your relationship with your dog for the better. There are plenty that can change your relationship for the WORSE. But dog training is, in essense, establishing a working relationship whereby both you and your dog benefit from the training. You and your dog develop trust in each other.

No dog-training equipment can do that for you.

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