Monday, June 16, 2008

Collaring The Issue

I'd like to talk to you about collars. As I've said before, I've tried a few different kinds of collars with Theo, and I really believe the various collars we've used have made all the difference with Theo's leash training.

We started with a normal buckle collar (pictured, left). It worked well for keeping him tethered near us, and as a vehicle for holding his many tags, but not for much else. When we first got Theo I had delusions of grandeur, thinking that a regular collar, paired with my excellent training abilities, would be enough for successful leash training. Oh how wrong I was! He would pull and pull and pull, as if he didn't even feel the collar. Anything that caught his fancy (which was pretty much everything..."oooh, a sidewalk!") would sending him running. That's when we switched to the choke chain (I hate that name, but it's descriptive...). I got the kind with nylon threaded through it to reduce any pulling of fur that tends to happen with that kind of collar (pictured, right) . Jenna Z expressed an interest in how it looks, so here it is!

When I first put the collar on Theo, it was like night and day. He took a step forward, the leash tightened around his neck, and finally he felt it and stopped! With the buckle collar it felt like a work horse trying to pull me along. With the choke chain we finally made steps towards a good heel. Then he got used to it. He was still good for the most part, but every time he saw a person or another dog he would lunge forward, not caring how tight the collar got around his neck. I didn't really like this, so I was on the lookout for a better option.

In the training classes I go to, the trainer will often suggest different collars for dogs when she sees they are not walking well on leash. Week after week Theo would pull and pull and she never suggested another kind. Then one day I heard her recommending a martingale collar to another owner. I had heard Jenna Z. mention this kind of collar as an alternative to the choke chain, so I immediately stuck my nose in their conversation and asked if I could try one on Theo. She was recommending them to the other guy because his dog was slipping out of his collar. I explained that I wanted it for training to help Theo realize when he's pulling on the leash, and she hooked me up with one for $5 (pictured, middle). Yay for training!

Just like with the choke chain, it was like night and day. He responds very well to it, and now he's finally able to understand my verbal commands when we walk together. When he's pulling on the leash (which he still does often, I think because he's testing his boundaries), I'll give him the command to heel. If he doesn't listen, I'll give the leash a slight tug, so he feels I want him to slow down, and he does! It's working out really great. He still dashes ahead when he sees a person or another dog, but I feel better knowing the collar isn't as bad for his neck when he does that.

The martingale is kind of a pain to take on and off because there's no buckle (though apparently there are kinds that have buckles). I would recommend either sticking with a buckle collar if your dog is good enough to handle it (luckies!), or find a martingale that has a buckle. But really, all "a pain to get on" means is that I have to give Theo more treats when I put it on him so he doesn't associate negative feelings with his collar. Now whenever he hears the jingle of the tags on his collar he comes running with a big smile because he knows he's going to get treats and a walk!

PS: New pictures uploaded in flickr.
PPS: I am soooooo happy I'm finally getting rid of that ugly ceramic tile in the picture with the collars above. If you're going to make tile with a wood grain (bad idea in the first place), why make it gray!? Yuck.


Lynn said...

Hmm, I may have to try a martingale collar for Lucy. We've been bad, we haven't been to an obedience class in a while, but my excuse is that she had to get spayed! Lucy pulls a bit, but I'm so used to my sled dog that a 20 pound corgi feels like nothing!

JuLo said...

For me personally, I feel leash training is important because I'm training him to walk nicely next to me whether he's on a leash or not. I don't know where I would ever walk with him that he wouldn't be on a leash, but if it did ever happen, I'd like to know that I would still be able to control his movements with commands and calling on his training. I'd prefer the leash to be a formality rather than a necessity. But that's just me.

When Theo really wants to get somewhere, he manages to make 20 pounds feel like 100! Hehe.

The Senakams said...

How does a martingale collar work? Does it cinch when he pulls? Whatever it is, glad it's working out!

JuLo said...

It's pretty neat. The martingale is basically a regular flat collar, except there's one section, a loop, a few inches long that you clip the leash to, so it cinches when you or he pulls the leash. This way it will only cinch until the loop is all the way tightened. And since it's adjustable, you can basically choose how tight it will cinch.