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Training Equipment: The Down-Low

What kind of training equipment you choose will effect your relationship with your dog – both your training relationship, and your overall relationship. There’s no such thing as a “magic” piece of equipment (usually. Sometimes certain pieces of equipment will seem like magic on a certain dog, but each dog will be different and will react differently.)


First things first; you’ll start with a collar or harness and a leash.


What kind of collar or harness?


For very tiny dogs, they usually need to have a harness. Their necks are so fragile!


For Greyhounds and other breeds with slim heads and necks, they need a “Greyhound collar.”


Everybody else can start with a plain flat collar (buckle or quick-release/snap style.) Nylon or leather. Get whatever color you like! Long-term, no matter what training tools we use to get the job done, the final goal is to get the dog back onto a plain flat collar.


Other training collars:


No-pull harness: These work great if your dog is very strong and is a heavy puller. They restrict the dogs forward movement to some degree and will save your dog from neck or trachea injury as well as save you from possible arm strain or falls. There are several different brands of no-pull harnesses; I always recommend to take your dog in to a pet store to get the best fit. (The pet store employees can usually help you.)


Head Halter: The head halter is considered the “power steering” option for dogs. If you have any disabilities or weakness in your hands or arms, this is the way to go. I also like it for use on “polishing” young dogs or getting control of the head for dogs with high scent distraction. Different dogs will have different responses to head halters. Most dogs will adjust to them easily if you do the introduction correctly.


Martingale collar: A martingale collar is one that constricts slightly if the dog pulls. If your dog tries to slip out of its collar, this is the safest collar to have!




Leash: A regular leash is fine for most uses. I’d advise against using Flexi-leashes in everyday life. They usually end up teaching the dog to pull, because it learns that when it pulls against its Flexi-leash, it is rewarded by getting to move forward. Flexi-leashes can also be awkward to hold, and if you drop it accidently, it can scare the dog by clanking along behind, and the dog can run away.


If you do need to use a Flexi-leash for exercise purposes, I recommend keeping it in “locked” position most of the time, and when you are ready to let your dog exercise, give a specific cue or announcement “Run!” or “Unlock!” so it understands that the default for walking is not to pull; pulling is allowed during specific times only, and always after you have given the announcement.


Other Tools:


Crates: Crates are great! They simplify housebreaking and chew training. They provide your dog with a quiet space to rest. Make sure the crate is not too big for the dog – it should be big enough to stand up and turn around in, but doesn’t have to be much bigger.


Normal guidelines recommend leaving a dog crated for only 3-4 hours at a time.


Long lines: Long lines are one of my favorite training tools! They usually come in 20, 30, or 50-foot lengths and are very lightweight. Long lines are a safe and great transition to off-leash work. Be careful that you don’t trip over the long line though, and that it doesn’t get caught in anything as your dog works.


Clickers: Clickers are another favorite tool! The clicker improves your timing while you are teaching a new behavior, and can make for much “cleaner” training.

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