ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Choosing the Right Equipment

Well, the first thing that comes to mind, is that the issue of which collar to use (ruling out aversive collars of course), isn't really central to how to effectively use clicker training.

However, choosing the right collar for your situation, can sometimes be confusing.

Perhaps the first question to ask is: what are you using a collar for with your dog? Do you have management problems (pulling on lead, high distractibility around other dogs) -- or do you just need to comply with local leash laws or hold your dog tags?

In short, what do you need the collar for to help you accomplish your training goals with your dog?

For example, when talking about collar choices for a puppy I had raised, we agreed specifically decided to go with a lightweight tracking harness during early puppy stages. For a number of reasons (including avoiding possible neck injuries with rambunctious puppy)...but essentially to allow us a way to have backup control of the puppy when working in public...and then no collar when in safe areas.

The raiser focused intensively on attention/checking in games, and rewarding positions in relative heel position (left and right side), as well as loose lead walking. Without going to to details, it means that the adolescent (just turned 7 months) walks easily in a wide number of settings in public (in face of many distractions) on loose lead (harness, with light premier collar to hold tags).

Avoiding using too *much* collar (or any neck collar for that matter) with the early puppy, allowed us much leeway on term of options for choices down the road (and I think, no small part do to the gifts of the puppyraiser, forced more attention to be paid to clicker training as opposed to reliance on the collar/tools).

You might have an older adolescent, or adult, that requires more control in order to safely walk in public. In that case, using a Gentle Leader as a transitional training tool, might allow you the chance to manage your dog while building up a reinforcement history of loose lead walking (or other areas of control). Again, it depends on what types of behavior you are working on, and where you might need additional help from tools.

My only increasing caution, is that it can be very easy to just rely on the tools, and not really teach the dogs any behavior (whether those tools be aversive or not -- GL or prongs if you will).

Example -- my new hearing dog had a major accident a week ago during a tennis ball chase. She managed to stab herself through the base of her tongue into her throat from a branch stuck in the ground while attempting to grab the tennis ball. Long story short, she required surgery -- and the some restrictions during the recovery period. Those restrictiosn include not wearing a collar on her neck or head, for a month to insure the interior wounds are not damaged. So I have a dog that is on a lightweight tracking harness. Thanks to the great foundation training she has -- that harness (and actually even without in in safe areas) is sufficient for her to be controlled by voice/hand signals. It would have been much more difficult to go through this recovery period -- and much more restrictive for her -- if she were only reliable when wearing a certain management tool.

Granted accidents can happen at any stage of the training process -- but my pitch these days (along with doublechecking yards for stray sticks), is to really think about the equipment we use, and often become dependent on. If you can look at equipment as a transition tool, and with the guidelines of a training plan look at how you might wean your animal off those management tools, you may help both you and your dog in future situations.

Good luck

Kathleen Kisselburgh
copyright 2002 Kathleen Kisselburgh


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