I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, so in order to purge, I need to whine a bit about a few things that bug me:
The truth is, they often don’t work. Though each can in it’s own way be an effective tool in helping to teach a dog not to pull like a tractor, some dogs make short work of them. For instance, the “face collar,” which operates much as does a horse’s bridle, aims to control a dog’s head, and in doing so stop pulling. Designed to appeal to those who resist using any type of slip collar for fear of choking a dog, the face collar can work well, but does have its shortcomings.
First, most dogs take at least a few days to get used to having something strapped to their faces. Most simply hate the feeling. Second, many hard pulling canines figure out quickly that if they turn and face you, then pull hard, they can neatly slip out of the face collar, leaving them free to run into the street and get creamed. Most manufacturers now design face collars to clip to a flat or slip collar to prevent escape, but this somewhat defeats the very purpose of the collar itself. Third, some owners don’t quite understand how much control they actually have over a dog’s head while using a face collar, and as such can severely injure the pet’s neck while pulling back on it. In trying to prevent possible injury from a misused slip collar, they end up hurting the dog more seriously.
No-pull harnesses with straps that wrap down beneath a dog’s chest and up to a lead connector, work on the premise that pressure on the legs and chest will naturally convince the dog to stop pulling. With some dogs this does work. But the devices give very little lateral control, so that if a dog decides to go sideways on you, you’re out of luck. Ditto for a bucking or jumping dog.
Safety is the big issue. If you work a powerful, headstrong dog outside and she pulls out of her collar, she’ll be gone, and you’ll be left standing there, wondering what to do. As a professional trainer, I cannot allow this to ever happen to a client’s dog; I must ensure she will never get away from me and become lost or killed. In the beginning, the only way to do this is to properly use some type of slip collar. Chain collars need not be used- many cloth or nylon designs exist that do no harm to the dog, if properly used. They are a hybrid of a slip and flat collar- they tighten only to a point, preventing escape, while avoiding choking. Often they are needed only for a week or two, when another device can then be used. But the danger of a dog pulling out of a face or flat collar is simply just too great to risk.
Anyone who’s ever had a strong dog pull hard on leash knows why nylon leashes stink. Unless you have the leash end securely wrapped around your hand, you can receive a bad burn from the nylon as it runs through your palm. It’s much better to use a soft leather leash, which will not burn your hand. Those who cannot use leather products for ethical reasons can still find a “pleather” leash, or a decent fabric leash with a lower coefficient of friction than the dreaded nylon leash.
If you have a tiny little dog, hand burns are not an issue (unless the leash is extremely thin). If you do opt for leather, be sure to keep it away from the dog in between walks, as it will be eaten! If your dog tries to chew on it during a walk, just spray it with a bitter product.
I really dislike dressing dogs up like vapid runway models. Warm clothing for winter conditions is one thing, but human vanities projected onto a pooch is another. It’s just silly, and discourteous. What’s next, Poodle cigarettes?
Long Distance “Energy
Give me a break. What kind of energy? Radiant? Ultraviolet? Nuclear? What is it exactly that these “trainers” are doing for you and your dog? Do they also stage séances, and doggy Tarot readings? Arg. Your dog is a real creature with real needs, and not a transmitter of hoo ha.
Though treats are vital to begin many desirable behaviors, the goal for any trainer should be to reduce the offerings once the behavior is reliable, and to use them unpredictably in the future to reinforce the behavior. Instead, clicker trainers, and those who think any behavior can be created or extinguished solely with treat distraction, load dogs up on them. Not only does this encourage obesity, it also creates a pushy, disrespectful attitude in the dog. And a dog who is fear aggressive won't give a hoot about a cookie when he thinks he's in danger. The ultimate goal of training should be to get your dog to contentedly do what you ask, even if he wants to do something else. Treats don’t help with that.
Dogs don’t like wire crates. It makes them feel as if they are in a fishbowl. They feel confined, but without a sense of security. Plastic crates give dogs a better sense of refuge; they are much more “den-like” and cozy. And, they can be used to transport a dog on a plane, train or bus, which wire cannot. Forget the wire crate and get your dog a properly sized plastic one.
Dog Food that Costs
More Than My Food
Over the last decade or two, dog food quality has gotten better. Gone are the days (almost) where people only bought cheap dog food at supermarkets, feed stores, etc. Quality pet food is big business now, available at decent pet stores everywhere.
But recently, I have noticed prices inching up, to the point that high quality kibble is costing as much as two to three dollars per pound, or more. And if you buy or make raw, it’s even more. If you can afford this, I suppose it’s fine. But many dog lovers simply cannot spend that kind of money on their pets.
You don’t have to. Most supermarket/Costco dog foods these days are nutritious, and will keep your dog in good health. They may not be your first choice, but during bad times, there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you downgrade a bit to get by. I know of many dogs raised on decent supermarket foods who live long, healthy lives. So, if need be, don’t get guilted out. Just check ingredients, and buy the best you can afford.
Service Dogs Who
Aren’t Service Dogs
The other day I went into a local café for some tea. Inside was a woman with a skittish little spaniel mix wearing a red vest that said “Service Dog” on it. The dog clearly was not a service dog of any discernible type, apart from being the overly caffeinated owner’s pal. But the café owner, intimidated by the possible threat of being sued, let the dog stay, even though he clearly had some anti-social issues, and could have bitten someone at any moment.
Service dogs are amazing, creatures, worthy of respect. Just tossing a vest on your dog doesn’t make her a service dog. So, please don’t do real service dogs a disservice just to get your pet into the local Starbucks.
Okay, I’ve purged.
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