TIPS & ADVICE
It’s unnatural for dogs to be held on a collar and lead, but restraint is a practical necessity because of dangers such as traffic and the law requires control. Unfortunately, dogs pull as a natural reflex against restraint, possibly driven by an enthusiasm to arrive at journey's end and then to be released. This leaflet explores the theory and practice of how to best control dogs so that they are a pleasure rather than a pain to take for walks.
Walking has immense health benefits for people; research shows that as little as half an hour per day's brisk exercise has a dramatically positive impact upon the human cardiovascular system. Unsurprisingly, it is also good for dogs that they have exercise and are not just confined to their yards or garden. In addition, walks should be a sociable event in the lives of both dogs and people. Meeting up with other dogs tunes their social skills and should be the high point of their day, as for owners to meet up with like-minded enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the 'No.1' behavioural complaint from dog owners is that their pet pulls on the lead, causing obvious discomfort, annoyance and even injury.
In 1980, Dr Roger Mugford published a scientific article about the adverse effects of choke chains upon the wellbeing and behaviour of dogs. Simply put, they place harsh pressure upon the delicate structures of the throat and spine if used in the way advocated by traditional dog trainers and epitomised by the late Barbara Woodhouse. There are still some trainers who advocate using choke chains and in North America it is common to see choke chains with inward facing spikes, that cause exceptional pain and even cruel penetration of the skin around the neck. Such approaches are plainly daft and fortunately they are unnecessary in the present era when there is a host of techniques and equipment that allows one to truly "chuck the choke".
Every dog needs to wear a collar, if only to carry his ID tag. The wider the collar, the more comfortable it will be for your dog to wear. The collar should be loose enough to allow unrestricted movement, but snug enough so that he cannot pull it over his head. For breeds with very narrow heads such as Greyhounds, Whippets and Dobermanns, special shaped collars are available, enabling you to fit them higher on the dog's throat so they do not slip over his narrow face if he pulls back. These collars are also often padded for extra comfort.
For long haired breeds, rolled collars are less likely to tangle in the coat and many collars now have an extra large 'D' ring fitted at the back of the neck which tends to make connecting a lead easier.
If the dog pulls on a collar of any design, he is in danger of self-inflicting damage to his cervical vertebrae. The construction of a dog's neck is much like that of humans and how many of us suffer from mild, persistent neck pain? Simply put, lots of dogs experience chronic neck pain by being harshly managed on a collar and lead, even worse on a choke chain. There are however, a number of training products that are designed to help stop persistant pullers, which are detailed overleaf.
The world of dog training and walking was completely revolutionised by Dr Roger Mugford's invention of the HALTI headcollar. Prior to that, there was no alternative to the dangerous choke chain and the even worse spike collar. The principals of head control were borrowed from the world of horses and adapted to fit dogs. Simply put, if you guide the head the body must surely follow! There are now many designs of headcollar on the market, but HALTI still remains the world's best-selling and favourite headcollar because of the comfort features which are incorporated into its ergonomic design. HALTI does not have metal rings or clips to press against soft tissues of the head and throat, unlike other designs. HALTI is designed to be worn slack or loose around a dog's muzzle, not to 'keep it shut' under constant tension. Its padded noseband lies well down from the dog's eyes and importantly, it places no pressure on the dog's throat.
Show him the HALTI and allow him to sniff it, so he knows there is nothing to be scared of.
Feed titbits to your dog whilst fitting the HALTI.
Allow your dog to wear the HALTI for a few minutes distracting him with treats and play.
Attach a double ended lead, one end to the HALTI and one to his normal collar so you can transfer the pressure gradually to the HALTI, rewarding as you do so.
Start training in a quiet area, progressing to more exciting environments once your dog is calm.
Avoid over-exciting him before walks, so don't use words like 'walkies' or shake his lead.
If he gets excited at the sight of his lead, put it on him a few minutes before leaving.
Teach the dog to go through doors and gateways behind you, to 'sit' and 'wait' so that you leave the house with him under control.v
A dog needs to learn that forward movement only happens from a slack lead. Briefly halt when he starts to pull, moving forward as soon as the lead is slack.
Don't keep the lead under constant pressure, as this will encourage him into a 'tug of war' match.
Practice turning the dog both away and towards you during walks, thereby teaching him to pay attention and follow directions.
Try not to enter a situation where a dog's pulling is rewarded; for example by making contact with interesting smells or greeting dogs.
Try to be the leader by walking briskly and not allowing him to constantly change sides, stop or sniff.
Reserve a command such as 'heel' or 'close' for moments when the dog is beside you and not when he is pulling.
Reward your dog whenever he gets it right! Maintain his enthusiastic attention by wearing a treat bag containing Coachies Training Treats.
Harnesses are the most comfortable form of restraint for dogs, because their weight should be evenly distributed over the whole chest and shoulder area (the strongest part of the dog). For years, animals have been harnessed to pull large weights; horses, oxen and dogs have all been 'harnessed' for work. So what does this mean for dog owners trying to walk and control their pet dog? Quite simply, that most harnesses encourage a dog to pull, hardly an ideal outcome for the average pet owner!
However, there are now several designs of harness available that, for various reasons, discourage or stop pulling. Best known is the HALTI Harness which has a unique patented, front attachment system which controls the dog from the chest, turning his whole body just as the HALTI turns his head. The HALTI Harness stops pulling and calms over-boisterous dogs by steering the dog whilst not causing discomfort to sensitive parts of the body. For maximum benefit, the HALTI Harness should be used in conjunction with a double-ended Training Lead, linked to both the front chest and rear shoulder rings. The HALTI Training Lead is ideal for this purpose.
Other non-pull harnesses are available, such as the 'Lupi' and the 'Non-Pull' Harness by the Sporn Company. Both are effective and work by converting the dog's forward movement into an upward lift. Most soon learn to self-regulate and not to pull and neither requires skill or training by the owner.
There is an enormous choice of equipment available today which make it easy to banish pulling on the lead. Some of the equipment is kinder on dogs than others, but much depends upon how skilful and precise the handler is. The best investment most owners can make is to commit time and energy in training and exercising your dog, aiming to have at least two interesting walks with your dog a day. Walking your dog should be a pleasurable experience for you both. A little time and effort in the beginning will pay dividends for years to come.