|A word about training methods.
In today's world, there is a rift amongst trainers and behaviorists about the 'best' way to train dogs. This rift is spilling over into the
world of dog owners, as well as into shelters, grooming shops, veterinary hospitals and beyond.
Our philosophy is simple. We believe the best training method for YOUR dog is what works best for your dog's individual case. All
of our trainers are trained and skilled in both traditional and positive reinforcement techniques.
We pride ourselves on being Balanced, Motivational trainers - working to help the highest number of dogs and owners that we
can. Our #1 goal is helping dogs keeps their homes, and homes keep their dogs.
Below is a chart we've made to help you understand some of the current terms used about different methods, and what they mean:
|Think about that for a moment. You've probably read a lot of varying opinions online about dog training - but now you're here, and looking for help from highly trained,
experienced dog professionals - and we're here to tell you: ANY collar, harness, or other dog training equipment has the potential to be harmful or to be
helpful. It all depends on proper understanding and use.
We train with any number of combinations of equipment - helping owners to find what works best with each individual situation. We do NOT believe in 'death before
correction' like a lot of all-positive, or force-free trainers. Many of these types of trainers will tell you that your dog is untrainable, and that if their reward-only methods
don't work, nothing will. Or worse yet, they tell you that the use of any equipment other than what they know how to use is cruel.
We believe proper training & equipment doesn't start with the dogs. It starts with the owners - and proper education regarding all of an owner's options is the only
ethical way to approach dog training. Trainers who limit their training style by refusing to educate themselves in all four learning quadrants, and on how to properly and
safely use multiple equipment types are limiting your dog's options, limiting your dog's freedom and happiness, and limiting your dog training success. In some
cases, they are limiting dogs' lifespans.
Some helpful, unbiased information about various training equipment:
Head Collars/Halters: Working off the same principles as a halter for horses, these collars actually do much more restraining than training. They DO prevent pulling
- by controlling a dog's head. They can be useful for smaller clients with strong dogs, but are not advisable for many/most dogs, because a dog's neck structure, how
dogs carry their heads, etc, .are NOT the same as horses, and there is a possibility of neck injury for dogs receiving hard yanks or jerks from a handler on a leash
behind the dog, attached to the head collar. Additionally, there is some professional speculation that the location of the halter on the dog is on sensitive pressure
points - causing continual discomfort while the dog is wearing the halter. Given the number of dogs we see rubbing their heads along the ground, along their owners'
legs, etc. - desperately trying to remove the halter, we tend to use these as a last resort. However, if no other equipment works for a dog, the use of a head collar
could save a life.
Harnesses: There are 2 types of harnesses for dogs - those that the leash clips to from the front, in front of the dog's chest; and those that the leash clips to from the
back of the harness. Harnesses that are clipped to from behind are worthless as training tools for most dogs, as harnesses are actually designed to make pulling
much more comfortable and easy for the dog: These types of harnesses actually increase your dog's pulling power!
The second type of harness - that clips to the front - are designed to work much like head collars/halters: by applying pressure to the front of your dog's chest and
turning them back toward you if they pull. Unfortunately, there are some veterinary opinions that indicate the pressure points of these harnesses (on the shoulders)
can cause long-term injury/damage to the joints, because they limit your dog's natural gait so much. Again, we recommend these only as a last resort - both because
they may cause damage/injury, but also because they're not about training...they're about restraining.
Just like with head collars, while harnesses are not our first choice of equipment, if they are what works best for a specific dog, they could save a life.
Slip Collars/"Choke" Chains: The most misunderstood, misused training collar around. These collars are one of the oldest, most widely used training collars. Did
you know - they are one of the only collars accepted by the AKC in the conformation and obedience competition rings? They can be constructed of leather, chain,
nylon, etc. When used correctly, these collars follow Newton's Third Law of Physics (for every action - there is an equal and opposite reaction) - they are designed to
apply compression only when the handler or dog applies opposing pressure; and are designed to release when opposing pressure is relieved. When used properly,
this simple, ingenious "pressure on/pressure off" system is often all the communication a dog needs from a training collar.
Unfortunately, most owners allow dogs to pull continuously on these collars without doing any training of themselves or their dogs before using one; leading to
desensitization to the collar, along with the potential for injury.
Pinch/Prong Collars: Again, an often maligned, misunderstood, misused training collar. While they may look like a medieval torture device, these collars are
actually one of the safest options for large, strong dogs with small handlers. But they are also extremely useful for small dogs who are at risk for tracheal damage from
the pressure of other training devices. The interlocking prongs are designed to mimic a mama dog correcting her pups via a 'scruffing' of the neck. When properly fit
and used, they communicate with dogs very quickly and effectively, in a way that dogs communicate with each other.
Electronic Training Collars: There are a number of devices that use mild electricity - a static shock - for training. Again, when used properly and humanely, these
can be very useful. However, we see them used much too often as a short-cut to good training and communication. We require all owners to go through extensive
training before considering using an electronic device.
Treats: Yes, treats - you read that right. Treats are most definitely a piece of training equipment. And just like everything else, they can be misused! When used at
the right time, in the right way, food can be a great tool. Treats can reduce stress, act as an easy reward when you're too emotionally worn out to praise genuinely,
and increase your dog's motivation. BUT - treats can also be a problem. They can create a dog dependent on food for behavior. They can be over-used and lead to
obesity. They can be a distraction for some dogs - actually interfering with learning, instead of helping it.
The take-away message here is simple: Any training tool can cause harm, if not used correctly. Any training tool can be helpful, when used correctly. Love your
dog? Then why limit your success?
Take the time to educate yourself and work with professional trainers who have years of experience in all modes of training.
We'll say it again - our #1 goal is helping dogs keep their homes, and homes keep their dogs!
|A word about training equipment:
Are there certain collars or other pieces of training equipment you're skeptical of? Head halters/collars?
Harnesses? Treats? Prong collars? E-collars? Choke chains?
We challenge you to ask yourself why you're uncomfortable with any particular item - the answer is
probably because you read somewhere online that it;s 'bad' or 'cruel' and that you should never work with
a trainer who uses them.
Or you've tried using various types of equipment and none have worked for you.
But have you ever been professionally trained on the equipment you're questioning? Have you had the
opportunity to work with trainers who've perfected techniques and equipment choices on thousands of