Collar Chat

I had an interesting conversation at the park yesterday. Yep, about dogs. Dog training, and using the choke collar, in particular.

Training a dog is a huge part of having a dog and doing it right is very important. Many owners talk amongst themselves, research, and seek out trained trainers for guidance. While I don’t like choke collars myself, I can see that they may be necessary, at least temporarily. I do prefer semi-choke if any choke collars must be used.

I volunteered at a dog rescue before and it’s not on to have any of the dogs loose while we are on walks. It does happen. Dogs get spooked (by the sounds, other dogs, traffic, etc) and some dogs have difficulties with being walked, or just being leashed. But having a dog loose in the neighbourhood, no matter how nice a dog it is, can only do damage to the organization’s reputation and all the good it’s trying to do.

So we used semi-choke collars. We also used the Gentle Leader to help with stubborn dogs who didn’t want to walk “properly”.

When I first adopted Blackspot, we used a Halti. That’s what that shelter was using for their dogs so she was already used to it. It wasn’t always easy and I felt she never really learned to walk, only learned how to walk with a Halti. Eventually I moved back to just a collar, but only after walking her multiple times daily for months – something I doubt she did before us. Blackspot walks really well now, calm and responsive (except when she spots “edibles”), especially compared to Creamy. The blonde one only walks well when she’s out by herself. Weird, I know.

My neighbour rescued a street dog. He is NOT an easy dog to walk. Something about our street spooks him and it’s a chore getting him out of the yard. He’s a bright dog, that’s for sure and he LOVES my neighbour. My neighbour’s gotten advice from many people, including one owner who recently started using a prong collar. Yikes!

I feel for those with difficult dogs. I get it. I also feel for those dogs who had a reason to be “difficult”. But…

I truly believe that using only positive reinforcement or reward-based training methods is the way to go. Other methods only deepen whatever fear and trauma that is present, and causing the difficulties in the first place.

So yesterday, my neighbour, our friend, and I started discussing choke collars. Our friend uses one but frankly she doesn’t really use it, if you know what I mean. She and her partner have trained their dog using rewards and only quick jerks are used to correct behaviour. Their dog is very well-adjusted, easy-going, and is walked on an retractable lead.

What worries me is when I see owners constantly “choking” their dog, yelling or smacking. I see helpers do this and honestly it’s unfair to burden helpers to “train” dogs. Helpers don’t want to get in trouble and it must be an emotional drain each time they have to walk a difficult dog.

So what’s the verdict on choke collars?

I say no. Try a Halti. Try a Gentle Leader. Try using essential oils and flower essences to correct the underlying emotional imbalance to connect with your dog. Dogs are pack animals and they are just wired to fit in and our domestic dogs? They just want to please, really. Everyone, including animals, comes into our lives for a reason.

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