Using the Right Equipment – Walking

We all know that choosing the right equipment for any job, regardless of the job, is integral to getting that job not only done but done right.  You wouldn’t walk into a gym to work out if they only had boulders on sticks to work with (unless you were desperate…or maybe if it was the new fad but one would hope and recommend you do research before doing anything related to fads).  You want to use what’s going to work for the job at hand.  You can’t make a cake if all you have is a cookie sheet.  Well, you might be able to but it probably wouldn’t be what you had in mind.  Oddly enough out of pure curiosity I looked up ‘cookie sheet cake’ on Google and there are recipes.  You learn something everyday!    Likewise, when choosing the type of equipment for your dog you want to choose the right thing for the specific job.

I’ve already talked quite a bit about certain types of equipment for walking at night and walking in cold weather.  You can expect more posts on equipment since it’s so essential to owning a happy, healthy, well-trained dog.

This time, I wanted to focus on walking.  Nothing fancy, just walking with your dog.

Blizzard is 80lbs of almost pure muscle.  He loves walking.  He’s very… well…he’s exuberant about his walks to say the least.  It’s not enjoyable though for him or I when he’s constantly being told to take it ‘easy’ and being corrected for it.  It’s frustrating for me because it just feels like one endless exercise in trying to get him to stop pulling.  So I tried a few things before I found something I think will work:

First up was a choker.  Needless to say, he didn’t respond to that at all and just ended up endlessly choking himself in an effort to forge ahead.  I quickly scrapped that idea as it was doing more harm than good.

Second up, a pinch collar.  Good, fast reaction especially when combined with tons of treats and praise.  However, it turned our walks into more of an exercise in precision and while precision is great for other types of training I didn’t need to have a ‘precision walker’.

So…what was I going to do?!  I couldn’t stop walking and I wanted it to be enjoyable for both him and I.  After doing some research I decided to give a Head Halter a try.  The behavioral theory behind it seemed sound and it makes sense that if you can control the head you’ll control the rest of the dog.  Growing up I trained horses and the idea was extremely similar the way a halter and lead worked on horses.

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I purchased the Head Halter two weeks ago.  I have high hopes for it.  I am able to get Blizzard to wear it for short periods and very brief walks and he’s a different dog completely.  He’s happy, no pulling and we can do what we set out to do; just walk.

Now, you might be asking yourself, why just short walks?

The answer:  He absolutely hates the halter and will only wear it for short periods.  After having it on for a bit he fights tooth and nail to get it off.  He will get on both back feet and simultaneously pull at it with both front paws in a fight to get it off his nose.

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Dogs need to get used to wearing the halter. It’s different.  It’s new.  It’s not something they are going to wear or accept easily.  You have to train your dog to wear it.

My Advice:  Tons of mini sessions that are no more than 5 minutes at a time.  Tons of treat.  You want to make wearing the halter a pleasant experience and you can do so by association.  Put the halter on.  Be prepared to give tons of reassurance and praise.  Give treats.  Take it off.  Play ball or a special game for a reward.  Put the halter on.  Tons of praise and reassurance.  Take it off and feed them.  Put the halter on.  Tons of praise and reassurance.  Take it off and go for a walk.  Do this multiple times per day increasing the time you make them wear it once their tolerance starts to grow.  It’s going to take time so be patient.  Don’t expect to pick this piece of training equipment and have a newly reformed walker.  Like all training with dogs it is going to take training, time, patience and perseverance.  Even though Blizzard is still getting used to it this little piece of equipment will make a ton of difference when we go walking once he’s trained to wear it.  I can see it even with our short walks it makes a ton of difference.  He slows down (but not at heel position), keeps his nose off the ground and focuses on the task at hand.

Image

Crappy picture. Happy dog (for short periods of time at least)!

As we continue to train, I’ll keep you updated on the progress and provide video with some more tips and tricks!

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