It seems like the Wild, Wild, West out there! SO many choices, how do you decide what tool is best for your dog? Frequently, when I first meet clients this is one of the questions I am asked. The truth is, no one tool is going to work well for every dog and EVERY tool can be misused or adjusted incorrectly and cause problems. So, how DO you decide what to use?
Keep these 3 tips in mind when choosing:
1) Tools are NOT substitutes for training.
If you constantly rely on equipment to keep your dog from pulling or keep them engaged with you in certain situations, you will benefit from polishing up those training skills. Leashes, collars, harnesses, all the things, are there in case something unusual happens not to manage the dog during every day activities. If you dog is always pulling, first think of working on loose leash walking instead of just changing equipment. You will have the same problem with the new equipment, even if it does help keep your shoulder in its socket a bit better!
2) No tool should illicit pain or fear in your dog.
This means that you may have to introduce the object to your dog slowly and help them feel comfortable. If the purpose of the tool is to cause discomfort for the dog, I don't recommend it. If they are sidling (or running) away when they see it, you need to spend some time getting them comfortable before just wrestling it on them. Alternatively, It may require a rethink on the equipment you are using. My dogs happily help me put their equipment on (heads through, paws up for harnesses, stillness when putting on the leash)! It makes everything so much nicer for both you and your dog.
3) Learn how to properly fit and use any tool you put on your dog
If someone recommends a piece of equipment to you that you are unfamiliar with, make sure you learn how to use it properly AND that it is adjusted appropriately for your dog. Don't just rely on "the instructions" - many times they are unclear or incomplete. Some tools may be more dangerous to use depending on your dog's physical makeup. For example, a harness may be a better choice if you pup is prone to problems with the esophagus or neck. Not only is the base size important when selecting equipment, but so is adjusting it to your particular dog's body. If you see chafing, lose of hair, cuts, or any physical damage, check your equipment. It may be as simple as changing how it fits or it may be that you need something different.
No matter what the equipment is, there are multiple options out there. Take the time to find the one that works best for you and your dog. Then get your training polished so you don't really NEED to use it, but you have it, just in case. After all....LIFE HAPPENS and we can't control EVERYTHING!