Leash Training and Collars
Taking your dog for a stroll is one of the great joys of being a dog owner. Walking side-by-side with your canine companion makes any walk more enjoyable. But having to fight with your dog who pulls or plants can make walking less than stellar. Here are some ways to help make your pup love the leash.
Picking the Right Collar and Leash:
You can pick from a variety of collars and harnesses that are all made to suit different dog’s needs. If your dog pulls and jumps a harness may be a better fit since it will alleviate strain on their neck.
A front clip harness offers you more control since your dog has to go at the speed you choose if they want to face forward. A back clip harness is a good option for a dog that is already well behaved on a leash since it offers them more freedom.
A collar is a good option for a dog that doesn’t like the feeling of a harness. Be careful not to tug on your dog’s collar too hard as that can cause harm to their neck. Choke collars are controversial to begin with and it is highly recommended that they are not used on puppies.
Pick a leash that is strong enough to control your dog’s pulling but not too heavy that is weighs down the collar. Retractable leashes are great if you want your dog to roam in the park, but not ideal if you’re trying to teach your dog to walk by your side.
Put your dog’s collar or harness on before you plan on taking them for a walk. If your puppy is fussing or scratching at the collar, check that it isn’t too tight. Once you’re sure the collar is not too tight, simply divert their attention away from the collar with a game of toy. Let them get used to the feeling of it so they start to forget it’s there.
When you’re familiarizing your puppy with the leash start somewhere quiet and secluded so your dog doesn’t get overwhelmed. You don’t want your dog to associate the collar and leash with stressful situations! Practice walking in the backyard and get your puppy accustomed to the feeling of the collar and leash. Show them what a tug on the leash feels like and what you expect them to do if you give a tug.
Let your puppy know that the leash is a good thing! If they start to seem stressed out when you attach the leash, let them drag it around and play inside for a while before you start your walk. This will eliminate what Cesar Milan calls their “‘I am a fish on the end of a hook’ antics”.
When you finally do make it outside for a walk do not start by tugging on the leash. Let your puppy figure out what the leash means and let them start walking on their own. Having a friend to coax them along or some treats can be helpful to get your pup moving!
Keep not too much slack on the leash so your puppy doesn’t get confused about how far they can stray. Keep the length consistent when you begin training. If you want your puppy to walk right at your side you can walk with your hand by your side while you hold some treats. That way, they will associate walking on the leash with walking by your side.
If your puppy pulls or plants don’t just stop and wait for them to behave – completely change direction. This will signal to your dog that pulling does not get them the outcome they want. You can teach them to stay focused on you while on a walk by occasionally switching directions. You can do that by quickly changing direction and cheerfully calling your dog’s name to let them know they aren’t in any trouble. This will redirect their focus and teach them that when you two are walking you are walking as a pair!
Teach Your Pup the Best Leash Behaviours:
Once your dog understands the basics, teach them about loose-leash walking by giving them the command “heel”. You can give a gentle tug to coax them back by your side and remind them “heel” – remember to keep the side your dog walks on consistent so they don’t feel confused or have the urge to weave from side to side. Over time your dog will understand that the word means to slow down and you will not need to remind them with a tug of the leash. When your dog “heels” without needing to be restrained with the leash, give them a little treat. Dogs learn through repetition and reward, so even if it feels like you’re switching directions or tugging on the leash and saying “heel” thousands of times, that is how your dog will learn!
Do you know a dog who walks on the leash like a dream? Take them out walking with your puppy. Puppies learn a lot more from other dogs that we realize. If your puppy sees a dog walking and heeling it sets a good example. By that same token, try to avoid walking your puppy with dogs that pull and jump until your puppy has completely grasped the idea of walking at your side.
While you’re walking with your puppy it is also good to teach them that they are expected to sit at street corners. That way you won’t have to worry about them pulling or getting jumpy around traffic. This also teaches your dog the difference between the sidewalk and the road, something that is very important if your dog were to ever slip out of their leash or take themselves on an unsupervised walk!
Your Cat Can be Cool With Their Collar!
Just like your dog’s collar, your cat’s collar is essential to getting them home safe if they are lost. Your cat’s municipal tags and contact information will help them find their way back to you. You may be thinking, ‘but my cat stays inside’ – Even indoor kitties can slip out through a door, make their way out through a window screen, or become an escape artist when you’re trying to load them up for a trip to the vet. To keep them safe, make sure they have a collar. But is that easier said than done?
The Science of Cats and Collars
An Ohio State University, Texas A&M, Cornell, and University of Florida study found that three-quarters of the cats in their study wore their collars for the entire six-month duration. 60% of the owners said their cats tolerated the collars “better than expected,” and most planned to keep on using them after the study ended.
Linda Lord, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State, says that cats don’t wear collars because their owners believe that they won’t tolerate them or that they pose a danger. But, she says, “A collar with an ID tag is probably a cat’s greatest chance of ever being re-homed or brought back if it is lost.”
Professor Lord adds, “The return-to-owner rate is abysmal for cats. Fewer than 2% of lost cats are returned to their owners.” Using a collar can help your cat beat the odds.
6 Easy Steps to Help Collar Your Cat
- Select a collar that is sized properly. Measure your cat’s neck (with treats as distractions, if necessary!) and purchase one that is slightly longer to accommodate for growth. You should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your cat’s neck.
- Make sure you use a breakaway collar. If your cat gets caught on something, they can escape. This will help give you greater peace of mind, particularly if you have an indoor/outdoor cat.
- Let your cat inspect the collar before you put it on. Let your cat smell the collar so it doesn’t seem so foreign when you do put it on.
- Play! The worst time to introduce the collar is when your cat is stressed. Take some time to play with their favourite toys and ensure they are relaxed. After mealtime is often a great time to try.
- Put the collar on. Leave it. Your cat may – and likely will – resist. It’s natural. You would too if someone suddenly put something around your neck. Most will grow accustomed after a while. If your cat panics or shows signs of immense agitation, take the collar off. Try again in shorter increments.
- Try, try again. Cats sure are independent – and persistent. If they do succeed in slipping out of the collar, simply put it on again. Soon, they’ll realize that the collar isn’t there to hurt them. The key is to be consistent. Keep putting it back on each time.
And that’s all there is to it! Sure, your cat may protest initially, but soon, they’ll forget they’re even wearing a collar. You won’t though; it will give you greater peace of mind and assurance.
Do you have any tips that helped you teach your dog to walk on a leash or get your cat accustomed to a collar? Share them with us over on Facebook!