Let me tell you the story of Cathie and her two big Labradors Charlie & Sam
Cathie is a wonderful dog owner that due to some physical issues wasn’t able to walk the boys safely as they pulled so hard. Therefore, the life of all involved was very restricted keeping them locked at home and in the yard which really wasn't the life Cathie had imagined with them. So they decided to put in some training work so they can get out together.
Due to the owner’s medical issues, we talked about different tools that allow here to handle the dogs as safely as possible for her. First we decided to use a Halti (a head halter) on both dogs. We took our fair time to introduce them properly and make sure the dogs and owner are both well trained on it.
While it worked great for the owner, after a few weeks of using them, we kept noticing that Sam kept having sweaty paws and just didn’t seem happy when it came to walks. You could literally see his paw prints on my facility floor and we just felt that he was generally stressed. We decided to revisit the different tools that would give the owners, with the shoulder issues, the best physical control and leverage over these big dogs to handle them safely.
We decided to try out a prong collar on Sam.
And guess what? His whole demeanor changed!
He perked up, was happy and no more sweaty paws IMMEDIATELY. We tried it for a couple weeks to monitor and see how the owner is doing with it and in the end, we all agreed that this seemed to be the better solution for Sam and still worked wonderful for the owner too.
So here we have two dogs on two different walking tools. One on a head halter and one on a prong collar and both are extremely happy, no stress and can enjoy hikes with their owner who now feels safe to walk them.
There are so many different “tools” out there. Harnesses, head halters, specific leashes, specific collars from martingale to choke and prong collars. How would you know what’s right for you?
You may have tried some but not others. Maybe you even hesitated trying some out because of how they make you feel or because of how other people feel about them.
First of all, I want to say that it is totally okay to use a helper tool for your dog (a collar, leash, harness that reduces your dog from pulling etc.) and it’s totally okay to use it for the rest of your dog’s life if you want to.
There is a misconception that you MUST train your dog to be able to walk on a regular collar because that’s what good dog owners do!
In my opinion though, whatever gives you the best result within a reasonable time that allows not only your dog more inclusion in your life but also allows you to really enjoy bringing your dog with you because he’s a breeze to handle, is the right choice for you. Everything further, is up to you if you care to train your way there or not.
It is important to understand though, that none of these walking tools, or helper tools, as I like to call them are made to just slap on the dog without further training or instructions. (which is why I'm so glad that Cathie came and asked for help)... They all have their specifics that need to be considered as otherwise they may not do their job in a safe way for your dog.
Because that front clip harness that reduces pulling could really affect your dog’s gait and bone structure if not used properly and that prong collar that helps reduce pulling could indeed hurt your dog if your dog isn’t trained on how to respond to it.
Also, leash pulling issues can also be the underlying cause for different issues that want to be addressed but that’s a whole other story so let’s not go down the rabbit whole right now...
When it comes to the walking tool, I don’t think anything should be excluded from your options. There shouldn’t be any limitations set on what’s right for YOU and YOUR dog.
Because every dog and handler are different. We all have different needs. Whether it is you, the human part that may struggle with the size and weight of your dog and/or potential medical issues that make it harder for you to handle your dog or whether it is your dog that responds differently to different tools just because of who they are.
Dog Training is all about helping you, the owner, to have a dog that you can truly enjoy and include in your life the way you want to and at the same time, it is then helping the dog to have a truly fulfilled life. Win Win!
If you are unsure what could be the best solution for you and your dog, talk to a dog trainer that won’t limit you to any of the options available.
If you are told that the one option that really works great for you and your dog isn’t good enough because it’s mean, causes stress, is cruel, or you should do better anyways, brush it off and just keep going.
Ain’t nobody got time for that bullshit of others that try to tell how you to live your life!
About the author:
Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of all the adventurous and outdoorsy dog owners that crave no limits”