Raymer Family Dog Training News: October 2020

Canine Academy Updates

The SPCA of Wake County’s Pet Behavior Network discount is now available for our Canine Academy. See the details here. This applies to anyone who adopts a dog from the SPCA. If you’re thinking about adopting a new dog, it is an excellent organization with lovely pets.

If you enjoy reading our blog/articles and want more free videos on YouTube, consider signing up for a monthly Canine Academy membership as it supports those projects as well as all the other dog training benefits.

Next Up

In November I’m going to start providing animal behavior and training book reviews. If you would like to read along, we will start with a new book: Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Next Generation Treatment Protocols and Practices by Malena DeMartini-Price.

Does anyone have fun Halloween traditions with their pets? Usually Mocha will get a longer-lasting chew treat (probably a frozen peanut butter Kong this Halloween), while I pass out candy or watch a scary movie. Let us know your pet plans for Halloween below.

By Dan Raymer

Dog Walking Equipment

Harness and Leash

I always recommend dogs walk with leashes attached to body harnesses – generally attached to the clip on the dog’s back, in addition to training calm walking behavior with rewards; or you can attach the leash to the front clip over the dog’s chest. This can help decrease pulling behavior, but the side effect is it can sometimes affect the dog’s normal walking movements. 

If you look at the dog’s front chest, the “T-shaped” harnesses are more likely to negatively affect dog’s normal movement, while the “Y-shaped” do not.

Attaching a leash to a regular collar puts too much pressure on a dog’s neck. Their tracheas can easily be damaged if they pull too much, or even with a single hard lunge, or accidental jerk on the leash by the handler.

Dogs can also walk off-leash if it’s legal (there are no leash laws in the area), and it is safe (your dog won’t get hit by a car, you taught a solid recall – coming when called – behavior, and so on). You are ultimately responsible for your dogs at all times, so use good judgment.

Longer Leashes

The typical dog leash is 6 feet long. I actually prefer to walk my dog with a 10 foot leash the majority of the time (or a 15 foot one). This allows a dog to walk at a more normal pace and have some freedom to move side to side as dogs tend to sniff areas this way when not restrained.

It does take some handling ability in order to make sure your dog does not have too much leash length and cross in front of cars or approach other dogs when he shouldn’t. You will need to practice allowing and pulling in the leash to control how far away your dog is allowed to move to keep your dog safe.

Don’t Use These

I never recommend choke chains, prong/pinch collars, shock collars, or other types of equipment designed similarly. All of these tools work by applying pain to the dog. There are many people who are dishonest or lack this knowledge who will not tell you these tools hurt dogs. For your dog’s sake, health and better behavior, please do not listen to them. If you are already currently using one of these tools, don’t worry, you can switch to a leash and harness immediately and easily. 

Retractable Leashes

I also do not recommend retractable leashes for the following reasons:

a. They apply constant pressure to the dog’s harness, so technically the dog is always being rewarded for pulling – unless you lock in a set length, but then it will drag on the ground defeating it’s main purpose of extending-retracting.

b. The lines are too thin, and if you try to grip them to pull a dog back in towards you, the line is very likely to cut your hand. I personally have had this happen twice when I used them prior to becoming a professional dog trainer, and have at least one scar from the resulting injury. This also makes retractable leashes very dangerous for dogs that are reactive towards others.

c. The locking mechanism to get a set length of leash, can be undone or broken relatively easily by dogs pulling. This can be dangerous if the dog pulls out in front of cars, or if your dog pulls up to another dog.

d. If your dog pulls the leash out of your hand, it retracts toward your dog, so can end up scaring or hitting your dog.

However, if you are using a retractable leash with no problems for a smaller breed dog with no discernible behavior problems like rushing up to other dogs, reactivity, aggression, fear, etc., then you might be fine to continue using it as long as you are aware of the risks and take measures to prevent them. Always attach it to a body harness, though, to prevent it from hurting your dog’s neck from the constant pressure.

Specific Harness Brands

There are so many choices with dog harnesses now that I don’t have a complete list I recommend.

I do like the Seattle Balance Harness by Lori Stevens; it has both front and back clips. The harness forms a Y-shape around the dog’s body/neck, so it does not restrict normal canine movement.

I also like a regular body harness most pet stores sell with a back-clip, created with as soft material as possible.

By Dan Raymer

Crate Training Success

Hayley recently had surgery to remove a lump. Veterinarians advise keeping dogs calm after surgeries, allowing rest in order to fully recover from the process. Because Hayley had crate training experience since she was an adolescent, she enjoys resting in her crate and could handle the extra post-surgery time in there without fear. The crate already represented a safe place for her, and she also had training for her to comfortably rest in it for longer periods of time. Without pre-training this behavior, she would have had a much harder time relaxing and recovering from her surgery. Thus, this is a perfect example of how you can utilize positive reinforcement training to improve your dog’s life, to decrease fearful situations, and to make daily life situations easier for you.

Here is Hayley after recovering from her surgery, choosing to go in the crate and sleep on her own. She was not given a signal to enter the crate, and the door is open for her to leave anytime.

Transparency in Dog Training

This is an excellent video by the Academy for Dog Trainers illustrating the state of the dog training profession and how to choose a professional trainer that will help rather than hurt your dog.

Here is an example of appropriate answers to the three questions:

What exactly will happen to my dog when she gets it right?

Your dog will receive rewards to positively reinforce the behavior.

What exactly will happen to her when she gets it wrong?

Nothing, or the reward or opportunity to earn the reward will be removed for that specific trial.

Are there any less invasive alternatives to what you propose?

No. Giving or taking away rewards does not hurt or scare dogs.

By Dan Raymer