The Dog Lead for You and Your Dog
With a dog lead that's how it's meant to be! But how often do you see it the other way round - with the dog taking the owner for a walk? The leash is not just for hanging onto your dog with - your wishes can go down the dog lead as clearly as if you said them out loud. You can learn good lead handling and use this to your advantage.
You can't beat a top quality dog lead - either bridle leather or good-quality soft webbing are my favourites. About 50-60" in length is sufficient, and it's useful if it has a ring in the loop, so you can clip the lead round you bandolero-style when you're wearing it instead of the dog.
You can get great multipoint leads which you can adapt to three or four different lengths and even use them as a brace lead for two dogs. They're also excellent for using with Freedom harnesses for great control and balance. You can see a video of the No Pull Freedom Harness here. Then there are leads with handles at both ends. There are braided tug leads which are very popular with agility enthusiasts so they can play with their dog without having a toy near the competition ring. Provided the material is good quality it's not necessary to have a thick heavy lead.
Whatever you do, don't have any chain on the lead. It will tear your hands, and gives you no control. The weight of the trigger clip mustn't be too heavy, or else it'll drag on the collar, and even clout the poor dog on the chin as he moves. This and chain leads conspire to make the dog lead-shy. Wouldn't you be, if you had heavy chain and lumps of metal swinging around near your face? As to retractable leads - they teach the dog to pull!
You Lead and I'll Follow ...
You, the lead, and the dog, should all become one. Your wishes travel down the dog lead. So does your anxiety, which goes a long way to explain why some dogs appear aggressive when another dog comes near - they feel the owner's fear through the tension in the lead and go into defence mode.
Your dog must learn to respect the lead, then he won't be always fighting it, and you. The best way to achieve this is to start young and make all lead contacts a pleasant experience.
Handling a dog lead well is a little like handling the reins on a horse well. If you watch experienced or professional dog handlers, you'll notice that they generally have the lead slack, in a relaxed hand. Then when they have something to communicate to the dog, he is receptive to the slightest squeeze on the lead. If you're continually pulling and yanking at the lead he'll get a hard neck and ignore you entirely. The less you use the lead to control your dog, the more control you'll have.
Pulling on the Lead
If you already have a built-in hauling-you-along-on-the-lead problem, then you will need to go back to the beginning and start your lead-training from scratch. No matter what age your dog is, you can still re-teach him with reward-based dog training. You may find a no-pull walking harness useful while you re-train loose lead walking. Believe it or not, most harnesses will teach your dog to pull harder! Think of a carthorse wearing a "harness" pulling a cart. There are a few available that are not only no-pull harnesses, but are also humane and gentle, and this is the harness I like best.
By the way, you'll be surprised how your relationship with your dog will improve all round when you and he learn some dog tricks together.
Choosing the right Dog Collar for Dog Training
The best dog collar for everyday use is a flat leather or webbing collar. There's no need to have something that would fit a carthorse! Your dog will learn to respond to light pressure on the collar without having to resort to strong-arm tactics.
A good quality leather dog collar will be supple and comfortable for your dog to wear. The D-clip should be strong and welded. When you're checking for strength, remember a dog collar's only as strong as its weakest part, so you need to inspect the buckle, the bar where it connects to the collar, and the stitching too. Handmade leather collars are excellent, and as they last the lifetime of the dog, good value. You can often find good leatherworkers at country shows.
There are some great manmade-fibre collars, usually adjustable with a snap buckle, and in lots of snazzy colours and designs. Don't get a cheap one! Pick up the cheapest in the store and compare it with the dearest. You'll see there's no comparison in terms of strength, pliability, comfort, and security. In fact, it can be hard to get a decent collar in shops. Go to a major dog event, such as Crufts, and you'll find a terrific range to choose from. The internet is also a good place to look.
For a young puppy the woven collars without stamped holes are very effective. The pin on the buckle slots into the fabric itself so you can increase the size of the collar a fraction at a time as the puppy grows, without the danger of your puppy slipping his collar on the road. One of the most effective collars for puppies and also for dogs whose heads are smaller than their necks (greyhounds for instance) is the martingale collar. Made entirely from soft webbing it has a loop which allows the collar to fit loosely yet prevent it from slipping over the dog's head. It needs skilled fitting to make sure it doesn't overtighten.
Any collar needs to fit correctly, so it should allow very small adjustments as your dog grows (or shrinks after visiting the groomer!). It should be tight enough that the dog can't slip backwards out of it, yet loose enough to be comfortable for all-day wear.
Chain Collars ...
are uncomfortable and harsh on the neck. The old-fashioned choke collars, aka check chains, rely on zipping them tight to administer corrections. Many's the dog who had a bald neck from constantly having his neck yanked in this way. Isn't it better to teach your dog where you would like him to walk, reward him for it, and then stroll together in comfort?
And never leave a slip collar on a dog - it could be fatal.
Is there a Place for the Pinch or Prong Collar?
No. Nor for electric shock collars, either. If you have been recommended by someone, get them to demonstrate it on themselves first. If you're still in doubt, try it on one of your children.
We're talking about our friend the dog here.