Effective tools for successful dog training

By Jeff Stallings

Of all the means for training at your disposal—treats, toys, harnesses, collars—the one most conducive to success is you. By that I mean the attitude and energy you bring to the training process. We want your dog to understand that you’re the decision maker, the calm and assertive pack leader. Dogs are masters of reading and reacting to our emotions: If you are nervous or distressed, your dog will in turn become over-stimulated and agitated. Conversely, if you are firm but calm and relaxed when walking or training, he will understand that you are in control and will more readily comply with your wishes.

Beyond that, for most dogs I prefer to use a head collar for training correct leash-walking and other behaviors. Used only temporarily and during training, the head collar has one strap that fits high on the head, just behind the ears and a second one that fits loosely over the top of the muzzle, just below the eyes. This type of collar, made by Gentle Leader or Holt works in the same way as a bridle on a horse, allowing control of a dog’s head position and therefore, his focus. Head collars do not fit well on short-muzzled dogs, such as French Bulldogs and Pugs, so I use other standard collars, such as chain slip or Martingales, for training. In addition to improving control over a dog’s mental focus, head collars often have an immediate calming effect because the pressure points stimulate the same muzzle and head locations that mother dogs use to control their pups.

Combine your calm, assertive leadership and commands with the appropriate collar and a good leash, and you’re ready to start training a puppy or dog how to best behave and get along well in this world. Of course I highly encourage you to use praise (and even give an occasional treat) for a job well done.

About Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA

Having owned well-trained dogs all my life, I started Better Nature Dog Training to exploit decades of experience teaching across a number of fields. I am nationally-certified through the highly-respected Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and am a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. I teach people how to effectively train their dogs by clearly demonstrating that every interaction counts when training a dog to come when called, for example, or instructing a puppy how to best get along in life. I take a scientific and holistic approach to dog training. The scientific aspect comes from understanding dog psychology from an evolutionary perspective, knowing how dogs are both similar to and distinct from their ancestors, including the grey wolf. The holistic component derives from taking into account all facets of any particular dog’s situation, including upbringing, prior training, traumatic events and—most importantly—the characteristics of his home and family life. Training a puppy or dog can be a most rewarding life experience; it can also be stressful and perplexing. One of the best services I provide is taking the guesswork out while lending a sure, guiding hand in successful dog behavior development and modification.
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