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.