Friday, March 15, 2013

Training: Week 5

Before I get into training, let me first backtrack to yesterday morning. I took the Thatcher and Boden out for a walk as usual. The sidewalks are still thickly coated in layers upon layers of ice, due to the random mixes of weather spring throws at us. I was running a little late, so I decided to stick to the sidewalks and do a quick loop around the neighborhood rather than go to the park and let them run in the field. Everything was fine until we rounded a corner to the last block before our house. An older couple was down the street walking their poodle, and headed in our direction. I immediately knew I had to get off the sidewalks and into the snow, because it was so slippery that if the dogs pulled me at all, I'd fall. Unfortunately, their reaction time is faster than my own. They spotted the poodle down the block and jerked forward. My feet flew out in front of me and I crashed down onto my lower back. Better yet, the dogs kept pulling, so I couldn't even get my traction beneath me to stand back up. I scolded them harshly and they finally let up enough to give me time to stand and yank them into the snowbank. One of the neighbors with the poodle came over to see if I was ok, and the dogs jumped all over with excitement and tangled him in the leashes. I'm positive that if I had been watching this whole incident from afar, I would be laughing so hard at this woman who can't control her dogs. But instead, I angrily walked the dogs home with a bruised, aching lower back.

Fast forward to training last night. Over the past several weeks, we've noticed we're the only ones in class who are still struggling with their dogs pulling on leash. We kind of figured it was just because we have the largest dogs in class, but it was making training stressful every single time. Both of the Newfies are easily stronger than me, so I often feel helpless and totally out of control. The martingale (half regular collar, half choke-chain) collars we'd been using were having little or no effect on correcting the dogs' pulling, so J. and I knew something had to change. We took a chance and decided to try out prong collars for the first time ever. We arrived at class a little early to purchase and get the dogs fitted for the collars. I have always disliked the idea of prong collars, thinking them unnecessary and a little harsh. But after going through 4 weeks of training class and still being jerked around by Thatcher and Boden every time we're in public, I was desperate for a solution. Instead of the crazy-looking, bulky metal collars I've seen in pet stores, these ones were surprisingly petite. They are made of separate links hooked together, and you can take them apart or add/remove links as needed. They sit on the upper neck, right below the dog's ears, and are meant to simulate a scruffing of the neck. 
We got the dogs properly fitted, and a trainer walked one dog around the room at at time to get them used to the feel of this new corrective measure. Though I was skeptical at first, the difference it made was incredible. I am not even exaggerating at all when I say the pulling issue basically disappeared. I walked Boden around, and whenever he would pull even slightly, I gave the leash a little tug and he would immediately stop. Besides Boden being a little confused and nervous because of this new feeling on his neck, training went great. Instead of having to be tense and fight the dogs' constant straining, we were able to actually focus on the training aspect. We practiced coming, heeling, staying, standing, etc. No leash-burned hands, no sore muscles, no crazy dogs. I felt like a weight lifted. For the first time in quite a while, I felt completely in control as we worked on heeling. The only hiccup I had is the "stand" command again. I cannot figure out how to get this idea to sink into Boden's mind. All in all, J. and I left feeling happy and stress-free. We might end up with a couple of trained Newfies after all. 

1 comment:

  1. We have not used pronged collars ourselves, but one of the benefits is that you can give a lesser correction to achieve the result that you want. They get a bad rap, but they are actually a better training tool than a plain training collar (choke chain) if you have to do repeated corrections. Good luck with your training. We thought our dogs would never get heel, but eventually they did. Patience. :)