Sunday, October 25, 2009

To use or not to use?

Let's start off with a few updates. One, I opted not to continue training to volunteer at the shelter. The staff was, in my eyes, unprofessional. I did not like the way they addressed volunteers, and I did not like their policies, so I took my volunteering elsewhere. Now, I volunteer at the local food bank, and I love it. Second bit of news is that when I moved up here, my fathers dog was an absolute nightmare. He would sit inches away from your dinner plate and drool, lick the air, and paw you. My parents aren't very firm with him, wheedling a tiny little "no" when he was begging and expected him to listen. By far, this is the least intelligent dog I have ever worked with, but guess what? It took him around two days to learn that begging was by no means acceptable behavior, and that when I eat, he is to go to his corner and lie down. From time to time I have to reinforce this, but never physically. A loud "NO!" and an "Out" suffices. I have also been working on keeping him out of the kitchen using the same approach. Sometimes, he will creep in, but when I turn around and find him standing there, he beats a hasty retreat back to the living room. My parents still can't grasp the concept, so when they eat, there he is, hovering inches away from their plate. I have tried to show them that all it takes is a firm voice, but they still give him the little baby, "No no, no being a beggar". If they decide not to take up my technique, fine with me, but I will be enjoying my meals drool free. I'm also going to have to teach him to stop scratching at the door, a lovely habit which he picked up from the cat.

Anyways, on to my main point. There was a discussion today in which I participated involving the use of Halti-Leads, choke chains, and prong collars. I have used Haltis religiously and have had amazing success, but most people seem to think it's a tool created by Satan himself. They gave accounts of dogs just wigging out over it, but my experience has always been that sure, it will be a bit uncomfortable at first, but after swiping at their nose for a while and giving a vigorous roll in the grass, they figure it isn't coming off and get over it. I have successfully retrained my extremely fearful hundred pound dog with the use of a Halti with no repercussions, whereas when I would use a flat nylon or a choker, he would bolt and leave me dragging on the other end of the leash. I've had pullers that were broken of the habit using a Halti, leash-wanderers (as I call them; the dogs who just can't seem to keep on one side during a walk), overly hyper dogs, and none have had a violent reaction to it.

However, in the discussion, a prong collar was deemed the best idea. I have used a prong, and some dogs respond well, but there were some dogs that would absolutely pull until it punctured their neck. Switching to a Halti, the sensation of pressure on their nose and a quick jerk to the side, thus throwing them off balance, I have gotten a lot better results, and more quickly.

Then comes to the subject of the dreaded choke chain. I had been using a prong for about a week on my step dad's English bulldog, and it may as well have been that I was trying to walk him using a piece of dental floss. He absolutely did NOT care about it, and would pull and pull, and, well, pull some more. A Halti was not an option, as he's one of the brachycephalic breeds, and neither was a harness, because with his awkward shape he could easily back out of them. What bothered me about it most though is that even though it was brand new, the collar would sometimes lock up with his pulling and I'd be rushing to unstick it before my dog was strangled to death. That is when I switched to a choke chain. He was EXTREMELY dog aggressive and thought he was massive, going after dogs four times his size. A week on the choker, and I could walk him through parks and bring him wherever I pleased. Mind you, I never choked him but he learned that pulling caused an uncomfortable squeeze. I also used a choke chain on my larger dog, who had an affinity for pulling me down the street to investigate all the awesome smelling things he came across. I can now walk him on a slack line, to the point where the chain is dangling off his neck with plenty of free space, and he stays right by my side.

IMO, when used properly, choke chains and Halti-leads are absolute miracle workers. Prong collars, however, I absolutely loathe and will never use one. In my mind, you may as well be using a shock collar.

What is your opinion on the subject of choke chains, Halti leads, and prong collars? I'd love to hear from you.