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Monday, April 25, 2011

Doing the moon~walk? A puppy's take on a collar & leash

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 Your excitement is so overwhelming that you bust out that new credit card and buy the fancy personalized, diamond studded collar, and of course the matching six foot leash that holds the poop bags! If you’re lucky, the leash will also sport a little flashlight on the handle for those nighttime walks because your new little gal will be making her debut! Oh and don’t forget that matching key ring for your car keys that are in the basket at the register! Woops, go back and pick up that sparkly ID tag as well, come on, you know you want to! And while you’re out, pick up some tiny extremely delicious treats, a squeak toy or two, a short clothesline rope and a clip, trust me you will need them all for that special day.

Ah, finally the day has arrived when you can pick up your God’s little grace and bring her home.  Of course I would be negligent if I forgot to tell you that you should not take her out in public before she receives the full shot series, no sense in risking puppy diseases that can harbor among the earth’s soil for years.  

Now that the pup is safely in your home, you place the beautiful diamond studded collar you purchased around her neck. It’s a struggle, but you finally get it on. She looks beautiful even though she is suddenly lifting her feet high off the floor in a backward motion like she knows Michael Jackson’s moon-walk! She shakes her head from side to side and paws at her neck to get that foreign thing off of her body! What’s going on?

Well, let’s look logically at this before we rush back to the store for a new collar and matching leash!

When pups are with their littermates, it is very rare for a breeder to put anything around their neck especially if that breeder has to leave them alone for any length of time. The breeder may mark a pup using nail polish on a toenail or on a body part if all pups look alike. Thus ,until the time that you came into this little wonder’s world, it had never had anything adorn its neck! The pup does not know that you have just spent wads of moo~la on its jewelry that it will wear for life! At that moment it is a scary intrusion on the pup’s body, especially if you pick a collar that is too heavy for the dog. This is the time to break out those yummy treats and squeak toys I told you to pick up earlier. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to play and treat that puppy to near exhaustion!  The more you can keep the little fuzz ball busy after putting on that collar the better and anytime that you see the moonwalk returning, start again with play and treats. Make the treats small and easy to get down. Eventually the pup will get used to the collar. One very important thing to remember is not to put the collar on too loose or too tight. If it is too loose the dog can get it caught around the bottom jaw while struggling to get it off, if too tight, it can do damage to the throat, especially to a small dog. As well, check the collar regularly as the pup grows and adjust as necessary. You should be able to fit three fingers between the collar and the pup’s neck at all times. 

There are also collars that are made to come undone should a pup (or dog or cat) get hung up on something. These collars are called brake away collars and if you’re a new pet owner they are well worth the investment. One of my favorite makers of collars and harnesses is Premier. (I get no compensation for mentioning their name, so it does come from my experience with their products that I pass along to you, better to make one good investment instead of many cheaper ones!)

Whew, you made it through the collar fuss, one piece of equipment down and one more to go! The leash adds a whole new meaning to the words ‘let’s go! You may find your pup not only doing a very bouncy moon~walk but also the ‘stubborn as mule’ act may make an appearance and then you will find yourself dragging your little beauty down the porch steps and out to the yard. This is where the clothesline rope and clip come in. Before even getting to the leash stage, you will want to make a ‘meg-shift leash’ out of a portion of the clothesline rope. Why?

1) Because it is light weight

2) There will be no handle/loop on the end to get stuck on objects.

3) It will get the pup used to having a real leash attached to her.

4) If chewed, its cheap enough to make another!

Once the dog gets used to the collar, attach the clothesline lead and let the pup drag that around the house. Again keep your treats and toys very handy as this intrusion may bother her more that the collar did. By allowing the pup to just drag it through the house while playing, eventually she is going to step on it, this in turn puts a little pressure on her collar and neck, which in turn gets her used to the pressure similar to you holding the leash on a walk. If she seems uncomfortable or distracted with it, continue to play until she tires, which thankfully does not take long for a pup. Of course it goes without saying that this is to be taken off when the pup cannot be watched.

Sometimes you have the opposite, the puppy plays and bites the rope or leash when you put it on and you can’t get her to stop. There can be a couple of things going on when this happens and you may see it more with a Golden Retriever type breed, but any dog breed may do it.

When a pup constantly bites and grabs the leash you can try giving the puppy something else to hold in its mouth or spay the leash with Grannicks Bitter Apple. However also take a look at the activities you are offering the dog. Some people work their young pups in a training session for too long a period of a time, the pup gets tired and starts to act out. Grabbing the leash is one way of acting out and once that happens your attention is focused more on the pup and that is what the pup wants. Over time if you don’t change the way and amount of time you work with the pup it will become a “learned behavior” and a hard one to break. If you are too rough with the leash, this may also cause the dog to bite at it which also teaches a learned behavior. Another thing to look at is how often you exercise the dog through the day. Not enough exercise and you will have a problem, too much and you loose the pup’s attention and that puts the pup back into that learned behavior mood.

With pups, as with children, no two are alike and it is very important to look at the needs of each pup as well as how much exercise one can do. Granted this may not be the same need for exercise that you have for yourself. Be honest and objective, expect problems and make adjustments quickly. Once the behavior becomes ingrained as a learned behavior you’re going to have your hands full when the pup grows to be a big dog.

Those who know me, know I often compare a young child’s behavior to that of a dog because the mind set is basically the same, and I happen to work with both and see similarities in behaviors and the reasons for them. It also makes it easier for some humans to understand why a dog may act the way it does during these comparisons.

So let’s compare:

A four year old child spends little time with the parents as both parents work daily, the few hours the child may spend with them may be over stimulating or under stimulating so the child acts out the whole time. Why? Because the child needs guided attention/interaction with the parents and if not given, the child will take any attention at some point. Whether or not this interaction comes from acting in a positive way or a negative way. If the child is acknowledged more when acting out negatively, then the child will continue to do so and it becomes a learned behavior. That learned behavior eventually becomes so embarrassing for the parents that only then do they realize it needs to be corrected and it is tough to do because for the last four years the child has gotten what he/she wanted by acting negativity.

When a dog becomes ‘over cooked’ as I call it, they shut down or act out. Many trainers will train a puppy for an hour in a class, but does this mean that the owner needs to spend a full hour at a time training at home each day? No. The trainer actually uses that hour to ‘show the owner how to train their dog!’

At home, take the advice the trainer has given you and break it up throughout the day in short sessions. The moment the puppy starts acting out and is not paying attention, that is the time you want to stop. Take a break and always end a session with the pup doing well on a positive note, not a negative one.

Until next time, Happy Training!

Premier collars/harnesses click here 

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