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 ARTICLES > Puppies > Puppies: Getting to grips with the collar and leash
  Puppies  Article:
Article By: Scotty Valadao       

By Scotty Valadao – Accredited Animal Behaviourist (Canine) (ABC of SA™)

Many people will put a collar on a puppy and just leave it on, believing that the pup will get used to it in time – used to do the same thing myself! However, since turning professional I have seen umpteen dogs that have collar issues and on asking their owners what the pups reaction was when the collar was introduced (if they had the dogs from pups), every single one of them reacted badly the very first time it was put on. This can be inadvertently reinforced by the owner if they take the collar off whenever the pup objects – who wins? – the dog, it has successfully trained the owner to not use the collar and later attempts will prove harder and be less likely to succeed. This does not mean that all dogs will react in this way, but as we are unsure as to how this new experience will impact on our pups, rather go slowly.

It is a known fact that a traumatic experience can impact on a pup (one event learning) and cause problems later on and who are we to determine how traumatic the putting on of a collar may be – I would imagine that if somebody put a collar around my neck I would find it rather uncomfortable for a while although I am sure I would eventually get used to it - rather safe than sorry! If we bear in mind that going for a walk will be one of your dog’s most pleasurable experiences, why take the chance of spoiling a wonderful outing by having a dog that is afraid or hesitant to have a collar on or to go on lead?

Our main aim here is to make the introduction of the collar a pleasurable experience. The underside of a dog’s neck is a very vulnerable place and his innate behaviour will be to protect it and to get rid of anything that is touching this area. If one looks at dogs fighting, they will endeavour to get hold of the neck. Also look at a dog exhibiting dominance towards another, it will often either put its own head over the back of the neck area or a paw will be placed on this area. For this reason, we start off by using a very light collar which can be fastened, instead of one which slips over the neck, which may make a puppy panic. Personally I suggest a cat collar initially as they are much softer and more pliable than dog collars.

Firstly, have some really nice treats (or a full meal) with you and make sure your puppy is hungry. Use, as stated above, a light collar. Place it over the back of the neck and fasten it very loosely under the neck, not even touching the skin. Do this slowly and gently. Give a few treats or even a full meal, given one piece of kibble at a time, and then take the collar off. Do this over the next one or two days, as many times per day as possible. You can even feed your pup its daily rations from your hand at the same time as doing this exercise. Once the puppy is happy with this, start to leave it on for a minute or two, keeping the interaction with your puppy going, by treating and even playing with a toy with him while the collar is on. The end result of this is that the puppy will associate the collar being put on as a rewarding experience rather than a traumatic experience.

When he is happy with this, repeat the above process, very slowly making the collar a little tighter until it fits snugly on the neck. Practice this way for another few days until your pup is completely happy with the collar. Don’t rush this, your pup has just come home and every experience it has is a new experience. Puppies grow very quickly, so keep on checking that the collar is not getting too tight for your pup.

The next step is to clip on the lead. Once again ensure that you use a very light lead with a small clasp and repeat the process of treating. Once the pup accepts this, leave the lead on the floor and move about 3 steps away from him and call him to you and treat from a kneeling position. (Kneeling down initially will make it easier for the pup to come to you) Gradually make the distance a little further making sure that there is nothing that can snag the lead and jerk the collar. Many people suggest letting the pup run around with the lead on to get used to it – I have seen too many pups who have got the lead snagged and been badly jerked to use this method (which could lead to problems on lead at a later stage) – I would rather control the situation and by doing this I can ensure that the experience is a positive one for the pup.

Now, have the puppy sitting, pick up the lead, and move one or two steps away, repeating the process as above, kneel down, calling the puppies name and treating as the puppy comes to you. Gradually make the distance a bit further. If your puppy shows any resistance, go back to the last step and practice that until the puppy is comfortable with it. If your puppy refuses to go with you, don’t pull on the lead as this is the beginning of a bad habit, and every time the puppy ‘wins’ the behaviour of sitting and refusing to go, is reinforced.

It is important to work with ‘where your puppy is at’ as we say at TTouch. This will ensure that he is not forced to take steps he can’t deal with. All puppies learn and accept new things into their lives at different rates. Some puppies can become used to collars and lead within a day, showing no signs of stress as you progress, while others can take up to a week to accept the restraint around their necks. If the pup is still not accepting the collar at a later stage, then I would suggest trying equipment such as the step-in harness which is often easier for pups to accept.

The next step is to start to get the pup to walk next to you while on lead. Put on the lead and using a lure (food) held in our left hand and the lead in the right hand, encourage the pup to walk with  you for a few steps, gradually building up the distance until your puppy can happily walk around with you for a fair distance. I suggest to clients not to go further than this until they go to puppy school where this work will be taken further. This is because we don’t want the pup to get into the habit of pulling, rather let the professional’s show how it is done. If the puppy has already got into the habit of pulling, it will take a little longer to change. It is far easier to teach a new behaviour than change an existing one.

It is advisable to teach this as soon as possible and not leave it to the last minute before the puppy course starts. Puppy school is a new and alien place for a puppy, which it has never seen before. There are new dogs; new people, new objects and noises to deal with, and we don’t want to add any unnecessary stresses.

Many clients ask me, ‘should I leave the collar on my dog’. My general (there are exceptions) answer to this is no. The reason for this is that it is very easy for a pup or dog to get the collar caught on an object and strangle itself, or to give itself a huge fright which may impact on its life. There are collars on the market that when they have a lot of pressure exerted on them, the clip opens by itself and the collar comes off, but this can still be a stressful experience for the pup.

 Article from www.friendsofthedog.co.za, written by By Scotty Valadao – Accredited Animal Behaviourist (Canine) (ABC of SA™ ) & TTouch Practitioner 1 for Companion Animals


Puppy Socialization Classes:


All classes below are given by TTouch Practitioners or Practitioners in Training and incorporate TTouch in the Handling of puppies.

 õ  Bedfordview/ Edenvale/Linksfield/Orange Grove: Puppy Starter Session -One private session with comprehensive booklet; Contact Scotty on 011 882 2418 (h); 082 928 0102 or scotty@scottysdogs.co.za   

õ  Brixton / Auckland Park: Puppy classes; contact Candi Moon: furbabies.sanctuary@gmail.com, 079 490 3233, www.furbabiestraining.co.za

õ  Riverclub Vet in Parkmore on Saturday mornings with Puppy 1 and Puppy 2 classes. Niki Elliott 082 451 0433 or niki@thinkingpets.com

õ  Bryanston on Wednesday evening, Thursday morning and Saturday afternoons for Puppy 1, 2 and Advanced Open classes. Private sessions on request. Niki Elliott 082 451 0433 or niki@thinkingpets.com

õ  Gordon’s Bay: Puppy Classes for pups under 4 months. On-going: new every 6 weeks. Claire Grobbelaar 021 856 5886 or 082 784 7524 Claire.g@mweb.co.za

õ  Heidelberg: Jordaanpark, contact Ilze van der Walt:

zafira.ilze@webmail.co.za or 082 921 4448

õ  Lyndhurst, Gresswold, Bramley, Kew, Waverley Area: Puppy Socialising, 6 Week courses on Sundays. Nicky Lucka 083-408-1517 lucka@absamail.co.za

õ  Oaklands, JHB: Puppy Socializing Tersia Kock 082 828 0505 tkock@telkomsa.net

õ  Parkwood: Puppy Classes, 6 Week courses Tersia Kock 082 828 0505 tkock@telkomsa.net

õ  Cape West Coast - Langebaan, Puppy 1 Classes. Adult classes. Private Sessions on request. Wendy Wilson – overthemoon@iafrica.com 083 336 1761.


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