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Help! What equipment is best for my dog?

When you’ve finally decided you are ready to welcome a new puppy or dog into your life, you then must face the dilemma of what is the right equipment to use for walking and training.  Pet shops are full of different types, brands and price points it can be hard to know what to choose.  Carry on reading for my advice….

Collar v Harness

Well the simple answer is both!

An ID tag is still a legal requirement for every dog in the UK and therefore having this attached to the collar is the most practical way to ensure you are abiding by the law.

Collars are also more comfortable if you plan to leave them on your dog all the time.

However, my preference is always to use a harness for walking a dog, especially if they like to pull on the lead and/or have respiratory issues.  A dog which pulls while attached to a collar can be in danger of damaging vital ligaments and muscles in the neck as well as choking themselves or causing eye bulge.   A harness offers comfort to the dog and better control for you as it distributes weight better across the dog’s body.  Harnesses come with D rings on the back and/or the front.  If you dog is a puller than using a double ended lead attached to both the front and back D ring will help.  A dog’s centre of gravity is located at its chest so when they pull the chest harness will turn the dog around

When deciding on a new harness, ensure you get the correct fit so that your dog doesn’t shy away from wearing it due to discomfort.

Some recommended brands include Perfect Fit, Julius K9, Ruffwear, Victoria Stilwell’s Positively No-Pull Harness or Halti chest harness

Head collars

Head collars are useful for dogs that are real pullers or are reactive on the lead.  However they should be introduced in a positive way and if your dog seems uncomfortable wearing a head collar always seek another alternative.

Lead the way

Pick a good quality lead that isn’t too short. Avoid extendable leads, they are dangerous and can encourage pulling.    If you want to give your dog some freedom whilst still attached to a lead use a good quality longline instead.

If you dog has decided the lead is a great chew toy, try switching to a chain lead until this behaviour stops.

A long line is a fantastic tool if your dog’s recall isn’t 100% reliable. It can give them freedom to sniff and explore and you the confidence that you can still have an element of control if necessary.  It’s a great interim tool to use while you are teaching a reliable recall as well.  Try and choose a good quality, durable line which won’t cause too much friction burn if you dog tries to make a run for it.  I like the ones sold by Houndability.co.uk

Muzzles

Unfortunately, there can be negative associations made when people see dogs out and about wearing muzzles. However, there are several reasons why a dog could be wearing a muzzle (eating inappropriate things etc) Please remember that safety of you, your dogs and others is PARAMONT and if this means your dog should be muzzled in public then so be it.  The opinion of others should not deviate from this.  Always use a Baskerville type muzzle which ensure the dog can suitably breathe, drink and eat while wearing it.  Dogs should always be slowly and positively introduced to wearing a muzzle so that they enjoy it rather than become stressed by it.  See the section below regarding the introduction of new equipment.

Punitive equipment

You should avoid using correction devices on your dog such as prong collars, electric shock collars or choke chains.  They are cruel, painful and unnecessary.  Using such devices will cause stress and anxiety for your dog and can have negative consequences on their behaviour.  It also has a negative effect on the bond you have with them.

Dogs can be taught the correct behaviours using positive, reward-based training and will feel a lot happier for it!

Getting off on the right paw

Remember all these devices will be alien to your dog initially so avoid just grabbing your dog and forcing a harness, head collar or muzzle on them.  This will quickly create a negative association and an ongoing battle to get them to wear it.

Start slowly by letting them sniff the equipment to suss it out, then start pairing its existence with food or a game.  Distract your dog with food whilst you gently place the equipment over their head, remove and put away.  Repeat this stage a few times.

Once they are comfortable with it going over their head, continue to distract while you do up the clips.  Remove and put away.  Finally repeat above, let you dog wear it around the house for a few minutes, then remove and put away.

If you are introducing a muzzle, smear liver paste or squeezy cheese at the end of the muzzle to encourage the dog to put its face in to lick off the tasty stuff.  Don’t force this, take your time.