The creativity of instructors and those who provide them with additional tools is never-ending. There seems to be a dizzying range of devices for the casual or novice trainer. While many of them are quite useful, they should never be seen as alternatives to the basic training experience.
Make sure your dog is in good health before using any of the devices listed below. Even the gentlest training regimens or collars can do harm if the dog has a bent dewclaw or skin sore.
Clickers – Ideal for grabbing your pet’s attention, the clicker is a plastic and metal handheld unit that makes a loud clicking sound when squeezed and released. It can save the instructor the need to shout frequently and is extremely audible even with heavy background sounds.
Collars and Leashes – These are a variety of collars ranging from a two-legged control collar, typically nylon or leather, to the 35-foot retractable nylon cord style.
For close jobs such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ (e.g. ‘don’t chase after the cat’) instruction, a two to five foot leash is an ideal accessory. The extendable leash is useful for trainers who want to obey their pets. The human (male or female) should always be the ‘alpha male’ of the group and the alpha will always lead.
Collars are available in several combinations of buckles, nylon, snaps, leather. As long as the nylon and snaps are of adequate quality, they can be completely suitable even for larger breeds. Still, they need to be carefully adjusted to ensure they don’t slide off easily.
Pointed collars are often opposed by many trainers because they can easily injure a smaller dog and instill fear in even larger ones. Similarly, shock collars are not encouraged. Although dogs have strong neck muscles, a sharp jolt at the front of the throat has the potential to bruise or even collapse the windpipe.
Vests – Similar to leashes, a full vest or chest halter collar helps reinforce the dog sitters’ advantage while also preventing undue pressure on pets’ throats. A possible downside to these collars is that the dog doesn’t feel any discomfort from being pulled, so this can limit training to purely positive reinforcement. Originally designed as an aid for sight-seeing and other support dogs, chest holsters can encourage pulling, which is the opposite of normal purpose.
However, it is invaluable for those who need additional control over an unruly dog or when standard leashes and leashes do not serve.
Muzzles – It can often be helpful or even necessary to check muzzles for temporary biting and barking. The downside to using one is that the dog won’t learn in other ways to avoid barking. The muzzle may be a substitute for the more complex, long-term answer to following ‘no barking’ instructions.
There are various other items related to dogs: chemical sprays, electric fences, non-barking collars, head collars, etc. But these are essentially controllers as opposed to training tools.
Finally, of course, there are the educational devices that are extremely effective and continue to be eternal favourites: love and respect. Treat your dog with great respect and it will certainly be much easier to achieve the desired behavioral results.