Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Martingale's for Dogs? Testing a New Training Collar

One of my favorite TV shows has to be At The End of My Leash. I rarely get to sit and watch t.v. but when I get the chance to, I try and catch this show. If you haven't seen it, it is hosted by Brad Pattison, a renowned dog trainer and life coach. He tackles problem dogs at the root of problem - their owners and the lack of training the dog has received. I first saw the martingale collar on this show - it is the only collar Brad uses, and I must say I am kind of fanatic about his training methods. I've tried a few of them and they have all brought success with Shaeffer and Gwen. When I picked Shaeffer up I was told he HAS to be walked in a Halti. He had a history of lunging at people and other dogs, and as I found out - slipping out of his collar and going for joy-runs through the city.

If you aren't familiar with a Halti - see Shaeffer pictured here with his. It fits much like a halter for a horse. It has a strap behind the head, that connects to a strap under the chin, and a piece that connects to a strap around the muzzle. There should be a ring under the chin that you can attach the leash to. It works on the principle of turning the dogs head when you pull on the leash, and the dog in turn will be self-corrected. There is no need to jerk, snap, pinch, or pull back hard on the leash. The dog will eventually learn the effects of the Halti and no longer pull. It works for controlling a dog that is jumping about or trying to wiggle away as well.

I will admit they do work very well, it was definitely a life saver when I first got Shaeffer and was testing him out on walks. I was very paranoid about his behaviour since his previous owner made it VERY clear that he was aggressive and would try and jump up at people walking by. I always made sure to cross the street and sit him down whenever possible. It turns out he didn't actually have a problem, I'm not sure what his owner had done to him to m
ake him act out in the past. He would occasionally bark at random people and dogs walking by, but a simple pull on the Halti corrected him. My only problem was, I didn't really like the idea of the Halti. It cranked his head, he always wanted to rub his muzzle, and it would sometimes unsnap causing me to panic he would wiggle away from me again. I wanted to be able to walk him by my side, with a nice collar, have no risk of him escaping and still have his respect. That's where the martingale training collar comes in.

I found a great site describing what exactly it is;

"What is a martingale collar?

A martingale collar is primarily designed for sighthounds but can be worn by all breeds. It is designed to help prevent the dog from backing out, or slipping its collar. Using a martingale is also a very effective way to help control a leash puller. Also known as a humane choke collar or limited choke, it consists of two loops. A larger loop that has a slide to give the collar adjustability and two slides at the end through which a smaller loop is fed. The second loop is known as the control loop onto which the dee ring is securely sewn. See diagram below. Unlike the buckle collar, the martingale is slips over the dogs head and is adjusted once around the dogs neck.

Is it safe to leave a martingale collar on my dog unattended?

All collars can be potentially unsafe and a martingale style collar carries a slightly greater risk of injury if left on 24/7. However, you should evaluate whether the risk of choking or getting a collar caught is greater than the risk that you may need to grab a collar quickly as a hound makes a dart for an open doorway. Around the Hounds does not endorse either policy but we do stress that a martingale left on all the time MUST be adjusted so that it cannot choke the dog when the smaller loop is tightened. Remove all collars when crating your dog.By no means should a dog ever be tied out by a martingale collar. Tag placement recommendations Due to the slight risk of tags getting caught and causing a choke situation, we highly recommend that all tags be secured on the slide and NOT the dee ring."

So, I went out and bought one. I went to my favorite local pet store for posh pets I picked one up for about $25 which seems to be the going rate. It's supposed to fit behind the ears and the nylon bits at each end where the chain connects should NOT touch when you pull up in order to work effectively. It is designed to work on the principle of immediate positive reinforcement, without the severity and discomfort of a regular choke collar. When you want to correct your dog, you simply do a swift pull on the collar and release. Eventually, the dog should learn what is correct behavior and what is incorrect behavior on the leash. In the end, you should have a dog who will walk happily along side you without pulling.

I took Shaeffer for a little walk to test it out last night and so far it seems to be a good choice. It was his first walk without his Halti, he was pulling very little and happy to come back when I corrected him. There were no other dogs out so I'm not sure about control in that department yet. So far, I'm happy with it. I will update in a few weeks when I can see if there are any clear
results from the change in collar. I know Shaeffer is happier already.

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