PICKING THE PROPER CORRECTION TOOL

I always use corrective tools with pets in conjunction with positive reinforcement training. In my opinion, only using positive reinforcement will leave you with a dog that is “half trained” which equals “not trained” in my eyes. A dog must understand what to do and what NOT to do and respond to the word “no” when they are exhibiting a behavior that needs to be extinguished. 

Choosing the proper corrective tool will depend on several factors. Some of the factors you should take into consideration include age, size, breed, experience and history. I’m going to take you through the most common corrective tools that I use for training and tell you how I make my decisions when choosing a corrective tool. 

First corrective tool to consider is the old fashioned choke chain. Unfortunately this is an appropriate name for this collar considering the vast majority of people use it incorrectly and do indeed choke their dog. Used properly on the right dog it can be an excellent corrective tool. I refer to it either as a correction collar or a training collar when I speak of it to my clients because I prefer to bring an air of neutrality to the scenario so that my client will think of this tool without evoking a negative feeling. If I can guide my client’s thinking in the proper direction we’re off to a good start. I find the correction collar is best for puppies prior to 6 months of age, small breeds or  sensitive dogs regardless of size or breed. It’s possible that if you use a choke chain early and properly you might sail through adolescence without needing to change your tool.  Herm Sprenger makes the best collar on the market. You can find average sizes in our online store. If you need sizes outside of our inventory you will most likely find them with a little bit of search effort. The current supply chain disruption has made them somewhat more challenging to acquire. 

 

Measure your dog’s head from top to bottom to estimate the correct size. There should be an extra 2 inches to work with once the collar is around the neck. A collar that is too long is not ideal. I typically will choose a thicker option when its available regardless of the length. It’s common for stores to carry a 16 inch in a thickness referred to as “fine” but if I can acquire a 16 inch in a “medium” thickness this is what I will choose as I find it more effective. With choke chains I will measure effectiveness based on the amount of corrections needed to accomplish my goal. The least amount of corrections that must be administered, the more effective I deem the collar.

 Prong collars are for the adolescent  that’s bent on testing you, has become bolder and stronger and refuses to make permanent changes to its on-leash behavior. Large adult dogs that haven’t been trained to a choke chain will most likely be suitable for a prong collar.  Bird dogs that move from 0 to 60 in .25 seconds, heavy dogs and excitable dogs will fare well with a prong collar. Once again Herm Sprenger has cornered the market on quality and as mentioned above acquiring them has been challenging in the last year but they are beginning to become available again. There is a separate company that makes a mini prong collar. These used to be more widely available 20 years ago but you can still find them online today with a little effort. I might choose a mini prong collar for that very stubborn chihuahua that is requiring more corrections with the correction collar than which I’m comfortable. I stopped replenishing my supply with them long ago but I know that it’s available if I want to order one for a special case.  Currently I only replenish my supply with what I call “small” and “medium” prong collars. I don’t even bother with “large” or “XL” The larger collars are so cumbersome and I can make a medium work just as well for a Rottweiler as I can a Brittany Spaniel. You only need to add extra links if it’s lacking in the length. Mini, small, medium etc refer to the thickness of each prong and its corresponding mechanisms that make up the collar. I can use a small on dogs up to 50 lbs and medium on dogs over 50 lbs. Herm Sprenger categorizes them as 2.0, 2.25, 3.0 etc. referring to the gauge of the metal. I always keep 2.25 and 3.0 on hand. If I can’t get my hands on a 3.0 I might settle for a 3.25 but I don’t like to go any higher. We currently have 2.25 available for sale in our online store.  Outside of a willful chihuahua I will often go straight to a prong collar when dealing with brachycephalic dogs even though they may be small because I want to be even more conservative with them than I would be with a dog possessing a typical muzzle length. If I can eradicate a problem with fewer corrections it makes me feel better.

Finally I look to my electric collar. I will choose this when my problem can not be solved with the use of a tether, the dog has graduated to off-leash work or the dog’s body type has me so concerned I refuse to use any pressure-based corrections on their neck. I always suggest English Bulldog owners start and finish with an electric collar.They are at high risk of being injured from collars because of their build and their less than sensitive disposition. (God bless them.) I find collars either fall into the inexpensive category or the expensive category and there is little in between. If you can afford a more expensive collar they are worth the one-time expense. I’ve been using Dogtra since 2001. It’s still the collar I prefer. Quality may be equivalent between the top brands but I’ve always thought Dogtra’s collars the simplest to use for the non-professional. Training a dog is challenging enough when it’s not your full time job. It only makes sense to use equipment that is simple in its function. The Dogtra IQ mini plus and additional receiver (for a 2nd dog) is available through our online store. I find the mini plus to deliver enough heat for a pet dog and for my training style. 

As a last word I’d like to say that I forego one-trick-pony corrective devices like those that use sound as they will have limited use and may punish other undeserving dogs in the vicinity. Another popular corrective device I don’t employ is a squirt bottle. I find it’s effectiveness lacking and I don’t need a wet dog in my home. I don’t wait for my dog to go off-course with their behavior. I know they will stray from my agenda as that is the nature of the animal. I’m ready to correct them when corrections are warranted and I can apply my tools to innumerable scenarios. If it must be said I don’t advocate raising one’s voice or laying hands on your dog directly. Nope, I don’t slap noses or booties. If I get frustrated I regroup. I want to be unemotional when I correct my dog’s behavior. I want to be fair and I don’t want my touch associated with a correction.