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The Collar Grab

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Making good associations.

What does your dog do when you reach to grab his collar?  Does he dodge and weave?  Does he duck?  Does he give you a look as though if it were anyone but you, he would take their hand off?  In off-leash situations, where your dog may be in danger, the best way to gain control of your dog is to grab their collar.  If your dog is not a willing participant, the lack of control could have tragic results.

Too often I have heard stories of dogs running into traffic or getting into fights with other dogs because they have escaped from a confined area like a house or a car.  Your first line of defense should be double security: if the outside door opens, your dog is secured with a leash, a crate, or behind another door.  Sometimes mistakes happen and your dog may escape during a weak moment.  This is common under strained circumstances like after a hurricane.  Wouldn’t it be great if you had practiced in controlled conditions for just an occurrence like this?
With a loose dog, recall should be your first response, so your dog returns to you for safety.  This is a tough command so you need to make sure you have practiced a lot and you have “built up a bank account with your dog”.  That means that based on past experience, your dog is pretty sure that something wonderful is going to happen to him when he gets to you.  If there is danger in the area, like cars or an unfriendly dog, your job does not end at the recall.  It is important to have control over your dog by holding his collar to prevent him from running again.  The way to teach your dog to be a willing participant is to practice this routine in a safe environment with lots of treats.  It is important to follow up your recall with a sit; then grab your dog’s collar right before you deliver a treat to his mouth.  With practice, your dog will associate the collar grab with yummy treats.
Sometimes you will not want the dog to return to you.  What if your dog miraculously made it across a busy street?  You sure don’t want that dog crossing the street again.  This is the time to call for a sit stay.  That way, your dog will sit and wait for you to return to him.  And if you practice this correctly, your dog will be expecting that something wonderful will happen once you get there.  It’s ok to draw on your “bank account” if you don’t have a treat.  Just make sure you verbally praise your dog and never punish your dog for waiting for you or coming to you.
The moral of the story is, although your dog may behave reliably at home, it is important to practice for the unexpected.  Think about joining a basic obedience class to practice these techniques with a trained professional.  Classes are usually a good value, provide important socialization, and lots of fun for everyone.  If your dog shows signs of aggressive behavior when you reach for his collar, be sure to consult a professional dog trainer before practicing any of these techniques.
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Written by dawnhanna

March 9, 2011 at 8:34 am

Posted in Dog Training

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