Michael is an avid pet-lover and content writer on topical themes related to dog care, training and behavioral development.
Until it has been accustomed to wearing a collar and leash, a puppy’s training is still in the elementary stages. Collar and leash training are pivotal as it influences the progress and outcome of training in other areas. In this article, we will examine how you can get your puppy accustomed to a collar and a leash, and how you can use both to improve its behavioural development.
Which Collar Is Right for My Puppy?
Collars are important irrespective of whether your objective is to give your dog advanced training or not. There are various sizes, styles and shapes of collars and they are really fashionable. These are not just items of convenience or aesthetics, they can be life-saving devices in a time of need, especially if your pet gets lost. So the question now is, how do you select the right collar now that there is a plenitude available in the market to choose from?
The answer lies in two factors which should be taken into consideration. The type of collar you select needs to be one that is most suited to your individual preferences as well as to the personality of your puppy.
Understanding the behaviour and temperament of your puppy is necessary for you to determine the most appropriate collar. For instance, if your puppy has already learnt to follow your instructions properly in obedience, then a soft collar is suitable. A collar with prongs is best for puppies that are disobedient and require quick corrections every now and then. We’ll cover more on this shortly.
Buckle Collar or Soft Collar
A buckle collar is the most popular in use. Different fabric textures can be incorporated in it, together with various designs and colours. You can also choose to have the name of your puppy inscribed into the collar for purposes of identification. Buckle collars are made with holes intermittently spaced through which the buckle is fastened to fit.
It is possible to adjust and improve on the buckle collar to provide added safety. There are breakaway collars that are made in such a way that they can detach when sufficient pressure is applied. There are also other collars which are designed with tabs that release quicker than the basic buckle collar. This protects your puppy from choking.
Are Prong Collars Acceptable?
If your puppy is the kind that typically stays in one place for long periods of time or the type that usually stops, stalls, or pulls hard when attached to the lead, then a prong collar (or pinch collar) would be suitable. This collar contains metal prongs arranged inside it. The prongs prod the puppy’s neck in order to keep its activities in check when you pull the leash. It may sound risky for the health of the puppy, but if used in the right way, prong collars would not injure your pet.
On the contrary, it much safer than a lot of other dog collars out there like the choke collars. In fact, the prong collar is designed as the most humane way to train your dog without harming it. If you choose to use the prong collar, here is one way to measure it. You can use the principle of half a finger. The width of a typical person’s finger is 1/2 an inch. You should leave 1/4 inch of space between the end of the prong and the skin of the dog’s neck. The reason why you should your finger to test by placing it under the prong is that it is more convenient than using a ruler or other tools which may break in the process, or harm the puppy.
So in which types of situations would a prong collar be appropriate? You may be dealing with a puppy that will not obey simple verbal commands like ‘No’, or one that is habitually unruly and resistive. You may even have tried different methods of installing discipline and obedience, none of which have worked. This is where the prong collar comes in. When you use this collar, you need to apply corrective pressure that matches the temperament of your dog. But don’t be excessive.
You could find out if this method of correcting the pet’s behaviour is effective by testing. Say for example, the dog tends to paw or sometimes bite at your shoe in resistance. Apply pressure on the prong collar to correct the behaviour. After the correction, extend your foot again to see if the correction worked or not.
Introducing Your Puppy to the Collar
The collar that you select needs to perfectly fit the puppy. It should neither be too thin nor too thick. A heavy collar would be uncomfortable. A collar that is too light may come off or be broken easily. Again, ensure you avoid using a slip collar, choke collar or training collar because these are appropriate for use as aids for training the puppy. What you need to use instead, is the buckle collar.
Ensure that the collar width matches the size of the puppy. In order to know in advance the ideal length of the collar, place a tape measure or piece of string around the dog’s neck. Don’t hold the tape measure too tightly, but only close enough to read the correct length. Collars typically have at least increments of 2 inches. So, after recording your measurements, you will need to allow some extra space, for example, if your dog has a 15-inch neck, you could procure a 16-inch collar.
Identification and Licencing
When preparing the collar, it is best to have a licence and identification tag attached to it. This will ensure that in case your puppy becomes separated from you, those who find it will be able to return it.
Once the collar has been obtained, attach it on the puppy and let it begin wearing it in the house. At first, there will be some reaction to the new collar and this is perfectly natural and expected.
The first time you introduce the collar, the puppy may react in a frightened, baffled or bewildered manner. Your pet may express discomfort, paw at the collar, whine or even make attempts at removing it. Expect this to happen and don’t let it disappoint you or discourage your efforts in any way. Don’t intervene, irrespective of the reaction. You should neither try to soothe nor reprimand if it has a negative reaction or simply starts struggling against the collar.
Ignore the antics and allow the puppy to work through the challenge on its own. As long as you don’t fuss over it, the puppy will eventually come round to adjusting itself and accepting the collar. You could bring in some items to distract it like toys or food, so that there is a temporary diversion of attention. If you introduce an activity the puppy enjoys, it will be able to adjust much faster to the feel, colour, shape, size and style of the collar.
Within a matter of days, the senses of the puppy will have been accustomed to the collar to the extent that it will not even be conscious of the fact that it is actually wearing it. For the next several days, allow the dog to wear the collar continually without ever removing it. This will give your pet ample opportunity. Once the dog has become properly acquainted with the collar, the next step is for you to introduce the leash.
Introducing Your Puppy to the Leash
The best type of leash that you should use at this stage is a lightweight leash. The procedure is as before. Simply attach the leash onto the collar and then let the puppy try it out inside the house or in the immediate environment it is familiar with. Don’t attempt this is a new environment which the puppy is not accustomed to, because this will only interfere with the training process.
Take precautions and ensure that the leash does not get ensnared in something. If the leash gets stuck, the puppy will feel like it has just been seized by something and will react in fear. This is one of the ways in which it will start to develop a negative emotional association with both the collar and the leash.
Once this type of association has set in, it becomes counterproductive and could be difficult to reverse. Therefore as the handler, ensure there are no objects around that will interfere with the coordination of the leash.
At the beginning, keep it attached only for a short period of time. Preferably for a few minutes. Be sensitive when choosing the right moment to attach the leash to the puppy. This should be when the puppy is already in a positive mood or enjoying itself for example, during a meal or at play. Proper timing will help the puppy build the right connection with the leash and will associate it with happy moments.
Another important tip is to ensure that when detached, the leash is kept lying next to the dog’s feeding spot, near its water or food bowls. The longer the leash is kept in close proximity, the more the dog grows to view and accept it as part of its life. Instead of the leash being strange, foreign or unfamiliar, it will become much like the other objects the puppy is already used to. It will also give the puppy a chance to feel and smell it such that it will not be as fearful when the leash is attached.
Once the puppy is accustomed to moving around with the leash attached to its collar, pick the other end up and keep it held in your hand. Let the puppy walk around unobstructed and unhindered. Continue doing so without intervening even if the puppy comes up against the end of the leash. This will help your pet get to the point where it is comfortable without your interference. Remember that whatever the puppy learns by its own process of discovery and exploration becomes a permanent part of its life.
It is important to give the puppy sufficient time to get used to the collar and leash, before starting to use them. Again, the best place for this type of training is at home, or in the context of an environment that the puppy is used to, where it feels safe and secure. Only after the puppy is happy and satisfied with the leash at home, should you start walking it outside.
When you lead the puppy out of the home, make the trips very brief at the beginning, then gradually begin to increase the duration with time. Bear in mind that puppies are not created equal. Some are able to adjust to the leash and collar quicker than others. So be patient and give as much allowance as required for your pet to be fully accustomed to the process. Don’t rush this stage of the training.
Puppy Training With the Collar and the Leash
You may find that your puppy has developed a problem of tugging at the leash. This behaviour can inadvertently be encouraged by pet owners, especially if they use the leash when playing with the puppy. Eventually, the dog grows to view the collar and leash as simply additions to its toy collection. When you hold the other end of the leash, it fails to rightly discern your intentions and switches immediately into play mode.
When you first start walking the puppy, the leash should not be too slack. Your pet should be walking close to you at this stage so keep the leash reasonably tight. The more you allow it to wander off far from you, the more it gets used to the liberty of movement. Thereafter, when you try to control it in public places, for example, a crowded street or mall, it will resist your efforts because it is not used to being constrained.
Your pet needs to understand that it has freedom to move about, explore and play. But when the leash comes on, you are essentially saying ‘I am in charge now. From this moment on, you stay close to me and follow my lead’. You could also discourage a puppy from pulling or tugging at the leash by using a top-quality harness. The process of training a puppy to accept the harness is similar to that of familiarizing it with the collar. Another way to encourage your pet to stay close to you is to use a lure. This ensures that the puppy has something that keeps its attention on you as the handler and does not stray away.
As you walk your puppy, ensure that the leash is not too tight, but slack enough for comfort. Once the puppy begins to tug or pull, you need to switch to a different direction such that the puppy begins to fall close behind you. Try reversing the direction you are walking toward before the leash is taught or the puppy has reached the end of it. When you change direction, you just need to tug briefly and then allow the leash to slacken immediately afterwards, but to a degree that the puppy will still remain close.
You should under no circumstances allow the puppy to pull you around. Bear in mind that the sooner you train your puppy how to walk properly, the better. This is especially the case if yours is a large dog breed. If it is a Great Dane and has not yet learned how to move properly in its formative stages, it may never do so. Apply pressure on the neck of the puppy whenever you need to correct it. You do not need to exert a powerful yank, just a normal pull using the least amount of effort will be sufficient.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on July 29, 2020:
I agree, a trained dog saves you quite a bit of time and effort as the owner. The list of collars is not exhaustive, I believe there are several other types of collars out there; the effectiveness of each depends on the stage the dog is in.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 07, 2020:
I didn’t realise that there were so many collars on the market. Next time I walk the dog in our family I will check out his collar.I always find it useful that our chocolate labrador is trained to sit at my command and let me attach his lead whenever necessary on our walks.