Training or Restraining?

For all the arguments that abound re: training equipment, it all boils down to one very simple point: equipment helps us to either train or restrain the dog, and sometimes both. In order to be fair to the dog and honest with ourselves, we need to be clear what we are doing and why.

A lot of so called “training” equipment is actually “restraining” equipment, and allows the handler to physically hang on to and direct the dog. My goal is to develop the connection so that the lead/collar simply becomes a safety device, a safety net if you will for any mistakes that may be made, a nod to local leash laws, and sometimes,a way to deliver soft signals of guidance.

Training is not about the equipment – it’s about the connection, the relationship, the cooperation.

If we are restraining the dog, then the equipment will remain necessary because the dog isn’t learning any new behaviors, he’s only acting specific ways under the influence of that equipment.

If we are training the dog, the need for the equipment diminishes in direct proportion to the degree of training the dog receives. The more training the dog has, the less equipment needed.

For those who say their dog is trained but who still rely on particular equipment, I suggest you try stretching yourself and your dog. You may need to do more training. You and the dog may be more reliant on the equipment than you realize. Easiest way to test it -take a piece of clothesline, make it into a very rough lead, and try to take your dog for a walk. Let the dog tell you what’s really happening.

Or, in a safe area where mistakes can be made without ever endangering the dog, GO NAKED, you and your dog! (Okay, you get to keep your clothes on since public decency laws may get a bit tricky in your neighborhood. Plus,you may wish to avoid frightening small children.) What happens when all the training equipment is gone? when it’s just a person and a dog with naught between them but a relationship?

Naked training! The goal is as little as possible between you and the animal – or at least, that’s mine. Always. As Browning wrote, “two hearts, beating each to each.”

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