Monday, February 17, 2014

Better and Better

All tuckered out after an energetic walk.

You may recall that I was at my wit's end with Kane as he was completely rebellious on the leash and -- given his strength -- was able to make me dance to his tune. It was atrocious.

Following our visit with Cher from Street Wise Canine, we've had a much better time with Kane. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly), we did see some regression over the following days. He got to the point that he was exerting continual pressure on the prong collar - which is not the way it's supposed to work.
The concept of the prong collar is that the walker just gives a slight tug on the collar, just a tap, to remind the dog that it is supposed to be heeling. A continuous pressure is not comfortable for the dog and means that the walker/trainer has to exaggerate his message to the dog.

Also, the trainer at the class we were taking told us that Kane's prong collar was too tight. We had second thoughts and decided to ask Cher to:
  1. Verify that we had the right-sized collar.
  2. Check that we were using it correctly.
On the first point: yes, the collar was the correct size. Cher could fit four fingers under the collar when it was properly positioned.

Which brings us to the second question: we were not positioning the collar correctly.

Positioning the Collar

This picture from Leerburg Dog Training shows where the prong collar SHOULD sit,
high up on the neck, just under the jaw and high behind the ears.

If you feel behind the dog's ears, you will notice a bony protrusion - the collar needs to sit ABOVE that protrusion on the front and snug up against the jaw at the front. Here's another illustration.

For the collar to sight right without slipping down to the position where a regular collar sits, it needs to be reasonably snug. But if you have the correctly-sized prong collar positioned too low, it will be too tight. It will only be comfortable if it's in the right position.

In dogs with a "ruff" around their necks, like ours, it is deceptive - the prong collar almost disappears when it is in the correct position.

Note that we don't usually have his prong collar on when he's in the house. I just put it on for this photo.

I'm not going to pretend that it's completely comfortable for the dog or that Kane likes it. He only responds positively to it because he knows it means he's going for a walk, I think. And he often "yawns" to enlarge his neck while we're trying to put it on, the little monkey.

The next thing we needed was a reminder of how to reinforce the "heel" command.

Cher likened the little tugs on the collar as a conversation: each tug is just a little reminder saying, "I'm here. Pay attention." If the conversation became too non-stop or started becoming more of a shout (i.e., a strong tug), then it was time to tell the dog who's boss.

This involved a little manoeuvre that looked a little barbaric but, ultimately, made a huge difference. Here it is:
Yank up hard on the leash/collar and pirouette 180 degrees so you are heading back where you just came from. The dog DOES NOT LIKE THIS. Not one bit.
With a smaller dog or one that is not so "dominant" (he really wants to be the alpha), this likely would not be necessary. But Kane will push the limits if he is not told clearly and unequivocally that we are the boss.

It took about two days for Kane to learn that if he kept tugging, there was a pirouette in his future, and not on his terms. He still needs an occasional reminder (about three times on today's walk), but he's improving every day.

Just as his walk behaviour has improved (and therefore the duration of said walks), his at-home behaviour has settled into a pattern. Like any one-year-old, he has a morning nap, then we go for a good walk and practice some of his skills (like fetch and come) then come back home for a snack. He then has a good, long afternoon nap.

He's annoying while I try to prepare dinner, but settles down and waits for his own dinner until after we have eaten and doesn't touch his food until we give him the okay (it's an "alpha dog" approach). He will sit there gazing at us pleadingly with puddles of drool runneling onto the floor, but he doesn't even look at the bowl.

By eight o'clock, he's ready for bed, unless there is excitement in the house.

All in all, not forgetting that he's still learning (as are we), things are going very, very well. Stay tuned for further updates!

In closing, here is an adorable picture of Kane using his paws like hands, to nom his teddy bear.

Isn't he a cute little puppy?

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