Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Prong collar is not your last resort!

Training aid

A prong collar, also sometimes called a pinch collar, is a training collar used by many people to control their dog. This training aid consists of interlocking metal links each equipped with two blunt prongs that pinch the loose skin around the dog’s neck when the collar is tightened. In order to be used correctly a prong collar needs to be fitted snugly high on the dog’s neck just below the dog’s ears.

The prong collar is a very popular collar among dog owners and some professionals. There is no debate about its effectiveness. It works. But how does it work? 

The purpose of the prong collar is to cause physical discomfort or pain in order to discourage unwanted behaviors such as jumping, pulling and lunging. The use of a prong collar can also cause and worsen serious behavior problems in some dogs causing fear and aggression. By using the prong collar the dog will respond by avoiding the discomfort/pain. In training terms this is called negative reinforcement. A scientific term for a way on how dogs learn.

How do dogs LEARN?

Dogs can learn through Classical and Operant Conditioning.

Classical Conditioning means learning by association. Operant Conditioning is learning by consequence. Both are scientific terms that are unfamiliar to most dog owners but dog owner’s use throughout their relationship with their dog. Within operant conditioning you have 4 possible consequences:

(behavior increases)
(behavior decreases)
Giving the dog a treat when it sits to encourage the dog to sit more frequently
Shocking the dog to decrease barking
Pinching the dog until it sits on command will encourage the dog to sit more frequently
Turning your back discouraging the dog to jump up and decreasing the behavior

A little scientific background cannot hurt to start to understand the difference in methods. A prong collar is considered an aversive training collar and a training aid used within the traditional training methods. Methods used by for instance Cesar Millan. (definition of aversive: tending to avoid or causing avoidance of a noxious or punishing stimulus)

 A question you could consider asking yourself is why would we use a prong collar or even any other aversive training aid such as a the choke chain or the electronic collar if we have other options that do not include discomfort or pain?

 Our other options:

A dog can be trained “effectively” by using positive training methods. The training method is called positive reinforcement and is based on rewarding a dog for desired behaviors. Doesn’t that method sound familiar? It should to those people who have children in school. Positive reinforcement is the same method used in our schools.

A reward is a much more appreciated experience to a dog than punishment is and exactly that is what makes positive reinforcement a powerful training tool that helps shape or change a dog’s behavior.

 Other training collars:

In today’s world we have collars such as the Martingale, Gentle Leader, K9 Bridle, Halti, Sense-ation Harness, Easy Walker Harness just to mention a few. All these options provide a much safer and happier environment for your dog. Afterall, a walk with your dog should be fun and not filled with discomfort and pain. It is a time to bond and build a relationship.

If you do decide to use a prong collar please only use it as a last resort. There are really other options open to you that will allow you to walk your dog without using a tool of discomfort. I am a crossover dog professional and I used to work with the prong collar all the time. Once I was provided the opportunity not only to understand but experience the difference between the collars I would never turn back. I hope my experience will help others to understand that using the prong collar is NOT your last option. Think of it this way.

Would you use it on your own child?

I want to thank my son BJ, who wanted to be part of this article. His suggestion was to provide a visual of a picture that simply looks wrong. If it looks wrong on a human why on earth would we want to put it on our own dog and companion? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

K9 Bridle: a new turn on a positive training collar

I had read about the K9 Bridle but never seen one. Christine, owner of Tigana Golden Retrievers, used these collars on her Goldens. Impressed by what I saw I shared an order with her and received my shipment yesterday.

Enthusiastically I opened the box and today I used them on some of our dogs. I was not disappointed. The control you have over your dog is effortless. Unlike the gentle leader the K9 Bridle doesn't interfere with the mouth or the eyes. Once put on and secured it stays in place. The Gentle leader uses a point underneath the chin and twists the dogs head to the side. The dogs often learn to even pull by tilting its head. With the K9 Bridle that is simply not possible.

Unlike most other training collars the K9 Bridle works from the back of the neck. The strap under the chin is there as a safety device in case the dog should manage to get the bridle off (similar to the Halty).

We ordered in bulk and the Bridle cost me $16 a piece. For the quality the price is underneath of what they could charge for. The Gentle Leader with its fragile plastic is nothing compared to the high quality materials used in this lead with its real brass fittings.

All in all as a professional dog walker I am happy with the lead. As with all leads you need to find the right training collar to fit your dog. Both dogs I used the collar with responded excellently and stopped pulling. This product gets 5 paws from me. I will review the product again in a few months to test for quality and function.

The K9 Bridle is available at:

Happy K9 Bridle!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Running with my dog

Running: A healthy and good alternative to walks?

Running with your dog is a great way for both the owner and the dog to get exercise but don’t expect to go out and start a great run with your dog. Running with your dog takes preparation and training.
The following tips may help you decide if you and your dog are fit to go out for a run:

1. Physical capability:

Check with your veterinarian before starting your dog on an exercise program on that level. Running is not for all dogs! Some dog breeds suffer from hip dysplasia or are prone to knee and joint injuries. You really want to make sure your dog is fit and healthy to increase their exercise level and that also counts for you!

Short snouted breeds:

Some breeds are not made to run such as brachycephalic breeds (short snouted dogs such as boxers, bulldogs, pugs, etc). By nature these dogs have a tougher time breathing and because dogs cool off their bodies by panting, these breeds will have a much more difficult time cooling off their bodies and therefore are much more prone to overheating.

Young and old dogs:

Young dogs should not be run. You should wait until their bones are grown and depending on size and breed that may take anywhere between 6 to 18 months. When dogs get older they really don’t need that level of exercise. A hike or long walk should be more than enough. Senior dogs, 6 years or older, should decrease their amount of exercise at that level.
Right dog for running:

Some breeds are made for running if they do not suffer from any medical issues like Dalmations, Vizlas, Weimaraners, Rhodesian Rigdebacks, Jack Russel Terriers, Pit bull Terriers, German Shepherds, Spaniels, Border Collies, Siberian Huskies, Catahoula Leopard Dog, etc. If you are an avid runner and looking for a running companion you may consider one of the typical running breeds.

2. Gearing up:

Once you have your veterinarian’s okay the next step is to gear up. Not only for you but for you dog as well. Here is a list of things you should consider getting:
• Good running shoes
• Comfortable running clothes
• Gear to hold both your and your dog’s water
• Good running gear for your dog: harness and a 6 foot leash
Gearing your dog up with a doggie backpack is not necessary. The increase in exercise is more than enough! A harness is the best for running. A collar or the gentle leader can potentially be dangerous. A well fitted and comfortable harness is the right equipment for running. No pinch, prong or e-collars. Good exercise is the result of a positive experience, not a negative one.

3. Choosing the right surface:

Before you run wisely choose the surface you are planning on running on. You have the option of buying fancy gel filled shoes that absorb the shock of every step you take but dogs do not have that. Their soft pads may get injured fast and in the summer asphalt can burn them. Choose intelligently!

4. Condition your dog:

Like you, your dog needs to build up strength. If you are both starting from scratch make sure you make yourself comfortable in the runner’s world. You are basically becoming your dog’s personal trainer and your goal is to make your dog fit enough to join you. For you to reach that level you need to know about training yourself first! If you are already an avid runner you will have to introduce your dog gradually to the sport. A walk – run –walk is a great way to start. Gradually increase the duration of our running segments by shortening the walking segments of your training before increasing the amount of time you exercise in total. Don’t rush! Your dog needs to build up muscle tissue and strengthen its ligaments. Your dog needs a warm up just like you and as a human do not forget to stretch before and after your run. Like you, your dog may feel stiff and show signs of stiffness after your exercise.

5. Manners while running:

The first time you ever run with your dog you will most likely find yourself in an awkward position. You start your run and most dogs will happily join you by jumping up and down, pulling notoriously in a sled-dog manner and crossing your path every opportunity given. Your dog needs to learn on how to run. Not only condition wise but manner wise too. There is nothing more pleasing for a runner than having your dog graciously run at your side. If your dog already knows how to walk loose leash the step towards running loose leash will not be too problematic. If your dog doesn’t walk loose leash you may consider starting to teach him/her the trick of being by your side.


If your dog has a good recall and the area provides the possibility to run off-leash you are a lucky person. Please ensure that you are in a legal off leash area, there are no immediate dangers to your dog and you and ensure your dog responds immediately when called and is friendly with other dogs. You want to make sure you represent a responsible dog owner and you do not endanger other people, dogs, wildlife etc. We are loosing too many off- leash areas for our dogs as it is. If your dog doesn’t meet above mentioned manner criteria keep your dog on-leash until you have trained him/her properly. Gain respect by giving it!

6. Fun or no fun?

When out on a run you will still have to deal with your dog’s needs to explore its surroundings and to eliminate. With walks or hikes stopping to allow them to do those things is not a big disturbance for you but during a run the continuous stopping would not be pleasurable. However, taking the fun out of running would mean the dog may end up getting stressed and the running becomes an activity the dog may not associate with fun at all. Stop and allow the dog to sniff, explore and eliminate. While building up your running segments you could allow the dog to have its time during the walks. Continue the walks even if your running segments increase in time. Stop and have fun!

7. Water, water and more water:

Always bring water even if there is a water sources close by. Offer your dog water often, preferably every 2 or 3 miles. Your dog may not always want to drink but provide your dog the possibility to do so. Ensure your dog gets water before, during and after your exercise.

8. Overheating and hot weather:

Unlike humans dogs do not cool off their bodies by sweating. They have sweat glands but do not use them as such. Dogs cool off by panting and if the air is too hot, no shade is provided and/or the ground is burning you are setting yourself up for a disaster. Don’t run your dog when it is hot. Overheating is a serious condition and many dogs every year just die of overheating by being outside in the heat without the extra exercise. Watch for excessive panting (the tongue may become incredibly large-like a spoon), an increase in salivation, a drastically increase of the heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and red gums often go paired with signs of overheating. Stop immediately and cool the dog off. Last year a young pit bull was saved by a Ranger when they met by coincident. The young men running the neighbor’s dog thought she was fit enough to run. The Ranger cooled the dog off by putting her in his truck, turning up the air-conditioning and putting wet towels on her body and ensuring her body temperature would slowly go down. The dog got lucky and survived but a good intent could have turned lethal for this young dog if the Ranger had not shown up. Don’t expect someone to help you. Calling 911 will not bring you help. There are there to help humans, not dogs.

If your dog lies down end your exercise session. Dogs by nature will not show weakness and will continue to run even if they can no more. Watch your dog closely and if they show any signs of being tired or loosing the positive experience of your outing together STOP! Running with your dog is not about you but about your dog! His/her needs come first. You are making the decision to involve your dog into your activity then you have to listen to him/her.

9. Cleaning up after your dog:

Exercise stimulates pooping and in most places the law requires you to pick up after your dog. Ensure you bring bags along to remove your dog’s feces. Bio-bags preferably. Running with a stinky bag may not seem like your ideal outing situation with your four legged companion but picking up after your dog is a normal thing. Plan accordingly and make sure you can find a route that provides trashcans along the way if you don’t like running with a bag in your hand. Take Ziploc bags along if you have a backpack. Sealing off the bags avoids the spread of the smell in your bag.

10. Hiring a professional to run your dog:
A dog running business is a tricky business. The professional needs to be knowledgeable on the field of personal training, human and canine physiology and especially canine behavior. They should at least be up to date in dog cpr and first aid (refresher at least every two years).

Dog running businesses will provide you a training plan tailored to your dog. Your dog should be run alone and not with other dogs. The business should have requirements of their own when your dog joins their fitness program like a veterinary health waiver. Running is about your dog and not about the exercise the human runner gets!
Ensure the business has qualified staff that knows what they are doing. The dog runners should have the ability to read signs of stress, fatigue, tiredness and discomfort. The business should also provide you with a progress report. Businesses that use choke, prong or e-collars should be avoided. Punitive methods will make your dog’s running experience less pleasurable and you really just want your dog to have fun!

In the world of dog walkers ensure that the business you hire is a professional. They need to be licensed with the city, registered with the county if doing business under a fictitious name and have insurance. Make sure the insurance covers dog running as part of their services. If the business doesn’t meet above mentioned requirements stay away. Those are just the legal requirements to run a business. If those are not met you may want to look on!
11. Alternative to running:

If your dog is too young, too old or not made to run or if it is you that doesn’t meet the criteria: No worries! Hiking is a fantastic alternative for your dogs. You can join dog hiking clubs like the K9 Outdoor Adventure Club or hire a professional like The Dog Hikers:, Smilin’ Dogs:, Moeller Dog:, Yoga Dog: or See Spot Run (they do offer a running service too!), who will guarantee a incredible alternative to dog running around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Happy Running!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Puppy Nipping and Mouthing

I want to thank Sandi Pensinger for writing a great article on puppy nipping and mouthing. I always appreciate a good, honest and straightforward article by a fellow professional. Sandi is located in Santa Cruz and is owner and training director at Living with Dogs:

Check out her article: Puppy Nipping and Mouthing

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A 5-star review

Any business is incredibly happy when you receive a good review. We have made it our habit not to ask our clients to post a review. Reviews need to be authentic: honest and posted because you have made a difference in a person's life. A bad review is the same way. If you have had a bad experience let the business know first, then post if nothing is done about your complaint. I've done it before and some businesses respond and some don't.

Beyond Companions aka K9 Outdoor Adventure has 6 5-star reviews on Yelp. I don't like Yelp because of their way of doing business. Driven by commercial interest this business has hit the news in not the best way lately. I will not post the link to our review but I allowed myself to copy the review to post it to on our blog.

I want to thank Nikki W. for writing the review. Nikki from here I want to thank you for your review. It was really nice talking to you and I hope both you and your dog the very best. I wish you a Happy 2011!

Nikki's review:
"I emailed Outdoor Adventure (K9Consultant) because I was looking for a trainer to help me potty train an adult dog. It is a busy time of year for Nathalie and she was not able to directly help, but she called me to give me the names of trainers she recommends. She stayed on the phone with me for a long time giving me tips and advice on how to start the training process. I really appreciate the time she took to help out me and the new addition to my family! I hope to someday utilize her hiking service. It sounds like fun for the pups!"