This page outlines each training tool commonly used in our programs, as well as how it is used.
These are tools we use to restrict the dog’s ability to move and engage in unwanted behaviors.
Your crate is a confinement tool that restricts your dog's ability to engage in undesirable behavior. Your dog should ideally be crated any time you are not able to directly supervise them.
When you are able to supervise your dog but need both hands free, and as an intermediate step in allowing our dogs to earn more freedom, we utilize a short tether. The tether is also helpful when working with dogs in situations where they may behave aggressively, as well as to teach concepts to your dog that might otherwise require two people (like not jumping when a person approaches).
We use rewards as reinforcing consequences. That means that they increase the behavior that caused them to happen. These are given AFTER the behavior we want has happened and we marked it.
The clicker isn’t a reward, but it is used as a marker that predicts a reward. We sometimes utilize clickers instead of verbal markers for a few reasons:
It easily transfers communication to new handlers since the sound is the same no matter who is using it.
It provides more precision for detailed work because the sound is very fast.
Food is often a very good reward to use in training because every dog needs to eat. A dog that is “not food motivated” generally just doesn’t understand that they have to work for food. And why would they if it’s freely given all the time. We can raise the value of food rewards by withholding food for a while to make the dog hungrier, or by using a more palatable food. When using food rewards in training, we generally want to use small pieces that are fast and easy to consume so we don’t lose momentum in our training sessions.
Toys and playtime give your dog an appropriate outlet for using their mouth, which is natural for dogs. We use toys and play to help teach our dogs impulse control and the following commands: Out and Leave It. They also assist in resource guarding prevention. In our opinion, there are only two kinds of toys: interactive and pacifiers. Each has a specific role. We generally do not attempt to use toys in training until we have built a solid foundation using food and leash/collar pressure.
Pacifiers are toys that your dog gets to enjoy in solitude in the crate (or on “kennel” once that behavior is solid). They are things like nylabones, raw bones, and kongs. These are toys that your dog can use to entertain themselves when you cannot or do not want to interact with them directly. Pacifier toys should be large enough that the dog cannot close their mouth around them. So even for smaller dogs we use larger sized items. Pacifiers should be removed from the crate or the room if you are not within a distance where you can hear or see a potential choking hazard.
Interactive toys are those that are made out of man-made materials that are similar to all the things you don't want your dog chewing on in your house. Toys made of fabric, and leather, like tugs for instance. These toys are used to play with your dog in a structured fashion. They can be used as rewards in training, or just for fun. The most important things is that you present these to your dog, you control when the play starts and stops, and you put the toy away when the play is over. This way, your dog does not confuse when he or she is allowed to take similar objects in their mouth. Following these simple rules, especially for young dogs, can prevent many socks, underwear, and shoes from getting chewed up.
Verbal and physical praise are good rewards for dogs who are highly socially motivated (they care a lot about your interaction with them). They are also helpful as lower level rewards for many dogs in that they don’t get the dog as excited as food or toys which means they can keep working more easily. Praise should not be confused with reward markers. They are NOT the same thing.
We use certain tools as punishing consequences. That means that they decrease the behavior that caused them to happen. These are given AFTER the behavior we want has happened and we marked it.
Sometimes we will spray the dog with a stream of water after marking for an undesirable behavior. We generally try to aim for the face.
Sometimes we will throw a rolled up towel (appropriately sized for the dog) after marking for an undesirable behavior. We generally try to aim for the head.
The 6 foot leather leash is used for most of the foundational obedience work. We use leather leashes because they grip better and are more forgiving on your hands than a fabric leash. Brass or bronze hardware is important because the soft metal will deform rather than crack or sheer, and because it is rust proof. You can inspect such hardware regularly and tell whether failure is likely instead of having your equipment break when you need it most. You can clean and condition your leather leash with Saddle Soap (available at Walmart or Target).
Your 15 foot long line will be used to teach foundational attention exercises and when adding distance to behaviors like stays and recalls. It is also helpful as a drag line when transitioning to off leash work.
Light lines are used when we are transitioning the dogs to off leash work. They provide a measure of safety if needed but are not intrusive enough for the dog to notice they are wearing them. This gives the dog the feeling of being off leash, but allows us to still maintain control if needed.
Tabs and Drag lines
Tabs and drag lines provide handles for you to physically manipulate your dog if needed, but minimal enough that your dog is able to run off leash without getting tangled or tripped up. These items do not have thumb loops that can get caught on trees, bushes, and other obstructions.
Every training collar we use essentially works using the same concept: apply pressure to get the dog to do the right thing, and then release the pressure when that action has been completed.
If you use a chain slip collar, the links should be 3mm thick (typically referred to as "medium") and the collar should be just big enough to slide over the dogs head without having to push hard to get it on. Only use a smaller link thickness if they do not sell the length you need in 3mm. Herm Sprenger and Mueller are the only brands we recommend.
If you use a prong collar, the links should be 2.5mm thick (typically referred to as "medium") and the collar should be just big enough fit snugly at the top of the dog's neck just behind the ears and jaw. Only use a thicker linked collar if your dog is over 80lbs, and even then we most often recommend the medium since you will have a chain collar backup. Always use a backup collar when using a prong collar. Herm Sprenger and Mueller are the only brands we recommend.
Head halters function much in the same way that equipment on a horse would. A head halter allows us to control the dog more easily because we are only providing pressure against the smaller muscles that control the head rather than the stronger neck and shoulder muscles that a regular collar is working against. They can also be helpful at times because they close the mouth when pressure is applied. Head halters are most helpful for handlers with dexterity issues, dogs with reactivity issues, or for dogs who are much larger and stronger than their owners.
While the remote collar has its own separate category, it's important to understand that it functions essentially the same way as any other collar. You apply pressure in the form of stimulation using the remote, and stop applying that pressure (release) when the dog does what we want. The advantages to a remote collar are that it can provide timely pressure at a distance, and it can remove some of the physicality needed for a smaller handler to control a larger dog. Remote collars should be fitted in a similar manner to prong collars. Always use a secondary collar (chain collar or flat collar) to attach your leash. Never attach a leash to the remote collar.
Training platforms can be dog beds, training tables, cots, or any other surface that can be used as a destination. They help the dog understand where they should be, or where they should go. Elevated training platforms are helpful for teaching behaviors that would otherwise require you to bend over frequently.