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  • Jennifer Damon

Food, Collars, and Training Techniques, Oh My!

As a new dog owner, the variety of canine accoutrements, methods of daily care, and training techniques can be quite overwhelming. Our knowledge of dogs has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 15 years thanks to behaviorists conducting research and people like Cesar Milan who have come into our homes via television to explain the inner workings of the canine mind. The dog accessory industry has kept pace with this newfound knowledge. Every few months, a new style of training collar or harness will hit the market and promise to be the next cure-all for dogs that pull on leash. There are hundreds of trainers writing hundreds of books. There are new videos and interactive toys and all kinds of different products to help with behavioral issues. And just try picking out a brand of food. Your vet will tell you one thing, your groomer another, and the guy at the dog park has his opinion as well. You can make yourself crazy trying to figure out what’s best for your pup. Now, just to add one more opinion to the pile, here are my thoughts: don’t stress about any of it.

There is no one correct way to train your dog. Go to the bookstore and grab a book on dog training or watch a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer. Pick up little tidbits here and there and always keep an open mind. What works for your neighbor’s dog, may not work for your pup. A good professional dog trainer will use a variety of methods from a host of sources because no two dogs are alike. We are very much like doctors in that we are given a problem, we diagnose it, and then prescribe the treatment that works most often. If that doesn't work, we go to plan B, or plan C. Feel free to look at your dog and his problems the same way and try not to get frustrated if it takes many tries to find the perfect remedy for your pup's issues.

There is also no perfect collar for walking your dog. You will hear people say that prong collars are cruel and that you should use regular chokers instead. You will hear people say to only use a halti or only use a harness. There is no correct answer here. I’ve actually taken a prong collar and tightened it around my neck to see if it was, in fact, cruel. It didn't feel like a silk scarf but it wasn’t damaging either. All of the collars mentioned above are safe for your training your dog to walk on leash. There is a phrase..”It’s the fool not the tool” and I think that applies to collars. My only note is not to use regular collars to walk dogs that pull because the force of them pulling can damage their windpipe. All of the other training collars discourage pulling and that’s really what you want so they don’t hurt themselves.

On the subject of food, buy something that looks nutritious. There is a great website called Dog Food Advisor that lists all the brands of dog food and treats and whether there have been any bouts of sickness or recalls associated with them. In general, it’s best to buy pet food from the pet store instead of the supermarket because the brands tend to be healthier.

Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy your dog. You are giving him the best life possible. Dogs are like little sponges that absorb our emotions. The last thing you want to do is actually cause a behavioral problem with your canine because you are consistently stressed about his care. Let your dog remind you how to relax and stop worrying. He’s an expert at it.

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