Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Equipment matters!

Equipment matters!

Jen and I are constantly telling people that to train dogs properly, you need the proper equipment. That’s really true of any sport or hobby. It’s difficult to play tennis without a racket. It’s hard to sew without a needle. Don’t use a hammer when a pen will do. You wouldn’t go snowshoeing in flip-flops, would you?

Dog training is no different. You need the right tools for the job, and different dogs need different tools. The collar, and fit of that collar are important. Your prong collar MUST be backed up by a slip collar. Learning a long distance recall requires a long line. Yes, your dog’s accoutrements are very important to the training task at hand, but what about your gear?

Flip-flops do not make good point-walking shoes. Learning the heeling turns is much harder to do in Jimmy Choos, than Nikes. In cold weather, don’t forget your gloves. And when working with a long-line, WEAR JEANS or other long pants with heavy material.

Last Saturday, I took Haiku to a park to do some training around distractions. It was a hot day, and I had short capri pants on. She was wearing her harness and a 20ft long line. Haiku was doing great! She was flying towards me for recalls and her change of positions were flawless. Haiku is so strong, so agile so swift – people often stop to watch our training and comment on her speed and intensity. At only 30 pounds and four months old, she rivals most dogs in speed and agility. I was so engrossed with her performance, that I didn’t notice the woman and her large dog (on a flexi-line, weaving and pulling completely out of control) approaching us to ‘meet and talk to us’, until Haiku did.

Haiku was put off by the fact that this rude animal was barreling towards her, and she charged, barking in protest. She looped around my legs in the blink of an eye, and shot forward towards the offending aggressor. The long line tightened, ripping through the skin of both my legs.

I didn’t have to say anything to the woman. The look on my face told her everything she needed to know, and she abruptly changed direction. I assessed my wounds and returned to office to try to clean myself up.

Within two days I developed a raging infection. I will probably carry the scar for the rest of my life. I shutter to think of what would have happened, had the dog been one of my much bigger and stronger adult dogs and not my pup.

I probably would have walked away with nothing more than torn pants if I were wearing jeans. Luckily, I was working on a thick longline, but this is also the reason Jen and I HATE flexi-leashes for walking dogs. The cords on these devices are super thin. They can cut to the bone like cheese cords through brie. I can list 10 other reasons why the flexi-leash belongs waist deep in a land-fill, but suffice it to say it’s a dangerous, ineffective tool for outings around the neighborhood.

So, next time the pack and I venture out, I’m going to make sure that all of us, dogs and people, have the proper equipment for the job.

Lisa Lucero owns and trains at 5280 Hundesport LLC in Denver and is the contract competition trainer at Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge. You can contact her at