"Will my dog always need to wear its [training collar]?"
This is another one of those questions that seems to surprise dog trainers quite often. It's a lot like the 'normal walk' question addressed in my last post: Walkin' the Dog, and it has inspired another crazy-dog-trainer rant...ehrrr...post here from me.
So, how long after you finish training will your dog need to wear its training collar*?
(*For the words 'training collar' - you can insert any piece of training equipment - leashes, e-collars, training collars, muzzles, etc. - all depending on your individual dog. Some training equipment is designed to restrain, some is designed to train - but all must be used the right way until the dog is 100% reliable.)
I'd like to address this question with another question:
"If you're driving in the winter in Colorado, and you're lucky enough to have a four-wheel drive vehicle, how long after you learn to drive will you need to engage the four wheel drive in snowy weather?"
Under specific conditions, having four-wheel drive carries distinct advantages. Those advantages don't go away with time.
Likewise - even if you don't have four-wheel drive - having snow tires also carries a distinct advantage during our snowy Colorado winters.
And yet - no one has ever, in my entire life of living in Colorado - ever said to me, "When will the winter come that I don't have to drive more carefully, use my four wheel drive, or put on snow tires?"
If you are a responsible driver in the winter in Colorado, you drive prepared; because you know that at just about any time, you could be in a dicey, icy, snowy, or slushy mess.
Sure, during these super-hot, sunny summer days, most of us are not thinking about winter driving. That doesn't mean winter driving is going to pass us by in a few months.
In Colorado, snowy winters are a chronic condition.
Winter always comes back.
So what does this have to do with you and your dog and your training equipment?
Quite a lot, in fact. Whenever you step out into the world with your dog, you might encounter 'winter driving conditions'. Or if you know about what we call "The Goldilocks Rule", you'd say you're in a "Hot" training zone.
No matter how well trained your dog is, the simple truth is: You can't control every single thing in his or her environment.
- You might encounter other dogs who are NOT trained and in control.
- You might encounter wildlife.
- You might encounter people who don't know the appropriate way to interact with dogs (and recently, it seems there are a LOT of these people out there - but that is another subject for another day.)
So......Unless you have taken your dog to a level of complete & utter off-leash reliability, you just might need the extra control most pieces of training equipment offer.
At this point, I would hope it becomes clear why I feel frustration and disbelief every time I hear the question,
"How long will my dog need it's training collar?"
As a trainer, that question is just like asking if driving in the snow on balding tires is a good idea.
Because, let's face it - just like winter driving conditions in Colorado - being a dog is a chronic condition!
Sometimes they get over-excited.
Sometimes they get spooked.
Sometimes they get reactive.
Sometimes they even get aggressive.
Unless you know that your dogs is 100% bomb-proof under any and all circumstances, why would you chance 'driving without your snow tires'?
As a dog owner, you have two choices...or really, two responsibilities:
1. Either do the work it takes to get your dog to an absolute, 100% reliable, predictable level of training...a level of training so complete that your dog would respond to your every command immediately under any distraction.
2. Or, until that day comes, use the right equipment!
Because sometimes...it snows.
Jennifer Hime is the owner and training director of Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO. She can be reached through her website, at www.k9counselor.com.