Our Kuvasz, Sasha, is doing great. Big, beautiful puppy. Well ok… a 95# dog isn’t a puppy. 🙂
We took a lengthy hiatus from taking her on walks. She still got a lot of exercise playing with the kids, no worries there. But walks just didn’t happen for whatever reason. The main issue? Given her highly protective nature, it’s difficult to go walking at most times of the day. If too many other people are out, especially walking their own dogs, it just makes it difficult to get a successful walk in. Then it got hot, and between the hot pavement and too many lawns with burrs in the yard, walks just were not going to happen.
But a few weeks ago I started taking her on walks again. I’m up very early in the morning, so early morning walks are workable. Plus if I can get a good brisk walk in, that’s some amount of exercise for me… not huge by any means, but better than nothing and every bit counts right now. Yes, I’m trying to work this into my exercise strategy… like walk a bit as a warm-up, put her back inside, then drag the tire sled. We’ll see. I digress.
Plus, recently Sasha started to get a little too big for her britches, so doing some more rigorous training exercises helps her remember her place in the pecking order. Nothing bad, but again she’s got an alpha temperament and needs to remember that *I* am alpha, then comes the rest of the family, the cats, and so that puts her somewhere around lambda or maybe upsilon. 😉 So going on walks is good for that, especially since the walks aren’t just putting her on a leash and wandering around. No, there’s lots of commands, lots of leash control, lots of working on her self-restraint. BTW, she loves these Cloud Star Chewy Tricky Trainers Cheddar flavor. Excellent training treat.
In training, the collar is important. Not just so we can keep hold and control over her, but to provide Sasha with feedback. When we first got her, we took her to the Triple Crown Dog Academy. There they recommended we use their Pro-Training Collar (used to be called the StarMark, but I guess they recently changed the name). This was a tremendous help in Sasha’s early stages because we had to deal with a lot of her rehoming issues. She had to (re)learn her proper place in the pecking order. She had to learn what was appropriate and what was not. At the time, Triple Crown’s techniques were precisely what we needed — they were the “emergency” first aid to help get Sasha back where she should be. But long term, we needed someone who better understood and could take the time to work with her breed, her temperament, and her issues to best provide what we needed to operate in our environment and home.
The trainer we found and worked with (and I’ve covered elsewhere on my blog) was fantastic. If not for her we never would have made so much progress with Sasha, and Sasha wouldn’t be the happy pup she is. We are grateful for what we learned.
Certainly tho, the trainer didn’t like the Pro-Training Collar. Instead, she wanted us to get a martingale collar, pure nylon as one with a chain would just bind up in Sasha’s long fur. Of course, we did as she requested, but we always had reserve. The main reason? Choking. Sure they appear more humane than the “star” or a prong/pinch collar, but I’ve been around the block enough to know that appearances/cosmetics don’t correlate to utility or humaneness. I hated how we might have to snap the leash for reinforcement, and hearing Sasha gag and choke. Or we’d take her on a walk and she’d go a little too far and get gagged and cough. I just didn’t see that as being better. Think about it… what does the collar do? It constricts. Put your hands around someone’s neck… now sharply constrict and tell me that’s pleasant. Well sure, it’s supposed to be unpleasant, but let’s compare. Instead of using the flats of your hands around the neck, curl your fingers so just your fingertips are against the neck; now constrict your fingers. To me, that’s preferable. First, since the force is now directed to a few small points instead of flattened out across the entire length, the specific pain is sharper and more acute. But because of that, you need less total force to get your point across. Furthermore, now there’s no constricting against the windpipe. To me, that’s the big thing. I live in fear of crushing or collapsing her windpipe or causing some other damage to it — that’s going to be fatal, and it’s totally preventable.
And yes, I’ve put both collars on myself. I’ve felt them. I know what’s happening and what it feels like. I’d rather get the StarMark collar because well… I guess I don’t like the feeling of strangulation.
It doesn’t really matter to me the philosophy behind the “prong” collar. Some say it’s replicating the bite from a mother dog or the alpha dog to remind the other dog of their place. Some say it’s merely because it’s an uncomfortable or undesirable sensation that they just will learn to avoid. Even read this article from AKC advocating the prong collar. But whatever the reason, I just always thought the “star” collar was better: it was less problematic, and more effective.
Here’s the real testimony.
When I started walking Sasha again, of course I used the martingale. The one we have is about 1″ wide and pure nylon. It acts as her normal everyday collar… we never take it off, no reason to. I would use it, walk her, but management could be challenging at times. This is not atypical. She listens, the commands register, but sometimes her genetic programming takes over and she’s like “Yes, Dad, I hear you, but this thing is a threat and I need to let it know I mean business — stay away!” Sometimes I have to work the collar hard, but it doesn’t matter. Basically it winds up choking the dog and being a massive tug-of-war. It only serves to hurt the dog, and it’s not providing the necessary feedback. What good is that?
So about a week ago I pulled the StarMark collar back out. Instantly I saw a difference. Sure she got a few reminders at first, but after that wow… she knew. Whereas all of my “walks” were little more than going up and down our road, working on commands, keeping her “at my side” and working on basic leash stuff again… suddenly I was able to go around the block. In fact, this morning we did two laps around the block with almost no stopping nor correction, loose leash. It was fantastic.
Note that I don’t leave the collar on all the time. It’s only used when we go on walks or need to ensure proper reception of feedback. We’ll keep her martingale collar as her normal collar with her tags and everything, and we’ll still use that in a pinch if we need it.
I will say, a prong is not a panacea and is only a tool. Like any tool, it can be misused and abused. There’s no question some people do not know how to use such a collar in proper context. And I would also say that not every dog needs such a collar. So again, it’s all about proper tool selection, proper tool use. I cannot make a blanket statement of “use this collar” because it just depends upon each dog and each situation. But I can say at least for me and my dog and my situation? Oh yes.