Trust and Handling 2 - Collar Handling

In Part 2 of our trust and handling series, we dive into collar handling. A dog’s collar can be a really powerful training tool, as long as we introduce that training the correct way. There are lots of reasons we need to handle our dogs’ collars. Perhaps we need to take the collar on or off for bath-time or walk-time, perhaps we need to hold the collar to clip on the lead, or maybe we have one of those emergency situations out on a walk (like unexpected horses or cyclists) when we need to use the collar to lead our dog out of harm’s way. Whatever the reason, if your dog has calm and confident understanding of collar handling, life will always be easier.
The early stages of collar work are all about helping your dog have positive associations with approaching hands and then building those same positive emotions about the collar being touched and handled. This is done at the dog’s own pace, reading the body language to ensure we don’t move faster than the dog is happy with. This helps to create the useful ‘Collar and Feed’ behaviour, where your dog is happy to sit calmly whilst being held by the collar.

As collar handling progresses, Di demonstrates the use of Collar Sensitivity, where the dog understands to move calmly at the signal of gentle pressure on the collar. This is essential for loose lead walking and can transform the daily walk from a chore to a joy. Many animals, including dogs, have a survival instinct called the Opposition Reflex. It means that they are hard-wired to resist pressure and pull against it, and it’s essential for survival if they get trapped, allowing them to pull and wriggle until they free themselves. In order to build Collar Sensitivity we need to overcome this natural reflex and teach our dogs that, in the specific case of us putting pressure on the collar, they should not resist and pull against the pressure but rather move with the pressure. It’s a really powerful skill and one that will serve you well for the whole of your dog’s life. See more in the Trust and Handling Series.

If you’d like to get started with building trust in handling, an excellent resource is our Early Foundations Online Course includes 5 hours of essential training techniques. Or check out Di's Full Online Puppy Training Course

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