Tuesday, 12 December 2017

for tips, news & more.
Behavioural and
Rehabilitation Training




"Conditioning" means
changing behaviour
through learning.

There are two types of conditioning used in dog training:

  • Classical conditioning
    "learning by association"
  • Operant conditioning
    "learning by consequence"

See both these types of learning in action below.



 Jump to videos...


Basic Training
Skills Videos

Step by step How-To's
for teaching your dog
basic obedience

Exercises include:

  • Introduction to Training
  • Give attention
  • Collar Holds
  • Go to Mat
  • Sit
  • Drop
  • Stand
  • Recall
  • Loose Lead Walking
  • Stay
  • Play & Settle


Jump to videos...



How to fit and use the
most common types
of equipment.

Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to Equipment
  • Martingale Collars
  • Head Collars (Haltis etc)
  • Easy Walk Harness
  • Sporn Harness
  • Connectors & Double Ended lead



Jump to videos...



Conditioning Videos

Shaping a New Complex Behaviour in a Siberian Husky - Ashaki

Think huskies can't be trained?  Watch this!


This dog training video was prepared for the Delta CGC Instructor's course assignment "Conditioning Video 1" and demonsrates shaping a new complex behaviour ("Loop the Loop") by successive approximations using targeting. The training subject is Ashaki, a 7 year old purebred female Siberian husky. The trainer is Andrew Peterson.

Training was completed over a period of 2 weeks and involved 10 steps (approximations) commencing with conditioning to the bridge and ending with the final behaviour performed on vebal cue, "Ashi, Loop!"

Statistics from this video:
- Rewards given: 675
- Total duration of all training: 57 minutes (spread across many sessions)
- Approximations / steps used: 10
- Duration of each training session: average 20 seconds
- Total number of training sessions: 140 across 2 weeks
- Average time between rewards given: 5 seconds

The key strategies for success in dog training demonstrated by this video are:
- Train in short sessions and reward well and often (don't fade rewards too soon).
- The process of shaping relies on making progress in small incremental steps. No step is too small if the dog makes progress and is not frustrated.
- Training need only be an investment of a few hours, spread out over several weeks. Results can come quickly with the right methods.
- Use a bridge such as a clicker (that marks the desired behaviour, and bridges the time needed to deliver the reward) to accelerate learning.
- Notice the high number of rewards given (675) and the frequency of rewards (every 5 seconds). Most novice trainers under-reward their dogs at the start, which undermines the dog's motivation.

Use of a target (in this case a ping pong ball on a stick) is not essential in everyday training, but was a specific requirement of this assignment. Luring is a perfectly acceptable and equally effective alternative method for everyday pet dog training.


Training a New Complex Behaviour in a Chicken - Snowy

Conditioning works with almost all species - not just dogs.


This video was prepared for the Delta CGC Instructor's course assignment "Conditioning Video 2" and demonstrates the process of shaping a new behaviour in a species other than a dog (in this case a chicken) using targeting and successive approximations. The training subject is "Snowy", a 4 year old Bantam cross chicken. The trainer is Andrew Peterson.

Training was completed over a 3 week period and involved 9 steps (approximations) commencing with conditioning to the bridge, and ending with the final behaviour performed on visual cue (targeting circle presented offset from the archway).

Statistics from the video:
- Total duration of all training: 81 minutes (spread across many sessions)
- Approximations / steps used: 9

The key strategies demonstrated in this video are:
- Training sessions were deliberately calm from the outset because the training subject had a notable startle reflex to sudden movements and actively avoided the presence of humans. This needed to be overcome by progressively building trust in the training process.
- Train in short sessions and reward well and often (don't fade rewards too soon).
- The process of shaping relies on making progress in small incremental steps. No step is too small if the subject makes progress and remains interested in training.
- Use a bridge (clicker) to mark the precise moment the training subject performs the desired behaviour as this will accelerate learning.
- Use high value rewards to motivate the training subject, in this case fresh sweet corn (instead of dry grain)
- Ignore 'mistakes' made by the training subject, i.e. don't reward them and don't attempt to 'correct' them. There is never a need to correct mistakes and it's better to move on and ask the subject to perform the action again, or lower the criteria to help the subject succeed. Use of correction or punishment in training can build fear, avoidance and even aggression in the training subject.

The use of a target (in this case a painted circle on a stick) is recommended for species that would otherwise be hand shy, or where the safety aspect of holding food in your hand is a concern. Luring is a perfectly acceptable and equally effective alternative method for everyday pet dog training. 

Basic Training Skills

Introduction to Basic Training Skills



Hello and welcome to the Training Skills Video assignment as part of the 2010 Delta Society CGC Instructors Course. My name's Andrew and in the next series of clips I'll be demonstrating some of the training methods recommended by Delta for all pet dog owners. My training subject's going to be Lizzie. She's a 2 year old black and white female Siberian husky and she was saved from euthanasia at a Sydney pound by Husky Rescue and she'll be with me for fostering and re-homing, and as part of that she'll hopefully get some training too. So she's fairly typical of the kinds of dogs that we see, she knows a couple of things but she's largely untrained, and I think one of her biggest challenges is going to be patience. When Lizzie first came to us she was very much underweight and had a few health issues but she's recovering now and so to try and keep her interested and motivated in training I'm going to be using some very high value training rewards, in this case BBQ chicken, which is one of the few things that Lizzie has shown she really likes.

So one of the first things I'll be doing is conditioning Lizzie to a bridge, and that's something I can then use later in training to show Lizzie the exact moment that she's done what I've asked. In this case my bridge is going to be a Black Dog i-click clicker, and to teach Lizzie the meaning all I'm going to do is click and then reward.
For this part of the training it doesn't matter what Lizzie's doing, all I'm doing is building an association between the click of the clicker and the delivery of a food treat, in this case BBQ chicken.
What I'm looking for in using the clicker is for Lizzie to recognise the sound and come to expect that food will follow.
So we'll do this for a few training sessions and then come back.

When we're training, one of the most important things is to be prepared, so for all these sessions I'll be dressed appropriately, with long pants and enclosed shows, and I've got a couple of pieces of training equipment as well, including a treat pouch with a plastic liner where I've got my BBQ chicken, and of course my clicker which I'm using as a bridge. A clicker's not the only thing that I can use as a bridge. I could for example use this dog whistle which I'd teach Lizzie in exactly the same way as the clicker.
If I want to start a training session, I should check that Lizzie's also willing to work, and to do this I can just offer her some of the treats that I've got, and if she takes them then that's usually a good sign that she's also interested in training. "Lizzie, would you like some?"
And I'll also want to keep my training sessions short, maybe 5 or 10 seconds but certainly no longer than a few minutes, and at the end I'll need to give Lizzie a cue that we've finished and that she can go off and play, and to do this I'd just go, "Off you go!"

Give Attention



The first thing we're going to do is teach Lizzie to give attention, and there's two ways that we can do this. The first is just to call her name and as soon as she makes eye contact, we can bridge and reward.

The second way to teach attention is to teach eye contact, and to do this I can use a lure like a piece of BBQ chicken, and I'll take it from her nose to my eyes, and if she holds the eye contact I can bridge and reward.
So I'm still using a lure at this stage, and she's following the movement of my hand obviously to watch where the BBQ chicken ends up.

Now I'd like to introduce my verbal cue, which in this case is going to be, "Watch Me!" So if she's comfortable following the movement of my hand, I no longer need my BBQ chicken in my hand and I can reward her afterwards. So let's try this. "Lizzie, Watch Me"

Collar Holds



The next thing we're going to show Lizzie is how to accept being held by her collar, and this is really important because in an emergency we may need to reach out and grab her to prevent her from running into danger. Not all dogs enjoy being held, maybe they've had bad experiences in the past, so it's important to start very slowly and get her used to the idea that me holding her collar is actually a good thing. I'm oing to use a number of approximations to do this, starting with just reaching for her collar without even making any contact.

Now that she accepts this, I'm going to reach out and touch her collar.

After this, I can hook one finger under her collar.

Because she's doing really well with this, I can now put my whole hand under her collar and see if she'll accept that.

Now I'll hold her collar for several seconds.

Next, I'm going to try clipping a leash onto her collar.

Finally, I'm going to try to lead Lizzie by her collar, but I already know Lizzie's got a sensitivity to this, so to help her with the training, I'm going to reintroduce a lure so that she starts to move without needing to feel the pressure on her collar.
Each time I'm increasing the pressure on her collar slightly, so that she gets used to me handling her, and pulling her forward just by her collar.
Now that she's performing the action, I can try it without he lure and see if she'll just follow my hand.

And eventually, with practice, I'll be able to drop the hand gesture and just use my hand on her collar.

There's some other things we can show Lizzie too, including being held by the scruff of the next. For this one I'm going to introduce a verbal cue called "Gotcha!"

Go To Mat



In this next exercise, we're going to show Lizzie how to move to her mat and then settle on it. I'm going to start from right next to the mat and just ask her to take a step onto it.
If she's got no problems with that, then the next step is to lure her onto it and then sit.
And, if she's comfortable with that, I'll try for a down, or a drop, on the mat.
I'm going to give her a jackpot because that was a very good effort.

Having done that I'm going to start to extend the duration that she stays on the mat, just for a few seconds. And I'm going to introduce the verbal cue "On Your Mat." And to keep her on her mat, I'm just going to keep rewarding her for staying there.

After a few practice sessions, we might be ready to start trying it with just the gesture and the verbal cue. And we'll just stay here for a few seconds.

As an extension, I'm going to see if I can get Lizzie to go to her mat on a completely different type of surface, in this case a pillow bed, and I'm going to start off with a lure again just to get her going.
And, we'll see if we can get her to sit and then down.




In this next exercise, we're going to teach Lizzie to sit. Now it's something somebody must have taught her before because she already knows what the word means, but because she's not very reliable, we're going to consider her training incomplete and start again from scratch.
So to show Lizzie how to sit, I'm going to use a lure, which is a piece of food, and all I need to do to prompt her is to take the food from her nose, up and back over her head, which will prompt her backside to sit down.
All I'm doing at this stage is luring her, and I can introduce the verbal cue later on.

After only a few times practicing this, Lizzie will come to recognise the movement of my hand as a gesture, and this means I no longer need to have food in it, all I need to do is keep the same movement, and Lizzie will give the same response. This is called "fading the lure" and it's important because it means Lizzie won't be dependent on me having food in my hand to still respond.
Notice that my gesture's very similar to what I started with, which is an upturned palm, and Lizzie will come to recognise this particular hand shape as meaning "Sit."

I can also introduce a verbal cue for this behaviour. My original cue was the movement of my hand, but to introduce a verbal cue like "Sit", all I need to do is say it at the same time I'm giving the hand gesture.

Now I'm going to fade the hand gesture, so that Lizzie learns to respond just to the word, "Sit". I need to work gradually and with each repetition make less of a gesture, until eventually I'm not making one at all. I keep my verbal cue the same each time.

Drop (Lie Down)



Now that she knows how to Sit, we can teach Lizzie to drop or lie down, and I've chosen to start training this on a surface that she already likes, which is the grass in the back yard. There's several ways to teach a Drop and the first way I'm going to show is using the L-shaped or "Nose to toes and out it goes" method. I'm going to start with a lure and I'm going to train it in several steps, the first being just to get Lizzie to follow my hand from her nose down to the ground between her feet. We're going to start in a Sit position. So as long as she follows the lure, I'm happy with that and I can reward her.

The next step is to encourage her to lie down, by pulling the lure slightly forward from her feet, after she's followed it.

And now we can start to fade the lure but keep the gesture.

And after a few more practice sessions, Lizzie's really getting the hang of it.

And now I'm ready to introduce my cue word, which in this case is, "Drop."

The second method we can use to teach Drop is called the Fold Back or Curl. To do this we take a lure from Lizzie's nose down to her feet, and then either back in towards her chest or around to the side.




Well, we've come inside today because it's a bit too wet outside, and we're going to teach Lizzie to Stand, and this is very useful when we're grooming or at the vet's, any time there's a part of Lizzie's body we need to examine. So to teach Lizzie to stand, we're going to start in a Sit position and lure her with a piece of food held at her nose and then drawn forward, so that we can bridge and reward as soon as she stands.

Now that she understands the gesture, I can fade the lure, and keep the gesture, then bridge and reward her as soon as she's stood. I need to be very quick with the delivery of the food, so I've pre-prepared some treats in my left hand, because she's developed an automatic sit, and if I don't get the food to her quickly enough after bridging, then she's likely to sit again and I'd prefer her to stand at this stage of her training.

The next thing to do is to start extending the duration of the Stand, up to about several seconds. I've still got food in my left hand here, so that I can still deliver the treats quickly to start with.

So far, we've only been teaching Lizzie to stand in this situation, in this room. So although it might work well here, it may not work so well when we take it outside, to the back yard, on walks or even at the vet's. To help Lizzie understand that Stand still mean Stand even in these different situations, we need to help her generalise the behaviour, and this means showing her that the cue has the same meaning even in situations other than the one in which it was learned.
Helping Lizzie to generalise the cue to stand means practicing it in lots of different circumstances. I could dress differently, I could give her the cue while standing up, sitting down, lying down, I could practice in different situations like in the back yard, the front yard, the living room here, the car, at the park, at the vet's, even at friends' places. And I could change other things, like practice on different surfaces, try asking her to stand while she's on a table.
Because each of these situations represents a different challenge for Lizzie, I've raised the criteria for her, and this means I may need to go back a few steps with training, to lure her again if needed.
I also need to watch closely for any signs of stress because I don't want to over-challenge her and I still want her to have a positive association with each situation in which I'm teaching her to Stand.
Once I've completed my training with her to Stand, other people need to do so as well, so I'd ask family, friends, the vet, people I meet on the street, also to help me to teach her to generalise her Stand.
With a lot of practice, she'll come to learn that the cue to stand means Stand regardless of who gives it, where it's given, or what she's doing at the time.

Recall (Come when called)



Recall is a really important safety behaviour, so to teach Lizzie to come when called, we're going to start by asking her to come to her food bowl. I'm going to place some treats in the bottom which will be her reward when she does.

Now that Lizzie's learned to come to the food bowl, the next step is to teach her to come just to the sound of my call. I'm going to start this in an area where there's no distractions, and let Lizzie's attention wander, then I'll call her back, and when she comes back I'll either bridge and reward or praise her and play a short game like tug-of-war.

Now I'm going to introduce some distractions, and keep practising. I've allowed my dogs to come out onto the back patio, where Lizzie can plainly see them, and she's certainly interested. I'm going to call Lizzie back, and this will teach Lizzie recall even in the face of some distractions.

The next step is to add a collar hold once she's come back to me. And this is so that at the dog park, when I've called her back and reached for her collar, she doesn't automatically take it as meaning "end of all the fun" and so tries to avoid it.

So far I've only been practicing recall in the back yard, where there's fences all around to keep Lizzie safe. Of course I'll need to practice in unfenced areas too, and in these places, not only because Lizzie's required to be on lead, but also for her safety, I'd want to have a light line attached to her of several metres in length, so that I'm connected to her at all times. With the light line attached, to practice recall, I could allow her to wander to the end of the line, and then call her back and bridge and reward as normal.
I'd need to do lots of practice particularly in environments with increasing distractions. But with work and time, eventually I can try letting her off leash in a dog park and practicing recall there. The goal is to be able to call her back from across an open park, even with other dogs around.

Loose Lead Walking



To demonstrate how to teach a dog to walk on loose lead, I've chosen my dog Ashi as the training subject, and although she's already had training not to pull, she doesn't know the exact steps I'll be demonstrating here, so this will be new for her.
Teaching a dog to walk on loose lead means teaching them to move with you instead of rushing off and pulling in any direction. The first step is to choose the right equipment and there's a variety of recommended items, but the ones I'll be using here are a Martingale or limited slip collar, which has already been sized for Ashi, and an ordinary single ended leash.

When we're training for loose lead walking, the lead needs to stay slack at all times and it's actually only meant to act as a safety net, in case Ashi's tempted to wander away - or run off. Once we've fitted Ashi's leash and collar, the next step is to teach her to follow me as I move randomly about the yard, by bridging and rewarding her for following me and staying close. I need to make sure there are no distractions around for this as I'll need Ashi's undivided attention.

I'll start with short steps and work up to random movements of different lengths at different speeds. If at any time I lose Ashi's attention I need to get it back by calling her name or saying Watch Me, or I could introduce a new cue like 'This way' which I could then use on my walks.

("This way!")

Now that Ashi is able to follow my movements, the next step is to teach her to walk in step with me. I'll start with some random 'This Way' practice, and then take some individual steps forward, making sure the leash stays loose, and bridging and rewarding Ashi when she follows me. I can then start taking several steps at a time and moving in different directions, which are approximations for the final behaviour I'm after where Ashi keeps pace with me on lead, regardless of where or how I move.

If Ashi rushes forward or heads away from me and starts to pull, I need to make sure I don't reward that. If she pulls I need to stop immediately, stand completely still and "Be a tree", holding the lead securely at my waist. I then need to wait for her to stop pulling, and for the lead to go slack at which point I can bridge and reward. If she doesn't stop pulling then I need to take a sideways step and encourage her to come back to me, but I must never pull her back by force.

If Ashi really refuses to stop pulling, maybe because there's something particularly interesting ahead, then I need to turn around and start heading in the reverse direction. Once again I can step out to the side and lead Ashi around or use a front attach harness or head halter to help turn her around but I must never drag her back, jerk the lead or turn her around by force. Once Ashi comes back to me and the lead goes loose, I can bridge and reward, and then set off again in my original direction again.




In this next exercise, we're going to teach Lizzie to stay, which means 'remain where you are' and 'hold the position'. The position I'm going to choose for Lizzie is a Sit. And the cues I'm going to use are the word "Stay", and a hand gesture like 'stop'.

With this behaviour, as with everything we're teaching Lizzie, we need to work on the Three D's, which are Duration, Distance and Distractions. Duration's important because we want Lizzie to be able to hold the position for more than just a fraction of a second, and we also want to be able decide when to release her. Teaching Duration also helps promote attention and patience in Lizzie.

To teach Duration, all we're going to do is ask Lizzie to hold the position for a little longer each time before we bridge and reward.

With practice, we'll work up to durations of 10, 20, 30 seconds or more, and it's a good idea to practice for durations longer than you think you'll need, so that when you do want the behaviour, it's reliable.

While Lizzie's definitely making progress with the duration of her stay, here in the back yard she's still losing attention even when there's small movements or noises. So to demonstrate a long duration stay here in the yard, I've chosen my dog Ashi, who's a 7 ½ year old Siberian husky female.
Of course Ashi's already clicker trained so I don't need to condition her to the bridge.

The second part of the Three D's is Distance, and that means that we want Ashi, or any dog, to be able to hold the behaviour while we move away from her, or to be cued for the behaviour from a distance. So I'm going to demonstrate with Ashi, I'm going to ask her to stay and then walk slowly around her, and then walk away from her.

The third part of the 3 D's is Distractions, and this means teaching Lizzie to still pay attention and still respond to a cue, such as Stay, even when there are distractions around. We should always start training new behaviours in an environment where there are no distractions, and once Lizzie has mastered a cue there, we can start training in other locations where there are more distractions around. Over many training sessions we gradually raise the level of distractions until she's able to respond to the cue in places like the dog park where there's lots of activities and lots of things to distract her attention.

Play and Settle



Now Lizzie's certainly a high energy dog and she loves to play, but what's important is to be able to control that by showing her an invitation to play and also being able to settle her down quickly when needed.
Now one of the reasons I'm crouching down like this is with these toys here, and with Lizzie's habit of jumping up, if I were standing up she'd be all over me.
Some of the toys I've got with me today are a rope bone which is great for tug-of-war if I want to, just a rubber ball that I can throw for Fetch, a Kong which I could stuff and which she could play with by herself, and Lizzie's favourite, a rubber ball on a rope -- great for throwing and great for fetching.

Now being a very active dog, Lizzie's favourite activity is running, so we're going to start with inviting her just to play a little bit of fetch, or at least chasing of some of the balls.

Let's start with one of Lizzie's favourite toy which is the rubber ball on a rope, and I can use that for tug-of-war or fetch. To invite Lizzie to play all I'm going do is show it to her and use a happy tone of voice saying, "What have I got??" She really loves this toy.

Now to get her to settle again, I'm going to change the tone of voice to being nice and calm, and I'm going to ask her to do something that's nice and calm as well, which is just Sit.
And I can reward for that.
Now one of the toys I showed before is just an old piece of rawhide, but actually I wouldn't choose to use this as a toy at all because Lizzie's shown she can be a bit food possessive, so the combination of her mouth, my hands and this piece of food close together is not a good idea. We'll be putting this away for now, and focusing on some other toys.

As well as running around, Lizzie also really likes this rope bone, which I can use for tug-of-war. Normally before I use something like this I'd want to have taught her a reliable "Leave It" meaning "Let Go". But I haven't done that yet, so to end our play sessions, all I'm going to do is switch my energy off, which will switch her energy off, and I'll be asking her to sit. To invite her to play, I'm just going to wave it at her and use my happy voice to say "What have I got???" And to switch it off, "Sit!"

Not bad for a first try.
And we can give her a jackpot for that one, that was very good.

And of course Lizzie loves to just chase things, so to get her to play with this ball, all I have to do is throw it.

Another type of play Lizzie likes is chasings, and after I've invited her to play all I need to do is entice her to run.
And because this gets her so worked up, at the end of this, I'm going to take a few minutes just to sit her down, massage her, calm her down, and that will be the end of play.

Equipment Videos

Introduction to Equipment



Hello and welcome to the Equipment Video assignment as part of the 2010 Delta Society CGC Instructors Course. My name's Andrew and in the next series of clips I'll be demonstrating how to fit and use some of the more common collars and harnesses used in dog training. My helper today is going to be Sam, and he's a 9 year old Siberian husky who's looking fairly relaxed right now. Now Sam's already used to most of the items I've got here, but I still won't be trying to demo everything on him, partly because he's actually nearly blind and so doesn't really like objects near his face or eyes, but also because it's important that any dog we're working with be perfectly comfortable with the training situation, and all of this is going to be too much for Sam. It's the same for any dog, and when we're introducing some new equipment to our dogs, they may tolerate the experience the first time, but it's unlikely that they'll actually enjoy it. So our job is to try and make the whole experience a positive one from beginning to end, and we do that by conditioning them to each new activity or experience, before we try putting it into daily use. Conditioning here just means associating everything we're doing with something positive for our dogs, usually by offering food. So, I've got my treat pouch here and I'll be offering Sam some tasty treats throughout.
Conditioning is also something we have to do very slowly and one of the most common mistakes is to rush it and move too quickly for the dog. If we were to do this, we'd probably just end up stressing the dog or turning them off the activity for life. So to avoid any chance of that happening we always need to start at a nice easy level that our dogs will tolerate really well and sometimes that means just getting them used to the presence of items, like I'm doing here - before we even pick one up or try to fit it. So rather than jumping in in the first session and trying to fit a Halti to Sam, we'd work in small steps over many sessions and build up to having Sam accept it being both fitted and removed. And at every step we need to make sure we didn't do anything that frightened or stressed him. In the end what we're really looking for is a dog who trusts us and wants to participate in everything what we're doing because they're enjoying it, and not a dog that's reluctant or backing off.
In the videos that follow I'll be pointing a few of the specific conditioning steps we need to follow for each equipment item, before we can start putting it into daily use with our dogs.

Martingale Collars



The first item I'm going to fit to Sam is called a martingale or limited slip collar, and I've got two types here, this one's made entirely from fabric, and this one has a small chain that's used to draw the loop closed. They're just different types of construction but I prefer the fabric ones cause they tend to work a bit more smoothly. The collars have a small amount of travel and can open up or close in, and the idea is that they'll slip easily over your dog's head when you're putting them on, and then when you attach a lead they'll draw in slightly to give a better fit around the neck, and that means that the collar will slip off less easily than other types. Martingales are useful for dogs that have narrower heads or where the head and neck aren't much different in size because for those dogs, ordinary collars tend to slip off more easily, especially if the dog tries to back out of them.
One of the disadvantages of martingales though is that the dogs may react badly when we first try to put them on, because the whole thing has to go over their head and that can be a bit confronting or uncomfortable. So it's critical that we condition our dogs to accept having these collars fitted, and to do that we start with the collar opened up so it'll slip easily over the ears, and then we lure our dogs to poke their head through using some treats. Good boy. Again we'd work gradually and over many sessions until our dogs were willing to push their head through, whenever they saw the collar. Taking the collar off is just the reverse, we just need to remember to work gently. And I can reward Sam just for holding still. Let's put that on again. If Sam showed any signs of disliking the collar despite my conditioning attempts, I'd either have to condition him in much smaller steps or double check the collar size, or maybe even rethink whether a martingale was right for him at all.
Martingales do have to be sized properly too, otherwise they actually risk choking the dog when the collar's pulled closed by the lead. And the collar should fit snugly, when it's at its tightest setting, but never tight enough to choke the dog. And a good guide is to still be able to get one finger under the collar when it's at its tightest. When fitting a martingale for the first time, always start with the collar at its loosest setting too, and then adjust in from there, using this buckle. That's pretty good for Sam.
So once the collar's been conditioned and sized and fitted, we just need to clip the lead onto the D ring, and we're ready for a walk. Good boy Sam.

Head Collars (Gentle Leader, Halti)

NOTE: Use of this equipment is not recommended without the assistance of a qualified instructor.  Instructions are provided for information only.


Head collars like this Gentle Leader or this Halti can be useful when working with dogs who've already got a strong habit of pulling on lead, but they can take a bit of skill to use. They're mostly recommended whilst also teaching the dog polite walking habits, and not as a substitute for loose lead manners.
And the idea of a head collar as opposed to an ordinary one, is that because they're fitted high on the head, they help to turn the dog using only minimal force from the handler. And turning is a great antidote to pulling on lead, because our goal is to teach our dogs to stop struggling forward, and instead to turn and follow us as we move about, and that staying close by to us is most rewarding place to be. It's generally easier to turn a dog by their head than by their body because, no surprise, where the head goes the body will follow, but also the muscles of the head and neck are nowhere near as strong as those of the legs. But, when using a head collar of any kind we do have to be careful not to use anything more than light pressure because doing so would risk serious injury to the neck or spine.
All head collars have a collar or neck part and a nose or muzzle part. And we always start by fitting the collar first. Buy a size that suits your particular breed, and obviously get the help of the shop assistant if needed. With the Gentle Leader, we start by undoing the clasp and placing it around the dog's neck with the nose part under the chin. The collar should be fitted high on the head, under the chin and near the ears, not in the middle or down near the shoulders. And the fit should be snug but not tight so that you can still get a couple of fingers underneath. The nose loop is designed so that the ring sits underneath the dog's chin, and the nose should pass through the loop, like this. So once the collar's been sized, to put it on, lift the nose loop, place the dog's muzzle through, and do up the collar at the back.
The nose loop should sit just forward of the dog's stop, which is at the base of their nose, and the toggle should help take up any slack. The dog still needs to be able to open their mouth with the nose loop on, but the goal is to stop the nose loop slipping down and over the end of the nose, and always be sure to check this before going on a walk. Taking the collar off is just the reverse. Loosen the toggle, undo the collar, and lift it off the dog's nose.
Fitting a Halti is very similar, and again we start with the collar. Hold the collar upright so that the ring on the nose loop is at the bottom, and undo the collar and place it around the dog's neck. Notice that we're not using the nose part here at all, we're just fitting the collar. Again the collar needs to fit high, and snug, but still be able to get a couple of fingers under. So once it's been sized, to put it on, we pass the dog's muzzle through the nose loop and do up the collar at the back. Notice that there's no toggle on the nose loop with the Halti, and the reason is that this chin strap will help stop the nose loop slipping off the end of the nose.
Regardless of which type of head collar type we're using we have to make sure to condition our dogs to accept wearing them first, otherwise they'll quickly learn to detest having them put on. We can condition them the same as with any collar by first letting our dogs get used to their presence, and then luring our dogs to put their nose through the collar, and then finally rewarding them for accepting having the collar fitted for just a few seconds, and working up to a few minutes. Only after lots of sessions and when our dogs are keen to poke their noses through themselves, and have accepted wearing it for many minutes, should we try using a head collar on a walk.
Now whichever head collar we have, it's also important to recognise they are not as secure as an ordinary collar or harness, so to ensure we stay connected to our dogs we either need to use a connector or a double ended lead, and we'll look at these items separately, in another video segment.

Easy Walk Harness



This harness is called an Easy Walk and it's a type of front attach harness, which means that there's a loop here at the front where you attach the lead rather than at the back. Front attach harnesses are really good for helping turn dogs when you're out on a walk, which is part of good loose lead habits. But this harness is also good with dogs that can be reactive because it doesn't place any pressure on the neck or the head which can be trigger points for some dogs.
When you get an Easy Walk, make sure it's sized properly for your dog's girth, which is the distance around their middle here, and you can either measure them in advance, or take your dog to the store and have the assistant help.
The harness itself has three parts. There's a chest strap around the front with a martingale loop, again where you connect the lead. There's a back strap which goes across their shoulders made in the same colour. And there's a belly strap that goes underneath and joins up with the back strap to form a loop.
To fit the collar [I meant to say 'harness'!] for the first time, start by undoing both buckles, and then loosening the chest strap using these two adjustments here. Then take the back strap, which is the part without the D ring, and drape it across your dog's back and clip it into the buckle of the same colour. Sam, Stand. Good boy. What you're looking for is to adjust the length of the back strap so these two side rings, one on each side, end up just above and slightly behind your dog's shoulder. Now to find your dog's shoulder, you can trace from their elbow, up towards their head until you feel the point, and the point of Sam's shoulder is about there. Again these rings need to be above and slightly behind that point. Come around Sam. Good boy.
Once the back strap's adjusted, you can clip up the belly strap, and shorten it so that the loop that's formed is firm but not tight.
Now we can adjust the chest strap. Shorten it, so that the chest strap doesn't hang or sag, but also not so tight that it pulls these side rings forward. You also want to adjust it evenly on both sides so that the martingale loop remains in the middle, and that this D ring ends up centred directly over your dog's breastbone, which is the point you can feel in the front of your dog's chest.
Well I think this fit's looking pretty good on Sam and so all that's left is for me to clip on the leads. Now I'd want to use a double ended lead with this harness, and I'd attach one end to Sam's collar, or to a loop on the back of the harness if there was one, and I'd use this to prompt him to slow down if we were stopping, or for safety. And I'd attach the other end to the loop on the front of the harness and I'd use that to turn him while we were out on a walk. After all, that's the reason that we're using this harness in the first place. With both ends of the lead attached, we're ready to go for our walk.
Now one thing to look out for with this harness is that because it fits in so close under the arms, chafing can be a problem. So if you see any signs of discomfort while you're out on a walk, you can just readjust the chest strap to move the belly strap back, or if you have any problems, talk to a qualified instructor for help. Good boy.

Sporn Harness

NOTE: Use of this equipment is not recommended except on advice of a qualified instructor.  Instructions are provided for infomation only.


The Sporn harness is a type of back attach harness and all that means is that the lead clips onto the ring here at the back. The harness works by applying pressure under the dog's arms whenever they pull forward and that pressure causes slight discomfort, which obviously discourages them from pulling further. The harness doesn't do well to help turn dogs though so it isn't considered a good substitute for teaching good loose lead habits, but it does work, and it can help curb really ingrained pulling behaviour especially with larger dogs.
The harness has three main parts. There's a loop that works like a collar and goes around the dog's neck with a buckle at the back, and then two arm straps that go one under each arm and join up with the collar at the front. Each arm strap also has a padded sleeve that helps protect the dog from injury, and a toggle at the back that's used to adjust their length.
Before fitting a Sporn harness for the first time, it's a good idea to take the arm straps including the padding out completely, and you can do this by just passing the whole lot through the large D rings at the back.
This collar part then needs to be fitted to the dog, so that it's firm but not tight, and make sure to make equal adjustments on both sides so that the collar stays centred.
Before putting the arm straps back on, make sure that they're both equal length, and that this toggle is as far up towards the ring as it will go. Then pass one arm strap through each D ring at the back, on each side. And pass them under each arm, and join them up with the smaller D rings on the collar at the front. There we go. Now take up any slack, by adjusting this toggle at the back, but never make the arm straps tight. Lastly, it's critical for us to check that the position of the padding is directly under the dog's arms on both sides, because this is what protects them from injury in that very sensitive area, like chafing and cuts when the harness is in use.
The lead clips onto the ring at the back of the harness so that any tension in the lead becomes pressure under the arms. And with this harness, you'd want to use a double ended lead with the other end attached to a regular collar because these arm straps are not designed to be as strong as a regular harness.
Taking the harness off is just the reverse of putting it on, and you undo the arm straps at the front, unbuckle the collar at the back, and lift everything off over the dog's head. Sam Come. Good boy.
Well this fit looks pretty good for Sam, so with two ends of the lead connected, we're ready to go for a walk.

Connectors & Double-ended Leads



So far we've looked at martingale collars, head collars and front and back attach harnesses. And one of the problems that keeps coming up is that some of these items are not as strong or secure as we'd like them to be. Well that's where a connector or a double ended lead can come in very handy.
A connector is just a short joiner with clips on either end, and it can be used to join any two D rings together. The most common use is to join two collars, such as a head collar and an ordinary flat buckle collar together, so that let's say the head collar came off, well the lead that was attached to it would still stay connected to the dog, via ...the connector. Some head collars are actually sold with connectors in the pack, but for safety even if they're not, we'd always want to use at least a connector, or even better, a double ended lead. So check with your local pet store for what they have in stock.
The connector I'm using may look heavy but it's actually surprisingly light at only 50 grams. And weight is important because we don't want to weigh the collars down or interfere with their operation, but the connector still needs to be strong enough to be secure. So always go for one that's both sturdy, but light.
Now because Sam doesn't enjoy wearing head collars, to demonstrate the connector, I'll use my demo dog to join a Halti to a regular collar. And all I do is connect one end to the ring of the Halti, and the other end to the D ring of the collar. Now always remember that when you're connecting the lead, you're going to connect it to the Halti and not to the ordinary collar, because this is what you'll be using to turn your dogs out on walks.
A double ended lead is just as the name suggests, it's a lead with a clip on both ends. And the idea is that one end, usually with the sturdier or heavier clip, attaches to an ordinary collar or harness, and is used to prompt the dog if we're slowing down to stop, or for safety. And the other end with the lighter clip attaches to the head collar or front attach harness, and is used to turn the dog.
So I can demonstrate here with Sam, who's wearing a flat buckle collar and an Easy Walk, and I'll just join him up.
Now it's always best to hold the ordinary end with the hand that's closest to the dog and use the other end for turning. So to turn Sam, all I need to do is slide my hand down the lead and apply gentle pressure on the front of the harness in the direction I want to go. This way. Good boy.
Now it's important never to jerk or pull on the lead, and the hand slide helps not only give the right amount of pressure on the harness, but also gives Sam a visual cue that we're turning. It doesn't really matter which way I want to turn, but if I did want to turn the other way I'd have to swap the lead to the other side, and also swap hands, but I won't do that with Sam, because he doesn't like things passing across his face.
With practice, your dog will learn that the hand slide down the lead, and the slight tug on the collar means that they need to turn to follow. And remember to keep rewarding them for doing this, and for staying close, and with time and practice, a loose lead out on a walk will become the habit.
Happy walking!

HomeAboutBehaviourWorkshopsOur MethodsGuaranteeVideosNewsFAQsContact Us
(C) 2010-2015 Better Dog School   Reg NSW BN98543672   Terms Of Use   Privacy Statement