I think you need to change your Obedience Club.
I am an obedience instructor, and we allow any type of collar that is not detrimental to the dog.
We prefer a fixed or martingale collar(3/4 material collar, 1/4 chain that does NOT choke, just chinks to ‘warn’ the dog’).
The trouble with correction chains, is that many people use them as CHOKE chains. failing to correct the dog at all, and the dog continues to choke, rather than being corrected, when the chain then loosens, teaching the dog that being beside the handler does not choke him. if you are using a correction chain, you MUST correct every time the dog pulls, and reward him with praise the MOMENT he is in the correct position. This type of training is hard physical work for the handler of a big, strong dog, especially one that is particularly stubborn, and many dogs learn to HATE this type of training. It may promote a begrudging respect between dog and handler, but it does not promote an enjoyment of training, or a loving bond between dog and handler. That type of training is called ‘Negative reinforcement training’.
We train with the modern method, with POSITIVE reinforcement(reward-based)training, with food treats.
Training with food does NOT teach a dog only to respond only when you have food in your hand, or to only respond only to ‘bribery’, which is solely a human terminology. The dog thinks more basically than that. If you have the food, you must be ‘Alpha Dog’, and if he wants the food, he has to respond to what you want of him.
When you start training with food and hand signals, as soon as the dog obeys a command, a small food treat is delivered IMMEDIATELY. Then, as the dog begins to understand the training, and responds faster, the treat is given every second, and then every third, time. Then, for commands that have been mastered, it is OCCASIONAL. The dog is always thinking, ‘Maybe this time?!’
Most dogs LOVE this type of training. Who doesn’t like to be rewarded for effort?!
If I asked you to climb a tall building, for no reward, you would tell me where to put the idea…! if I offered you $20, you would laugh… But if I raised the stakes, and offered you enough, you would give it a go, wouldn’t you? It is the same with the dog, the treat HAS to be worth it, so don’t train for kibble. Train with a bum-bag, with a sandwich bag inside, and use(tiny)roast chicken pieces, dried liver, or something else your dog LOVES.
I have had 2 top-winning trial dogs who were trained with food. In the trial ring, you cannot reward your dog, until he finishes his turn in competition. My dogs would perform happily throughout, often awarded ‘Best in Trial’.
If your Obedience Club insist on training with a correction chain, teach your dog without one at home, so he is efficient at heeling, before you take him to club. With my club, early on(in the 90’s), I insisted on using a shorter chain, and ‘fixing’ it around the dog’s neck, like a normal collar, by clipping the lead on both ends of the chain together, so that there was no ‘choking’ action going on. Perhaps your club would accept this as an alternative?
Whatever they do, train at home for reward, preferably food. Some dogs will train for a game with a toy, such as a tug-toy, although this can promote more dominant behaviour, and over-excitement. Make training fast, and fun. Keep moving and your dog will respond with more enthusiasm. Train for ten minutes, have a break, maybe another ten minutes, then that’s it. End with a game. This type of training is definitely more fun for you… And for your dog.
Published 24th October 2019