The adventures of SD Juno and SDIT Kaline (and their human, Colt).

07 June 2012

Training: Equipment

Since the main reason I began this blog was to have a training log for Kaline as he grows up, I figured I might talk a bit about my preferred training equipment.

First and foremost, a nice six-foot leather leash. Kaline's and Juno's are both from Bold Lead Designs—spend any time online "around" (in a figurative sense) service dog people, and BLD immediately comes out as the absolute go-to place for anything leather and certainly the best place for mobility and balance assistance harnesses. The leashes are so fabulous. They're braided at both ends, so you don't end up with fraying stitching or the like. And they break in super quickly and are super durable.

Plus, leather is nice on your hands. Nylon, not so much. I need things that are nice on my hands.

Second, a properly fitted prong collar. Effective, humane, safe. I wouldn't say that prong collars (or any tool, for that matter) are the best choice for every single dog/owner team, but for me, they're what I'm comfortable with and they have worked great for me, Juno and the other dogs I work with. I plan to start conditioning Kaline to his prong collar immediately.

Next, a super awesome magnetic-closure bait bag. I used to have one of the drawstring kind, and any time I wanted to practice a fast pace with a dog, treats would fly out everywhere! And enterprising dogs could always get at the treat supply if I sat down. Magnetic closure: so simple, yet so marvelous!

When clicker training, my favorite clicker is by far the i-Click from Karen Pryor. Not only is mine Michigan-colored (maize and blue!), it's much quieter than box clickers, and quieter than the blue-and-orange Star clickers as well. The button is incredibly easy to press, not just with your thumb or closed hand but with your foot, or your chin ... anything! And it still hasn't fallen apart. My Star clickers would fall apart (the orange button would break off) after a few weeks. I never even bought a box clicker—way too loud (for me, not Juno!), plus if you have thumbs that hurt a lot, the idea of shoving one of your thumbs into something and then pressing with a considerable effort ... badness.

I like to use luring and treat rewards for basic obedience (i.e. sit, down, come), and then use clicker training for more difficult and/or more complex behaviors (i.e. get that, touch, tug). The only thing I teach using corrections is loose leash walking. Otherwise, prong collar corrections happen only when a dog is 100% on a cue and refuses to do it.

By the way ... NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING is decided yet, but so far the brown-collar boy is the leading candidate to be Kaline. Evaluation/grading is on Saturday! Also, I'm now getting him two days early, on Saturday, June 23. He will be eight weeks, five days old. I cannot wait.

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