Hi, when i adopted my dog they said to get a martingale collar for her, because she pulls on the leash, so they said it would good. I just have weird feelings about the collar because it pulls on her neck. Is the martingale collar good or something you recommend or not?
Martingales are designed to prevent a dog from slipping out if their collar. It does not choke them, it just tightens up on the slack so if your houdini decides to do the ol’ back up and slip out move, the collar stays on. They are not intended to be training collars. My dog wears one cause he’s fancy. His neck is so long that 1/2″ collars look weird on him, so i’m now addicted to 2″ collars with cute designs!
Back to the point. Whatever you use must be intended as a stepping stone. Your goal can be a nylon collar, rolled leather, or martingale (brachycephalic breeds need harnesses) but these are for dogs who do not pull. You do not want flat pressure around the neck, it will damage the trachea.
So you try out whichever method you deem fit for your dog & pair it with training. There is no right answer, your dog will be different from everyone else’s. Some people will encourage their methods over others, but ultimately it is what works for your dog.
It is important to know that every tool that is used to prevent pulling is considered an aversive technique. Positive punishment. You are providing an unpleasant response to an undesired behavior. Whether thats a head collar, neck collar, or body harness. So in order to prevent yourself from relying on these methods, you must pair commands with your leash walks.
Dogs do not know how long the leash is, especially since you’re constantly moving. So when you give them a correction the instant they pull, they aren’t really getting the message. You’re being reactive, instead of proactive, and that can get confusing. Dogs pull because it usually gets them what they want. They want to get to that tree, and if they yank your arm, they get to go there! So you need to first remember that you are walking your dog for them, not for yourself, and use the privilege to smell as a motivator. If your dog pulls, then he does not get to smell that tree, but if he walks nicely - then you need to reward him by letting him smell the tree. A walk where you go around the block with no interruptions may sound nice to you, but it is torture for your dog! So many smells! Sights! Sounds! And you’re just going to go back home!? What is their incentive to not take control and make you stop at every fire hydrant?!?
Alright, so what to do? You simply give them a warning before they’re about to reach the end of the leash. Let them know that the end is near! What happens after your warning is strictly up to you and what works for your dog. You can change directions, stop in your tracks, or give a correction. I tell Charlie “easy” when he gets close to the end, and he almost always slows down right before he pulls. We tried every other method out there before he finally got the picture. Neck collars, harnesses, head collars… some work wonders for dogs, and some can actually make the pulling worse!
But ultimately, you can’t just rely on your tool to do the work for you. Nothing out there can actually teach your dog not to pull, because the second you remove that device - they’re going to pull!
I’ll give you my go-to analogy. You’re in your car on the freeway, most likely you’re going to speed a little bit, speeding gets you where you want to go, faster. Now you’re on the freeway but there is a police officer nearby, you cannot speed without being negatively impacted. So when the collar is on, the dog is going to listen, when the collar is off… he probably wont. Why? Because the only incentive to not speed is to not get a ticket, but what if there was a reward for not speeding. Every time you went the speed limit, you got to get something you desired! Well then i’m sure a lot more people would go the speed limit!
Ok, enough cheesy analogies. The point is, teaching your dog not to pull takes training. There is no collar out there that is going to teach your dog anything, they are just band-aids. Your goal is to no longer need them after a period of time. But, some dogs have underlying reactivity issues and may never be able to walk nicely on a leash. Just because it can be simple, doesn’t mean it is for everyone. There are those who rely on their gear without even trying to train, but there are dogs who are either in the middle of training, or are not responding to training, that have to use this stuff. What i mean is, not every dog learns the same way. Just because you may have trained a dog once and it was super easy, doesn’t mean that all dogs are super easy. I have met Golden Retrievers that will make you want to cry and don’t even care - they just do not respond to positive reinforcement, and that is certainly not typical for the breed. So anyone with a Golden Retriever can scoff and say well MY Golden Retriever was walking nicely on a leash at 6 months. That means nothing! Stop judging!