I made the decision last year to introduce the Kennel Club Good Citizen Puppy Foundation & Bronze level awards to my training classes. I’m certain that the basis is there for a great training idea in theory. Both levels teach basic manners, handling and life skills which should make living with your dog easier and allow you to enjoy each other’s company more. However, in practice, there are elements to the programme of both levels, but especially the Bronze Award, which make me wonder just how far we’ve actually come in dog training terms.
My job, as a trainer and behaviourist is to make your life, and that or your dog easier. If you are having trouble walking a big strong, ‘I-love -the-world’ type of dog, or a scared, leash aggressive or reactive dog, loose leash walking can be a difficult challenge to overcome. I have had numerous clients who are slightly built or who have mobility problems which restrict their ability to leash train using conventional methods. I also often come across owners who want an easy answer, a quick fix if you will. I love training my own dogs and other people’s unruly mutts. Much as I’d like to wave a wand to make the world as enthusiastic about training as I am, I haven’t worked this one out yet. Therefore, for some, head collars can mean that loose leash walking comes almost instantly, without the chore of training, which may be unrealistic for them because of physical or psychological barriers.
If a head collar improves your life, and as a result means your dog gets out and about for walks more often, why would you object to its use? A head collar is, as many complain, an artificial training aid. The last time I looked, no dog is born wearing a leash and ordinary collar. So by virtue, this is also an artificial training aid. Therefore no different is the more modern and often more humane version of artificially leading our dogs, the head collar.
Overcoming this psychological barrier however, means that certain people, the Kennel Club included, cannot accept the use of head collars as part of a training routine. They are banned from use during the Bronze Award assessment. This results in many of my otherwise keen and enthusiastic dogs and owners either dropping out of class, or failing to achieve their Bronze certificate.
Hands up who still boils water in a pan on the stove? Not many I’d imagine, since kettles were invented. Who still toasts bread over an open fire since the advent of the electric toaster? Now we all know that water will boil successfully and toast tastes the same using the old school methods, but more modern devises allow far greater speed and efficiency. I am a purist when it comes to loose leash walking. My own dogs have all been taught to plod by my side. However I would never force such views on people who ask for my help when it comes to leash training. Head collars make life easier. If you fall into the ‘easy life’ category, don’t feel guilty about using one!