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Monday, April 8, 2013

Collar and Harness Acclimation

Note: I would advise to NOT make a dog drag around a leash if he does not like the leash yet.  Do this in stages instead.

First, make sure the dog is okay being handled. See handling shyness: 
Then make sure the dog is okay wearing a collar  
Leave collar on the ground. If the dog glances at the collar, mark and reward 
If the dog sniffs at collar, mark and reward. 
Next pick up the collar, mark and reward 
Next reach towards dog with collar, mark and reward 
Next barely touch dog with collar, mark and reward 
Next hold the collar in front of the dogs face, feed a treat through the collar
Next put the collar on briefly but do not snap it on, mark and reward
Put the collar on for a couple of seconds, treat, then take it off.
And so on until the dog is okay wearing the collar.

If the dog still appears to be uncomfortable. Do one, some or all of the below
1. Vet check for pain or other problem
2. Try a different collar
3. Break down the desensitization process further. Maybe acclimate the dog to some light gauze draped around his/her neck before using a collar. Maybe an ace bandage next (just draped) and eventually move up to something as heavy as a collar.
4. Get help from a skilled professional.

The above also applies to harness acclimation (the gauze would go across the dog's back like a harness)

Personally, I like the collar for only holding ID.  For safety I walk dogs in a martingale/harness combo. Harness for comfort and safety (protect the dog’s neck, trachea and thyroid) and martingale backup for safety – reduces the chances of slipping loose
See collar and harness safety:

Here is a good video on harness acclimation. But I would not use the type of harness in the video. Not secure enough:

Then work on leash acclimation: 
Start with a very light weight piece of cloth or rope. Hold it close the dog's harness, mark and reward, then do something fun with the dog. You can do this a few time as long as the dog is having fun. 
Next, quietly clip on the leash, mark and reward, take it off and go do something fun. Try this a few times as long as the dog is having fun. 

Next, leave a lightweight, 1 inch piece of cloth on the harness. Let the dog move around with it on (under heavy supervision).  If the dog seems bothered by it, take it off. Then try something shorter and/or lighter. 
Later, increase the length by a couple of inches.  Start seeing how the dog feels about you picking up the leash occasionally. Maintain heavy supervision while the dog is wearing it. 
Still supervising, work your way up to 6 feet or whatever length you plan to use.

You can start working on loose leash walking before you start using the leash. It’s actually better that way.
Then, while you are in a secured area, you can work on taking on and off the leash and dropping and picking up the leash – see Leslie McDevitt’s Leash Game in her “Control Unleashed” Book
When you are ready to take it outside, take it slowly. If the dogs appear to be afraid of the outside, see:

Also for any training and for loose leash walking, you might need to “proof”. Often times proofing doesn’t work well in the beginning with two dogs. Many times, you will need to work with one dog at a time, then add dogs
See more on proofing and loose leash walking here:
and here

More on loose leash walking here

Also, if your dogs aren’t comfortable with strangers, start walking during the least busy times of day and keep away from strangers and other scary things:

More on fearful dogs here:

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