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obedience school

by Michelle

Hi! All of you guys have given me some great advice over the months and I thought maybe you could help me out again. Today Avery and I started obedience school. She did pretty well, but I honestly say that I am not really comfortable with the choke collar we were all required to use. She did well responding to the slight chokes, but some of the other dogs were gagging and crying. Is this a normal reqirement, or can you train a dog without the collar? Thanks for the help. I am sure that I can get used to the collar because Avery doesn't choke herself, but what about the other babies?


Please bear in mind when reading topics pertaining to health issues, that many of these questions were answered by helpful Maltese owners with no formal education in veterinarian medicine. When in doubt seek a professionals advise.

Michelle, We've had some discussion on this before--some people think the choke collars are fine; others think not. I am in the "think not" camp. Maltese, particularly, can have trouble with their tracheas, and I feel that they are so small that a choke collar is unnecessary. When Lucy went to obedience school, none of the dogs wore choke collars. The trainer believed that the quick tug on their regular collar was all that was necessary and everyone learned their commands, so that's proof for me. Have you tried asking the trainer WHY the dogs must wear choke collars for training as opposed to their regular collars? Seems to me that 99% of the time after training you will be working with a dog in it normal "out for a walk" collar, so what does one do then???
-cathy brown

I'm against choke collars on small dogs. I think a big strong human being jerking on a choke collar of a little 5 poundish dog can do serious damage. I prefer the new gentler methods of teaching dogs and if they can't be taught, get a halter and let them pull. You'll never get over it if you hurt your pup.

Hello! I took Ellii to obedience school a couple of months ago. The only dog in there wearing a choke collar was a large dog that was too strong for the lady to hold back. He would drag her into trafic. No one else had a choke collar on. And I might add that some of the things they told us to do (such as; if our dog was walking ahead of us, jerk them back) did not work on Ellii. In fact, it had a very negative affect on her. The class was given in a gym on a hardwood floor. When she wouldn't walk the way the trainer wanted her to walk, she would drag her. She told me to do the same and it was terrible. Now she will not walk on hardwood floors. The only true way I can get her to do things is by being VERY positive and loving towards her. She's happy, I'm happy. Praise Praise Praise. Good luck!

Jeannie--You should report that trainer to someone--who held the classes? That is NOT the way to train any dog, big or little. Our trainer would get the dogs attention (calling it's name in a "nice" tone of voice and looking directly into its little face) then give it the command. If it didn't get it, he jerked quickly/firmly on the leash and tried again. He did this until the dog did the sit or stay or whatever, then gave it a good girl/boy. He did this with each pup on each command. Once they had done it, he handed the leash over to us and we did it using the same process. By the time we left for the day, pup and parent were equally trained in the behavior. As you can see from the results, dragging a dog across a floor is NOT the way to train them!! Someone should have asked the trainer how he/she would like to be dragged across the floor!! (Sorry, know this isn't your fault, but it gets my dander up!!) If there is some way to report this person, please look into doing so. You will be doing a good deed for a lot of pups!
-cathy brown

Michelle, I'm so glad you asked this question. Bailey and I will be going to puppy kindergarten beginning in October and one thing I WILL NOT DO is put on a choke collar. I find this barbaric and shouldn't be necessary. If I'm asked to - I'd sooner walk out, lose my money and find somewhere that is more appropriate. Good Luck to you and Avery.

I, too, did not want to use a choke collar but I can't stand a pulling dog, even the tiny ones can be irritating when they PULL you down the street, So I used a regular collar and everytime Herald would pull ahead I would stop and wait for him to look back, and then I would start walking again. I would tell him,"no pull", but you could probably say anything as long as it was consistent. I wasn't really interested in teaching him to "heel", that is to always walk close to my left ankle and watch my every move, because I want him to be able to smell around and enjoy walking with me, however long or short the leash may be. There are no rules except that he cannot pull. I used to have an eight pound poodle who would pull on the leash just terrible so when I got Herald I couldn't imagine going through that again. I mean she was beautiful and charming but walking her was such a trial I didn't look forward to it at all. This method does take a tremendoes amount of patience at the beginning, but it does work. I am happy to say that I can now walk Herald even on a very short leash and I hardly ever have to say anything to him anymore.

When I took our dog to obiedience school they required all dogs to wear this type of choke collar. Our instuctor was excellent in his instruction for the proper use of it. It sounds as if yours was not giving the proper instruction to the class. The collar should be loose, and only when a command is not obeyed, should a correction is given, as a small quick tug. Depending on the size of the dog, depends on the severity of the correction. I was aprehensive at first, but my dog really needed nothing more than the sound of the chain rattling, and it was enough for him to perform well. We did take third place (out of 26 dogs) at the end of the lessons, when they had a judge come in. We showed those big dogs! the only points we had taken off were for "lagging" as his little legs didn't keep pace with mine around the cones, in the figure eights. Just use common sense, and if your instructor is allowing this type of handling to go on, go elsewhere! Just my opinion. Patti

Thanks for all of the advice. I did want to clarify though. Our trainor does not believe in jerking the collar. As one of the people responded, we are only to tug on the collar when they aren't responding, and immediately let go. The trainer also told all of us the importance of only talking nicely and constantly praising our dogs. If she heard someone talking to their dog in a less than nice tone she got on to them. Maybe this will help in understanding the situation.

Obedience training a maltese is both great fun and a challenge. I am currently working with mine for our third year in competitive obedience. She has several obedience titles. I always work with a choke chain on her--it is quick and easy to get on and if used correctly does not hurt nor cause a lot of matting. I have gone to many classes and most require all dogs to wear a choke collar. You as the trainer on the other end need of the lead decide how it is used. Since mine is only five pounds it is not much at all--especially since she is well trained and I often use it with the leash through both rings at the same time. However, I am glad that it is a requirement where we train--not because of my dog, but because of the other dogs. Our little fluffballs look the toys or something to hunt to many dogs. I want the owner of the other dog to be able to stop their dog if he starts for my dog. A choke will get their attention. Also I have seen several situations where a dog goes after a person or another dog and were stopped by the choke tightening--yes, it does cut the air off the dog, but they learn quickly. It is a way to stop aggressive action. Yes, we need much praise, treats, toys and many positives for all dogs, but we do have to have all of the dogs in a group situation under control. I want my dog to feel safe and be safe.

I agree with Vicki, A choke coller is only cruel if the person holding the leash uses it in a cruel manner. Some dog's need extra reinforcement. A well trained dog only needs a slight tug to get it's attention. Unfortinantly not everyone in the class is in control of there dog. When my pup was in class they wanted me to put a choker coller on her. At first it was a mess. The coller kept getting caugh in her fur which only irritated her. Then the trainer told me about the choker collers made out of nylon. This did the trick. She wears it losely around her neck and I only have to give a slight twich with my finger for a tug. She responds emediatly. In fact when she wants to go for a walk she will go get her coller and bring it to me. Just remember, you are the one holding the leash. You can use it correctly or incorrectly. Use commen sence, and the coller can make the difference between a dog that sometimes obeys or one that actually enjoys obeying.

I agree with Vicki. I took Lexi (2 year old female) to obedience school and because she was so little, I was allowed to decide if a choke collar was necessary. I chose not to use one but was very happy that larger (a tad more dangerous dogs) were on a choker. That may seem discriminatory but during obedience training my little Lexi was attacked by two other dogs. One wanted to play and the other ( a bull dog) wanted her dead (and I wasn't working on the playing dead command). Of course this is no reflection on the owners, as one had the lease break and the other was off guard when the dog pulled. Eventually, yes, Lexi did successfully pass obedience school (and I have the video to prove it!) but I am a little reluctant to go to the next level of obedience training. I do not really care if she is obedient, I much perfer her to be alive and kicking.

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