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What's In Your Training Toolbox?

Today, my friends, we’re going to build a fence, and we’re going to build our fence using tools that are designed to help us.

Okay, okay… this is definitely another one of my endless supply of analogies; we aren’t really building any fences, but I’d love it if you’d play along.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m very pro-diverse-toolbox. I.e., I genuinely try to stay committed to keeping as many tools in my toolbox as I can, as long as I can imagine even one situation where they might end up being beneficial. There are some tools that I don’t use often, and there are some tools that I might utilize differently than other people, but I like to keep them there just in case.

Imagine that today, when I looked into my tool box, I found a hammer, a screwdriver, and a drill.

Since I’m going to be using screws to hold my fence together, the hammer is out. I mean, I guess I could try putting screws into boards with a hammer, but I have a feeling it’s not going to go very well, and I might end up giving up altogether if I try.

The screwdriver is another option. Building a fence with a screwdriver is pretty darn slow, and requires a lot more physical labour, but it’s definitely a possibility and it probably has the least chance out of the three to wreck any of my fence boards if I’m not already super great at building fences. It also has a much higher frustration quotient than the drill, but it doesn’t require quite as much finesse, so as long as I’m okay with the time it’s going to take to use it, then it’s an excellent choice.

And finally, I have a drill. Battery charged, drill bit at the ready, this baby is going to shave some SERIOUS time off of my fence building… buuuuut only if I know how to use it properly. If I don’t, and I haven’t taken the time to get someone to teach me, then I could possibly end up getting trigger happy and splitting some boards before I get the hang of things. And trust me, for the purposes of this analogy, I do NOT have even a single board to spare.

So, what’s my point? Some of these tools are GREAT for building fences. Some of them are okay. Some of them don’t work very well at all. But building the fence isn’t only about which tool we decide to use; it’s about how, and how WELL we use the tool that we pick, because those are the things that really matter.

Image that today, when I looked into my training gear bag, I found a raised dog bed, a flat collar, and a prong collar (it’s a really big bag, okay?).

If I’m trying to teach my dog loose leash walking, the dog bed probably isn’t going to come in handy. I mean, I could definitely find ways to utilize it, but it’s really not meant for this kind of activity. The flat collar is a possibility; it is unlikely to ruin anything I’m doing, but it may take a long time to get where I’m going, and there is a good possibility that I’m going to end up really frustrated before I get the relaxed, enjoyable walk that I’m aiming for.

And then there’s the prong collar.

Because I’m skilled in the use of prong collars (aka drills), this is an option that I feel comfortable with. I know there’s a really good chance that it will cut my training time down a TON, and as long as I’m doing things properly, I can build a really great fence, uh, loose leash walk, and I can do it with a fraction of the frustration that I might have felt if I were to have used the flat collar.

That doesn’t mean that I’m going to choose the prong collar every time, though.

The tool that I pick is going to depend on the goal, the motivations behind the goal, the dog in front of me, and the person at the other end of the leash – YOU. Because choosing training tools for your dog is a lot like choosing tools for anything else that requires them; we need to find the ones that you feel comfortable using and we need to make sure that you’re confident in your knowledge of HOW to use them.

Anything less than that just won’t build the kind of fence we can be proud of.

Christina Chandler


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