The Right Direction

We’ve been with Violet nearly ten weeks now.  Positive change is happening every day.  I can cry happy tears when I think about how far she was come.

Because she jumped our four foot fence, we’ve had a six foot fence installed.  We don’t know whether she can jump a six footer.  We briefly considered an eight foot fence, but the dog runs I’ve seen have six footers, so that is where we ended up.  We still take her out on a leash to make sure there are no critters inside the fence.  Once the coast is clear (anything there leaves straight away), she runs free while we play fetch and practice recalls and the like.

We also bought a Whistle 3.  It’s that little grey box on her collar–a GPS tracker.  It wasn’t expensive, but it requires a cellular plan (about $7 a month).  If Violet leaves home without us, I would open the app on my phone and track her in real time.

When it arrived, I went to the App Store to download the app.  I noticed a fair number of poor reviews.  Things like it was slow to alert people that their dog had left home or the app wasn’t refreshing fast enough when tracking a lost pet.  Disconcerting, but I ended up keeping the Whistle 3.  Even if it isn’t perfect, it gives me hope.  Violet has twice gone on walkabouts.  Even an imperfect tracking device might be the help I need if she goes  further next time.  And we sometimes open the app when we’re out.  Seems like it does a good job in that context.  We’ll see.

Since we’re hoping we never need to use the tracking device, the built in activity monitor gives us something to play with.  Something for the money, if you will.  Of course she is crushing the suggested one hour a day of activity.  We’re still walking an average of 5.5 miles a day, which typically includes 0.7 miles of running by my bike, as well as playing in the yard and trips to the dog run.  Generally about three hours of activity.  If anything, I need to ease up a bit and give her more time to sleep, but then the activity monitor tells me she is sleeping about 15 hours a day, which is about right for her age and size.  So it is all good.

Except for the walking.  Despite months of very careful work to help her stop pulling, Violet was too distracted to make fast enough progress.  Her prey drive has her moving fast while looking for prey and, once spotting it, trying very hard to get near it.  Even when squirrels weren’t in sight, the constant corrections, stopping, direction and speed changes were taking their toll on my body.  My whole left side–arm, hip and knee–were getting really sore.  Much more and I’d probably be injured and unable to walk her.  Couldn’t let that happen.

Then we remembered the prong collar.  Scary looking things, but we used one on our first dog, Speed.  She pulled like crazy and the prong collar fixed it in an instant.  So fast that I put her prong collar around my neck to see what we were doing to her.  Nothing too bad.  As I recall, sharp pulls resulted in uncomfortable pinching but not pain.  In fact, she seemed considerably more comfortable than when we were using a flat nylon collar (against which she pulled so hard she’d labor to breathe).

So I ordered a prong collar for Violet–a black stainless steel Herm Sprenger from Germany.  It is very well made, should last her lifetime, and I like that the tips are rounded rather than blunt.  We ordered a smaller link size (2.25 mm) on the advice of this fellow and are happy we did.  It works very well and doesn’t look as ominous as the collars with 3.00 or 3.25 mm links.

As was the case with Speed, Violet stopped pulling immediately.  Without any corrections.  It was just short of miraculous.  Granted, I had been working very hard with Violet to help her learn to walk by me and that pulling would result in stopping, so that when the prong collar was put on she already had a clear understanding of what was expected.  She always did, but with a martingale collar she would repeatedly opt to pull the entire walk.  Pull, stop.  Pull, stop.  Pull, change directions.  Repeat for two or three hours a day.  And that was before she saw a squirrel.   When she saw a squirrel, she’d put on a real show.  She’d pull and choke herself terribly.  With the prong collar, she now often will ignore squirrels altogether.  If the squirrel is too close, she’ll still pull for it, but with much less intensity and for much shorter time.  No choking at all.  No yelping in pain.  She seems comfortable, yet fairly quickly opts to stop the pulling and come back to my side.  Life changing for the both of us.

We got away with using a prong collar with Speed without training her first.  We were young and didn’t know much about training.  We used a retractable lead and the prong collar, so Speed never learned to walk by us.  She’d walk about six feet in front of us but we didn’t care.  She wasn’t scary to passersby.  Violet is more intimidating.  Even though she walks calmly and has little interest in people we pass, its clear that some people feel better when I keep her by my side and in control.

It occurred to me I should repeat the prong collar test.  I’ve told people about the test I did twenty three years ago, but I started to wonder if I’d still find the collar reasonable.  Here we go.

Pinches sharply, but no material pain.  And I’m pulling much harder than I do with Violet.   So, pass!  If you have a dog that pulls, and training with a training collar, martingale collar or training harness isn’t working, consider a prong collar.  Before you buy one and use it, watch some training videos.  The one I liked is linked above, but here it is again.  Watch both parts.  Fitting, placement and use are not obvious.  Learning is fun and your dog will thank you.  So thumbs up for prong collars.

That’s enough of that.  It just started raining.  Time for a nap.  That’s what I say, but Violet wants to play some.  So we’ll play some.

Bye!

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