Was in the park yesterday and I see a guy chasing his loose pit bull trying to get her back. He’s running after her shouting her name and trying to grab her, but she’s too quick. So I squat down and smooch my lips and she comes barreling towards me. I don’t say a word and just hold onto her collar while he come lumbering over.  I tried to make small-talk but he was obviously very frustrated having chased her for about 5 minutes to no avail. He grabs her face and smacks her hard. He then proceeds to put an extremely tight prong collar on her (which is attached to a flexi-leash) and give her four hard leash corrections in a row shouting “bad girl”. The dog whimpers and looks up at him and the owner says “Yeah, that’s right. That’ll teach you to run off”. He then pulls her away from me and leaves the park giving her random hard leash corrections and then freedom with the leash. Needless to say it was hard for me to keep my mouth shout. So I’ll open it here:

1) If your dog runs away from you that means that your relationship is not strong. The dog doesn’t take you seriously, doesn’t know what “come” means (many owners don’t seem to realize that “come” is something you have to actually teach), or has become obsessive about something it sees and tunes everything out (so your vocal command should have been given before your dog began to fixate and run away from you).

2) If you punish a dog when it finally comes back to you, why would it bother to come back the next time? You have to live in the moment and reward your dog for “coming” and continue to work on the basics another time. It is impossible for a frustrated owner to give appropriate discipline.

3) Prong collars have very specific uses in my book. The collar ought to be quite loose on your dog except for an instantaneous correction. If your dog’s neck has indentations in it while you’re holding a loose leash, the collar is too tight–add an extra link or two or three!

4) Never, under any circumstance, should a prong collar be attached to a retractable leash. Your dog is given freedom by pulling when wearing a flexi-leash (the dog pulls on the leash, he gets further away from you). So by wearing a prong collar and pulling for freedom, your dog is learning nothing except to become desensitized to prongs digging into his neck. Furthermore, it is impossible to give a proper leash correction with a flexi-leash due to the fact that your dog doesn’t know when it’s about to occur (not to mention that when he reaches the end of the length of the leash, he gets a surprise correction for no reason).  Dogs aren’t good at rationalizing–they don’t get “if, then” commands very well. I can guarantee that the only thing this little pit knew at the end of the “training episode” was to avoid the owner when she runs away next time and steer clear when he’s frustrated. Oy!

Take away for my readers:

~When you’re frustrated with your dog, don’t attempt to correct. I don’t care if you’ve been trying to catch your dog for 2 hours and you keep narrowly missing her, don’t punish her when you’re unbalanced–it will NOT result in two balanced beings working together (which IS the goal, isn’t it?)

~ If you let your dog off-leash and after a time she ran away (as was the case with this guy), I would take her back to that original spot after you finally catch her and spend time there with her again (just don’t take her off the leash this time). Leave that spot on a good note.

~Don’t assume that your dog can read your mind! “Come” is not an “included feature” when you get a dog; it has to be taught.

Lead your dog, friends. Lead…don’t bully!