Properly used, a choke chain can administer a well-timed correction that helps a dog understand his transgression. Like any tool, misused it can, at best, give an ill-timed correction that confuses the dog and, at worst, inflict severe injury. It’s all in how the collar is put on the dog and then used. There are also a few strategies you can use to help your dog grow as a hunting partner, without the using choke collars as a crutch in your training.
Where Should You Attach a Leash to a Choke Chain Style Collar?
First you need the proper size collar for your dog. You don’t want one that’s too large and hangs so far down the dog can slip out of it. Nor do you want one so small it’s difficult to slip over the head and ears. Try several sizes on until you find the right fit for your pup.
The proper way to put a choke chain on your dog is to make the letter “P” out of the chain. The straight part of the letter “P” should always be on top of the dog’s neck with the loop part over its head. The straight part leads directly from the top of the dog’s neck to the leash. Used in this manner, the choke chain can slide easily and allows you to administer a quick correction that lasts only an instant. If you were to put the choker on upside down, which often happens, the timing of your correction loses effectiveness as the chain stays tightened, which tells the dog everything he’s doing at that time deserves correction. You want to be able to snap the collar and deliver a correction that lasts just a fraction of a second; the chain should tighten, pinch quickly and then release.
Regardless of which side you teach pup to heel on, remember to always keep the straight part of the letter “P” on top of the dog’s neck so that when there’s no tension on the lead and collar, it hangs loosely.
Helpful Hunting Dog Training Tips
A professional dog trainer in action can help you learn a gazillion little tips and tactics to become a better trainer. If you’d like to try training by yourself, use this list as a starting point. Now that you have your dog’s choke collar secured correctly and safely, the following tips can help you make the most of your training time together.
Use both verbal and physical. Simple, calm “good girl/boy” and calm stroking help keep the dog in a calm state while letting it know that it has done the right thing.
Watch the dog for changes in body language that will signal it’s about to lose interest in what’s taking place or disregard a command. Understanding a dog’s body language and cues allow a trainer to make an immediate correction, another correct repetition or even keep the dog from going down the wrong path altogether.
Both you, the trainer, and the dog’s demeanor should be calm, quiet and focused. There’s no yelling, hitting or intimidation taking place. Likewise, there shouldn’t be any hyper, out-of-control activity taking place. No loud voices or high-pitched talking to wind the dog up or squash it’s will to learn. The dog should be in a great mental state, ready to learn and correctly carry out repetitions of several different commands.
Dogs learn by repetition. Not just repetition, but correct and consistent repetition. Sit, stay and heel should be exercised many, many times. Training sessions don’t have to be long, arduous blocks of time. In fact, short, frequent with sessions work best.
Reinforce the command by repeating it correctly if your dog becomes distracted. Keep it a very positive interaction, without any heavy-handedness.
The leash, during training, should stay slack. A slack lead allows you to make a correction via the leash and choke chain. Not only does a tight lead keep you from making a correction with those tools, the entire time the dog is under a tight lead he is receiving a correction and is going to either learn that everything it is doing is wrong, or he will become desensitized to the choke chain and you’ve just lost a training tool.
Use an upraised hand to signal “stay” and a pat on the side of his leg in sync with the “heel” command. Dogs learn these signals very fast and after a time, you don’t even have to use the verbal commands; dogs will cue in and follow your hand signals…and that’s very useful in the hunting field!
Additionally, you can use your own body to influence the dog. When the dog wants to get up and move from the “stay” or “down” position, move toward the dog to get it to change its mind before it commits the infraction.
You and your dog should both be focused on each other almost the entire training session. That’s when a dog learns. When she does break focus, get her attention back and before you continue with the lesson.
Setting Up for Success
Dogs learn quickest by positive reinforcement and carrying out multiple, correct, repetitions. Use multiple, correct, repetitions. If you take it slow and don’t move too fast in your lesson plans and set the dog up for success, your training will in turn succeed and you’ll have a happy, confident and willing student on your hands.
This goes back to leash position. Using a loose leash means you can easily transition to off-leash training. It’s a small, yet seamless, step that pays big dividends down the road––especially for a hunting dog.