Handling Large Dogs by Jacqueline Bunn
I recently read a book by a well-
There were two entire pages devoted to the equipment frowned upon, with red crosses
against the use of prong/pinch collars, choke chains and any form of electronic device
designed to stop pulling, big ‘no-
Now, while I agree that in a perfect world where everybody weighs twice as much as
their dog (for reasons related to 'ballast'), everybody has limitless amounts of
time and a personal dog trainer at their side every moment of the day, the wonderfully
kind and positive methods of stopping pulling in this book were ideal; unfortunately
we don't live in an ideal world. Most of us don't have limitless amounts of time
to devote to multiple training sessions every day, don't have a personal dog trainer
at our side to whisper in our ear and most owners of large dogs probably do not weigh
twice as much as them so find it difficult, if not impossible, to hold them securely
enough to initiate kind, positive training methods without the use of tools such
We live in the real world, don't we, fellow big dog owners?
We are the owners that go pale at the sight of a cat at twenty paces (in fact this
behaviour can become such a conditioned emotional response that we feel the same
panic even when we don't have the dog with us...). We are the owners that dread icy
pavements. We are the owners that dread walking around a blind corner. We are the
owners that prefer to exercise our dogs in wide-
However, we are also the owners who get monster hugs, who don't have to bend down to pat our dogs or put their collars on, who can have a kiss or cuddle from their dog while standing upright, who have a BIG love for and from their dog...
This probably explains why we tolerate big dog problems, such as elephant-
So, bearing in mind that we are in the real world where we fear our mighty dogs pulling us around like rag dolls, how do we make walks as rewarding and pleasant for us, as it is for our dogs, when we have TOTALLY different ideas of what is rewarding and pleasant?
When considering this, take into account the following:
See how the viewpoints of ‘Them' and ‘Us' conflict?
Okay, so how to compromise, especially when you have a dog powerful enough to give a rhino a run for its money...
Assuming that you don't weigh twice as much as your dog so can't use the bodyweight/ballast
option to hold them, you have to find a way of being able to control them when they
pull, at least while you are training with positive reinforcement techniques to correct
the problem. In these litigious days, if we can't control our dogs with 100% effectiveness,
we could end up in court. Those of us with dogs that already have a negative -
We have been leading horses and other heavy animals by the head for thousands of years. It is considered the norm and nobody complains about the method being inhumane or dangerous to the animal.
It figures that the concept should also work with dogs and it does -
Of course, a head-
Okay, hands up all of you that have spent an entire afternoon looking for your glasses
only to have someone tell you that they are on the end of your nose? You get used
to them, because you get something back – clearer eyesight. A dog will get used to
The other newer design of anti-
It is definitely a case of 'suck it and see' with the variety of different manufacturers now cashing in on the new era of positive reinforcement and kind, gentle methods of control (hooray!) offering so many different designs to choose from, all looking so alike, but with subtle design alterations that can have enormously different effects on each dog.
As well as the tools, however, there is the question of actually implementing the
correct technique, and this, I'm afraid, can very rarely be explained in a book or
via photos. These tools have to be 'felt' while being used, they require practice
to master the physical skills necessary to utilise them efficiently and get the required
results. How many of us, for example, have seen a dog straining through a head-
That's like trying to use a vacuum cleaner upside down and complaining that it doesn't get your carpet clean...
No, we have to face it -
The author of the wonderfully motivational book on stopping your dog pulling mentioned
earlier is an idealist and the world undoubtedly needs idealists to move forward,
but the realists among us know that reaching the ideal sometimes needs compromise
and innovation -
If you have a big dog and just occasionally you find yourself on your derriere being
pulled across the grass at a speed that risks grabbing the attention of the local
constabulary, don't be too embarrassed to admit that kind, positive training just
sometimes isn't quite enough on its own. Find a canine education professional who
can show you how to use a head-
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Jacqueline Bunn for the CFBA, the CIDBT and their students of Dog Behaviour & Training
"That's like trying to use a vacuum cleaner upside down and complaining that it doesn't get your carpet clean"