Undoubtedly the easiest way of training is to start with a puppy, at about seven or eight weeks old. At this stage it will be feeding by itself, but bear in mind that it will not have completed the necessary course of inoculations. As a result, it will not be safe to allow it out on a leash for another month. Nevertheless, during this interim period, you can begin preliminary training, and start by fitting the puppy with a suitable collar. Your local pet shop is likely to have a variety of different collars available. It is important not to confuse a collar and a ‘choke chain’. Collars are made of various materials, with leather being traditionally popular for this purpose, although nylon collars are also now widely available_. A choke or check chain, on the other hand, is used to train a dog to walk properly on the leash by tightening at the neck if the dog tries to pull on it.
When buying a collar, choose a fairly sturdy design, and remember that as the puppy grows, so will its neck. The collar must therefore be adjustable, because otherwise it will press on the dog’s throat, and may cause difficulty in breathing. You must attach to the collar details of your name and address, with a telephone number if possible. Then if the puppy strays it will not be difficult for anyone finding it to trace you and return your pet. You may decide to fit either a small engraved medallion or a sealed capsule, which contains these details on a piece of paper.
Another method of identification has recently become more widely accepted, in spite of the fact that it needs to be implanted surgically by a vet, although this is a relatively minor procedure. The marking device is in the form of a microchip, enclosed within a tiny container which is about the size of a rice grain. Each microchip carries a unique code, which can be read using a special scanner which is passed over the area where the chip is implanted. At present, the scanner has to be held within inches of the dog, but research work is continuing to produce an effective reading device which can be operated from a much greater distance away.
By having the individual numbers logged at a central computer, it is then possible to track down the dog’s owner without difficulty. Should you acquire an adult dog from a rescue centre, it may be worth enquiring whether it is marked in this manner to ensure that the record is updated when you take possession of the dog. You will not otherwise be able to tell if the dog is marked in this fashion.
At first, the puppy is likely to resent wearing a collar, and will paw at its neck in an attempt to remove it. This phase will soon pass. When you fit the collar, you must make sure that it is not pressing tightly on the neck, as this will be uncomfortable for the dog.
A slightly different approach to prevent dogs pulling on the leash is provided by head collars, which have become widely available during recent years. These tend to be made of nylon strips with a metal loop to which the leash attaches. There is a collar component, plus a nose band which fits across the bridge of the nose.
Again, these head collars are available in various sizes, so you will need to select the most suitable size for your dog. Some are brightly colored, and may incorporate reflective strips as well, which can be helpful if you are walking your dog after dark. They operate on a slightly different basis, controlling movement from the dog’s head rather than the neck, and again, a normal collar should be removed before these are used. There is little, if any, risk of injury with a device of this type, although you will need to check that the stitching and design are suitably sturdy, as the dog may try to wrestle it off.
A wide variety of leashes are available from pet shops. Leather is perhaps most comfortable to hold for any length of time, although colorful nylon leashes have become very popular during recent years. When considering which leash to buy, check the fitting at the bottom. This must be relatively robust, yet easy to operate, since it will attach to the dog’s collar.
There are two basic designs, and if you are troubled by hand or wrist ailments it is probably best to opt for the sliding type of catch which can be operated by your thumb. These can be recognized by the small knob close to the base which slides the catch up and down. The other type of attachment relies upon a spring, which needs to be pressed in order to allow the loop of the collar to be secured. In either case, always check that the leash is properly attached to the collar. It is possible for the ring of the collar to become caught rather than actually restrained by the leash, which may cause discomfort.
You will also need to buy suitable heavyweight ceramic bowls to provide food and water for your dog. Stainless steel can be used, although being relatively lightweight these containers may be tipped over easily. It is important to use individual bowls which your dog relates to so that you can establish a routine at feeding time.
Although head collars which attach over the dog’s nostrils are now widely-available in place of a neck collar and leash, they are not recommended for short-faced breeds such as the bulldog, as shown here. Aside from being difficult to fit, they may interfere with the dog’s restricted breathing abilities. Leather colors and a check chain. The engraved disc here is one means of identifying your dog, and usually a legal requirement if your dog is exercised outside the boundaries of your home. Microchip implants are not a visible means of recognition. A special scanner will be required to read the information encoded on the tiny capsule under the dog’s skin.