In spite of the abundance of “new wave” training collars, the choke chain, for the most part, remains the collar of choice for instructors of beginner obedience classes. But “old faithful,” despite its continued popularity, still has a way of becoming an instructor’s nemesis.
It’s not terribly unusual for a class of very green novice handlers to have a few who, though well intentioned, manage to transform the choke chain into an abusive, dangerous or lethal instrument at whose mercy sits the innocent four-legged critter. The subtle way in which this happens can be startling or even frightening to an unsuspecting or unconsciously careless instructor!
It all begins the moment this training tool is fitted on the dog. At this point the instructor’s interest is centered on selecting the appropriate size, not on educating the new handler on how, when and why to use it. Time will be set aside during the class to discuss proper usage of this shiny new piece of hardware. Right? Not to worry. Wrong!
In addition to learning when and when not to have the choke on the dog, initiate handlers must also concentrate on learning what seems to them a thousand new obedience exercises the very first night. It’s very risky to ASSUME all handlers will remember ALL that was said, particularly when it comes to the training collar (choke chain.) One safe guard is to REPEAT the do’s and don’t for its use at the end of the class. Another is to stress that the choke chain DOES NOT REPLACE the buckle collar.
At ensuing classes, spot check with the handlers to find out how they are using or abusing the collar. If a majority are keeping it on all the time, have attached dog tags to it and/or claim they simply can’t get the collar off, another class discussion on proper usage is definitely in order! This time, REALLY EMPHASIZE the right and wrong practices. And, make sure you have everyone’s undivided attention!
This brings us to the handlers who, practically at the onset of a class, need a larger collar. Watch out! Don’t assume they’re right! Check for yourself. Remember it’s hard to slip a collar on or off when a dog is standing on his head, rolled over on his back, or in some cases has his mouth wide open. For the new trainer, it’s a whole lot easier to slip one collar, over easy and go than to try to get his untrained companion to sit and stay while putting the choke chain on or taking it off.
Finally, for the really obstinate handlers, don’t be hesitant to tell them horror stories about dogs being injured or killed because they were wearing a choke chain. Make it clear that it could happen to this trainer’s dog too. Don’t mince words! You sure don’t want to have guilt feelings, later, if the dog is hurt or dies because you introduced the owner to the choke chain and didn’t do your cautious best to educate him on its safe use.
©1990 Marty Martin