How A Dog Owner With Arthritis Will Get 100% Reliability From Her Golden Retriever Puppy

Ann– a visitor to our web site– writes me to ask, “I have been reading this column and researching other parts of the web, but I have not been able to answer a few questions:

I have a Golden Retriever puppy that is almost 4 months old. He is already over 30 pounds and is most likely going to weigh near 100#. (I wanted one that was large.) We live on a 5-acre country lot. The dog gets lots of exercise and I want him to be able to go for country walks with me and go down to the lake with me for swimming (the dog will swim, not me).

I am not having any real problems with him, but I am anticipating some snags because of his size. I am a small woman with severe arthritis and I am not physically capable of doing a proper leash correction. My husband is, but will this be sufficient to carry over to the times when I am walking him alone? I have my doubts.

I am home alone with him for most of the day. The dog is to be my companion and intruder alarm. The two most important things I want him to do outside are to: Come when he is off leash when I call him… and to not pull on the lead. He must come when I call him, no alternatives there. It could be life or death for him.

So far, he does come when we call him, but his “teen” months are soon ahead of us. He is already too strong for me to be able to correct when he pulls on the lead. At the moment, he does not pull very often, but when he sees people, especially children, he pulls very hard in order to get to them. His temperament is fairly submissive, but he is just really strong.

I would like suggestions as to what the proper age to begin using a pinch collar would be. I think a regular choke collar would not work for me because of my lack of physical strength. Regarding the electronic remote collar (e-collar)… my dog seems to have a very high pain threshold. I have accidentally stepped on him many times and he has run head-long into walls, etc. He doesn’t seem to even notice. Will the little tiny stimulation from an e-collar even be noticeable to him?

When I did the research and found out how little the “shock” actually is, I began wondering if it will work on him. Would the e-collar also be helpful in teaching him not to jump on people?

I cannot move fast enough, because of the arthritis, to do a decent knee to the chest. I have stood on his back paws when he is up on me, but he doesn’t even notice – he just continues to try to lick my face. My husband does pull him down when he jumps, and he is learning “off” fairly well. When he does jump on me, he hardly puts his weight on me at all, so even at this young age he is gentle. He is not so gentle with other people.

I do tell him to sit whenever he comes close to me, and he does about 50% of the time. Visitors, however, are reluctant to tell him to sit to be petted because he is “just a cute puppy”. Of course, at almost 4 months, his stay is just a few seconds – on good days. I am also open to opinions as to which type of collar would probably work the best for us. Or, should we use both? What are opinions on the different brands of e-collars?

The Tri-tronics one that has the two buttons that enables you to use 3 levels of stimulation is what I’ve been considering. However, it is around $350, so I want to get the correct one for us the first time. Oh yes… a side note… I was wondering if getting him a gentle leader would work for the next month or so just to get him into the habit of not pulling. Then, begin the pinch or e-collar when he is older.) ”

ADAM’S RESPONSE: “First, nix the Gentle Leader idea. It’s a restraint, and not a form of training. (A Gentle Leader, for those of you who don’t already know, is a head harness contraption that you hook to a leash, which directs the dog’s head in the direction that you pull).

I don’t know why people advocate this training device. Yes, it’s true… you can use the device to assist in teaching competition heeling. However, to truly get the dog to not pull on the leash when he’s not wearing the head halter (Gentle Leader) will take MONTHS!!! Even if you’re already an experienced trainer, you’re still looking at WEEKS to train this behavior. BUT… if you’re using the right technique, teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash SHOULD TAKE LESS THAN 10 minutes!!! [In fact, I explain exactly how to do this on one of the audio tape lectures that comes as a FREE bonus when you purchase this book!]

As far as the pinch collar is concerned, yes … it’s a good idea. Your husband’s leash corrections will only make the dog work for him… but not for you! The pinch collar will allow you to give a motivational correction with much less physical effort. In general, if you’re using the right technique, you shouldn’t be using much physical strength anyway.

By using a pinch collar, the process of administering a correction becomes more like driving a car with power steering. The main issue you need to be concerned with is, “What do I have to use to make sure that my commands are motivational?” And if you feel you can achieve this goal with a pinch collar… great! I think it’s a good choice.

But in addition, due to your physical condition, you’re probably looking at using an e-collar, too. Especially if you want to get the dog 100% off-leash trained in a hurry. I would recommend the Innotek remoter training collar for this type of work. Which model? Any of the models that allows you 7 levels of stimulation. And that’s the really cool thing about these collars… you GET TO USE a level of stimulation that will match your dog’s temperament. Even the toughest dogs have a setting that is appropriate.

I would just start teaching basic response to commands at this age with the pinch collar and long line (for off-leash work) and the tab– a one foot leash for inside the house– for correcting the jumping up. Then, when he’s between 7 to 9 months, you can start with the e-collar work.

ANN REPLIES: Adam, thank you so much for such a quick and informative response. I have never used a pinch collar – just a choke chain. (I didn’t have arthritis back then.) What is a tab? You had suggested using it for jumping up. One more question about the pinch collar:

There have been a few times when I was walking my puppy and a few large, aggressive dogs came out and threatened my baby. Of course, I did what I could and protected him… but he pulled hard on the lead. If we are walking and another situation comes up such as that, is it possible for him to pull so hard that he hurts himself?

I know that a choke chain can cause trachea damage – can a pinch collar actually cut in?

I’ll be studying the correct techniques for the pinch collar for a week or two before I actually use one.

ADAM RESPONDS: A tab is a one foot leash that the dog wears around the house, while you’re with him. As for the pinch collar… no. The dog’s neck is so incredibly strong that it’d be hard to puncture his neck… even if you were to sharpen the tips and really TRY TO do damage.

I suppose that if you walked the dog every day with the pinch collar and let him pull, then eventually it would start to dig into the dog’s neck. But you won’t have a problem if you’re anything this side of an idiot and have at least a dash of common sense. 😉

As for the choke chain… I know there’s a lot of fluff that is flying around the internet about the choke chain damaging the dog’s trachea. But the truth of the matter is that I’ve never seen ONE single case of a dog having any type of negative reaction to training with a choke chain.

Now, I generally use the pinch collar myself… because it’s much easier. But there is nothing wrong with the choke chain. I’ve personally witnessed LITERALLY THOUSANDS of dogs that have been trained with the choke chain, without one case of a negative result. Are there morons who use the choke chain incorrectly? Yes. I have seen problems from owners letting the dog pull and strain at the end of the leash.

However, this is not a problem that is inherent to the training tool but rather the poor technique of the handler. THIS IS NOT HOW THE COLLAR WAS DESIGNED TO BE USED.