Jenn, My 6 month old dog, Scout and 1 year old dog, Jessie are primarily harness trained. I love taking them to puppy classes, hiking each day and we have recently started agility courses. I feel the harnesses are best to avoid placing excess pressure on their little tracheas, as they are Boston’s like you have. I know this is a sensitive area in such breed dogs and I wish to protect their windpipes and long-term health. Jessie, is a bit better on the collar as she was mainly collar trained before I got her. I do not like how hard my dogs pull sometimes when they are on the harnesses. The more I pull on them, the harder they pull back in return. For dogs that are well under 12 pounds, they sure are powerful. These Boston’s are the sunshine of my day and we can’t wait to meet up with you and your family again this summer in Washington!
JENN: I commend your diligence in training, socializing and caring for Jessie and Scout. I agree it is important that we don’t apply too much pressure on our dogs’ necks/throats. This should be our motivation for proper training. No matter what, it’s critical that our dogs get accustomed to being handled 100% on collars. If your dogs are ever at the vet, a collar and leash will be used. If they were to become lost and need to be handled by a stranger, more than likely a leash would be used. Our dogs need to be totally collar trained first and foremost. If a harness must be used in addition with a collar, I recommend the Easy Walker Harness ($17-$20 on Amazon or Chewy.com) it attaches to the front of the dogs chest and makes it very difficult for a dog to “sled dog pull”. Both of your dogs are intelligent and require us to be clearer about boundaries with body language and using far less words rather than verbal commands to accomplish behavior modification. It’s totally possible if we are aware of what needs to be done and commit to making it happen.
I am adopting a 2 year old, 25 lb Puggle rescue dog named Flint in July from a family that has been caring for him for the last year. I have been visiting several times a week and have seen some of the challenges I am going to be faced with. Flint is currently potty/crate trained but scratches at the cage a lot then bolts out when the door is opened. Also, he gobbles up his food and stands on his hind legs to beg for a treat or attention. He always wants to be in my face and demands to be touched by anyone in sight. I don’t like how demanding he is and can see how this power play can lead to other issues. Can you give me a few quick tips?
JENN: Thanks for your willingness to take on this dog in need and give him a more balanced life. I hope these ideas will be of good use.
*When crated, allow Flint to settle with a chew toy (always rawhide free!) or plush and avoid eye contact with him. Once he is still and quiet, softly tell him, “good quiet”, don’t look at him as you softly praise. Don’t play into his hand of when he scratches or whines. Be sure he has been taken out to go potty before you crate him. Teach him to “wait” by holding up your hand and using the word “wait” to physically stop him in his tracks from bolting out. He will learn that when he rushes out, he will be stopped. Don’t use a treat each time to praise, just be quick, calm and matter of fact about the correction and when he listens, softly tell him, “good wait”. This word is a critical command that I use on a daily basis for all sorts of applications.
* Jumping up to beg and food inhaling. You may want to get those “slow feeder/interactive” bowls that make the dogs slow down when they are eating to avoid bloat or ravenous eating behaviors. Try to feed twice a day at somewhat regular times, but don’t be too stringent about it. When Flint is up begging and on those bad legs in the house, stop looking at him and walk away. Don’t engage her at all because what she’s after is attention that might lead to a treat or touch. Dogs happily accept any attention as much as positive praise. As time goes on, He will learn that you are his safe, constant, pack leader who gives care, guidance and calm, reassuring love.
*Work on having Flint follow your body and simple commands without the hassle and complication of leashes and harness all the time is a critical step in overall leadership control and proper pack development. Example ; “let’s go outside” & you get up and go to the door, Flint should get up and follow you out the door. Use the word, “wait” again to keep him from rushing out and in doing so, you will train him to listen to your commands and seek your guidance. Dog live to please!