Training is a quality of life issue for dogs. What training tools are recommended and should be avoided?

Darwin in his Doggles!

Training is a quality of life issue for dogs. What training tools are recommended and avoided?

The following includes the listing of recommended dog training tools and those that should be avoidedThis recommendation published in Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2006), presented at Advanced Behavior Course North American Veterinary Conference, Post Graduate Institute.

Many dog owners are unaware of these recommendations and continue to use Flexi-Leads even though professional dog trainers do not use or recommend them.  If you insist, you can, given the right instruction, proper size Flexi-lead, learn to navigate dogs effectively.  The following video demonstrates how a professional dog trainer might use them.  If you insist on using this tool but struggle to manage your pulling dog, you should get help from a professional dog trainer.  These devices can be very problematic, dangerous and not properly used do encourage inappropriate dog manners and behavior.

Often, owners are unsuccessful teaching their dog to walk nicely on lead struggling as their dog takes them for walks.  Owners give up managing dogs pulling and relieve their anxiety using a retractable lead (Flexi-Lead) as a way to solve this undesirable behavior. This is inappropriate thinking, you have a pulling dog, you do not have control over your dogs behavior, this creates a community problem when your dog is out of control.  A dog dragging, the same as pulling on walks says volumes about the kind of relationship you have with your companion dog.  Ask yourself one question when using a Flexi-lead, how good is your recall.  If your dog does not respond to “here” or “come” when asked, you’re creating a dangerous environment for others and your dog!

As you watch the video, Darwin IS walking with me, often looking for signals.  When training different behaviors you must be careful how much lead is extended and when retracting, this is done carefully to avoid snapping your dog and/or causing him to change position.  There is an example included.  There may have been a slight pull during a down stay causing Darwin to stand up; I simply correct him, getting him back into down position.  This is unlikely to occur using a long line kept loosely!

I prefer using a Flexi-lead larger than recommended; I’m using a Flexi-lead for dogs exceeding 100 lbs.  It’s my experience the small Flexi-leads are too flimsy providing little to nothing to actually hold and control. I recommend if you are going to use these products that you learn how to use them correctly and safely and buy an adequate size for full control. These devices are not easy to hold on when your dog decides to chase something, they are extremely dangerous for children and anyone who might have problems holding objects securely.

Additionally, Darwin has no problem responding to common behaviors, sit, down, stay, even roll over.  I make one correction associated with attention, followed by releasing all tension (pressure) created between lead, dog and myself.  The same principle can humanely be applied using any type lead!

This is not a recommendation or endorsement to use Flexi-leads.  It’s a warning, if you choose to use one, equal importance should be placed on training your dog to walk correctly and confident you have a good recall and out; meaning you have control using this tool. 

What training tools—in addition to their brains—do good trainers use?  Recommended by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2006).

Good tools promote calm and relaxed behavior, and efficient learning that is in the best interests of the dog and the dog-human team.  Good tools include

a) small, bite-sized treats (check for food allergies first!!!)

b) leashes

c) head collars

d) flat collars

e) harnesses

f) praise

g) toys (as a reinforcer of good behavior)

2. Tools that should be avoided because they increase fear and anxiety:

a) shock collars / electric collars / e-collars / static collars

b) prong collars

c) “correction” collars

d) choke collars, choke chains (sometimes euphemistically referred to as training collars)

Some tools can be problematic or become problematic when used incorrectly, but you might not think

so at the outset.

Examples include:

Flexi leads: Flexi leads are not training tools. If the dog does not know how to walk nicely on a lead, he will not learn using a Flexi lead alone.  Also, Flexi leads allow dogs to explore without overt supervision and without the attention of the client. Thus, the dog can become a victim of another dog, a bicycle, or a car, or the dog may injure someone who he or she trips with the lead when turning a corner or lunging through crowds.  Finally, the handle of these flexible leashes is difficult to impossible to use well if you are elderly, young, have small hands, or have arthritis.  If this handle is pulled from the clients hands it can become an airborne weapon and do damage to the dog or to another individual.


Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2006) 1, 47-52. Good trainers: How to identify one and why this is important to your practice of veterinary medicine

Injuries, behavioral problems linked to retractable leashes

Walking the Dog to Stay Active Is Associated with Increased Fractures in Older Adults


Responsible Dog and Cat

Training Behavior Solutions, LLC

Combining Art and Science for Training Animals

Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC, CACBC

Sarasota, Florida 34243


One thought on “Training is a quality of life issue for dogs. What training tools are recommended and should be avoided?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *