Service Dog Equipment – Kaylee’s Gear

June 10, 2008

As Kaylee progresses in her training, I’ve been pondering her gear. Her leash manners are such that I’ve decided just to stick with a regular martengale collar, but I *know* I don’t want her to work ‘naked’. Although service dogs don’t (by federal law) have to be identified by a cape, vest, pack, or harness of any sort, it really does make one’s life easier (particularly with an invisible disability) to have the dog be recognizable by Jane Q Public. Unfortunately, with the availability (and relatively low cost) of specialized gear for service dogs (including patches) being so widely available on the internet, fraudulent service dogs are being passed off as SDs with every more elaborate gear- so it’s becoming less helpful every month. It’s important to present a professional image, which can be sort of frustrating. (There are days I don’t have the energy to remember to brush my own hair, let alone Kaylee’s – and her coat is a LOT less wash and wear than Mal’s.

My service dogs carry my meds and my wallet (I have a real tendency to forget where I’ve put my purse and walk away without it- in fact, finding items I drop or put down is a task I’m training, but I don’t trust meds or money to stay in a purse that’s been left unattended- my purse is mainly for incidentals- a bit of makeup, a hairbrush, and my notepad and pens- if I don’t write things down, I can’t remember them- grocery lists, reminders ot do things, etc.). So a pack really is better for what I want. (With Mal, I figured I could learn to carry a purse. Three sets of new keys later… no. This isn’t working- even a fanny pack didn’t work, as it got uncomfortable, I took it off, and left it!)

I also prefer a pack for a totally non-task reason. Collies are heavily coated dogs. In the summer- especially the black dogs like Kaylee and Mal- get HOT down here in Texas. Even though we don’t spent a lot of time outdoors, we do spend some- just going across a parking lot or being in the car (or next to it on a stay) while I load groceries and the AC is just kicking in isn’t fun. I keep water in my packs for me and the dogs, and if I freeze a 1/4 full bottle the night before, my dogs have a built in icepack to keep them a bit chillier.

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A Halter for Kaylee?

May 9, 2008

I’m not a huge fan of head halters overall but I wanted to see if the difference in tack would be a good signal to Kaylee that her new job (learning to be a service dog) is very different from her old one (standing very still and looking glamorous), since she was shown on a standard slip collar. It worked fairly well- she wasn’t bothered by the nose loop particularly, but it didn’t fit her very well- the lack of stop meant that if it was as loose as I wanted it, it tended to ride up and at one point she managed to nearly put the nose loop over her pointy little head. I may get some fleece to line it and put a keeper on it so that it fits a little better. I may also order a Canny Collar to try. It’s just another brand of head halter, but unlike most of the others, attaches to the leash at the back of the head. There’s another brand like this, the Black Dog Infin8 Halter, but I’ve not seen one in person. (This looks MUCH safer to me; one of my primary complaints about most of the head collars is that they are constantly pulling the dog’s head to one side or the other if the dog moves ahead of you. More about this in a second.)

I think overall the head halter worked well for Kaylee and I may pursue it further. I just need to find the right one, or modify one to fit the way I want it to. At this point, I’m thinking a noseband lined with fleece or moleskin (possibly neoprene?) might be a good idea. I’ve always disliked horse bridles and halters with unlined nosebands since I think they tend to rub more easily even with a properly-fitted one, and I don’t know why more of the dog ones aren’t lined, other than ease of fit. Making a neoprene or fleece sleeve for one shouldn’t be a big deal, though. I also want it to attach to the leash at the back of the neck, and be easy to adjust so that the dog is comfortable in it during long down stays. Read the rest of this entry »


Housebreaking Dogs that Soil Their Crates

May 6, 2008

Latest update:
Hey guys! I wrote this post over 5 years ago, and to date, it’s the most read thing I’ve ever written. I hope you find it helpful! If you do (and especially if you’ve got comments that you’d like a response to), please consider leaving a tip in the tip jar. 🙂 I try and reply promptly to all comments on here, but sometimes it gets time consuming.


I wrote the bulk of this several weeks ago in response to a spate of messages on a message board I frequent about this topic. Because I’m feeling lazy, I decided to re-post it over here so I can just direct people to it again rather than re-writing it every few days.

It’s a pretty common scenario- and one that I’ve responded to several times now, from face-to-face clients and, more commonly, on internet message boards. (Which is why I have decided to type this up!) Someone has gotten a new dog planning to use the crate method to housebreak him or her, and the dog soils in the crate, resulting in an unhappy owner, a stressed out (and dirty) dog, and tears all around. This isn’t uncommon with puppy mill dogs or dogs who came from really filthy conditions, but even more commonly, I see three main reasons why this happens. Firstly, is that the dog is being asked to ‘hold it’ too long. A rule of thumb for puppies is one hour per month of age, but there’s a great deal of individual variation. A stressed out puppy will need to go MUCH sooner than one who is used to being crated and settles down to sleep right away. A 2 month old Great Dane is 20 pounds, but a two month old Toy Fox Terrier is perhaps 2 or 3 pounds! Some puppies are just more mature than others. Secondly, the dog may have a physical problem- immaturity (and some dogs can be REALLY slow to mature!), a UTI, spay incontinance- or some form of separation anxiety (this last is the rarest). So a vet check is in order before trying this. Thirdly, the dog comes from, as mentioned above, an environment where he or she never had the chance to eliminate away from the nesting area as a baby and has never learned to prefer NOT to sleep in her own mess.

Just like with any dog being housebroken, supervision and scheduled feedings are really important. If the dog is not being supervised, they need to be confined. But for dogs who soil in the crate, this can be a nightmare. So what do you do?
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Why I’m not ONLY a clicker teacher

May 4, 2008

I love clicker training- I really do! I think it’s absolutely the MOST fantastic tool out there for teaching complex behaviors to dogs, and the precision that’s possible with it is WONDERFUL. That said? I don’t think it’s the only- or even the best way- to teach people to train their dogs at the most basic levels.

Please understand- this article is NOT an attack on clicker training, and I think for many people and their dogs, it IS the right choice. However, I am a little bit sick of seeing it touted as the only choice- because it isn’t. All of these points primarily apply to the VERY basic type of obedience class geared towards a pet owner whose main need is to control their dog, with no interest in dog sports, CGC testing, or anything else- pet owners who are just looking for a basic level of control that will allow them to live with their dog. The typical student for this class has only one dog at a time, and may be on their first – or fourth- dog, but has a fairly limited range of experience with dogs other than ‘they’re nice’ and little to no training or behavioral background. They may or may not need instruction in the basics of responsible dog ownership (where there are leash laws in your city, why to spay/neuter, how to keep a dog confined properly, how to housebreak a dog), and frequently, their last experience owning an untrained dog (if any) was their childhood housepet (trained by their parents) or a previous dog which died of old age and whose puppyhood was many years- and possibly a revolution in training- ago.

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