Types and Influence of Staffy Equipment - Part 1

Principles of Operation and Balance between Use and Harm of Different Types of Canine Equipment - Part 1

One of the features of a pet is an ability to be trained under the influence of negative reinforcement. Staffy handling with collars, harnesses and leads is based on this ability. Only right dog equipment doesn’t exist, every type serves definite tasks. But it is important to understand, how it is perceived by a dog, how it works, what use and what harm it can bring, to choose proper dog equipment.

Clever Pitbull in Dog Harness
A Trained Dog is a Happy Dog

Negative reinforcement it is active evasion of unpleasant influence. A dog makes a series of steps trying to escape something annoying. When it finally manages to get rid of discomfort feelings, it feels comfort. Comfort becomes as strong reinforcement, as a treat.

A classic example is a lead jerk. If you jerk a lead, your Staffy will feel discomfort in the neck area. Your dog will try to escape it and will make some steps to you. The lead will sag and your Staffy will feel comfort. The dog will remember this and will grasp to do it quicker next time. Negative is discomfort because of jerk, and reinforcement is comfort during releasing. Everything is simple, but many novice dog trainers make a mistake. They continue to pull the lead while dog is coming. As a result, the dog doesn’t stop to feel discomfort and doesn’t get reinforcement. In this case jerks and pulling are just punishment for the pet. Your Staffy doesn’t learn anything.

Girls Handle Pitbull
Reliable Lead is a Guarantee of Safe Walks

You should use jerks of proper power to teach your Staffy to walk on a sagged lead. Too strong jerk moves your dog in space and it appears in that place, where you want it to be. You can take your Staffordshire in your arms and move it with the same object. Training effect is equal, it is zero. Only destination of such jerk is to jerk out your Staffy of the car wheels or of another dangerous situation. If the jerk is too slight, your Staffy doesn’t feel or it can’t distinguish it from “hindrances”. A lead and a snap hook have considerable weight, moving during a walk they also send your pet meaningless but unpleasant feelings that your Staffy accustoms not to notice.

The jerk must be tangible, but it mustn’t move your dog in space. Your hand should move toward you and against you (toward the dog). Try to make a series of rhythmical jerks of equal force. At some point your Staffy will move toward you and your jerk will be idle for it, and your dog, making a proper movement, will stop feeling discomfort. In such way you will succeed in using negative reinforcement. For a dog of middle size force of a jerk is a movement of a fist that you clench and unclench or bend up and down. At the same time your elbow remains motionless, only your fist moves. You will need to involve your elbow for a jerk for a large dog. Your arm will move from your shoulder with bended elbow toward you and against you (toward your dog). If your Staffy strains at the leash, you have to hold it with two hands, but try to work with one hand and secure with another hand. In this case you will keep connection with your pet’s neck by your hand, a lead and a collar and you will be able to sense the right action force.

Painted Dog Harness on Bully
Dog Equipment Must Be Comfy and Beautiful

You should understand that the jerk used properly as a negative reinforcement causes minimum discomfort. You handle your Staffy like with “the tips of your fingers”.

When you get used to make jerks and small jerks, you will find out that your Staffy stops pulling the lead (and many puller-dogs will stop pulling in your hands in 5-10 minutes). If your Stafford stops to smell a bush and you want to hurry it, you have no need to jerk. You can just send a wave with the lead, and as soon as your pet comes towards you, put your hand down and the wave will stop causing slight impulses to your Staffy’s neck. In such a way your hand will always keep dynamic and persistent contact with your Staffordshire.

Two Pitties Posing
Choose the Right Dog Collar

Starting to work with your dog, stroking its neck you can sense that muscles lower the back of the head are very tight. In some cases you can also grope for disturbing areas on your pet’s back. The fact is that dogs often get injured by unskillful using of the collar, and if the dog is used to strain at a lead. They can be tracheae injuries (then a dog typically wheezes and coughs), salivary glands injuries (a dog persistently swallows) and spine injuries. Swedish dog trainer Anders Hallgren provides readers with the research result that shows that more than 70% of dogs suffers from spine injuries in his book.

The harness that fits properly and of right design helps to escape injuries. It distributes load from the jerk more evenly on dog’s chest and shoulders. A harness works according to the method of negative reinforcement, like a collar.  The jerk has to be stronger to be sensed by your Staffy, but it causes less harm. If the neck of the dog is very tight, and it continues to pull a lead despite of your right actions, you should walk your Staffy in a harness not less two weeks. This time is enough for many dogs to be restored, especially if the dog swims or does exercises for its back and on coordination of movements. Visiting a dog masseur can be just a dream, but it could make use for your Staffordsire.

Funny Pitbull in Dog Collar
Connection between You and Your Staffy or Pitty is Very Important

Control over you Staffy in a collar can be more clear and accurate. A wide dog collar and a martingale collar, as a harness as well, carry a signal in a worse way, but they don’t save the dog’s back in contrast to a harness. A narrow collar can be too harsh and dangerous in unskilled and insensitive hands.

A choker, chain collar and prong collar are usually used in the wrong way. They must be set around the upper part of the neck exact under the dog’s jaws. In this case your Stafford will feel even the slightest touch to the lead. If the prong collar dangles on the dog’s shoulders, a handler must do a long and strong jerk that will hurt it, but won’t teach it anything. A dog doesn’t get reinforcement of comfort and doesn’t learn.

Studying work with working Malinua dogs, Esther Schalke with colleagues from Hannover University arrived at a conclusion in 2010 that using a prong collar in dog training has bad influence on the dog psyche, leads to raising cortisol (stress hormone) that leads to dog working quality worsening in its turn. Summarising aforesaid we should say that a prong collar is an ineffective, high-injury and decreasing efficiency of the dog gear.

It happens that dogs first meet some equipment in adult age. In this case their reaction can be active or passive. If your Staffy resists actively, you should wait till it is over, trying to secure it against itself. If your Stafford reacts passively, lies down and doesn’t want to move, you should do small rhythmical jerks and praise it for any demonstrations of activity (raising its ears, head, trying to stand). Active resistance is always easier to bring onto the right track in comparison with passive.


Lying Pitbull in Harness
Bad Boy Doesn't Want to Go

Dogs are able to be trained under the influence of negative reinforcement. Cats obtain such ability in a minimal degree. If you want to become a professional dog trainer, try to teach a cat to walk on a lead. You can do it with the help of treats, in other words, positive reinforcement. You have to praise it any time it starts to move. It will be useful and difficult experience for you. After it you will be able to combine positive and negative reinforcement while using dog equipment. Controlling over your Staffordshire will become “filigree” – harmless, understandable to your pet and causing no resistance.

Read the next part here.