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The First Skill I Teach Every Foster Dog and Every Dog I Own

What is the first essential skill that EVERY dog should learn? You might think along the lines of a recall (dog coming when called) or even the SIT command. While those are important the very first skill I teach is a collar grab. Why and what is it? The collar grab is being able to grab a dog's collar without a reaction; without a growl, without head duck, without a fear response. In short, the dog is receptive and accepting to someone grabbing the collar. Why is this important? To begin, it is a safety issue. If a parent needs to grab a dog's collar to prevent injury or rescue from safety the dog needs to be ok with this. The collar grab is also the LAST step in a properly trained recall command. The collar grab helps build confidence with meeting strangers as they reach toward the head near the collar area to pet the dog. If a sick dog won't come out of his crate and you need to pull him out of the crate to treat him or take him to the vet, you want a dog who is accepting of a collar grab to accomplish this task.

How to train the collar grab:

  1. Get some tasty treats in your right hand and place your hand behind your back.

  2. With your left hand grab and hold the dog's collar.

  3. Say the word "Treat" while still holding the collar.

  4. Deliver a treat to your dog while still holding the collar.

  5. Continue holding the dog's collar for a few seconds while the dog chews the treat. Then release your hand.

  6. Repeat these steps. You will notice that with practice your dog will not flinch but become very receptive to this skill.

Trouble shooting: If your dog reacts in a vast amount of fear you may need to change things up a bit. Start with treats behind your back in your right hand. Then with your left hand hold it about a foot away from the dog. Say the word "Treat" and deliver the treat with your right hand while your left hand is remaining in position. After the dog chews for a few seconds remove your left hand from position and play the game again. After a few repetitions, decrease the distance to 11 inches, then to 10 inches, then to 9 inches, and so on until you are finally able to grab the collar. Remember to give lots of praise. With practice over time, your dog will become more accepting of his collar being grabbed and more accepting of affection from strangers.

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