The New Year is well under way. I wish time would stand still for just a little while so that I could catch up. My house is full of Christmas stuff. My list of resolutions grows.
I was in the Valley with family for the holidays and though it was wonderful, it is great being home again in our beautiful Rim country. There certainly is "no place like home."
Getting to the subject of pets, I was driving on Highway 87 through Payson yesterday, following a pickup truck. There was a cover over the truck bed, but no tailgate. A dog was lying under this cover with his head hanging out. I moved closer to see if he was tied. He was not. If he had fallen out, he certainly would have been run over.
But even more upsetting was his collar. He was wearing a choke collar, one of those chains with a ring at both ends, and it was put on incorrectly. The tags were pulling the one end of the collar down causing the chain to close in on his neck. Besides the discomfort, the chance of those tags getting caught on something, strangling him, was very real.
I do not like choke collars. They were very popular a number of years back when training classes advocated the jerk and choke method. It is no longer considered the humane way to train.
Using one for a specific purpose is one thing, but it is not a collar you should leave on your dog all the time and if you must use it, it must be put on correctly.
A choke chain is designed to choke a dog into submission. With good training, that would never be necessary.
If used incorrectly and the dog tries to jump a fence or if he falls out of a pickup, he will hang himself.
Many dog owners have come home to find their dog dead, strangled by the choke collar.
Some use the choke collar when taking their dog for walks, thinking it keeps the dog from pulling. A prong collar or halter type head restraint is much more humane and effective.
A prong collar will not damage the throat like a choke collar. But these should be temporary training aids while you are working to teach the dog to be more responsive to you and not pull.
Dogs can easily learn to walk on any kind of leash, even the retractable leads, without pulling. If you insist on using the choke collar for walks, use it in addition to a regular leather or webbing collar and remove it when you get home.
The choke collar was designed to tighten and then release but when put on incorrectly, it chokes. Feed the chain into one ring creating a circle. Hold the free end ring in your left hand and drape the circle of the collar over the fingers of your right hand. There should be a straight line from that ring across the top of your fingers and then the chain drops and circles to where the chain runs through the second ring. Pull on the ring in your left hand and then release and see how the collar tightens and loosens. Then reverse it and see how it tightens when you pull on the ring, but does not release when you let up on the ring.
To really understand this concept, you have to try it. Hopefully the accompanying picture will make it clearer.
If you ever need to tie the dog using a choke collar, heaven forbid, attach the snap to the ring with the chain running through it, not the end ring. This way, if he pulls, the chain will not tighten and strangle him. This is difficult to explain but easy to see when you have the collar on the dog.
Never attach the dogs tags to this collar but if you insist on doing it, make sure that the tags are not attached to the end ring where they will pull that part of the collar down causing the collar to tighten around the dog's neck.
As I stated in the beginning, I totally dislike choke collars. They are harmful and dangerous. But many people use them. If you must use one, please use it correctly and do not leave it on the dog all the time.
When they were considered the collar to use, I did use them. Two of my dogs got their tags caught and would have strangled if I had not been there. It is just not worth it. With a little training, the need for a choke collar or prong or halter type collar is just not necessary and walks are much more enjoyable.
In last week's column, there was a list of resolutions for the pet owner. One was to spend time working with and training your dog. Take a class or get a book from the library or you can even get dog training videos. Your dog will be a much better friend and companion if he is well behaved. And choke chains will be a thing of the past.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.