I believe a good dog trainer should have as big of a tool box as they can have, which is why I personally utilize a wide variety of dog training tools. The more tools I know about and know how to use, the more dogs I can help, train, save, and rehabilitate. What matters most is that the training tools are being used appropriately and respectfully.
Just like people, no two dogs are alike, and not every dog learns the same way. If your dog is not treat motivated, how are they going to be taught? You want a trainer who is able to assess your dog's unique learning style, and who is willing to personalize their training method for your dog's needs.
We believe in being open and transparent about our methods here at Follow Me K9. So what training tools do I use?
We start every dog off with a slip lead. This is a leash made out of a soft rope, that will tighten if the dog pulls away or if we need to correct a dog. We use these for walking around the house, especially going from the kennel to the back yard. We use them for going on structured walks outside, and we use them staying connected while doing training work. Most dogs wear collars that aren't tight enough, and therefore create the possible risk of a dog backing out of them and escaping. The last thing I want is for my clients' dogs to get loose in an unfamiliar neighborhood. So the slip lead is also a safety precaution.
The leashes I use are transitional, meaning I can transition it into a head halter if I need to. A head halter on a dog works similarly to the way it works on a horse. If you control the head, you control where the animal is going. Some stubborn dogs that pull a lot on walks really benefit from this, simply because it applies pressure to their nose if they try and pull ahead. This is a gentle tool for gaining more control over pushy dogs.
I do utilize clickers, muzzles, prong collars, head halters, and e-collars when appropriate. A lot of people aren't fully educated on some of these tools and it can scare them. Let me reiterate that what is most important is that training tools are used appropriately and respectfully. It is possible to abuse a dog with a simple collar and leash. What matters most is the person in charge of the equipment.
I use equipment that I trust and use on my own dogs. I even do e-collar demonstrations on my clients' wrists before ever putting it on their dogs. This is to show them first hand that these are good, gentle, useful tools that will benefit their dog. This is also to show the client that these are not the same tools with negative connotations that have been used in decades past.
I teach all my clients how to use their tools appropriately. I tell them why I am using it, and why it works. I am always available to them to answer questions or refresh their skills. I don't let anyone leave with a tool they aren't comfortable with, or that I don't trust them to use properly.
It's my responsibility and passion as a dog trainer to be able to help as many dogs as I can. This means I need to know about as many tools as possible, so I can help any dog that comes my way. I am less worried about how my tools are perceived and more focused on helping dogs safely and building their bond with their humans. If you have an open mind and learn alongside your dog, you might be surprised! You'll be amazed at how your relationship with your dog can change simply by using a tool that best communicates and creates respect with your pet.