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The Right Fit: How to Select the Best Equipment for Behavioral & Medical Benefits

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Whether or not a family signs up for formal dog training, the dog still needs to wear equipment for identification and safety reasons. But not every sweater, collar, and leash is perfect for every pup; the choice depends on the dog's size, breed, and physical structure. The wrong item or poor-fitting equipment can actually cause structural injuries, as well as physical and behavioral irritation for the dog.

A proactive approach to selecting equipment is best for the dog, the family, and the veterinarian. Here are some tips for what families can do at home:

  • Help your dog play "the equipment game" by spending a few minutes training every day. When it's time for the equipment to be placed on, the dog will be ready!
  • Teach the dog to be calm in order to walk or step into the harness and/or to sit for the collar and leash to be placed. This behavior is preferable to the dog jumping or running away from you, of course! It also teaches the dog to enjoy the experience of sweaters and leashes being introduced and used.
  • Arrange a meeting with your vet to help you assess the best humane equipment, for both behavioral and medical benefits. 
  • Work with a certified trainer who advocates for positive reinforcement training and who follows proactive steps for introducing equipment. The goal is to make even this learning process fun for the owner and dog. 
  • Train your dog to do some fun behaviors in between the introduction and fitting the equipment so that the dog does not become stressed. Try teaching your dog to spin, offer a paw, or sit, or make time for play with favorite toys.

KPA Training Tips of the Day are brought to you by Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners. You can find more articles, ideas, and inspiration to help you train better and enjoy a lifelong bond with your dog on our website.

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Laura Monaco Torelli, Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP) and a member of the KPA and ClickerExpo faculties, is the Director of Training for Animal Behavior Training Concepts in Chicago. She works in collaboration with veterinary behaviorist Dr. John Ciribassi at Animal Behavior Partners, and is staff with Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants. Since 1991, Laura has worked with and trained beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, river otters, and penguins (at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago), primates, large cats, birds of prey, reticulated giraffes, Arctic foxes, horses, parrots, macaws, tree kangaroos, and red pandas (at the San Diego Zoo and Brookfield Zoo), and, of course, dogs (just about everywhere). Laura has spoken at many professional conferences and has appeared on various broadcast media.