Monday, May 4, 2009

Urgent: Leather vs. nylon dog collar?

My Great Dane Princeton broke his leather collar today!

I was trying to train him not to attack the mail slot when the mail comes. I tied his leash to our entertainment center and told him to stay after I saw the mail carrier in the distance. Oops! Princeton couldn't control himself when the mail carrier reached our doorway. His desire to attack (protect?) was a lot stronger than his old leather collar, inherited from my previous Dane.

Does anyone have advice about the best kind of collar for a Dane? He plays in the water almost every day, so maybe that weakened the leather. Maybe nylon is more durable?

Let me know soon because we’re probably going shopping tomorrow to buy him a nice new dog collar.

Hey, maybe somebody has some ideas about how to stop him from going ballistic over the mail, too.

My big boy sure is getting strong!


Update in 2016:

In the end we took the advice of readers here and just used a so-called "choke chain" or "slip chain" as his permanent collar.

Update in Dec 2016: Princeton is still using his collar and leash, but he's slowing down and seems achy when he gets in and out of bed. We just bought him the Big Barker 7" Pillow Top Orthopedic Dog Bed for Large and Extra Large Breed Dogs (Sleek Edition).

I wish I bought it for him when he was younger because the foam has a 10-year guarantee. They even have a bigger "giant size" Big Barker Orthopedic Dog Bed -- with a headrest.


Janelle said...

We have always used nylon and have never had one break. We always keep a chain collar (choke collar) on him as well. This way if I need to grab him quick there is no way his collar is going to slip off (which has happened before)
When Cooper goes crazy and barks over something, we put him in a down stay and tell him no. The minute he is controlled in a down stay, he calms down and stops (like when people come to the door) this has worked great for us and he has a solid down stay from doing it. Good Luck!

Tucker said...

I use nylon. The Lupin collars are great because if they break or get chewed you can have them replaced for free. I just got a new one and mine is camoflauge.. can you still see me when I wear it? woof!

Allison (Dog Mom) said...

We've always used nylon. The only time it breaks is when Gus gnaws through them.

Try training Princeton using 2 people--one person outside feeding "mail" through the slot, another inside giving correction/praise to Princeton.

Honey the Great Dane said...

Hi - this is Hsin-Yi, Honey's owner.

Honey used to have a nylon collar when she was younger - everyone told me that they are cheaper to replace when the puppy chews through them! :-) But actually, Honey never really chewed much so we still have her old nylon collar. However, I started just using her check chain as a collar instead - partly because we had to put it on everytime we went out for a walk and it became a pain having 2 collars - and also partly because I prefer the look of the chain because it doesn't "cut off" the line of her neck and so looks nicer, I think. It is not too big and so can't slip off or get caught in anything - when it is not hooked onto her leash, it just rest snugly at the base of her neck and looks like a necklace. I have transferred her name and registration tags to it and just leave it on, except if she is left alone with other dogs and can't be supervised - just in case.

About the mail - you need to set up the situation with the help of a friend or family member, so you can practise Princeton's behaviour when you are in control of the situation. Waiting until the 'real thing' and then trying to train then is almost always guaranteed to fail coz there are too many variables you can't control and you also can't start easy and gradually work up to harder challenges for Princeton, which is the key to successful training - baby steps and rewarding correct behaviour every step of the way.

So find a good time when you're not rushed and Princeton is hungry and keen - and get someone to help and ask them to come up to the door. At first, don't put any mail through the slot - just get them to walk up to the slot. You should be ready on the inside with Princeton. If he doesn't react, praise and reward with treats and big fuss.

If he does react, tell him off sharply (eg. "NO!") or use an aversive if you're happy to use them - some people don't like to use them, it's a personal choice and you can do things with just praise alone and ignoring bad behaviour but it is sometimes very effective to also use a deterrent for bad behaviour. So for example, a rattle can or a water gun or even just clapping your hands loudly. Just something to startle him and interrupt his behaviour - then you must IMMEDIATELY follow with praise for stopping the behaviour).

When he is not reacting to the person walking up to the slot, move on to the next step which is them coming up and touching the slot (making a noise) but still not putting any mail through. Repeat the steps of praise & reward for calm behaviour, reprimand for bad behaviour. When he is coping with that well, move onto the person actually putting some mail through the slot but holding it there (not letting it drop through). And then finally, to them pushing mail through.

I know this sounds like a very long process but it will work if you persist and don't rush things. Practise this exercise every day, just for a few minutes, if you can. You may find that you can turn his behaviour around in 1 week, if you practise consistently.

Also, important not to let him have access to the door (mail slot) if you cannot prevent him attacking it - because everytime he is allowed to attack it, it is reinforcing his behaviour in his mind and will become harder and harder to break the habit. So while you are working on changing his behaviour, try to shut him away in another room when the mail is about to arrive. Just tying him up nearby still allows him to react and get worked up, which is still reinforcing the behaviour. Best not to let him be exposed to the situation at all, unless you can control it and direct his behaviour to more appropriate forms.

Sorry this is so long but it's hard to explain training stuff properly without going into detail! Good luck!

Hsin-Yi (& Honey the Great Dane)

Honey the Great Dane said...

Hey - I have tagged you to play a game - please come over to my blog to find out what you have to do.

Honey the Great Dane

Agustín said...

Hi, just a quick question, did your Dane stop biting after a while, cause mine is biting everything (including me) all the time, he's 3 months old?

brooke said...

random question...
do you have pet insurance for Princeton? Im debating if we should get insurance for our Darwin. im curious to know what other dane owners think about it.pell

KC said...

Many thanks, everyone, for all the great comments about collars. For now we are following Hsin-Yi and Honey’s method -- just using the choke chain. We transferred his ID tags to the choke chain and he wears it all the time now. It’s working out well because the leather collar used to get in the way when I walked Princeton -- because I use two collars to walk him, a Halti and a choke chain, with a leash in each hand to steer him. As Hsin-Yi noted, it also looks nice because it doesn’t interrupt the line of his neck. And it’s certainly strong and waterproof. However, it looks like he may outgrow his 24-inch choke chain soon!

Also thanks for the comments about training Princeton to stay calm when the mail arrives. I am keeping him in another room or outside when the mail comes, and it’s making life a lot more peaceful. I know that we need to set up practice sessions with other people dropping papers through the mail slot. But that will be in the future. For now, I’ve got all I can handle just with leash training and other basics.

That leads to Agustin’s question -- did Princeton ever stop biting? Yes, it’s about 95 percent gone. He still occasionally gets mouthy when he’s excited, but even then he doesn’t bite down hard. It never hurts, but it can scare foolish strangers who sometimes TRY to get him excited at the dog park.

We have a new technique for disciplining him when he gets mouthy, and it seems to be working well. We stand our ground and quietly face him with both hands open, sending him “calm, assertive energy” (based on the ideas of the “Dog Whisperer”). The most important thing is not giving up before he surrenders. Just keep standing there until the dog lies down and looks away in surrender. It’s really about mental power, not physical strength. At first it took 10 minutes as Princeton barked in protest and lunged to mouth our arms. Now he gives up much more quickly -- although he’s still testing us. It’s really surprising how well this works. The best part is that I don’t feel stressed out, injured or exhausted by the process. In fact, we all end up feeling better and calmer.

I must have seen the Dog Whisperer do this technique on TV more than 100 times before I understood it and got it to work. I’m not sure how well this would have worked on Princeton when he still had his baby teeth -- because it was impossible for me to remain calm when those needle-sharp teeth sank into my flesh. But it works great now.

And now for Brooke’s question -- no, I don’t have pet insurance for Princeton. I looked into it more than a year ago and it didn’t seem like it covered that much for the money.

Anonymous said...

The girls wear pink leather which I oil as you would a bridle.They used to have nylon for all the cool colours but I found them in leather. I dont use choke chains especially left on as they may get caught on something... trees, bush, my labrador I once had, the ring of it caught in the verandah floor slats as she was chewing a bone.

Walking both girls have haltis.