Collars vs harnesses – Cambridge Puppy Training

collars vs harnesses

There is SO much choice out there with regards to what ‘tools’ to put on our dogs. Essentially, whatever we put on our dog is a tool of some sort, be it a collar, a harness or a head collar. However we NEED these tools to live in our society, our dogs have to be under control. A collar is, traditionally, our first go to piece of equipment. We normally buy our pup a collar before anything else in fact! Largely, this is for identification purposes, for the ID tag. However what is the best ‘tool’ to use once you start taking your pup out? Collar? Harness? Here, we will have a look at the pros and cons of each.

If you go into a pet shop you will surely be spoilt for choice with regards to collars. SO much variety. We have flat collars, half-check collars, choke chains, martingale collars, padded collars, oh my goodness so many. Obviously, when you bring your pup home he is not going on walks, so largely we buy a regular flat nylon collar and this suits us just fine. But, what when we start going out with our pups? Not ALL puppies pull on the lead, but pulling is something many owners do struggle with during those early months.

Dogs actually have incredibly sensitive necks. It really is one of the most vulnerable areas on a dogs body, so it is essential that it is treated with care. If a puppy/dog is pulling into a collar on a regular basis this can, long term, cause issues such as eye problems (caused by Intraocular eye pressure), or tracheal damage (ie. collapsed trachea). It could possibly worsen thyroid issues or cause problems for sensitive throats (such as after Kennel Cough for example). If your pup or dog is coughing when walking or starting to ‘huff and puff’ due to the strain on the neck, it’s pretty much certain you need to address this. I am not suggesting ALL dogs who pull on the lead will suffer ill effects later on, however, we want to be as sure as we can that we DON’T cause problems, don’t we?

A dogs neck contains the trachea, oesophagus, lymph nodes, thyroid glands, spinal column and more! It is hugely vulnerable to injury. Imagine, when your dog pulls suddenly to the end of the lead, that sudden ‘jolt’ they make, if that was on OUR necks we would usually get checked for whiplash wouldn’t we?? And likely will take such good care of ourselves that we ensure it doesn’t happen again. But, with our dogs, we allow this to happen again and again and again. A study including 400 dogs showed that “91% of dogs with neck injuries had been exposed to pulling hard on a lead for long periods”, also “there was a clear correlation between cervical (neck) damage and ‘jerk and pull’” (Hallgren, 1992). Additionally, it has been stated that “ear/eye issues are often related to pulling on the lead when in a collar, the collar restricts the blood and lymphatic flow to and from the head” (Dobias). There are MORE studies like this out there, if you are interested feel free to look some up.

Of the 400 dogs studied by Hallgren:

  • 79% of aggressive dogs had back problems
  • 21% had none
  • Of the more shy dogs, 69% had back problems
  • 31% had none


So, collars, perfect if you don’t have a lunger or puller, not so perfect and can cause damage if you do. I won’t discuss slip leads (only should be used for gundog work where a lead needs to be whipped on and off in seconds), choke chains (if they worked, you should only need to use them once, and people don’t, so clearly they don’t work), prong collars (are they even still legal?!), none of which should be used on a puppy.

It is commonly said that walking a dog in a harness will somehow make your dog pull more. This is a myth you may well have heard. A harness may well make it easier for a dog to pull, he can put more weight INTO a harness, and indeed make it harder for you to pull him back, but certainly YOU allowing your dog to pull, will make your dog pull. No equipment is responsible for a pulling dog. Harnesses, like collars, are a HUGE market and there are so many different types out there. A harness which sits high on the chest, with a back clip, will likely still elicit the same ‘coughing’ or ‘chocking’ from a dog that pulling into a collar will. Often back clip harnesses are not the optimal design. A ‘front clip harness’ often works the best. You can far more easily guide a dogs attention back to you in a front clip harness, rather than a back clip one. A harness will help to evenly distribute weight, and can be far kinder as long as it is a well fitting one.

Of course, for adult dogs, there is head collars, yet another tool! So many tools out there. I won’t discuss these too much as I am focusing on puppy training, and there should really be no need to consider a head collar for a puppy. However, if you have a large breed, you may want to consider habituating your pup to a head collar early on, in case it is needed at some point later down the line.

So, does your pup pull, lunge, or is it a breed prone to health issues related to the neck ie. tiny breeds or brachycephalics? Train it to walk well on a lead, or consider a harness until you have. Remember when training your pup, any pulling at all, anywhere, ever, is being reinforced, so it WILL be repeated. A flat collar and lead is perfectly sufficient if you don’t have a ‘puller’.

I honestly do believe, whatever ‘tool’ you choose, it will not ‘cure’ your pups pulling on the lead. There is no 100% humane tool out there which will ‘solve’ your dogs pulling in a flash. Many tools may ‘claim’ to do this, but be cautious. There is only one thing that will show your dog how to walk next to you, and that is you. Whether you have a collar, a harness, or something else, it is essential to know the things that can go wrong with the tools you use, but also remember that whatever your dog is wearing it is down to YOU to show him how to walk well.

If you would like more information about the 1-2-1’s I offer, just get in touch!
Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining


Jumping up in puppies! – Cambridge Puppy Training

jumping up

Jumping up is a normal and common behaviour puppies display. It certainly isn’t unusual to be greeted by a puppy with paws all over your legs. Largely, this occurs because it has been reinforced from the very beginning. The first time your pup does this, he will likely be extremely young and extremely small!! The recipient of the ‘jump’ will likely put their hands down, stroke, and say how cute your puppy is. This isn’t unusual, I think we are all guilty of a little bit of ‘over-tolerance’ when it comes to puppy jumping, however this serves to reinforce the behaviour. So, what can we do about it? And how can we teach our pups NOT to jump up?

I have briefly touched on jumping up before, but not in too much depth and if we’re honest I think most puppy owners will face this issue at some point. I do offer advice regarding jumping up, beyond what is covered here, in my 1-2-1’s so if you ARE struggling just get in touch.

Firstly, it is important to say that as mentioned above, this is not an unusual behaviour. Not only does a behaviour such as jumping up get reinforced from the beginning, it is also a natural behaviour for puppies to perform. Their first inclination is to get nearer to either our hands, our faces, or our treats!! All of which are out of reach if ‘all 4 are on the floor’. If you watch puppy play, it is largely unregulated in those early weeks and manners are often somewhat lacking! Pups will leap, jump, bundle, bat, and mouth……all in the name of play. So it is of little surprise they see fit to treat us in much the same way until shown different. As stated above, jumping up works, it results in a rewarding response (our attention), so we can see how it then develops into a behaviour which is performed whenever a person approaches.

It is important to mention not ALL dogs are ‘jumpers’, breed differences, personality, genetic predisposition and reinforcement history will all play a part. However I would hazard a guess that at some stage, most pups due to their opportunistic tendencies, will have a go at jumping up. This may seem all very sweet when we have a tiny little puppy, and indeed if you have a small breed again it may not seem like a big issue. However, if you have a larger breed of dog, or quite simply would like to instil some self control into your puppy regardless of breed, it needs to be under control from as early an age as possible. I should also add, some people don’t actually mind their dogs jumping up at people they know. As long as they are not causing distress, concern or worry in any way to the public (ie. jumping at strangers etc) then I am a firm believer in each to their own. What works for you and your dog is what is best.

So, what can we do about jumping up??

We have a few things we can do, ideally all in conjunction with one another.

Firstly, before our pup even starts to jump up or display the behaviour, we’re going to show our pups what we WANT them to do. This isn’t something we start doing AFTER our pup has started leaping at every person it passes in the street, this is something to be doing from the very beginning. If, each time your pup jumps up at you, you say ‘off’ or ‘down’, your pup may well comply and he may put all 4 feet on the floor. HOWEVER, be mindful of just how clever our pups are. They will very quickly learn that when they jump up, you say ‘off’, they then get off and get a reward. They ARE that clever. So, when you come home, or when you walk into the room etc, as your pup starts running towards you (or the second you get in the door) immediately mark (ie. YES, or clicker) and put a treat on the floor for your pup, before his feet even leave the ground. Your pup will then look up at you again as you’re walking through, immediately mark and put a treat on the floor. Keep repeating every single time you come through the door. We are not ‘asking’ our pup to do anything, but we are marking and rewarding an offered behaviour of ‘all 4 on the floor’. If you find you weren’t quick enough, and your pup has leapt at you, step to the side to get the paws off and completely ignore. Try and remember that interaction isn’t simply ‘talking’ to our pups, it’s touching, it’s eye contact, it’s verbal (even a firm voice!). If you are not quick enough with your marker and reward, walk away.

Secondly, we’re going to start working on our ‘settle’. Encouraging our pup to ‘settle’ is hugely beneficial, not only will this be incredibly useful throughout your pups life in varying situations, it will really help to improve your pups ‘self-calming’ skills.

Thirdly, we are going to work on impulse control and general self control exercises. Leaving food/toys of high value when asked, offering eye contact, stay exercises, and proofing these. Practicing and proofing a solid sit/stay or down/stay will be very helpful, it can be used as an incompatible behaviour to jumping up. I would be cautious of attempting this with visitors when your pup is very small, it’s highly unlikely a young pup will have the patience or reserve to perform a stay when a guest arrives! A stay is a ‘passive’ behaviour and whilst we aim to encourage these, we need to be realistic in our training goals and possibly think of an ‘active behaviour’ for our pups early on. However, start practicing these, it will pay dividends in the long run and serve to keep arousal levels low generally. Try practicing ‘fast movements’ and click and put a treat on the floor when your pup keeps ‘all 4 on the floor’. Rush about, run up and down, jump around, WATCH your puppy, you will see when they are about to jump, get in before they take any feet off the floor, click and drop a treat down. Use a high rate of reinforcement to start off with, make slight movements at first, and build it up. Remember this isn’t something we are ‘correcting’ once it has started, it’s something we are showing prior to any jumping starting.

Fourthly, use reward stations! I wrote a blog post about reward stations the other day, have a look back! Maybe your front door would be an ideal place for a reward station?

Lastly, ask people to ignore your pup until you have done what you need to do. People WILL understand. I know I certainly would and I would be pleased someone has the good sense to ask me to wait before approaching their pup. Interestingly, nobody ever has, and I have met a LOT of puppies. Also, if somebody is keen to cuddle your pup (as most people will be!) try asking them to help you, ask them to approach slowly whilst you ‘click and drop treats’ etc. If your pup gets too excited ask them to take a step back and work up slowly again. People will like helping a little puppy in their training! I know we are all guilty of cuddling puppies when they approach but there are a few ways we can stop a pup jumping on us even if they don’t belong to us. Whilst we are saying hello we can put a finger in the collar to limit any feet coming off the floor. We can also get a treat out (if we have one!) and immediately throw it on the floor, or lastly ask for a sit when we approach a pup or they approach us. We can also completely ignore/turn our backs if any feet come off the floor. Or, quite simply, we can ask the owner if it’s OK to say hello! Something I am sure we could all do more of.

So, whilst jumping up is a normal behaviour for a puppy to display, it is one that continues because it is reinforced. Show our pups how to behave upon greeting before jumping even STARTS to become the ‘norm’ and we may set our pups up for success. Teach incompatible behaviours, teach self-calming behaviours and focus exercises and teach our pups to control their impulses!

This is a normal and common behaviour as I said, and I do cover this in my 1-2-1’s so do get in touch if you need more information.

Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining

Coprophagy; eating faeces! – Cambridge Puppy Training

coprophagy in puppies

Coprophagy, to put it bluntly, is the behaviour of…..eating faeces. I know, unimaginably awful for us to think about, but for our dogs it’s actually quite a common behaviour. But why exactly does it happen? And what exactly can we do about it?

Coprophagy is the consumption of faeces. It is surprisingly common and I have had many a puppy owner asking me how to solve this little delightful dilemma! There are a few explanations we can offer for this behaviour and if I’m honest, opinions do vary on why exactly this happens. One expert may say something different to the next, to the next, to the next. However, I’m going to outline some possible reasons as to why this may occur.

Firstly, it is important to mention a term called pica. This is essentially the desire to ingest non food items. Now, under the umbrella of pica, we find coprophagy, which is the eating of specifically faeces.

There are, amazingly, different types of coprophagy:

1. Autocoprophagy – dog eating own faeces
2. Intraspecific coprophagy – eating faeces within own species (other dogs!)
3. Interspecific coprophagy – eating faeces of other species ie. cats, horses etc.

So, you can see there’s actually quite a bit of variation within the whole process. So, why do dogs do this? Well there are as you may expect a number of suggestions out there. There is no one specific answer, well certainly none that are universally agreed upon, there are a number of factors to consider.

Here are some possible explanations:

  • Opportunistic behaviour – puppies specifically, are extremely exploratory and investigative in their behaviour, and will pick up pretty much anything in their mouth in those early months! So, however unwittingly, it could merely start off as exploration of a novel item!
  • Scavenging – it is not unusual for many dogs to be scavengers, indeed wild dogs scavenge for food!
  • Taste – I’m sorry, I really am, but if the animal which produced the faeces has, for example, a meat rich diet…..well, whether it’s faeces or not it may seem appealing to a dog! Faeces will often contain certain amounts of undigested food matter.
  • Reinforcement – specifically, from us! We give a LOT of attention to our pups if they start to eat faeces, we rush in at the speed of light to stop it! Whilst we may be saying ‘no no no!’ etc, it is in itself attention thus reinforcing.
  • Innate grooming/cleaning behaviour – a pups mum will sometimes lick/clean a pups faeces up, this could be possible motivation?
  • Gastrointestinal upset – quite simply, malfunction of the absorption of vitamins or nutrients due to a medical problem! Any medical issue that will increase appetite, alter normal appetite, cause gastrointestinal upset or increase the likelihood of coprophagy.
  • Diet – this is a controversial subject which I am not keen to dive into! However, a dog on a restricted, or a suddenly changed diet, may begin to eat faeces.

So, some ideas there. However, the big question, how can we STOP our pups doing this?? This is something I can explain in my 1-2-1’s, however a few ideas may be:

  • Ask your vet – if you feel there may be an underlying issue as to why your pup is eating faeces, always ask your vet in the first instance.
  • Pick it up! – sounds too simple doesn’t it? Often the simplest answer is the best. Pick it up, pup can’t perform behaviour, behaviour ends! Why overcomplicate things?
  • Remove reinforcement – do NOT rush up and try and ‘shoo’ your pup away! This provides further reinforcement and shows your pup that actually, eating faeces is fun because it gets you involved too!
  • Diet modification – I won’t delve into this too much, some have claimed a dry diet which is quite rich may produce faeces which is equally rich! Ask your vet for advice regarding any dietary alteration.
  • Use a long line/puppy pen – monitor your pup when outside! Remember I talked about management the other day? It’s just too easy to be true, use ie. a long line, call your pup AWAY from the faeces excitedly and reward reward reward!!
  • Teach a ‘leave’ – I’ve covered this in my videos before, start early and build up the distraction level, the context in which is it practiced and keep increasing the criteria gradually to incorporate all sorts of stimuli, not just a treat on the nose! A ‘leave’ is something to be utilised in many different situations, including this one!

Not all puppies perform this behaviour and many will never do this throughout life! However, it is something I have been asked a fair few times so thought the subject worthy of some basic information. If you are eating your lunch, I apologise!!

For more information about this topic or any other, just get in touch!


Treat delivery in puppy training – Cambridge Puppy Training

treat delivery in dog training

We’ve talked before about how many rewards are at our disposal; treats, toys, life rewards etc. We’ve also talked about how important it is to reward within approximately 1 second of the marker! Quick quick! But HOW you deliver your treat is quite an interesting topic too. I know, it may seem crazy, but just bear with me and it will all become clear.

Largely, our puppy does something we like, we get a treat from our pocket/pouch and we put it in their mouth. Simple, right? Not much variation there, right? Wrong. There IS a lot of variation with how we deliver our treats. How we deliver that treat can effect our dogs motivation, either raising it or lowering it, it can effect our pups excitement levels, and it can also effect our pups behaviour.

Now, bear in mind, I am purely talking about TREAT delivery. There are many other types of rewards that I urge you to experiment with and indeed utilise to aid in your pups training. However, for this article, I’m talking treats!

If we really think about it, are there not lots of different ways to give a treat?

  • from pocket/pouch to mouth in a fast movement
  • from pocket/pouch to mouth in slow movement
  • from closed fist to open fist
  • throwing/tossing a treat behind the dog
  • throwing/tossing a treat beside the dog
  • throwing/tossing a treat to the face in the hopes they catch it!
  • put on the floor in front of dog

Now, if we look at these in a bit more detail:

  • From pocket/pouch to mouth in a fast movement – most commonly used, especially in puppy training. May increase a ‘grabbing’ behaviour by puppy, fast movement = excitement. A more distracted/laid back puppy may however benefit from this.
  • From pocket/pouch to mouth in slow movement – increases a calmer response, a relaxed delivery makes for a calmer puppy. Overly excited or ‘grabby’ pups may benefit.
  • From closed fist to open fist – pup doesn’t get treat until fist is opened. Useful for encouraging ‘gentle’ cue. Can help with excitable pups who just want to have the treat right this second! Good points: encourages calmness before delivery. Bad points: may increase frustration.
  • Throwing/tossing treat behind the dog – can help with teaching behaviours where you need dog to go out and come back ie. starting off targeting. Dog will go to get treat, upon return you can encourage the behaviour you are working on. Not wise to use this if you have an easily distracted pup, he may not turn round to come back again!
  • Throwing/tossing treat beside the dog – useful, but not to be used repeatedly or pup will be inclined to default in that direction, may start to predict treat delivery by ‘going’ that way. Will be hard to rectify later on in your training!
  • Throwing/tossing treat to the face – keep dog interested and motivated, be careful of treat ‘hitting’ dog in the face! Sensitive pups may find this a bit distressing! Try to only use if you know your pup has a good catch. May encourage pup to jump up for treat as likely ‘jump’ to catch treat, minimises chance of ‘all 4 on the floor’.
  • Put on the floor in front of dog – great for grabby pups, keeps all 4 on the floor and encourages pup to look to the floor not your hands for reinforcement.

There are more I am sure! Feel free to add to my list if you use another technique. There are however things to consider in all of the above. Say, for example, you have a very very bouncy and quite hard mouthed puppy. The first option, from your pocket to mouth in a fast movement, may well result in a puppy accidentally catching you with his teeth or claws. Fast movement, we have said before, may incite more excitability in an already excitable pup. However, try the same in a slower movement, and you may find the puppy is somewhat calmer in their ‘grabbing’ behaviour. Additionally, a ‘grabby’ puppy may benefit from the treat being put on the floor in front of them. If you have indeed marked the behaviour you wanted, it should not matter if your pup moves to get the treat, remember the marker ends the behaviour.

Throwing or tossing a treat is a popular method of treat delivery and I indeed sometimes do this with my dog. However, and this is a big however, be mindful of the exercises you are doing, in what environment you’re doing them and how good your pup is at finding the treat! If I am working with my dog on my own, in my garden or on a walk, I may well toss a treat, this can help to keep my dogs interest, she’s quicker to revert her gaze back to me post treat, and she’s keener. If, for example, I am in a training class, I need a certain level of calmness and I need a bit more focus and control, there are other dogs around us and you must respect that, I can not be tossing treats all over the place in the hopes she finds it! Highly distracting for people and dogs around me. Additionally, if you are moving through exercises at quite a pace, again, make sure your pup is quick to find the treat or you will spend 10 minutes waiting between exercises.

If you have an anxious pup, or are in a high distraction environment, it can indeed be useful to put the treat on the floor in front of your pup. Not only does your pup HAVE to divert his gaze from the surroundings (to look at the floor), the process of sniffing can be calming in itself.

Delivering a treat from a closed fist to open fist is not only useful when teaching a pup to take treats gently, it may also help calm the process generally. If you add in a slow movement, you are then creating a much calmer treat delivery system than, for example, throwing it.

It’s important to get your pup used to taking treats in lots of different ways, as the way you deliver them throughout your training will likely change depending on the context in which it is given. You will need your pup to be fairly fluent in many different types of food delivery, and be able to cope with all fairly well. A puppy doesn’t just ‘know’ how to take treats appropriately just because we offer them, he just sees it in front of him and goes for it! We can not expect this will be something he does ‘well’ without a little prior training. So, we can train our pups, to take treats………..I can hear how crazy that sounds, but there is method in my madness!

Be mindful of the need we have for focus/eye contact. We aim to encourage any kind of focus in our dogs don’t we? When holding treats in your hands prior to delivery, aim to keep your arms bent and your hands at your belly button. Hanging your hand down to the side, or waving your hand about with the treat in your hand, will likely encourage jumping or grabbing behaviours. This, in turn, will create excitement. Seeing something of high value and not being able to get to it, without any prior impulse control training, will cause frustration and eventual disinterest, so be mindful of where your hands and treats are.

I cover treat delivery and how to encourage a gentle mouth in my 1-2-1’s, for more information just get in touch!