Just like a cobbler needs certain tools to make shoes and a carpenter needs his hammer and saw to build a house, so does the professional dog trainer and amateur dog owner to get maximum results in minimal time.
The main tools you’ll need to potty train a puppy (in no particular order) are:
- A 6′ Leather Dog Leash.
- A Buckle Collar.
- A Slip or “Choke Chain” Collar (if you’re training a toy-breed).
- A Prong Collar (also called a “pinch collar”) – If you live in Australia, New Zealand or the UK, you may need to use the Starmark “Good Dog” collar, instead. This is a plastic version of the prong collar.
- A 1′ tab leash for in the house, when the six foot leash is too long. (Typically referred to as just a: “Tab.”)
- A dog crate that’s just big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in.
- An enzymatic cleaner that is specifically formulated for pet accidents, in a spray bottle. I prefer the brand, “Nature’s Miracle.”
You may have already formed opinions about some of these training tools. Some readers may even be crinkling their nose, already.
Please allow me to explain and I’ll go into more detail about how each of these tools work and why they are the most humane way to potty train a puppy.
1. The 6′ Leather Dog Leash
The best dog leash to use is the 6 foot by 3/8” (or 6 foot by 1/2” for bigger dogs) leather leash.
You’ll want the type with a regular harness snap on one end– preferably with the snap braided and stitched to the leash, although some of the finer Amish leashes are just braided and these are of great quality, too.
Leather leashes are what all of the really good trainers use. Sure, you can use the polypropelene or nylon leashes. But nothing beats supple leather in your hands when you’re working with a leash. It’s the difference between wearing leather shoes and wearing nylon shoes.
2. The One-Foot Tab Leash
The “Tab” is a one foot leash we make our dogs wear, both around the house and when we’re in an “off-leash” setting. You cannot give a motivational correction without having something attached to your dog’s training collar. (Simply grabbing the chain part of the training collar doesn’t work!)
You can buy a tab leash from any of the big box pet stores (or online). They typically cost about $8.
Or, you can make your own by buying a short piece of soft rope at you local hardware store and attaching it to a $0.35 harness snap. I usually just run the rope through the loop end of the harness snap and then tie the two ends of the rope together with a knot. Really, you just need something that gives you enough length so that you can get a bit of slack when you tug on it.
3. The Buckle Collar
The plain leather buckle collar is the one your dog will wear at most times, but it typically isn’t used in a training context. You can use it to attach your dog’s identification tags or if you’re using a remote electronic collar– the buckle collar will be what you attach your leash to– as the leash really isn’t used as anything more than something you can grab onto if the unexpected (like a car) suddenly appears and you don’t yet have enough control over your dog to be comfortable with him “off leash.”
Many owners prefer the rolled leather buckle collar, as it doesn’t leave an indent on the coat of long haired dogs.
4. The Slip Collar or “Choke Chain”
Before the prong collar was developed (see below) pretty much everybody used the slip collar— a piece of fine rope with a metal ring on each end or it’s metal counterpart, the “choke chain.”
I have no idea why it came to be called a choke chain, as the only way it can choke the dog is if it’s misused. And if we’re going to start calling things by names based on how they’re not supposed to be used, then we might as well start calling cake: “Flabby Arm Makers”.
The slip collar is looped one end into the other, just like you would a slip knot. While facing the dog, you’ll want to make it look like a “P” as you put it over your dog’s head. (This is because we typically work with the dog on our left side, and putting it on this way will allow the ring to slide and relax after you give a tug-and-release on the leash. If you put the slip collar on the dog the opposite way– it will stay tight).
5. The Prong Collar, a.k.a. Pinch Collar
Yes… it looks like a medieval torture device. But looks can be deceiving. It’s actually one of the safest and most humane dog training collars you can use.
The prong collar is designed to replicate the way the mother would correct her pups in a litter. Or similarly, how the Alpha dog in a pack would correct the subordinate dogs… by giving a “nip” on the neck.
The prong collar (also frequently called: a pinch collar) is made of a series of prongs that link together.
Most prong collars are designed pretty much the same: There is a safety ring which rides next to the dog’s neck and a “D” shaped ring that you hook your leash to. Some prong collar manufacturers have developed “quick release” mechanisms which may work somewhat differently.
A Safe Fit For The Pinch Collar
In order to properly size and fit the collar, you must do the following:
The trick to putting the pinch collar on correctly is that you’ll need to break the collar apart in the middle– by unsnapping two of the prongs, and then put it around your dog’s neck. If you just try to slide it over your dog’s head, then you’ve got it fitted way, way too loosely.
To give your dog a motivational correction with the prong collar, grab the leash at any point and reach toward the collar so that you’re creating slack… and then tug and release. The collar should not be tight for more than 1/2 a second. Be aware that you should not be pulling the leash tight-to-tighter. Instead, reach toward the dog to create slack in the leash, and then tug.
Note: The leash mechanics for giving a correction are absolutely the same for the slip collar and the Starmark collar, too.
6. The Dog Crate
Dogs are by nature, den animals. Once you properly introduce the crate, you’ll begin to see your dog’s den instinct come out. You’ll see him start going into the crate on his own, just to take naps.
The best type of dog crate to buy is the plastic, airline-approved crate. (Sometimes called a dog kennels, which is confusing because we also call a gated outside area a “kennel run”). Do not buy a crate that is all-wire with a pan on the bottom. Buy the plastic airline approved crate with the metal door.
Several companies make dog crates. Most types use bolts with wing nuts to hold them together. This is important, because if your puppy has an accident in the crate, you’ll need to disassemble it in order to clean it. The problem with these types of crates is that it can take twenty minutes to disassemble.
However, some companies now offer crates that use snap handles instead of bolts/wing nuts. These make taking your crate apart a breeze. You can literally disassemble a dog crate with the snap handles in less than a minute. Well worth the extra money, in my opinion.