Dee walked her newly adopted dog around the neighborhood for the second time. She was an experienced owner, with many dogs in her past, and Tank had joined the family 4 days ago. Because he had received minimal training, he pulled on the leash and crisscrossed the sidewalk, enjoying the smells and freedom. As they rounded the corner, Dee’s neighbor greeted them. Startled, Tank backed out of his collar and ran.

There are many ways to prevent the above story; Regularly checking the collar tightness, looking for frays in equipment, and for clasp and buckle function, you can help to prevent an escape. However, there is still another way. You can prevent your dog from becoming a missing pet by not relying on equipment to control your dog. What would your dog have done if she slipped her collar?

Dogs getting free from collars, escaping out of doors, and digging under fences all happen regularly. Some come when called, some run many miles and become lost, still others wander the neighborhood but come back home or are caught by a neighbor. When you rely on a piece of equipment, you are trusting your dog’s life to it. What happens if that equipment fails or it isn’t on your dog?

So just how are you supposed to control your dog without equipment? No fences, no e-collars, no leashes, no treat bag, no toys. There are three simple things you can implement.

First, and perhaps most importantly, don’t overuse your cues (commands like “come” and “sit”). Have two sets of cues, one where your dog must obey and one where you are not strict about obedience. For example, “down” could mean lay down immediately, whereaslay down” could mean lay down somewhere within the next 30-60 seconds. Doing this, you can ensure control over your dog when you desperately need it. No one, not even dog trainers, are consistent with the things we ask of our dogs, and using two sets of cues gives us all a way to be freer with

our dogs.

Secondly, teach your dog an emergency recall. There are many videos and articles online that describe in detail how to teach this to your dog.

Thirdly, practice, practice, practice! Studies have shown that many short training sessions are better than one or two longer sessions. A session can be as short as 30 seconds, where you practice a cue 10-20 times. If you stop before your dog gets bored, he will look forward to the next time you cue him. Training should be fun for both of you. It should be something you look forward to and enjoy as you make progress and deepen your relationship. If you need help, find a local trainer who is willing to teach you how to practice. By not relying on equipment to control your dog, you will have a better behaved dog in public and at home.

To end our story, Dee was a runner, thankfully, and Tank had already learned to trust her. After running a block, Tank tired and responded to Dee’s call. She was able to leash him and she purchased another collar before walking him again. Then she called a professional trainer.