Puppies start learning about the world the day they are born -- and dog trainers agree that training your new companion should start early, too. By learning how to properly introduce a collar to your pup, you'll help set him up for success in the many learning experiences he'll have in the future.
When picking up your puppy -- either from a reputable breeder or a local animal shelter -- note whether or not other dogs in the area are wearing collars. Often, responsible breeders will acclimate puppies to lightweight ribbon collars from birth; puppies at shelters are not often required to wear them. Knowing your pup's past experience will be valuable as you begin collar training at home.
You may begin collar training the day you bring your pup home, but begin conditioning him slowly. Collars take a great deal of adjustment for most puppies, and even some adult dogs.
Snap a somewhat loose-fitting flat buckle collar around your pup's neck, and give him a treat, telling him "good dog." Then remove the collar and let him play for a while before repeating the training session.
Collar training sessions should be kept short and always positive. Never scold your pup for pawing at his collar or for trying to rub it off on the ground. When this happens -- and it will -- direct his attention to something, such as a toy. Only take the collar off after he has stopped scratching at it, and praise him when he focuses on you instead of the collar.
Don't be discouraged if it takes several days or weeks of conditioning for your dog to get used to his new accessory -- every pup is different, and yours will learn at his own speed.
Collars need to be adjusted and changed out frequently. Large breeds, whose pups grow very quickly, will need especially drastic adjustment in the first few months. If your pup continues to show irritation or discomfort when you put his collar around his neck, check the fit. You should always be able to slide two fingers between the collar and your puppy's neck (with both fingers facing your dog's neck).
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