Training is key for any mountain bike trail dog, and starting their training as a puppy will help to ensure a great start in life. I don’t believe in the idea that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I do believe it’s easier to do when they’re young. I also believe it’s easier when you have the right gear. Mountain bikers take great care in selecting and buying just the right bikes, clothing and accessories for their adventures. And gear for puppy training shouldn’t be any different. Without the right kit, there is less chance that training can be successful.
A few key pieces of puppy training gear is all you need
Don’t worry though, setting your puppy up for success in training is nowhere near as costly as setting yourself up for success on a mountain bike! A few key pieces of puppy training gear is all you need. Here are the basics that my wife Heather and I picked up for our dog Roxy’s puppy training:
- A Martingale collar
- A hands-free leash
- A six-foot leash
The Martingale collar
I’ll start with the collar. Nothing is as synonymous with dogs as a collar. They come in all shapes and sizes and are made from numerous different materials. Training collars are different from everyday collars, and for puppy training, Roxy used what’s called a Martingale collar. It was required equipment for the training program we attended and was used in every class. In fact, she still uses one for leashed walks as they help to reinforce loose-leash walking.
For the most part, a Martingale collar looks like a standard dog collar. The difference is that rather than being solid material all the way around, part of it is a loop that can become tighter or looser depending on how much pressure is applied to the leash. The loop can be made of chain or other types of material (the same material as the rest of the collar, for example). For our training class, the version with a chain was required.
It’s not a choke chain
The idea behind the Martingale collar is that it will tighten when pressure is applied to the leash. It lets the dog know that depending on the circumstances, she should either follow along with a command or stop pulling on the leash. Sounds like a choke chain right? Not exactly. A Martingale collar is designed to be safer and more humane than your standard choke chain. For instance, a Martingale collar can only tighten up to a certain point, while a choke chain can, at least in theory, tighten infinitely. On top of only tightening so far, these collars are designed to tighten evenly around a dog’s neck. This distributes the tension rather than choking the dog, by applying pressure only at the throat.
The Martingale collar was instrumental in Roxy’s puppy training. It was used for the duration of every class to teach things like loose leash walking, sit, stay, as well as many other things.
But a collar isn’t of much use without a leash, so let’s take a look at those now.
The hands-free leash
After the collar, a pretty standard piece of gear every puppy needs to get the most out of training is a leash. For her class, our puppy Roxy needed two. One was a standard six-foot leash, which we’ll get to next, and the other was a hands-free leash. And as you may have guessed by the name, the latter allows you to walk your dog hands-free.
A hands-free leash fastens around your waist like a belt, and a lead runs from a D-ring at the back of the leash to your dog’s collar. As a result, your hands are free to do things other than hold a leash. The length of the lead can be adjusted to accommodate different sizes of dogs, including puppies and adult dogs.
One of the main benefits of the hands-free leash is that it takes the strain of a pulling dog off of your arms and transfers it to your hips. Walking a dog that is pulling on a standard leash can be hard on your arms. Especially if the dog is strong! Add in trying to correct that dog as they pull and it can tire you out very quickly.
In Roxy’s puppy training class, the hands-free leash was mainly used in conjunction with the Martingale collar, to teach and reinforce loose-leash walking. For most other skill training, a standard six-foot leash was required.
The standard six-foot leash
A hands-free leash can be great for walking your dog but it isn’t particularly useful for most other activities. At least when it comes to puppy training. This is where the standard six-foot leash comes in.
A standard six-foot leash is just as it sounds—a length of webbing, rope, or other rope-like material with a loop at one end and a clasp at the other. Although standard in design, I would note that these leashes come in different lengths, and a span of six feet was specifically required for Roxy’s puppy training course. The only explanation I can think of for the specific length is that six feet is long enough for all of the required movements, and a common length keeps everyone in the class on the same page. And, it allows you to maintain control of your dog.
Apart from loose-leash walking, the standard six-foot leash was used for just about everything else in the puppy training class. For example, it was used for teaching sit, stay and down. We even left them attached to the dogs to make them easier to catch if they got distracted during exercises where they were let loose, like during recall exercises.
Keep it simple
That’s it! The basic gear needed for puppy training is pretty stripped-down and straightforward—at least in my experience.
Of course, each training program will have its own gear list. But this should give you an idea of what to expect. And best of all, every one of these items will serve you and your dog well as an adult too, making them well worth the investment.
Want to find out what Roxy, Heather and I learned from her experience in puppy training? Check out, “The Trail Dog Chronicles: Puppy Training”.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below, or you can contact me directly from our Contact page.
Join the Sphere
Don’t forget to Join the Sphere by signing up for our newsletter so you won’t miss out on any of our new content, events or special offers!