Collar Grab Game

Grabbing your dog's collar might sound simple, but a collar grab is actually something most dogs won’t naturally be comfortable with, and will want to avoid, try to get out of or worse redirect bite. The moment we grab their collar they lose all option to get away and ability to control their life. We also know that we are just trying to grab their collar but to a dog that has never been positively conditioned, a hand coming towards their neck and then adding pressure to their neck area is a really confronting situation. It is crucial that you condition your dog to like having their collar grabbed whilst they are in the puppy development stage and that it is not something to become freaked out about. 

 

So, when would we use a collar grab? Is it a genuinely useful activity to teach?

 

The answer is ALL THE TIME and ABSOLUTELY YES!

 

If your dog ever escaped or became frightened and ran off, you’d want anyone close by to be able to grab them by the collar and bring them to safety, wouldn’t you? Additionally, you wouldn’t want your dog to turn around and bite them during that process (Which is exactly what happened to a friend of mine who is a vet nurse when she tried to get an escaped dog off a road. She ended up needing major hand surgery to return her function to her hand and not ending with permanent nerve damage.), or wriggle free from their collar and run off again? It is also very likely that your dog is going to be grabbed by their collar when they are at the vets whether that be to hold them safely for a procedure, or to move them into another area. 

 

I’ve come across plenty of dogs over my years of training and trust me, there are many that freak out when you go to grab their collar, no matter how gently you do it. You are at a really awesome learning stage in your puppy's development to spend some time showing them that they can trust if people grab their collar.It might seem trivial now and more fun to teach your puppy to roll over instead but trust us when we say this is a really important tool to have already established as they transition into adulthood. 

We also recommend using the collar grab game as a way to communicate to my dog to calm down or settle. For example, say you bump into a friend on a walk and start talking. Your dog is with the expectation that they are on a walk and need to move. As a result our dogs become super frustrated because the walk they were super excited to go on has suddenly come to a grinding holt and they don’t understand why. Your dog doesn’t know that you’ve stopped momentarily, and so they usually get ratty and start pulling you around or jumping, lunging or trying to sniff at everything in sight rather then just sitting calmly next to you. It’s really frustrating for you both and so a collar grab can actually be taught to become a signal or a message to your dog to hang tight and chill out for a minute next to me, relax into the situation. You can also use a collar grab for when guests arrive at your house and your puppy becomes excited or if you have two dogs that are getting too rough with play due to excitement and they need to tone it down a notch before they can continue. 

 

How to The Collar Grab Game.

 

So the basic premise is going to be 1 collar tap = 1 treat.

A couple of pointers: Be confident in your movements and avoid having the treat out on show as we want the tap to be what releases the treat. Repeat each step until your dog is indifferent or looks excited for the tap/grab in anticipation for a treat. 

 

  • Step 1: Tap your dog's collar low. Bridge & treat. We start low as coming over the top of their head is quite intimidating and overwhelming. If someone was to do that to us we would probably duck out of their reach. So you must start low and create a really solid reinforcement history and trust in the exercise. 1 collar tap = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog look indifferent before moving onto the next step. 
     

  • Step 2: Tap your dog's collar up and down the side and work on coming in at different angles. Do not come in over the top yet. Bridge and treat. 1 collar tap = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog look indifferent before moving onto the next step. 

 

  • Step 3: Tap your dog's collar coming in over the top. Bridge and reward. 1 collar tap = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog look indifferent before moving onto the next step. If at any stage they flinch or try and dive away, go back to step 2 and spend more time in creating positive history. Generally by this step you should see a change in your dog's behaviour - you should see less mouthing and more watching as they know your tap will produce something amazing. 
     

  • Step 4: Now repeat steps 1 and 2 but with a GRAB instead. If at any stage your puppy becomes mouthy, you just need to build a bit more history with the previous steps to help your dog feel comfortable before you advancing to grabbing. Grab your dog's collar low. Bridge & treat. 1 collar grab = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog look indifferent before moving onto the next step. 
     

  • Step 5: Grab your dog's collar at different angles still staying lowish. Bridge and treat1 collar grab = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog look indifferent before moving onto the next step. 
     

  • Step 6: Now come in over the top of your dog's head and grab their collar. Bridge and treat. 1 collar grab = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog look indifferent before moving onto the next step. 
     

  • Step 7: Grab your dog's collar at multiple angles including from over the top and add tension/force. Try to make it a bit more realistic, like they’d experience out in real life. Bridge & treat. 1 collar grab + tension = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog look indifferent before moving onto the next step. 
     

  • Step 8: Grab your dog's collar at multiple angles including from over the top and increase duration of hold. Bridge and treat when you reach the end of your duration1 collar grab + duration = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog look indifferent before moving onto the next step. 
     

  • Step 9: Grab your dog's collar and wait for your dog to relax into the hold or sit even better relax and sit. Do not command them to do this, instead capture. Bridge and treat either the relax or sit. Eventually your end goal is to be a relax into a sit. 1 collar grab = 1 treat. Repeat until your dog doesn't hesitate to relax and sit into the hold when you grab your dog. 
     

  • Step 10: Grab the dog’s collar and start to walk. The moment your feel the resistance loosen and they start to follow/move with you. Bridge but walk another 3 steps before rewarding them. Initially you may have to help them by luring them as you start to walk. 
     

  • Step 11: As your dog gets better at coming with you the moment you grab their collar, slowly work on increasing the duration your dog has to walk without resistance before you bridge and reward.