I just saw a statistic online…about 20% of dog bites occur when someone reaches for and/or grabs a dog’s collar. That sounds like a big number but let’s think about it.
Remember what we know about behavior there could be a combination of operant and classical learning going on here. The collar grab becomes associated with whatever was occurring at the same time. And the dog learns from experience that the collar grab causes negative consequences to occur.
The thing is, we never know in advance when we may NEED to grab that collar so it is always a good idea to practice teaching your dog that good things happen when a hand is on his collar. The time for that lesson is not when you first need it. It is in a controlled environment with minimum distractions. And as you progress, that lesson can happen multiple times throughout the day in different locations and from different angles.
Teaching Your Dog To Like Collar Grabs
NOTE: These tips are for dogs who do not exhibit any reaction to a hand touching their collar. If your dog backs off when you bring your hand closer, you can try to begin on a leash and practice moving your hand little by little down the leash as you are treating for each step and only moving your hand closer as your dog’s body language tells you he is comfortable. You can also try putting your hand on his chest below his collar if he is okay with that and slowly moving your hand toward the collar. Always, always only go at a pace your dog is comfortable with. If your dog is reactive, please contact a trainer who uses positive reinforcement strategies.
With each step, practice 10 to 15 repetitions of this two times per day in different locations. How quickly you progress through these steps will depend on your dog’s success. Remember to practice from different positions (standing, sitting, etc.) and from different angles (standing behind your dog, on the side, etc).
- Touch your dog’s collar and while you are touching it, give him a yummy treat. You are creating a positive conditioned emotional response, meaning you are teaching your dog to associate good things with having his collar touched.
- Hold your dog’s collar and while you are holding it, give him a yummy treat.
- Hold your dog’s collar and apply a little pressure and while you are holding it, give him a yummy treat.
- Hold your dog’s collar and incrementally begin applying a little more pressure while giving him a treat.
- Hold your dog’s collar and pull him slightly forward while giving him a yummy treat.
- Hold your dog’s collar and incrementally begin moving him one step, then two steps, etc. forward and give him a treat.
Remember, this is a lesson that is important to continue because life happens and you never know when you may need it. I love this video of different ways this trainer incorporates collar grabs into many different behaviors.