Creating Context with Equipment

I have a lot of dog gear. Not a huge amount of collars, all my dogs only have a tag collar and a regular martingale and Anubi has a specific collar for Service Dog work. But a wide variety of gear that helps them define the contexts of their lives.

Martingale collars with 6' biothane leashes

For walks that require manners and for both rally and obedience, I use martingale collars (these tighten a limited amount to make it impossible for a dog to slip their collar, they're used often with sighthounds). These martingales are comfortable, they're a 1.5" thick so they distribute pressure across the trachea in case my dogs forget their manners and do pull. I generally use 6' leashes with these collars for times when I do want to allow my dogs some freedom to sniff and roam, but I have shorter 4' leashes when it really is just a structured walk and I want less leash to manage.


Specifically for Anubi, he has working gear that indicates exactly when he needs to be attentive, in a sharp heel, and maintain a calm demeanor. Some of the time that's his Service Dog gear. For him that's a harness/vest and usually a fleece sweater (to somewhat cover his innate thinness) and my fancy collar. A lot of the time when he's off duty, I let him sniff and wander while on less (as long as he doesn't pull). This setup tells him to switch modes and he's on duty until the gear comes off. I'll also pull his fancy collar out whenever he is doing neutral or demo dog work with me - a simple and effective way to tell him what I need from him with minimal effort on my part.

Anubi modeling his working collar (he sometimes wears it for racing too since it makes for pretty pictures)

Slip leads paired with bungee quick-release e-collars

If I put a slip lead on my dogs, they know it's just a brief walk. Either inside to a class or around the block. It tends to be the equipment that elicits the least excitement from my dogs. Now, pull out their e-collars in combination with their slip leads and they know we're going to be going hiking somewhere off leash. That tends to be the most excited you'll see my dogs. I use slip leads so I can quickly leash my dogs in case we need to pass someone and the e-collars are for backup in case we need it for recall.


Anubi pulls into his harness to get to the container search

For tracking, scentwork, canicross, and joring my dogs have a half-harness/distance harness. All of these are activities that are ones where I want my dog pulling into their harness. You see, harnesses with a back clip harness feel comfortable for a dog to pull into. This is why so many dogs have a harder time learning to walk on leash when their primary equipment is a back clip harness - owners must overcome the pleasant feeling pulling into the harness elicits in the dog. But for scentwork and tracking, I want my dogs excited, I want them pulling me forward with zero discomfort, eager to play the game. And for joring I need a harness that is both comfortable and safe to pull into. Using equipment that naturally encourages those behaviors while simultaneously keeping the dog safe is important.


Light show lead with a snake chain collar, note the line of her neck easily

Another change in equipment with which ever show dog is familiar: the show lead and show collar. In conformation, seeing the clean lines of a dog's neck is important - it speaks to head set, neck proportions, carriage and more. Thus, show dogs are shown on thin show collars (often a slip chains) with matching thin leads. The first time Anubi shoved his face into his show collar I got so excited because my Azawakh have taken a long time to warm up to showing, so this was a turning point where Anubi both recognized what his show collar was and wanted to participate. My dogs know that while they have that equipment on their trot, they don't walk. The stand still when asked. They don't pull into the lead. And a stranger is going to touch them. I keep their show gear on them a short a time as possible to help them understand the context exactly. And I'm not the only one. When I was at Royal Canin in Orlando an Azawakh friend did the exact same thing as me: coat and martingale on while relaxing ringside, show gear on and it's go time. The dogs both understood the exact expectations put upon them. And woe is me if I forget to bring their martingales to a show and we have to stand ringside a long time, because my dogs have pretty much no idea how to exist on a show lead outside of a ring setting.


The more I delve into the importance of gear, the more I realize how much I rely on it. For flyball and agility, both venues where I need to take leashes on and off quickly, I have a french martingale collar (a martingale/leash combo essentially) that easily slides off. The least component is made out of fleece in case my dog ever gets so excited by the venue that they want to tug on something, which actually has happened once in a blue moon.


My dogs, of course, have special equipment for when they are running lure coursing and racing. For both lure coursing and racing, the dogs wear colored (and for racing, numbered) racing jackets so judges can easily keep track of which dog is which. For lure coursing, where dogs have to run without collars, they also make specific lure coursing slip leads that allow dogs to be released to run after the lure cleanly and easily. In the

picture, these coursing slip leads are configured so I can walk the dogs to the line without the collars slipping free, but when they are getting ready to run, I change the configuration. In the top picture you can see the lure coursing colors: yellow, pink, and blue. In the bottom pictures you can sorta see the red #1, blue #2, and white #3 along with their racing muzzles. If I pull out their muzzles, my dogs throw a party because more often than not that means they're ra