Emergency Maneuvers - The Collar Grab Game

When disaster strikes and you need to reach your dog, a game of keep away can be life threatening. Regardless of your dog’s recall, obedience, attention and motivation, having a behavior tucked away for emergencies can be a lifesaver. So today we are going to be training the emergency collar grab. So you can grab your dog and get them out of harms way no matter what.

Before beginning this exercise, evaluate how your dog responds when you reach for them. Do they cower, run away, duck, sniff your hand, or come in to be touched? Is this the same response or different when people, prey, other dogs, or distractions are present? This is important in determining where to start training this behavior. You want to pick a situation or location where your dog is somewhat engaged with you and not avoiding being reached for. We will be reinforcing the behavior but we don’t want to start with any deep negative emotional associations.

If you have an tendency to grab your dog by the collar or drag them around by it, that will need to stop. The collar is not a handle for getting your point across, leverage, or for moving your dog somewhere they don’t want to me. Use it for emergencies only!

When teaching this, make sure you use very reinforcing food! Only the best for your best friend. This is meant to save their life.

Step 1: Practice the motion
With a treat in your dominant hand, turn your other arm over so the underside of your arm is facing up. With your treat hand, trace the center of your palm, wrist and ⅔ of the way up your arm. Get the motion down before including your dog.

 Slowly move the dog up your arm.

Slowly move the dog up your arm.

Step 2: Follow the Treat
Put a treat in front of your dog's nose and slowly bring up up the underside of your arm, stopping at about your wrist. When their head is over your wrist let them eat the treat. Try not to release the food but more let them chew on it in your fingers while they maintain the position. If they break away, repeat until they are eating the treat at your wrist with their head over your hand. If you are comfortable, tickle their chin with your fingers while they eat the treat. 

Step 3: Collar Reach

 Now repeat the last step but bring the treat so far up your arm that your hand is against your dog's collar. Reward. Don’t touch the collar yet! Touch their neck, chest, etc, but leave the collar alone. It is okay if you bump their tags.

 When you make contact with the collar, let them chew on the treat in your fingers (mini turkey pepperoni in this case)

When you make contact with the collar, let them chew on the treat in your fingers (mini turkey pepperoni in this case)

Step 4: Collar Touch
After 10-20 repetitions of Step 3, you may not touch the collar if your dog is not trying to avoid your contact. If you are still avoiding, practice Steps 2 and 3 more. Everytime you touch the collar, give your dog the treat. Repeat. 

Step 5: Starting to Grab
When you dog starts moving comfortably up your arm, start reaching while your dog is moving up. Only move your dog up halfway and then reach the rest of the distance. Feed when you make contact with the collar. Repeat. At this stage you can start giving it a name. Call this whatever you want but it needs to be a special word you don’t use regularly. Remember that this is for emergencies.

 Reaching too fast or rushing the steps can make your dog pull away. Slow down and back up steps to repair this.

Reaching too fast or rushing the steps can make your dog pull away. Slow down and back up steps to repair this.

Step 6: Grab
Now reach for the collar. If the dog recoils, return to training. If your dog does not recoil, feed them as you reach for the collar. Repeat. Practice daily.

This behavior has saved my dog from running out of doors at competitions, retrieving them when a fight broke out at the dog park, on hikes when a bear appeared, when a leash became unclipped in a parking lot, and much more.

It’s a simple behavior that can easily save your dog’s life. Show us your progress on the Facebook Community. See you there!