Tag Archives: Dogs

Review: Illusion Collar

Recently we decided to invest in the Illusion Collar developed by Cesar Millan for Rosee. While this collar may look a little complicated it is actually pretty easy to use. As can be seen in the picture, the collar has a black rope that slips over your dog’s head and the two buckles wrap around your dog’s neck in order to keep the rope in place at the top of the neck.

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The point of this collar is to keep the rope part of the collar in place so that when your dog pulls it cinches and she/he stops pulling. It works similar to a chain collar or even prong collar, which are often used when training a dog to walk without pulling. However, the nice part about this collar, and the main reason I decided to try it, was because it’s designed to keep the collar in place on the neck where it is most effective. In the past, Monica and I had tried using a regular chain collar because, frankly, it was easier to put on than a head harness (also known as a gentle lead), and we were hoping the dogs wouldn’t rub their faces so much. You see, while a head harness was a pretty nice option because it went around Rosee’s nose and she couldn’t choke herself, both Rosee and Simon could not stop rolling around on the ground and rubbing their faces. At first, I thought they were doing this because they weren’t used to having something on their faces, but after using these harnesses for some time it was clear that these leads made them uncomfortable. Also, it seemed everywhere we went people assumed that Rosee had a muzzle on just because she was wearing a head harness, and would make not so nice comments about how mean she must be, which is ridiculous since with a head harness she was still able to open her mouth fully, but I’m getting away from the point. In general, the regular chain collar worked out okay, though we were still having issues with the chain falling out of place, and Simon had trouble with the chain collar anyways. Therefore, we eventually settled on using a head harness. After a few months of using this lead I found that Rosee wasn’t necessarily learning to walk on her leash loosely, but rather she was just more easily controlled. Mostly, I feel as though I hit a wall with Rosee. She was doing better out on walks in the sense that she wasn’t pulling a whole lot, however she wasn’t getting any better at the skill of loose leash walking. When she saw something that scared or excited her she would start to pull and not pay attention to me at all. The biggest issue though was that in these instances she would become very anxious due to the straps that wrapped around her nose and mouth. Another big issue was that while this harness was supposed to be inescapable, Rosee and Simon could always manage to get the straps off of their faces. Overall, a more reliable collar that wouldn’t cause Simon and Rosee so much anxiety was needed.

Enter, the Illusion Collar. When Monica first showed me this collar I thought it would be a great alternative and that there was no way either of the dogs could get it off of them. Initially, we only purchased one for Rosee because they are a little pricey (about $45) and we didn’t want to buy two if it turned out not to work for either dog. When you order this collar it comes with both a collar and a matching leash. Depending on the size of the collar you purchase that determines the length of the leash. For instance, the collar we purchased for Rosee was a size large and so the matching leash was a shorter leash to help aid in keeping your dog close to you.

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This collar definitely took some getting used to. It was not one of those magical fixes that made Rosee instantly perfect the first time we put it on her and went on a walk. In fact, the first few times I walked her with it all I did was walk around a nearby park and treat her every time she walked next to me. As a human, it took some understanding of knowing when it’s the right time to tug, gently of course, on the leash. To be frank, it took me and Rosee and good week to get the hang of this collar and it was a good three weeks of using it every day before Rosee learned to walk next to me. Of course, that’s not to say that she doesn’t still have her moments where she pulls because she certainly does. For the most part though, Rosee is doing really well with the Illusion Collar and I couldn’t be happier.

For Rosee this collar was a great buy for many reasons. First of all, it is much more secure and there is no way she can escape from it. Secondly, not having any sort of restraints on Rosee’s face has lessened her anxiety pretty significantly. Not only did she stop rubbing her face on the ground whenever we pass a large grass area, but she has stopped getting as anxious in situations that usually cause her anxiety. Lastly, or should I say thirdly (or is it third of all?), having Rosee on a short leash has made a huge difference. Rosee is forced to be right next to me, which has made it easier for me to recognize when she starts to become anxious or fearful of something and I can redirect her attention or distract her right away. Her behavior isn’t allowed to escalate, and so she has been able to make positive associations with typically stressful situations. Furthermore, she pays much more attention to me instead of worrying so much about what another dog in the park or person on the street is doing, which is extremely important because it means she trusts me to protect her and be what she needs. Honestly, for Rosee the Illusion Collar turned out to be a great buy.

Before I end this review I do want to make a few things clear. This collar is not for every dog. It is for dogs with, let’s say, sturdier necks and definitely not for smaller dogs either. Particularly, if you have a dog that’s an extreme puller who doesn’t respond to the cinching I would be wary to recommend this collar because then all you would be doing is choking your dog and that can lead to some very serious consequences. In fact, despite the success I had with Rosee and this collar, I was hesitant to buy this collar for Simon because he’s never done well with collars that cinched to get him to stop pulling. In the past when I’ve used a chain collar on him it has never bothered him that he couldn’t breathe when he pulled, and I didn’t want to use a collar that could potentially hurt him. However, after much thought Monica and I decided to go ahead and buy an Illusion Collar for Simon because his anxiousness in a head harness had gotten out of hand, and he needed a collar that did not sit on his face. I certainly do not regret buying him an Illusion Collar, but learning to use it with him has been quite a different experience than it was with Rosee. One of Simon’s biggest issues has always been his impulse control, and so learning to walk on a leash that is loose much less beside me has been difficult for him. As a result, my approach to using the collar with him has been quite different in that I use a longer leash, employ the “turn around” method when he pulls, and make sure to treat him when he’s walking next to me and especially if he looks at me. (These are all methods I’ll explain in more detail in an upcoming post about loose leash walking.) It has taken him a bit longer to get the hang of the Illusion Collar, but the hard work on both our parts has paid off. This collar has bee much better for Simon than any other collar I’ve used in the past, and almost immediately he stopped rubbing his face on everything. Finding the right collar has definitely made a big difference for Simon and Rosee, but I do want to remind everyone that this is only half the battle. Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash is a skill that takes training and time. For most dogs it doesn’t happen overnight, but with the right tools and some perseverance it can happen.

PITiful Stereotypes: Part One

Walking with a Pit Bull

Out for our walk yesterday, my sister and I (and Simon and Rosee if it wasn’t already implied) encountered a man riding his bicycle the opposite way we were walking. As we passed by each other the bicycle rider called out to my group saying, “Those are some nice looking dogs.” Feeling appreciative, I smiled and nodded as my sister and I continued on our way.

Now, I’m sure there are lots of people out in the world who get compliments about their dogs, their looks and behavior. And in any case it’s flattering, and makes owners feel good about their pets and their skills as owners. I know for me personally, when passersby comment on my dogs being pretty or beautiful, or even well-behaved, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that after my many years of hard work and dealing with dogs that hate bath-time (but love water) all of my blood, sweat and tears have started paying off. Training dogs, and therefore training one’s self as any good disciple of Cesar Milan believes, is not always easy or done quickly. Rather, training takes time and effort and a willingness to change, to adapt to your dog’s needs so that everyone involved, dog and human alike, can learn to coexist happily and safely. However, there is a deeper issue at play when it comes to being proud and accomplished of my dogs.

You see, Rosee is a Pit Bull.

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Her breed is pretty clearly seen in her face, her stature, her gait, and her personality. Her face is wide, her smile wider when she’s really happy, and girl’s got muscles, which she puts to good use rolling around in the grass or picking oranges from the tree.

Picking oranges.
Picking oranges.

She’s a little taller than most Pit Bulls and I like to think she gets that from her Boxer half, as well as her over the top energy spurts. However, when people pass by her on the street or see her at parks most see a Pit Bull and, unfortunately, act according to their stereotypical perception, which means they are afraid of her. People will yell at their children to get away from us, they will pull their obnoxious-acting dog close to them as if Rosee simply looking their way is threatening enough, and they will talk in not so hushed tones, making comments about “that Pit Bull.” It’s quite true that for many people they will never actually experience the ugliness of racism until they own a Pit Bull.

Now, the truth is I try really hard not to care what others think or say about my dogs. Both Simon and Rosee have their behavioral issues that my family and I have worked tirelessly to correct and deal with over the years, but even so neither dog is perfect and always learning. If during a walk or while out at a park I need to take the time to correct or calm down my dogs I’ll do it, regardless of other people’s reactions. However, it is still frustrating and hurtful when people look at my girl as if she’s a demon, despite the fact that the worse thing she’s doing in barking. (And I really hate the double standard between her and little dogs who are viciously trying to get to us, while my girl barks and then moves on.) I hate how people judge Rosee because of what she looks like, and not based on her behavior. Instead of seeing a fearful and anxious dog who is working on getting used to being around other dogs and people, all they see is an aggressive Pit Bull acting like its breed dictates it should.

Rosee at Christmas. She's just so vicious with a bow around her neck.
Rosee at Christmas. She’s just so vicious with a bow around her neck.

Sometimes I wish I could put a sign on Rosee’s back that lets others know all of her issues. She grew up in shelter for the majority of her life. My family and I adopted her when she was about nine months old. Before being adopted she lived with a foster family for three weeks under the care of a rescue organization, who had previously rescued her from a shelter where she had lived since she was about two months old. Due to this Rosee did not get proper socialization with other dogs and people, meaning she barks at everything and is acutely afraid of men. It’s nobody’s fault that she ended up this way, just the product of over-breeding in a world not big enough to accommodate.

So, despite being a sweet and lovable little girl who just wants to cuddle on the couch, she is territorial of our house and yard, and she is fearful when faced with seeing other dogs. However, knowing her issues, going to training, reading every book we could get our hands on, and being committed to making life as happy and comfortable for her as we could, my sister and I have brought Rosee a long way from when we first got her. She can go on walks and not care about other dogs. She’s okay with people making sustained eye contact with her. Most importantly, she’s confident that her humans will keep her safe. Unfortunately, people we pass on our walks don’t know all of this history. They only see a Pit Bull. I find it so funny that when people we pass us their actions indicate fear of Rosee, which in turn is what alerts her that there is something to be afraid of and so makes her afraid and act out. These people don’t realize that their human actions are what are signaling to my dog to be afraid in the first place! We are nothing if not caught in a web of continuity.

As much as I don’t like it when outsiders judge my dogs, I don’t want to judge outsiders too harshly either. I don’t know what’s happened in their lives to make them feel the need to make nasty comments about dogs they know nothing about. At the end of the day the situation just isn’t fair and it’s hard work trying to turn my dogs into model citizens only to have people hate them anyway. But in the immortal words of my high school Spanish teacher, “Life is work and then you die.” He was so optimistic.

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Simon’s too focused on the treat being used to make him pose.

I can only try to live up to his wisdom and rise above those who use stereotypes to dictate how they treat other humans and animals. Nobody is perfect and I can only hope that teaching my dogs to act like good dogs, not just good Pit Bulls, will help change the world’s stereotypical perceptions of them.

How to Not Stop Barking

Below I have compiled a few tips on how to not get your dog to stop barking, either at the front window or the front door. These tips are based on very scientific research and thoroughly tested hypotheses. I hope you find them of some use, so that you learn what may not work for you and your canine doorbells.

Tip #1: Do not think that you can out-yell your dog. Attempting to yell over your dog, as if your voice can somehow top theirs, is a bad idea–one that is sure to only lead to a pained throat and a lot of frustration, none of which will have affected your dog’s countenance at all.

Tip #2: Do not use a worthless treat (i.e. carrots for my two) to try and distract your dog from whatever has caught their attention outside. In the immortal words of many trainers, make sure to use a “high-value” treat (i.e. hot dog, cheese for my two) to lure your dog away from said window or door.

Tip #3: Do not attempt to physically remove your dog from the front window or front door. It is pretty impossible, in my case, to move my two behemoths, both who weigh in at over 70 lbs, away from the front door or window when they see something worthy of their barking skills. Attempting such a physical act is a surefire way to only increase your own frustration, and I’m sure it is already up because you did not listen to Tip #1.

Tip #4: Do not use a spray bottle if your dog loves water. Since your dog loves water, much like my own Simon does, spraying them with the liquid substance will do absolutely nothing. Even adding vinegar or lemon juice, things dogs are not supposed to like but are not harmful to them, may produce no promising results either if you also have a dog that loves everything.

Tip #5: Do not listen to anyone else when it comes to dealing with your dog. You know your dog better than anyone else, seeing as you spend the most time with him or her, so only you can decide what is the best way to try to stop your dog’s barking (or any other problem behavior). Find out what your dog likes and doesn’t like, what he or she responds to, and go from there.

And don’t be upset if nothing works to completely rid your dog of its barking tendencies. Barking is what a dog does, to try and stop it completely would be like trying to take away a person’s voice, cruel and strange. Even after working with Rosee for over a year she still barks at the kids who walk past our house every afternoon when school lets out, and you know what? Those kids have learned to ignore her. I’m so proud of them.

So here’s to all the barking dogs that exist in the world today, because believe me you’ll miss it when it’s gone.