By: Dean Heckathorn, Owner and Trainer at Keystone German Shepherds

Last time I provided the training tip to start heeling with taking a step with your left foot.  Today I’m going to provide a very important training tip the correct use of choke chains.  First, before using a choke chain the dog or puppy should be leash and collar trained.  A choke chain should never be used to leash-break a dog or puppy.  Choke chains are misnamed because the proper use of the choke chain for training is not to choke the  dog, but rather as a correction and control tool. The correct use of the choke chain is to quickly and sharply tighten then release the chain. Choke Chain should only be used during active training and should never be left on an unattended dog or puppy because it can be a hanging hazard.

To have the choke chain to work properly it must be correctly placed on the German Shepherd puppy.  Many novice are not aware that a choke chain can incorrectly be placed on the dog or puppy.  Below illustrates the correct way to place the choke chain on the German shepherd puppy:

Choke chain - NO  Choke chain - YESChoke chain - header

If placed incorrectly on the dog or puppy as shown above, the choke chain will not release correctly.  The choke chain will remain tight, thus the dog or puppy will not get the proper correction and will continuously be choked during the exercise.

The choke chain correction includes the auditory signal to the dog and puppy of the links clicking during the tightening and release, as well as the sudden tightening and then release around the neck.  The rapid release also allows for several sharp corrections in a row, which is very effective in healing training if the dog or puppy is being distracted by smells on the ground or moving off the incorrect direction of travel.

In addition, it is extremely important to place the correct size chain on your German shepherd puppy.  Too long a chain will allow the chain to slide down low on the neck during training and too tight is obviously uncomfortable and ineffective for correcting your dog or puppy.  Ideally for the most efficient control and corrections, the choke chain should remain high upon the dog’s neck, just under the chin.  This is why proper size is important to keep the chain high on the neck of your dog or puppy without having to make continuous adjustments to its position.  Even a physically small or weak owner of a large and powerful dog can maintain control with a correctly sized choke chain that is positioned high on dog’s neck