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Advice needed - buckle vs prong/choke collar

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In an ideal world, I wouldn't be starting this thread. I'm patient, and would be happy to keep working with my 8-month-old pup and his buckle collar; every time he pulls on the leash, I say "no pulling - back here", and wait until he returns to my side and sits. Eventually he'd stop pulling on the leash.

 

Of course, this presupposes I'm able to take him for nice long walks each day with plenty of opportunity for practicing this. And that there's no downside to his pulling mildly on his leash. Neither of these is where we find ourselves today.

 

He's currently at Week 9 post-surgery for shoulder osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). Which means he's been on "restricted activities" since early August (when he was 5.5 months old - before he had a solid "heel"). Leash walks only, and for a large part of that time, walks have been of very restricted duration - only for elimination, or only for 5-10 minutes at a time, twice per day.

 

He had actually worked himself up to two 1-hour walks per day as of three weeks ago - long enough that we were re-introducing "heeling" training. But then he injured his rear leg. (Don't know how). Back to square one with no walks or only 5-10 minute walks. Which makes them all the more exciting when they do happen.

 

For the health of his limbs, he needs to be able to stretch out his walks. Walking to the point where he doesn't put any weight at all on his rear leg, however, is counterproductive, so we need to strike a balance. He also needs to allow the rear leg to heal to the point where he can start exercises (like underwater treadmill) that will benefit all of his ailments, front and rear alike. (He would have started them last week, had it not been for the hind limb lameness). Best thing for now is gentle walks - no pulling on the leash, which might strain a limb or cause him to fall if he slips.

 

He does pull on the leash if exposed to certain triggers. He adores other dogs (I socialized him too well as a pup!), and will pull on the leash when he spots them. Exortations of "no pull" in such cases will, at best, make him "sit" - when I release him, he throws himself into pulling on the leash again. He's absolutely forbidden to play with other dogs - the risk of injury is too great at the moment. I do allow him to greet other dogs if their owners give permission, but I'm surprised at how frequently people tell me that their dogs don't like other dogs. Yes, I could reverse direction and get him to walk the other way, but remember, this is a pup who can only walk for short durations, and I am risking him starting to limp if we do too much walking in hopes of getting him past the distraction. In a similar vein, he'll pull if he sees a kid bouncing a soccer or basketball. Again, I can reverse directions, but if I need to get from point A to point B and the bouncing ball is between these locations (say, between us and the only route home), I'm risking turning a 5-minute walk into a 1-hour walk before I get the "no pulling" under control.

 

So: should I try him on a prong or a choke collar? He's a very sensitive pup, and I'd hate to damage the trust we've established. At one point, a trainer told me I should correct him with an "eh-eh" if he didn't "stand" on command. I very soon discovered that the joy he'd shown when I started a training session was turning to dread - he'd try to leave the room. Only when I abandoned the correction, and instead simply rewarded him when he was doing it correctly, did he resume viewing training sessions with the eagerness he'd previously displayed.

 

If I put him on a prong or choke collar, it may well prevent him from injuring his joints while on a walk. But is it going to come at the cost of his relationship with me? Or is he likely to associate an uncomfortable sensation on his neck with spotting other dogs, setting him up for fear aggression?

 

Wherein lies the lesser of two evils (buckle collar with risk of injury vs prong/choke collar with risk of loss of trust and development of fear aggression toward other dogs)?

 

Or are there other alternatives I haven't considered?

 

Any advice would be gratefully appreciated!

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I would try a harness before trying a prong collar. There are many different kinds made that are just great - CleanRun.com has some lovely new fleecy ones that I like; I've also used VestHarness which has a solid piece of fabric around the dog's chest, so there are NO narrow pieces of webbing to cut into them.

 

I'm curious - did your vet say that the dog needed to build muscle BEFORE starting the underwater treadmill? That is one of the best rehab pieces of equipment around. The deeper the water, the less impact on joints. I would be doing this ASAP, but I'm not your vet, of course.

 

Also, your dog pulling MAY be a function of age - LOL! Mine did a lot of that at that age. He certainly doesn't have an 'obedience ring' heel - but I don't really care about that. We can walk on leash reasonably comfortably - and I just kept at it.

 

Good luck!

diane

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Others with more experience will have better advice no doubt, but I HAD A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE WITH A FEAR AGGRESSIVE DOG WITH A PRONG AND CHOKE COLLAR (losing trust and worsening fear aggression) AND WOULDN'T RECOMMEND IT. Especially not at this age while personality is still developing. Can't you just do a gentle leader or halti or even, simply, pick the dog up and walk past? Or go out at a time when there are less distractions?

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I'd agree on looking into the gentle leader easy walk harness first. The leash attaches in front and if he pulls at all he gets turn right back toward you. It seems to work really well for all but the most dedicated pullers. If that doesn't work you might want to consider a prong, but I'd never use a choke collar.

 

Prong collars aren't for every dog and are often misused, but they do have their place. I do use a prong on 11 m/o Kenzi on leash walks as she can pull like nobody's business and could quite possibly pull me over if I wasn't paying close attention - she came to me with a default to lean into her collar and PULL. She is an extremely happy-go-lucky dog and and was not bothered by the prong at all. The only difference is that she's no longer digging in to pull. I continue to work toward the goal of loose leash walking and do alot of positive reinforcement for waiting/paying attention where I am. She is getting to the point where if she feels pressure she sits and looks at me or jumps back to my side so we can start walking again.

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Thanks to all for your prompt responses. I was remiss: I should have mentioned that I discussed both an "easy walker" type harness (attaches at the front), and a halti approach with our ortho vet today. She was leery of both of them because of the pup's joint problems. The harness (which would have been my first choice), she felt, would be dangerous to use on him while his shoulder joints are still recovering from surgery. She also recommended against a halti because of his orthopedic conditions (but her reasons were less clear to me). So, although I'd rather go with either of these than with a prong/choke collar, I feel I have to go with the vet's recommendation here.

 

She recommended a prong collar; said she used one on her dog (a Doberman), though she was sensitive to the differences between different dogs' personalities. She did say that every time she walked my pup back to me, she lived in fear that he would pull so hard that he'd fall and injure himself.

 

In response to Diane's question:

 

I'm curious - did your vet say that the dog needed to build muscle BEFORE starting the underwater treadmill? That is one of the best rehab pieces of equipment around. The deeper the water, the less impact on joints. I would be doing this ASAP, but I'm not your vet, of course.

 

It's my understanding that the point of the treadmill would be to build up muscle mass - something this pup needs. I agree, it sounds great for both his front and his hind ends; this is why I'm willing to make the 2-hour round trip 2x per week to get him there. But the vet says not until his hind leg lameness resolves.

 

In response to Pansmom:

 

Can't you just ... simply, pick the dog up and walk past? Or go out at a time when there are less distractions?

 

I wish I could. The pup comes with me to work with me - a greatly preferred alternative to being crated at home. I work at a university, which works well because he rarely encounters other dogs when we're leaving my office. But every now and then there will be schoolkids (part of an "outreach" effort) running around and kicking balls. Duncan can resist squirrels, and deer, but he can't refrain from pulling on the leash when he sees kids running after bouncing soccer balls. He weighs close to 50 pounds, and I'm just not strong enough to carry him, and my computer (a necessary part of working at home), past the kids without doing in my back (already suffering from two + months of carrying him up and down stairs to eliminate). Walking around them (to the point where Duncan doesn't notice them) would involve a half-hour detour.

 

It's hard to predict when these sorts of distractions will surface. I work at home as much as I can, but I still need to invest time at the office. When I leave the office, it's usually to collect my sons from school. So it's not as if I can duck back into my office to surface later. (So tightly are our lives choreographed...). Likewise, if we start out on a walk, and are returning home, only to encounter kids playing ball - we might have to walk an extra half a mile out of our way to avoid them, and who knows what we'd encounter on the alternate route?

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[quote name='Alchemist' date='Nov 6 2009, 09:18 PM' post='32653

But is it going to come at the cost of his relationship with me? Or is he likely to associate an uncomfortable sensation on his neck with spotting other dogs, setting him up for fear aggression?

 

For awhile I used one of those plastic prong type collars on Cadi who is not sensitive. It worked to lessen her pulling but I believe it increased her aggression toward other dogs on our walk. I tried it once on Jedi and he looked so miserable I never did it again. I believe a halti would have the same effect on Mr. Sensitive so I don't use that either. A no pull harness works ok for him. It doesn't totally stop the pulling, butlessens it enough so that we can enjoy our walk. Wishing your puppy a speedy recovery. :rolleyes:

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OK, first off with what this pup has been through, a halti or harness would most likely set him up for more trouble! A harness will "teach " a dog to pull, you really don't want to go there and a Halti will wrench his neck back at you - another place you don't want to go...

 

 

 

You really should go with the Prong collar. I have used it for about 15 years and so far haven't killed a dog, made it mean, or dog aggressive - all of that is simply rubbish imo. There are proper ways to use the collar, get educated! First off the prongs do NOT have to be inward on his neck, you can switch them (invert them) so they are every other or every 2 or even the entire collar inverted. By doing this you have the collar act as a martingale. However, he's pulling, you will need a few in towards his skin - it's self correcting in itself. Also, while he is learning to walk politely you can have a plain old buckle collar on him "as well". Start with the prong, with a lead on the buckle too, as he learns you slowly fade the lead from the prong collar so you still have him connected to the buckle, then if need be you can flip the lead to the prong. Prong collars are great tools, they will teach quite a bit, the problem is when owners all the collar to do the work and they don't follow through with actual "teaching" of how to walk on a lead properly! The prong is fast, straight forward and something that you can get walking him on right away and get him on the road to recovery!

 

Good luck!

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Hmm. Our vet had no problem with the no-pull harness at about 4 weeks post-surgery - only 1 shoulder, though. I was instructed not to yank on it, of course. But compared to his dangerous enthusiasm before that (your description sounds quite familiar) he was actually under so much better control I saw her point - the risk before when he would pull until falling was worse. And he modulated his pulling really well on it so I didn't feel like it was hurting him. Before the no-pull we used a nylon choke and it didn't help his walking manners any. My timing is so bad on corrections I believe it made him worse. The no-pull+clicker got us walking well again and we went back to a buckle collar not too long thereafter.

 

These poor pups after surgery and so much restricted activity - it is just so hard to keep them under threshold because they are so starved for stimulation and exercise! And if Duncan in anything like Odin, he felt FINE ENOUGH, thank you, and didn't appreciate the need for care at all. Good thoughts going out to you guys while you figure it out and get through this tough time.

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If I was going with a correction collar I'd go with a prong waaaaaaaaaaay before a choke. I really prefer the even distribution of pressure, the ease of fading, and the self correcting nature of a prong, plus there has been at least one study that indicates that chokes cause permanent damage to the structures of the neck, whereas prongs do not. Do be cautious of the side effects of punishment, but for a sound dog a prong used appropriately should not cause issues. My biggest concern is associating corrections with the same situation (greeting animals or people) over and over = defensiveness around them - it happened to my Maggie so it is possible, but she wasn't as sound mentally as she needed to be to do well on a prong imo.

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I agree with Journey and MaggieDog.

 

Contrary to popular opinion, a prong collar is NOT some sort of medieval torture device. :rolleyes: They're described as 'doggy power steering' for a reason- namely that quick self-correction when they are properly worn. Try placing one around your arm and give a good tug..it isn't the least bit painful but it will certainly get your attention. Education is a must when first trying them out, though, because there is definitely a right and a wrong way to wear them. Good luck!

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I dislike any correction devices - and as you say your pup was sensitive to correction in class then a prong wont help

 

A halti would be my advice here - but not on its own - too many people rely on it and the dog gets to the end of the lead full pelt and has its head jerked around sharply

 

If you use it with a lead too - as I have heard it described - the flat collar is the breaks and the halti is the steering

 

Its great you can get your dog to sit when there are distractions around - how about working on that as well, instead of thinking of turning around and extending the walk, when there is the distraction get the dog to sit and focus on you as you have been doing, then when he is calm and focused take a tiny step forwards and settle him again. In no time he will learn that you are not going too close to the distraction and the distraction is a cue for him to focus on you and get lots of good treats and fuss

 

Sounds like your poor pup has been through a lot in its short life

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Just a clarification - I use prong collars on about 3% of the dogs that enter my training classes. My first choice is a front lead harness, then a head halter, and then the prong and only if the dog is not overly sensitive to correction or at all fearful or aggressive/reactive. Unfortunately it sounds like your vet has ruled out the first two, so my opinion is the prong is the lesser of two evils given those restrictions - not ideal, but better than no exercise or re-injury.

 

Do try the plastic version or using the rubber prong covers since your boy can be sensitive. And make sure you get a good one - the ends of the prongs should be smoothly rounded, not flat cut. A BC does not need a heavy weight prong, the one I use for most dogs is a prong with links about 1" in length.

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If you go with the prong make sure you fit it correctly. Up high, right behind the ears. Also, make sure there is no slack in it at all, it should not spin around his neck. You can generally get a decent one at PetSmart, the kind where the chain portion of it is continuous - not the one where the chain has a clip as well. The rubber covers are fine if you can find them! I do not recommend the "plastic" collars, they will give just when you don't want it too. Just start out with all but 3 links inverted, 1 on each side and one below the throat can be facing in. If you need more flip more around. I agree with Erin, go with the small links, you will need to buy extra links so the collar fits but that's no big deal.

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I understand that brining him to work with you is great, but obviously you're running into problems and its causing you to think about different training collars. So why can't you crate him during the day when you're gone and walk him at times of the day where he won't be likely to run into kids chasing balls and other dogs he wants to play with until he's healed and you have the loose leash walking under control? It won't be forever, but if this was me, I would crate my dog at home and walk her early in the morning and later at night when it's quiet to keep her distraction levels low and give her leg a chance to mend.

 

A lady I work with just had her Husky in for surgery, 2 knee surgeries on the left hind leg and her right hind leg ended up getting a torn muscle from something. The husky was doing water therapy as soon as the incision sites were healed. Have you thought about doing acupuncture? I've recently seen it do wonders with a couple of dogs. As well as TTouch for the healing process on your dogs legs, that might be something to read up on?

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I used this plastic pinch collar on Taz who is very sensitive. It did her no harm and it trained her not to pull. I don't have to use it anymore. I just used it as a training tool. She had a damaged trachea and pulled on her flat buckle collar and was making her trachea worse. As soon as I put this on her, she stopped pulling. My trainer actually put it on my leg and gave in a jerk so I could feel it and it wasn't bad, just pinched.

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I think firstly, I would teach the dog to "heel" (short sessions, short distsances at first, lots of praise for work well done)) then when I snapped the lead on and asked him to "Heel" he would know what I expected from him.

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I agree Darci, however, this pup is close to 50 pounds, has just had shoulder surgery for OCD, may have CHD and has been crated to recoup for a bit. Quite frankly he's probably simply bursting at the seams with energy for life and "pulling" is a huge no no right now but he must be leash walked. Poor pup, he'll get through this, they all do!

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Poor fella. Maybe try some mind games then to help him work at least some part if himself. Might bring the energy down a bit and helps him learn to focus on you and listen better.

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I think firstly, I would teach the dog to "heel" (short sessions, short distsances at first, lots of praise for work well done)) then when I snapped the lead on and asked him to "Heel" he would know what I expected from him.

 

It's interesting you should bring that up. After trying every collar under creation for Cadi, my DH (he's her favorite person) started working with her off leash for short distances, but using "wait" when she would start to pull ahead. Then transferred it to the leash. It totally worked for her.

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It just seems logical, that before you ask a dog for some thing, that they should at least be given the opportunity to know what it is your asking of them. In this pups case, that doesnt seem like an option though, so other types of stimulation are probably a better choice for now.

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First, I want to thank all of you for your very thoughtful responses. I'm relatively new to the BC Boards, but your suggested solutions to my conundrum are all much appreciated. They validate all that's great about this community.

 

Second, if I seem not to be adopting your suggestion, please recognize that it's probably that I omitted a key piece of information (as when I originally forgot to mention that my vet vetoed both a harness and a halti). My bad. I'll try to be better next time.

 

We have been working with this pup on "loose leash walking" since he was ~ 10 weeks old and then "heeling" since he was ~ 4 months old. He got to the point where he was very good at dealing with "minor" distractions like squirrels and deer. Kids playing ball or frisbee, and other dogs, remained, however, as "major" distractions. Yes, he'll sit or lie down in the face of such major distractions, but the instant we start to move forward, he throws all his being into it, and pulls at the leash. As Ooky and Journey suggested, he's "bursting at the seams" with energy, full of "dangerous enthusiasm", feels FINE ENOUGH to take on anything! I'm terrified he's going to hurt himself (further). If he'd been able to continue long walks, I'm sure we'd have had it worked out by now. The problem is that every time he succumbs to these irresistable temptations, he's risking real injury.

 

On trying to only walk him when there are no distractions: geez, maybe I'm a wuss, but that'd have to be at 3 AM, and I'm just not up for that. We have lots and lots of dogs in my neighborhood (~ 24 on my street alone); at least half of these are walked a couple of times a day. (Several of us also get together for "play dates" for our dogs; it's a very "doggie" neighborhood). There just isn't any time in the morning or the evening when you can be certain of not encountering another dog. There's only so much we can do to try to tailor the route we take so as to avoid other dogs.

 

On trying acupuncture: our orthopedic vet's practice offers this (in addition to stem cell therapy, underwater treadmill therapy...). He's currently doing laser therapy, magnetic therapy, and massage once a week. If they thought he'd benefit from acupuncture, I'm sure they'd suggest it. I'm not sure what Ttouch is. I'll look into it, though, so thanks for the suggestion!

 

On keeping him crated at home: sure, if we were only looking at a couple of weeks, that'd be much the easiest thing. But this pup (now 8 months old) has been on restricted activities since early August (when he was 5 months old), and will continue to be in that mode until (at least) early December - longer if his hind limb doesn't heal to the point where he can begin the sort of physical therapy that's a prerequisite to his return to normal activities. At that point he'll be 9 months old. If he needs more surgery for his hip problems, that's another 3 months of physical therapy. A very large fraction of this poor pup's life.

 

I see three advantages to taking him to work with me. The first has to do with his physical health. The orthopedic vet discourages too much crating; she feels it leads to stiff limbs and muscle atrophy, not what he needs at the moment in recovering from surgery. He's only 8 months old so leaving him uncrated at home isn't a good option - I'm sure many here can attest to the trouble that ingenious but bored and unsupervised Border collie pups can devise. He risks injury if he hops up (and down) from furniture. And locking him in a bathroom is hardly better than crating him. Whereas at work, I can take him for walks during lunch, either on campus or in one of the lovely urban parks nearby (wooded trails following streams, with squirrels, rabbits, deer and foxes to sniff). I can also squeeze in additional rounds of physical therapy.

 

The second advantage has to do with his mental health. We do play many "mind games" during the day. He plays "catch" - he lies on his orthopedic bed in my office and I toss a ball to him. If he misses, I have to go get it, while if he catches it, he's learned to "roll it back" to me. Or we play the equivalent of the "shell game", where I hide a ball beneath a yogurt cup. Or we play "tug" while he lies down. Or we engage in brief training sessions. It helps compensate for the limited physical activity.

 

The third has to do with socialization. As Lenajo mentioned in a recent thread on socializing puppies, a university is a great place for such. I have people pop in and out of my office all day, and they all make a fuss of him. I never had any problem getting him to meet 100 very different people during his first 12 weeks as Ian Dunbar suggests, or exposing him to Lenajo's "Rules of 12" (which I love). I don't think we've yet gone for a walk on campus where he hasn't been stopped and made a fuss of. He's gotten used to people of all colors and dress, with and without beards, crutches, wheelchairs; on bikes (with helmets) and on skateboards; he's ridden in elevators, he's seen Segways and golf carts - nothing bothers him. He doesn't see many dogs, to be sure (we used to go to a park for that, along with the play dates I already mentioned; he's also gone to puppy class, along with obedience class whenever the health of his joints permits). He goes through the day with a "gay tail". I'd hate for him to lose this; it's a privilege taking him to work, but I can only do so because he's so friendly with all (humans and canines alike) he meets. What would happen if he spent half of his first year at home in a crate?

 

I really appreciate the suggestions several of you have made regarding selection of prong collars and how to "tailor" them (and have the dogs wear them). I particularly appreciate Journey's suggestion of wearing two collars, a prong collar plus a buckle one. I can see how I could use a prong collar to control pulling toward an irresistable urge (like a ball or frisbee) that's not likely to set up a "fear aggression" situation, or to use it when he's in a dangerous situation (slippery floors at the vet's with lots of other dogs around), while using the buckle collar when he's doing great at sitting or lying patiently to greet another dog who is approaching, when he's not in imminent danger of injury. And gradually transitioning to buckle collar only, especially once (hopefully!) his limb issues are behind him.

 

Again, I'm extremely grateful to all of you for your suggestions. Your combined wisdom greatly exceeds that of the four different obedience trainers I've worked with! (Why didn't any of these suggest the two collar approach?).

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I'll offer one last suggestion that's actually contrary to what Journey said. Maybe she can offer her reasoning, and then you can decide for yourself.

 

When it comes to picking a prong collar, I would actually recommend picking the kind WITH the clip on the chain part. The ones with the continuous chain require you to seperate the collar at the prongs in order to put it on, while the snap/clip kind allows you to put it on more like a regular collar. With the continuous chain type, the regular seperating of the prongs tends to weaken and loosen the prongs so they don't fit as tightly. I've seen dogs wearing them on walks and suddenly the collar just pops open where the prongs have loosened, and the dog is free as a bird then. The main problem is that they're not always so loose that you will notice before you're on a walk and suddenly your dog is loose. I would worry that my dog would get loose at the worst possible time (near lots of traffic with just the right distraction to pull him towards it).

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BayouBC - valid points and yes, I have seen them blow apart, however, they generally do that just as you put them on. I've never had a weak link in any of mine or my students. The prongs do get easier to move if you use the same one all the time to open the collar. My preference for the continuous chain is that I have had good luck with them throughout and prefer them. The clip part on the chain (flat strip of metal) does get weaker with lots of use. When using a prong I don't generally pop the links to put it on. I invert it, slide it over the head and then flip it around. However, this collar is only a "training tool" I never have it on w/o a buckle collar. If by chance the collar did come apart, I know it's not good, I have the buckle collar on as well (2 leads). I use the prong to tweak competition obedience dogs so your point about it coming off at the worst possible time is not generally a concern for me. I am going to use this to teach, not depend on for life, hence the buckle collar at all time. It's a matter of preference I suppose. I can slide it on, flip it and be ready to go before many can get the clip through the other side and connected :rolleyes:

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