Posted in Dog
Every dog will need a collar and leash, but not every dog will need the same kind of collar and leash. Listed below are the different options that are available for different types of dogs and situations. Note that there is no magic collar that will teach your dog to walk on a loose leash and not pull! Teaching your dog not to pull will require training no matter what type of collar or harness you use, but some of these options can be considered training tools that will help you out while you’re training. This article is meant to define the basics so that you know the different options available.
Standard Flat Collar
This is the most basic type of collar. It works well for dogs that are well behaved and trained to walk on leashes. Many dogs do just fine with the standard, so this is usually what new dog owners start out with. The only type of dog that should not have a flat collar is small dogs with delicate necks (see the harness section below). Typically flat collars are made of of nylon.
Martingale / No-Slip Flat Collar
This type of collar is called a Martingale, but is also often called a no-slip collar, because it prevents dogs from slipping out of it. When the dog pulls or wriggles around, the collar tightens up so that there is no extra room for the dog to slip out of it. Dogs with necks that are thicker than their heads will usually need a Martingale collar because their necks can easily slip out of flat collars. However, it’s not a bad idea for most dogs because you never know when your dog is going to slip out of a flat collar.
Dogs with delicate necks and trachea will not do well with a standard collar that goes around the neck, because when they pull the collar can damage their trachea. At the least it will probably cause coughing, and at the worst it could cause a collapsed trachea. For almost all small dogs under 15 pounds a harness is usually the best option so that the collar does not damage the dog’s delicate throat area. This is especially true for breeds like Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Pomeranians.
With a traditional harness, the leash clips to the back of the dog. However, there is also an option to get a front-clip harness where the leash will attach to the chest area of the dog instead of the back. When dogs pull when on this harness, it pulls their body slightly sideways, which stops some dogs from pulling. It’s just as easy to use as a traditional harness but is meant to stop some pulling behaviors and to give you a bit more control over your dog.
The head harness (sometimes called a Halti or a Gentle Leader because of the brands that sell them) is useful to maintain more control over a dog while walking. This type of harness fits around the dog’s head instead of the dog’s body, because if you have control over the dog’s head you will have much more control over the dog’s body. Some dogs don’t like the feeling of this harness at first, so it requires positive conditioning and a slow introduction so that your dog can get used to it.
While the head harness is somewhat controversial because some say that it can cause neck injuries, it is safe when used correctly and with the guidance of a good trainer. It is very important that the head harness fits properly and that it is used correctly to avoid injury. The leash should never be jerked around if a dog is wearing a head harness. If you plan on using a head harness, make sure you talk to a trainer or other expert so that you know that you are using it correctly. Head harnesses should also be used with a shorter leash (6 ft maximum but 3-4 ft is better) so that your dog won’t be able to build up momentum running and cause a neck injury.
Aversives: Prong Collars and Choke Collars
Some collars are meant to hurt or make the dog feel uncomfortable in order to train the dog to not pull. These are sometimes called “aversives,” which is a term that means using punishment to change a behavior. There are several different types of collars like this. One is called a choke chain or choke collar, because it has rings that will choke the dog’s neck for a short period of time when the dog pulls. Another is called a prong collar, because it has prongs that will pinch the dog’s skin when the dog pulls.
It is highly recommended to NOT use these collars to train your dog. The simple reason why is because it can be very easy to cause more harm than good if you’re not an expert (and even some experts can get it wrong). Many dogs lunge, pull, and bark on walks because of fear. Many dog owners don’t know this because it’s not intuitive – you need to know dog behavior really well to understand exactly what emotion a dog is expressing with his behavior. When you add pain and punishment on top of the fear, it causes a lot of harm and the reactions will become even more extreme.
For example, say that a person is claustrophobic and hates being in small spaces. Now let’s say that person is put in a small space and pinched every time they express their fear. The person isn’t going to become less scared of being in small spaces. The person is probably going to be more afraid, because now they are afraid of small spaces and of being pinched. The person might learn to hide their fear, but the fear is still there, and they might react even more strongly than they did before because they’ve been holding their communication in for so long. The same is true for dogs. Using an aversive collar can increase your dog’s fear and cause your dog to react even more aggressively when he does react.
Now, all that being said, there is a correct way to use a prong collar and it’s not cruel if used correctly. For example, some people have large dogs that walk nicely on leash, but they might very occasionally pull too hard if they get excited. In these cases, the prong will quickly correct the behavior instead of pulling the person down with the dog. It’s safer for both the dog and the human in that case. Unfortunately, the majority of people using prong collars are not using them correctly. Only very experienced dog owners who have thoroughly researched the prong collar should use one to ensure it’s used correctly and in the correct circumstances.
Choke chains can also be used correctly, but overall they are even more difficult to be used correctly and have a higher likelihood of injuring dogs by choking them.
In order to be safe for both you and your dog, it’s best to avoid choke chains and prong collars for the majority of situations so that you won’t accidentally use it incorrectly and cause harm. You will be able to train your dog to walk nicely on leash using other methods.