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Picking a Collar For Your Dog

kyrasmygsd Debbie McKnight, Accredited PetSmart Trainer

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Have you ever wondered what type of dog collar or harness you should use on your dog?  The following list will help you make an informed decision.  All of these tools are meant to be used with a fixed-length leash, not a retractable (flexi) leash.

Have you ever wondered what type of dog collar or harness you should use on your dog?  The following list will help you make an informed decision.  All of these tools are meant to be used with a fixed-length leash, not a retractable (flexi) leash.

• Regular buckle collar:  These offer no special features and are ideal for daily use.  They generally have a ring to hold your dog’s ID tag and any dog can be trained to walk politely on one.

• Martingale collar (aka greyhound collar):  These are fabulous for escape artists and any dog whose head is smaller than neck.  If tension is applied to the leash, the collar will tighten somewhat, preventing escape.  Unlike a choke collar, these have a built-in “stop” and will only tighten so far.  Martingales are available material or a material/chain combo.  Your dog could be trained to walk politely on a martingale as easily as a buckle collar.

• Standard Harness (i.e. not specifically made to correct pulling):  These are a great everyday choice if you have a small dog or a dog with a sensitive neck/throat.  Any harness where the leash clips to the dog’s back will provide almost no control.  The closer the leash is to the dog’s head, the more control the handler will have.  This tool is a good choice if you have a smaller dog or excellent control over a larger dog.

• No-pull harnesses (i.e. Easy Walk, Sporn, etc.):  There are many different designs in this category, but a front-clip harness, like the Easy Walk, will give you the most control.  It works by turning the dog back towards you when he tries to pull on the leash.  They are fairly effective and most dogs tolerate them well.  There are some breeds (like dachshunds) that are difficult to fit.  The other type of no-pull harness has the leash hooked to the back of the dog and it works by pulling “down” on the dog when he tries to pull on the leash.  These are not a favorite because of the lack of control provided by hooking the leash so far back on the dog.

• Head collar (i.e. Gentle Leader, Halti, etc.):  These contraptions work like a horse head halter.  They are worn over the dog’s nose and fastening behind his ears, with the leash clipping under his chin.  There is usually an adjustment period in acclimating the dog to the head collar, and occasionally a dog will not adjust to it.  This design works by turning the dog’s head, and therefore his body, back towards the handler when he pulls on the leash.  These give excellent control, but should be used correctly to avoid injury to the dog.

• Prong/pinch collar:  These collars work by applying pain to the dog’s neck when he pulls on the leash.  There are prongs on the inside of the collar that “pinch” the dog’s neck when it tightens.  It has a built-in “stop” (like a martingale).  This should be a last resort since it involves pain for non-compliance.  Very disproportionate dog/handler teams (i.e. small or disabled person and large, strong dog), that cannot use the Gentle Leader or another option mentioned above, would be good candidates for this type of collar.

• Choke chains:  These are slip collars, usually made of chain.  They work by causing pain to the dog’s neck when he pulls on the leash.  Due to the fact that the chain will continue to constrict with pressure, permanent damage can be done to the dog’s neck and trachea with improper use.  With all the other options available, there should be no reason to use choke chain.

Remember, these “training” collars do not train your dog… you have to do that yourself.  These collars are a crutch to assist you during your training, and should be thought of as a way to “fake” a good behavior (polite walking) until, through positive reinforcement, the proper behavior becomes a habit.  If you need help training your dog, contact a professional trainer that uses only positive reinforcement techniques.
 

To check out the various dog collar options, visit PetSmart.com.

Dog training collars

Dog training harnesses

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