The types of dog collars are almost as abundant as the types or breeds of dogs!
I have been a dog trainer for over 25 years. I have seen dog collars come and go and I have used most of them at one point or another.
So let us get into the do’s and don’ts of dog collars
I am a firm believer that training collars should be just that, used for only “training”. I hate it when I see a twelve year old dog come into my veterinary clinic wearing a Prong or Pinch collar. The truth is that relying on a training collar for 12 years is lazy.
Sure, you can use training collars, but the intention should be to get your dog to a point where he no longer needs a training collar and can easily be controlled by a regular buckle collar or excel at off leash obedience without the need of a leash or a collar.
Slip Collar or Choke Chain
This is probably the oldest known training collar. 40 years ago, slip collars or choke chains were the major training collar of their time for dog owners.
Ironically, in order to compete in AKC or other types of obedience, choke chains are often required on your dog’s body! For instance your dog can’t even wear a buckle collar with tags! Even though I did not really use them for training I would slip one on prior to competition.
The nice thing about choke chains or slip collar is that your dog isn’t likely to get loose from them, when the dog pulls the chain tightens and prevents your dog from getting loose. This can be especially helpful for dogs with large necks and small heads; think Greyhound when collars can slip off the top of the dog’s head.
Choke chains are bad because they can restrict air flow and damage your dog’s trachea if you allow him to pull when he has a choke chain on and is walking with you. Dog owners very rarely understand how dangerous these are.
The other detrimental thing about choke chains is that they have to be applied and used very specifically. The dog cannot be walked on either side with a choke chain. One side will keep the tension on the chain and the neck and the other will allow the choke chain to remain slack.
I always teach my students by having them put a choke chain or slip collar on their wrist and switch it from one side to another. You can easily see how one side will keep tension and the other will release it. Typically, “heel” is on the left side of your body so putting on a choke chain should look like a “P” when going over your dog’s head. If it looks like a “9” you are putting it on wrong if the dog is on the left side. If your dog is on the right side, simply switch that rule around.
To size them correctly (which is almost never done) the chain should be fairly tight and should slip over one ear and them the other. Choke chains that are worn like a necklace (down around the dog’s neck) are ineffective.
Most people do not use these correctly or with precision.
Prong Collar or Pinch Collar
I remember when these came out! I was about 18 and certainly jumped on the bandwagon, because I as a dog owner had two Rottweilers.
It is true, they can be effective.
The nice thing about a prong collar or pinch collar is that they give you a lot of control very quickly. If sized and used correctly they can be very effective but I think that these collars lead to laziness and the avoidance of training.
The other nice thing about a prong collar or pinch collar is that they disperse the correction around the whole neck. Unlike a choke chain or slip collar that places the tension directly at the windpipe and trachea, a prong collar helps the dog owner disperses the tension all the way around the neck.
Sure you can slap a collar on your dog that creates pain when he pulls but are you really teaching him anything by doing so? Again, I feel sorry for dogs that are old and still have to wear a prong collar.
If you are going to use one to sharpen your obedience and use it as a dog training tool, try and get away from using it all the time. It is a dog training tool, not a maintenance tool.
Please, plead heed this piece of advice. Never, EVER leave a choke chain or prong collar on your dog. Metal collars can get stuck in things in the environment and they can also get stuck in other dogs metal collar. I literally witnesses one dog die at a dog park because no one could get the dogs apart. Once the dog panics he pulls into the choke and the results can death.
Electronic collars have made a vengeance and I don’t mean to be rude, but again I think they are sad. I recently wrote an article on a German Shepherd owner who have 5 German Shepherd heeling through the streets. I can see the sadness and horror in the eyes of the dogs.
If you insist on using these devices, educate yourself. Don’t shock your dog for listening or coming to you and make sure that he has the tools he needs to be successful and HAPPY
Leashes, in my opinion are critical. But a good leash makes a difference.
One of my friends, who is a vet, is currently taking my puppy class. Last week was our first week of training class. One of my clients brought in their puppy on a flexi lead. I asked them to get a “real leash” to which my friend laughed.
I didn’t really mean it in a derogatory way, I just mean that flexi leashes aren’t meant for training. And, flexi leads can be dangerous to your dog, yourself and your children. Read this to learn more. Good training and teaching your dog about great leash manners is the kind of training goes a long way!
Your dog should know if he has 4 feet, 6 feet or 10 feet to explore. If it is constantly changing, he is at a disadvantage and training him will take longer and have him confused.
I want my dogs to check in with me and pay attention. Sure, they can be dogs but I want them to understand that pulling is really not an option. The older I get, the more important this type of training is to me. I seriously don’t want to get pulled down and injured. The ONLY time I use a flexi lead is when we are out on vacation, at the beach or somewhere that they can get more length away from me. But my dogs have amazing obedience so they don’t race to the end of the lead and they also get into heel when asked.
Avoid flexi leashes unless your dog has immaculate obedience.
Personally, my favorite leads are leather.
Nylon leashes hurt my hands. If the dog does pull, nylon cuts into your flesh and can hurt. I am not a fan of rug burn or hurting. Leather is soft in your hand.
Although some people have an issue with leather (for personal reasons) there are certainly fake but soft leashes still available. Your hands will thank you.
My same vet friend says he likes nylon leashes by Lupine © yes, they will replace them if your dog chews them… but the fact is your dog shouldn’t be given the opportunity to chew their leash!
I also like rolled leather collars, they nearly last forever without getting stinky. Nylon holds odor, but leather rolled collars seem to last forever, check them out!
Harnesses, the anti-pull kind can work well for those struggling with their dogs.
The “Easy Walk” harness can give you control with a dog that pulls.
The idea is that it has a clip in the front and constricts the front legs of the dog when he pulls. This is uncomfortable and keeps the dog from pulling.
The good thing about these harnesses is that when sized properly they are fairly easy to use and they are straight forward.
Just make sure that they are sized correctly. I find in our society that the bigger the fit the better people thinks these training collars fit or do better. When, the opposite is true! Well fitted choke changes, prong collars and harnesses can prevent rubbing and damage. Also make sure that you take any training collar or off when not in use!
The bad thing, is that if you use them consistently when the dog is growing, it can affect his growth. A study done several years ago showed that constant use of this kind of harness affected the dog’s growth.
Harnesses in general increase pulling.
Ironically, when I was training Service Dogs we didn’t really even need to teach them to pull a wheelchair.
When we pulled backward on the harness the dog would naturally pull harder. When we let go, the dog would slow. It is an amazing principle called opposition reflex . When you pull or push the animal pulls or pushes back, if you let up… so does the opposition.
Head halters are probably the most hated device by most dogs but can be sized for any dog. They even make head halters with very thing snout pieces so that even pugs and French Bulldogs.
Personally, I have a love hate relationship with head halters (the gentle leader being my favorite because it is easily sized under the snout and has less propensity to pull into the eye ball. They are easy to use on any dog from a Great Dane to a Chihuahua and give you control very quickly. A 100 pound woman is going to have trouble walking a 200 pound African Boerbel. And the old adage is true. You couldn’t slap a choke chain, prong collar or harness on a horse and expect to have control. Where the head goes the body follows.
But they aren’t quite as easy as they sound. You can’t allow your dog to rub or try and get the halter off or he could rub his face raw. These
halters should be worn for short periods and the dog should be jackpot-ed and taken on walks to ensure it is fun!
The other big thing with head halters is that the leash should be held fairly short. Meaning he shouldn’t be allowed to run at the end of the 6 foot leash or run really quickly as he could damage his neck!
Buckle and Rolled Collars
In my humble opinion, any collar can be used for short duration so that the dog can be obedience trained. I want my dog to be able to be walked on a buckle or rolled leather collar. I don’t want to physically induce pain. I want to teach my dogs’ what my expectation of them are and how to achieve those. This builds a much better bond.
Lupine Dog Collars are even guaranteed or replaced if your dog chews it!
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