You may go to the store to get your dog a new collar and become overwhelmed from the selection. In this post I will outline the general use and position of each collar, whether to use it on a puppy or not, and why there are so many different styles.
Flat collars are your regular, every day, tag holding collars. If your dog isn't a puller or has learned not to pull, these are perfectly fine to use on a walk. If your dog does pull on a walk, a flat collar is not going to help you any.
There are many different types of harnesses available on the market. Step through harnesses, buckle around the barrel harnesses, mesh harnesses, the list goes on! Harnesses are good for brachycephalic breeds that have trouble breathing or any dog with issues with their trachea. Generally, we don't suggest putting your dog on a harness for your every day walks because it gives them more ability to pull you around, but sometimes a harness is necessary.
Martingale CollarMartingale collars are our ideal choice for dogs who are pulling on leash. This collar gives a more uniform way of putting pressure on your dog's neck if they pull so that they aren't putting all the pulling pressure directly on their trachea. This collar also gives you the ability to communicate better with your dog with little pops of the collar to keep their attention if they are not focusing on you. We have had the most luck with these collars, paired with training, reducing and even stopping pulling.
There are a couple different styles of Martingale collars. We prefer the ones with chain as they seem to move better and more freely, allowing you to give accurate information to your dog on your walks. Some martingales will have a clip and others won't. The clip is really convenient for leaving the collar the right size and being able to remove it. If you are only using the martingale for walks and taking it off in the house, we highly recommend getting one that has a clip so that you don't have to adjust the collar quite as much.
With any martingale collar, we want it to be sized and placed properly on the dog. We want it to sit right up behind their ears and when they pull, there should still be at least 2 fingers worth of space between the 2 D-rings. If your martingale collar isn't sized correctly, it will be ineffective and act as a regular flat collar and put pressure on the front of their necks. You need to have the collar fit snug in order to be able to effectively give your dog information through it.
No-Pull HarnessesThese types of harnesses promise that your dog will no longer pull once they wear them. There are a bunch of different brands and types on the market today. If you have a young dog that is still growing, we recommend avoiding any of the no pull harnesses that tighten around the front of their shoulders. If they are a constant puller, over time, they can cause damage to their shoulder joints as they are growing. We much prefer a martingale collar for pups that are still growing as this takes their joints out of the equation and leaves them to grow and form fully. Other no pull harnesses (like the one in the bottom photo) claim that by hitting pressure points under your dog's arms it will cause them to stop pulling. I have seen these work with some dogs, but not all. Always remember that the tool that you choose isn't going to do the work for you if your dog is pulling, you need to also pair it with training to help your dog understand what is wanted of them.
Head HaltersHead halters can be a wonderful tool if you condition your dog to accept them. They are not going to be well received by all dogs as they aren't used to having anything on their face. The idea behind a head halter is the same as a halter on a horse - if you control the head, you control the body. There are many different brands on the market today, but they all essentially work in the same way.
Our preference is the top right. We find that the extra band between the nose piece and strap that goes behind their ears to be very effective in keeping the collar in place. This allows you to have more of a gap below their mouth to make it more comfortable for your dog to wear it and to walk without pressure.
These types of collars are generally used on working dogs. They can be used on pet dogs, but we try to recommend choosing one of the above options before landing on this one. Choke chains or slip collars are very one-directional. You need to make sure that it is on your dog properly so that the tension will release after a correction. You don't want your dog pulling non-stop on this type of collar as there is definitely the possibility of choking themselves out because there is no stopper with these. They can be a very effective collar when used properly - please do not use this type of collar without consulting a trainer in the proper use of it.
Prong collars look scary. But when used correctly, they can be a very effective tool in teaching your dog not to pull. They work similar to a martingale in that they are designed to distribute the pressure evenly around the neck and not put pressure solely on the front of the throat. It is very important to get the right weight of prong for your dog's breed and be able to fit it properly for effective communication. The big thing to remember with these collars is that they are only on your dog when supervised. This is not a collar to tie your dog out with or leave untended - that is how all of the horror story pictures have come about. If you are going to go and get your dog a prong collar, we highly recommend doing it under the supervision of a trainer so that you may learn how to properly use the collar to avoid possible damage to your dog's throat. We also recommend the Herm Sprenger collars as opposed to the cheap PetSmart ones. If you can't afford an authentic Herm Sprenger, make sure you get the tip covers for the cheaper collars as they don't always have rounded prongs like the original collars do.
We strive to help you choose the right collar for your dog when you decide to train with us. Just because we have talked about Choke chains and Prong collars doesn't mean that we promote them in any way. Each dog is an individual and if you feel that you need to use one of these collars, we will show you the right way to size and utilize them, but do not actively promote dogs wearing these collars in our training. We prefer if your dog wears a martingale collar as we feel that this gives you the most control and the most effective way to communicate with your dog.
If you are interested in training with us, please check out our website www.focusedfido.ca! We would be more than happy to come out and do a consult so that you can meet us and so that we can get a feel for the challenges you are having with your dog!