We see a broad variety of dog collars and harnesses at our client homes while being out on our visits. While all those tools are readily available to purchase online or at the local pet supply stores, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all safe and with no risk for dogs or that the choice of walking tool is best for the particular dog.
Note: For most safety of the dogs in our care, the sitter and to overall keep risks as low as possible we at EaseMyMind carry No-pull-harnesses in our equipment box as a generic solution.
The walking gear or walking tool should match the individual need, behavior and body of a dog and may it may take a couple of trials and errors to find the best solution for your companion.
Let’s take a look at some of the nowadays available dog collars and harnesses as there would be several categories you could list them under:
- Flat or rolled collars in different materials (ie. leather, rope, weaved fabric, etc)
- Choke collar
- Pinch Collar
- Back-attaching Harness
- Front-attaching Harnesses
- Head Halters
Flat And Rolled Collars
By far the most common gear is the regular flat or rolled collar which comes in various materials and with either a buckle or plastic snap clip and a metal loop for attaching rabies and ID tags to and clipping the leash into.
Though they are great for the purpose of wearing your dog’s information in the event of getting loose, these collars also bear quite some dangers!
- It can become hazardous when dogs tend to play rough and mouthy with the possibility of getting the mouth and teeth stuck in the collar, leading to panicking in both dogs and possible suffocation of the collar wearing dog and injury to mouth and jaws in the caught dog.
Where several dogs are together and collars are the choice, it should be a collar with a ‘Break-Away’ clip like known from cat collars, which break/open when getting stuck to avoid injuries and suffocation.
For indoor only dogs, roaming or crated it is the safest to take the collar
off when by themselves and not supervised, even if just one dog.
- A second downside of these collars are the risk of injuries to the esophagus and trachea when a dog is a notorious puller or tends to lunge on the leash when seeing other animals or people and the pressure which builds up through pulling, also raises the eye pressure which could potentially lead to or worsen existing conditions like glaucoma for instance.
- Last but not least [and it happened to us too], the risk of slipping out of a collar! Some dogs are masters with switching into reverse and right out of where they don’t wanna be and that mostly follows by a dog chase down the road or worse.
Choke Collar (also called Slip Collar)
The Choke Chain belongs to the family of correctional collars and are not necessarily easy and CORRECT to handle hence can either have no wanted effect, the wrong effect or bare risks to injuries to trachea and esophagus resulting in breathing difficulties and coughing. Another risk is neurological damage from jerks too strong [imagine someone jerking on your neck with a chain]
The Choke Collar should never be used on a short muzzled dog like Bulldogs or Pugs for instance and never be left on a dog who is unsupervised to avoid suffocation if the collar gets caught in something.
The purpose of the choker is to enforce a correctional forceful jerk to get the dog’s attention and away from what needs to be corrected like pulling, lunging, bolting but the jerking must happen too quick and too forceful for the most people to achieve.
The collar must be put on the right way in the means that the long end (the back of the ‘P’) is on the side of who handles the dog to get this force as again, if not correct, the choker has next to no effect.
A Choke Chain should if need be only be used by a dog trainer, though in nowadays it really is old school and thank goodness less people believe in force based (pain based) training methods.
These Martingale Collars are pretty much like the regular flat or rolled collars but with the difference that they tighten at the front upon a pull on the leash from either end.
Not strong and forceful as a choke chain, the Martingale has no real correctional effect but rather avoids slipping out of the collar as it pulls tight.
Here it has to be ensured that even at the tightest setting the collar is still loose enough to not strangle the dog.
Pinch Collar (also called Prong Collar)
The Pinch Collar too is from the traditional trainers world and works very similar to the choke chain and though it doesn’t apply as much pressure but rather pain from pinching, it still holds the same risks as choke chains, martingales and regular flat collars.
Here it should also be pointed out that trying to correct pulling with this collar might indeed work as the dog tries to avoid the discomfort and even pain but might have a reverse effect or ‘side effects’ when for instance your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, this paired with the pain from lunging may accelerate the aggressiveness as the pain may be associated with strange dogs or excitement paired with the pain may be accelerated to more barking and lunging.
Back- Attaching Harness
These type of harnesses are often recommended for small dogs and dogs which tend to be short on breath due to their flat muzzle like pugs.
Though some claim to be ‘No-Pull’, it often doesn’t keep what it promises as it rather trains the dog to ignore your intention to stop pulling and redirects the attention to the harness instead of paying attention to the handler.
So, what may work fine for small dogs may not be the best for handling bigger and stronger dogs.
Front- Attaching Harnesses
Front- attaching harnesses redirect the attention back to the handler as with the pull on the leash it turns the dog around by his chest [with no impact on the throat].
The PetSafe Easy Walk Harness allows for this directional control, however with the way it is designed it may hinder shoulder movement which might limit it’s use for running dogs.
On the bright side, this hindering may be beneficial for dogs larger then their handlers~ limiting the dog’s capability to take off with you
The Freedom Harness allows with it’s strap between the front legs and higher chest strap for more freedom in shoulder movement.
The leash is clipped at the front for directional control but can additionally also be attached on the back which, like the principle of a Martingale collar, tightens at a pull, distributing the tighter fit around the dog throughout the harness.
Head Collars (Head Halters)
The Gentle Leader Head Collar is great for a leash training and dogs which tend to be distracted by numerous more interesting things out there.
The head collar allows for GENTLY directing the attention back to you and they can best do that with looking at you.
Why does a head collar work? Because the body goes where the nose ..umm.. head goes, as we already know from horses, same principle.
Depending on the dog, it may just take a little bit for a dog to get used to the new halter but encouraging to put the nose in the halter for a piece of food or a treat works fairly quick in most instances.
After that it now is crucial to train you dog that when they reach the end of the leash that there is no going anywhere after that.
This means that at this point the handler must hold absolutely still, no step forward and not even moving or giving in with the leash holding hand.
Once the dog figures out that not even with pulling harder he gets to go anywhere and turns around or even comes back to where the leash is hanging loose, walking can be resumed. Even better is to praise and reward the dog with a treat to come all the way back before resume walking.
This step is very important for the dog to understand that he must stop at a tight leash.
Leash Training And Awareness Of The Dog Walker
As with any walking gear, darting out from a long leash and hitting a sudden stop always bears the risk of neck wrenching, neck pain and possibly injury.
Leash training is important and should be taught early in puppy age for the safety of the handler and the dog alike as well as other animals and people crossing their way.
Last but not least the walker should always be alert and foreseeing on walks to see possible distractions or dangers before they dog can spot them and gradually shorten the leash to avoid darting from long leash.