So what is the deal? How do you know which collar is the best type to use on your dog for your needs? . . . Well, this is a very good question! There are so many sizes of dogs as well as personality and strength types in dogs that we always wonder which collar is best suited for walking, training and everyday use.
If you just started training your dog in the past 5-10 years (assuming you hadn't formally trained a dog before) then you've noticed how many different types of [training] collars and tools there are for dogs -- how overwhelming! Back in the 60s and 70s they only used choke chains and sometimes the German pinch collars. Now you find that very few modern-day trainers promote these types of collars for training. Let's talk about all the different types and their uses, there are many out there today. Every trainer has his/her own thoughts and theories behind why they use what they use. These are the thoughts and philosophies from all the trainers at Adventures in Canine Training. We cannot speak for other trainers. Let's take a look . . . .
CHOKE CHAIN COLLAR
Facts: This is a collar made entirely of chain, or metal links. It was designed so that when used as directed you give a quick jerk with the leash, the collar "snaps", tightens and then releases. This is known as a "Leash Correction" or "Collar Correction" and is the primary reason the collar was designed -- to use for training and corrections.
Pros: It prevents a dog from slipping out of the collar.
Cons: It is heavy. It can be used improperly and cause severe damage to a dog's neck and trachea. It can often become caught if put on incorrectly and will not self-release as it is supposed to, causing the dog to have a tight collar around it's neck.
Trainer's Thoughts: This collar is out-dated and I never use this collar for any reason what-so-ever. It is mis-used too often and can cause the dog to shut down during training when an owner becomes frustrated. When a dog pulls against it the collar is heavy, bulky and causes the dog to "cough" and choke. I do not recommend this collar to any person with a dog. There are much better collars to use!
Facts: This is a collar made entirely of metal with prongs that squeeze and pinch around the dog's neck when there is pressure applied or when used with a leash correction. The prongs do not have pointed/sharp tips but do produce a pressure sensation that is uncomfortable for the dog. You can also purchase rubber tips to place on the ends of the prongs to keep the pinching to a minimum. These were designed with the same theory as the choke chain and is used primarily with leash corrections when training. There actually are some pinch collars made entirely of plastic with the same thing in mind but without the force and weight of the metal.
Pros: Although it looks like a torture device on sight it is gentler (in comparison) to the choke chain. It often doesn't take much to get a dog to stop pulling or doing what it shouldn't be doing.
Cons: Very bulky and heavy. Often difficult to get on/off the dog. It too can be mis-used and cause damage to the dog. Dogs with thin skin/hair can get little wounds from this collar around its neck. It can also cause problems when training in the same way the choke chain can--the dog can become fearful or uneasy when an owner over-uses it or abuses it.
Trainer's Thoughts: This collar can cause an aggressive dog to become more aggressive (fighting aggression with aggression, it never works). Owners mis-use this collar like you wouldn't believe, as well as take advantage of it and use it as a crutch for training. I often see owners that cannot control their dogs without the use of this collar. This is again, not my collar of choice for training.
GENTLE LEADER HEAD COLLAR
Facts: This collar is designed to minimize pulling dramatically and is made of nylon. The collar fits around the dog's neck and muzzle and is almost exactly like a horse bridle, minus the bit in the mouth! This collar is used by many, many service dog facilities and trainers. The head collar is not a muzzle and does not serve the purpose of a muzzle nor was it ever meant to. The collar gives more control as you are able to control the dog by it's full head and neck as opposed to a collar just around the neck. This collar was not designed to be used with leash corrections and should not be used with leash corrections. The collar is very much self-correcting and little work is needed for a dog to stop pulling with this type of collar on. The dog does have to get used to wearing it, some really fight it.
Pros: The collar is humane, simple to use and can minimize pulling dramatically when a dog is able to tolerate wearing it. It requires no leash corrections. Once a dog is used to it anyone of any size or age can easily walk even the largest dogs with ease. It gives almost instant control and dogs can easily be guided with this collar on. This is used by many trainers out there today.
Cons: I have seen people use a leash correction with this collar which can cause damage to the dog. I also see this again as a crutch for many people--they cannot control their dog without this collar on. Also, I have seen some dogs fight it so badly that they harm themselves, some dogs do not tolerate this collar well.
Trainer's Thoughts: This used to be the collar I always used for training when a dog was big or walked poorly on leash; that was about 7 years ago. Of all the collars already mentioned this one is by far one that I would choose over the other two. However, I do not like the fact that so many people cannot control their dogs without the use of this collar or that some dogs really stress with this collar on. I don't have anything against this collar when the dog can wear it comfortably and the owner can control the dog easily with it on; it can really be a great tool.
ELECTRIC COLLAR (E-COLLAR)
Facts: This is a collar that has a box on it and sends electric stimulation or "zaps" to the dog to receive a response. Often called a "shock collar" the modern day e-collars do not hurt the dog unless they are being abused by the user. You control the collar and the stimulations/zaps with a remote control that can fit in your pocket or around your neck. This collar comes in many different frequencies, sizes and ranges. The most common use is for gun dog training and very long distance work with dogs, such as field dogs and hunting dogs. However, a man by the name of Fred Hassen has copyrighted his own company -- Sit Means Sit -- and primarily uses e-collars for training in all areas of training. He has swept the country with this training technique and many trainers are using this type of collar and training for their dogs and clients today. Many trainers also still find this method controversial.
Pros: When used properly this gives an owner instant control of their dog off-leash because of the use of the remote control.
Cons: This collar can be mis-used to the point of causing irreparable damage to a dog. It is still very controversial among the dog training community.
Trainer's Thoughts: I must honestly say that because I have never trained a dog with this type of collar that I cannot rightfully speak about this collar. I have seen some dogs do amazing things with this kind of training, when done properly. However, I feel that you should be able to control and train your dog without the use of a remote control. I have also seen dogs that have become very, very aggressive and/or fearful with the use of this collar (often due to mis-use of the collar).
Facts: This device is made of cotton or nylon, with the latter being the most common. The harness fits entirely around the dog's body (back, over the spine) and wraps around the front chest. Some harnesses are designed as "no pull harnesses" and the leash actually attaches to the front at the dog's chest instead of the normal attachment on the dog's back. When training sled dogs, carting dogs, Tracking dogs or the sport of Skijoring, this is the only device you can use.
Pros: For small dogs that can easily get a collapsed trachea, such as Yorkies, this is often the collar of choice. When fitted properly the dog cannot get out of it.
Cons: You often have very poor control over a dog with this on. If the dog is not trained not to pull on a leash this will not help the dog and often can help a dog pull with ease -- can you say sled dog?
Trainer's Thoughts: I do not use these for training. I feel that they do not give the owner control and often are worse for controlling a dog than even just a regular collar. While these aren't bad as far as for the well-being of the dog, I do not prefer them for training purposes. If someone prefers that their dog wear this I like to train the owner and dog how to walk on a loose leash first.
Facts: Originally designed for Greyhounds and often referred to as a "Greyhound collar" or a martingale. They can be made of all nylon or nylon and a small strip of chain. They are not designed to be used like a choke chain or for leash corrections. This collar prevents a dog from slipping out of the collar if they try to back out of it. The collar tightens and they cannot get it over their heads.
Pros: Does not slip off the dog. Can be used as the dog's everyday collar.
Cons: Sometimes people tend to give leash corrections as if this is a choke chain.
Trainer's Thoughts: This is my collar of choice. We train the owners to control their dog on this collar (walk with a loose leash) and also have the safety of knowing that the dog will not slip out of it. We require that all of our clients get one of these collars for their dogs. They can also wear them all the time, not just for training.
LAST THOUGHTS FROM THE TRAINER
There are more tools out there but I find that these are the devices most commonly used for training purposes, or attempted to be used for training purposes. The biggest problem, I find, is that people attempt to find a device that trains the dog. No matter what tool you use to train your dog, the tool does not do that for you. You must train your dog with the device, not rely on the device to do the work. A dog that pulls on a leash will pull with anything on, no matter what the package may say. You have to train the dog to understand that it cannot pull on leash, the collar is not doing that for you.
The reason we use the no-slip collar is that it is safe for the dog, the dog cannot slip out of it and owners are not allowed to do leash corrections with it on (we don't use leash corrections in our training). We train the owners to gain control of their dogs and therefore they can use any device they wish if the dog can understand what is right and wrong (no-pulling on leash vs pulling on leash).
In conclusion, you may attempt to use any of these devices on your dog however, you should realize that training all depends on you not the collar. If you need help with your dog in a specific area, such as pulling on the leash, join one of our mini-workshops! . . . or contact us today and we can head you down the right path!