What Type of Dog Collar or Harness Should I Use?

Confused by the myriad of options at the pet store when it comes to buying the right collar for your dog? Here’s a brief introduction and review of the common types of humane collars and harnesses on the market, how they work, and what they’re best for.

Flat Collar, Buckle Collar

What is it? A basic collar that goes around the neck of the dog. They can be fastened with belt-style buckles or clips.

What are they good for? Simple and inexpensive. Can be used to keep tags/ID on a dog in conjunction with harnesses or a head collar. Flat collars are best used for small to large dogs that can loose leash walk reliably.

What are the downsides? Dogs that aren’t trained to loose leash walk can choke themselves, causing stress to the eyes, neck, trachea, and even thyroid. This is especially dangerous for flat faced dogs that can suffer from a prolapsed eyeball from the pressure.

 

Front Clip Harness (Sense-ation Harness, Easywalk Harness, Freedom Harness)

 

What is it? A harness where the leash fastens to the chest. The design of the harness discourages pulling.

What are they good for? All dogs! But especially dogs that pull.

What are the downsides? Toy dogs, or short dogs will likely have their leash get caught between their legs frequently due to the attachment point. Harnesses can be chewed and destroyed if left on while unattended.

 

Rear Clip Harness (H-style harness, Vest harness, Buddy Belts, etc.)

What is it? A harness where the leash fastens to the back of the harness (along the dog’s back).

What are they good for? Toy dogs, or very short dogs, to protect their fragile necks and keep the leash near the top of the dog so they don’t get caught up between their legs.

What are the downsides? Rear clip harnesses do not reduce pulling. Harnesses can be chewed and destroyed if left on while unattended.

 

Martingale Collar

What is it? A collar that has a limited-slip component that tightens the leash becomes taught. They slip over the dog’s head.

What are they good for? Dogs with thick necks and small heads (sighthounds) that can back out and slip out of flat collars.

What are the downsides? Frequently they are misused as choke collars (sized too small, when tight, can choke and even suffocate a dog). Dogs can get caught in a martingale collar and hang themselves.

 

Head collar (i.e. Halti, Gentle Leader, Snoot Loop)

What is it? A collar that loops behind the dog’s ears and over their muzzle.

What are they good for? Dogs that are mildly reactive to various stimuli (dogs, people, cats, squirrels, etc.) as if required, you can redirect the dog’s gaze. By design they also discourage pulling, even more so than a front clip harness.

What are the downsides? Head collars attach to a very sensitive part of a dog’s neck and if the handler jerks the leash, or a dog lunges on the leash while wearing a head collar, their neck can be injured. Many people mistake the muzzle loop as a muzzle and may think your dog is aggressive.

Expecting Puppy? Must-Have Books

Puppy arriving soon?

Here are two books that we consider to be the absolute gold-standard in puppy raising/training books today.

We’re sharing this because we want to make sure that our prospective students get started on the right foot. Many of the best selling books on dog training are actually full of inaccurate information, or place the emphasis on often irrelevant concerns.

Unfortunately, neither of these outstanding books are available at your local bookstore. Fortunately, both are easy to order, and both are available as eBooks.

Our Top Pick – Puppy Start Right by Kenneth Martin, DVM, and Debbie Martin, RVT, VTS (Behavior)

Ideal for puppies and dogs of all ages, this book is a must-have resource for dog trainers, puppy socialization class instructors, and dog parents.

Whether you are raising a new puppy or have an adolescent or adult dog, Puppy Start Right can help solve many common nuisance behaviors. Puppy Start Right is a positive approach to problem-solving, prevention, and training—without the use of punishment.

Foundation training exercises are perfect for the household companion dog or the future star in competitive dog sports. Exercises include teaching your dog to focus and offer attention, targeting behaviors including a place or bed cue, the recall, sits and downs (stay cues), loose-leash walking, and the “bring,” “drop it,” and “leave it” cues. Enjoy step-by-step instructions with corresponding photos!

Order at www.clickertraining.com or www.dogwise.com.

Or, available from Amazon.com as a Kindle eReader Edition.

A Close Second – Available as an eBook! – Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Sophia Yin, DVM

With 176 pages and over 400 photos, Dr. Yin explains why puppies do what they do, how even minor modifications in their environment and your inter- actions can dramatically affect their behavior, and how quickly they can learn when you set them up for success. This visual guide provides readers with a step-by-step plan for bonding with their pup, learning to communicate clearly, and providing the pup with essential life skills.

Chapters include:

  • How Your Puppy Developed Before You Got Her
  • Why Start Training So Soon
  • A Foolproof Potty Training Program
  • Dr.Yin’sLearn to Earn Program for Puppies
  • Socializing Your Pup to Dogs, People, and Handling
  • A Head Start on the Rest

Order here: http://drsophiayin.com/perfectpuppy

On Dog Walkers

A responsible and conscientious dog owner selects all their dog care professionals (veterinarian, trainer, groomer, etc.) with care. There is, however, one professional, that needs to be chosen more carefully than any. Yes, even over your dog trainer. That’s your dog walker.

Dog walkers spend a considerable amount of time with your dog. So much of the physical and mental well-being of your dog is dependent on how your dog walker operates his or her business and what their knowledge of dog behavior is like. Unfortunately, many dog walkers that I see would not meet my expectations – I would not put my own dogs in the care of most of the dog walkers I see out there.

I have the luxury of working mostly evenings and weekends – so I take my boys out for walks during the same hours that most dog owners are at work. I walk amongst the dog walkers. I’m often confused for them.

In recent months, some of the things I’ve witnessed include:

– Constant leash corrections – I was picking up Chase (the Jack Russell that I was training for eTalk) and in the span of just a thirty second elevator ride with a dog walker, I counted twenty leash corrections on a Golden Retriever puppy that must have only been 14 weeks old. All the dog was doing was sniffing, or looking around. By the end of the week, if you extrapolate that, that puppy will have received approximately 2000 leash corrections – and not once been taught what to actually do (how about asking the puppy to sit?)

– Violent “alpha rolling” – at Cherry Beach I witnessed a dog walker tackle and then sit on a Chocolate Lab. The dog walker must have been around 200 lbs in weight. Besides creating a dog that is afraid of people/physical touch, that kind of crushing weight can break bones or at minimum cause stress and damage to the spine.

– Bored, unexercised dogs – I see dog walkers that take their groups to the same boring concrete tennis court day in, day out. The dogs don’t even move anymore. They just sit there bored out of their mind. Mentally unstimulated, physically unexercised. What a waste. The worst offender I’ve seen is a dog walker that takes a group of dogs on a leash walk around a 400 meter oval track round and round for an hour – it’s the saddest group of dogs I’ve ever seen.

– Related to boredom – wandering dogs. I go to the dog park armed with amazing treats and squeeky balls, and I’ve worked hard to pump up my dogs’ motivation for toys. They fetch. They chase me down when I hide or run away. Often, a “stray” dog from a dog walker’s group will notice us having so much fun and latch on and try to hang out with us. I’ve left Cherry Beach and headed to the parking lot and have had dogs follow me out – dog walker nowhere to be seen.

Bored dogs at off leash dog parks make their own fun. If they’re not chasing balls or sticks or moving around, I’m fairly certain they’ll end up bothering other owners and other dogs. That’s how inappropriate play, bullying, and eventually fighting breaks out. Dogs that are subjected to physical punishment, especially when delivered by the unskilled hands of a dog walker (you can’t possible time punishment correctly if you’re in charge of six dogs) will eventually develop fear and aggression. In both cases I would rather see the dog stay at home for nine hours a day.

But, enough with the negative! There is hope… there are good dog walkers out there. They are in the minority so I hope you are lucky enough to have one. Last summer, I tagged along with Julie (she is a dog walker by day, and has two employees that walks dogs for her as well) because I wanted to learn a bit about what good dog walkers do, and also improve my own skills in handling multiple dogs at once off leash. I brought my video camera and here’s a montage of what a brilliant group dog walk should look like:

Good dog walkers:

  1. Bring treats. Every day these people are with your dog for about two hours. There are many opportunities where your dogs will do something brilliant – that behavior should be reinforced, so it is repeated. Julie reinforces dogs for making good choices – especially recall.
  2. Get them hooked on fetch. Three great things come from fetch. Gives physical exercise, conditioning a new reinforcer (dogs that’ll do anything for the ball to be thrown), and keeps them busy and out of trouble.
  3. Keep moving. No sitting on a park bench checking text messages, while your dog harasses other dogs due to boredom and causes fights.
  4. Consider mental stimulation. A leash walk around and around the same block is about as exciting as going on a treadmill, as is going to the same fenced in box five days a week. Your dog walker should mix it up regularly.
  5. Pay attention and avoid problems. Strange dog with testicles on a pinch collar hard staring at your dogs coming this way? Recall your dogs and move away quickly. Every other person and dog is a potential risk that requires assessment and the best solution to problems is to avoid them altogether.
  6. Realize they’re not a dog trainer. Julie is, but most aren’t. I recently received an email from a great dog walker I know. She included her client, and described her dog’s recent displays of aggression, and asked for help. A professional knows their limits.

If you’re considering a dog walker, or currently have one, ask hard questions and get good answers. A bad choice – your dog will suffer and you will see the behavioural fallout. A good choice – you’ll see countless benefits, such as improved off-leash recall and a tired, relaxed dog.

Coming When Called!
Duke and Petey Coming When Called!