Dog collars and harnesses come in many shapes, sizes and designs. While buying a collar, harness or leash for your pet may seem like a simple task, walking into a pet store or checking out a pet supply website can feel quite the opposite. It can be rather intimidating when you are presented with seemingly endless choices, but a little research should help you to better understand the different options available and find one that works for you and your dog.
Collars come in varying styles, from flat to martingale to choke chain. There are many cool dog collars available in durable materials like nylon and leather. You can get specialized training collars like e-collars or dog shock collars, not to mention personalized and custom collars. You can even get cooling collars to help beat the heat of summer! For most dogs, a standard flat collar is the best option as this is more comfortable, designed to lie flat against the dog's neck and not restrict movement or breathing.
Martingale collars work similarly to choke collars. The dog's head goes through a large loop and the leash is attached to a second, smaller loop. When control is required, a tug on the leash will cause the large loop to close enough so that the dog can't slip the collar but not enough to actually choke.
Choke chain and prong or pinch collars should be used only for training the most severe discipline problems and only with the utmost care. As with shock collars these may have a time and place where they are appropriate but only with in-depth knowledge or the guidance of a professional dog trainer. The idea of these collars is to dissuade the dog from the bad behavior, never to inflict harm. When used properly these can be effective training tools. In other cases where a collar may not be getting the job done, the dog harness may be your best alternative.
Like collars, there are several different styles of dog harness and the one you choose will depend on certain factors like the problem you are trying to correct and the breed and personality of your dog. Dog collars and harnesses are meant to help you maintain control of your dog and to prevent injury to the dog or to other dogs or people. No matter which one you choose, it should always fit comfortably and work properly.
The dog harness that is used most often is the front-clip harness. This type of harness clips over the dog's chest area. It can be particularly effective with high energy breeds like the Australian Shepherd that may need a little more control, and can also be quite useful when training your dog for loose leash walking.
A back-clip harness, which fits over the chest and clips on the back, can also provide stability and control, especially for short nosed breeds like the Pug or Bulldog, whose airway can be easily restricted by traditional dog collars and harnesses that clip in the front. The back-clip harness is not recommended for dogs that are learning loose-leash walking, as it can encourage pulling.
Again, the dog harness that you choose will depend entirely on the size and breed of your dog and on what you are trying to teach. Harnesses can be particularly helpful for maintaining control when teaching your dog agility commands (like the "Back" commands), and recall work.
The head halter, which loops around the dog's muzzle, can also be used to keep your dog's head up and maintain his focus on you during obedience training sessions.
It is important to remember that dog collars and harnesses are training tools and not meant for disciplinary purposes. The goal is to use them only when necessary and to incorporate them into your obedience or agility training regimen. When approached properly and with the right information in mind, you should be able to easily choose a collar or harness that works for your best friend.