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What Type of Collar Should I Use on my Dog?

Updated: May 3


Whether you are planning on getting a dog, or already have one, you’ve probably asked this question at some point. What type of equipment should I get my dog for walks? You may turn to the internet for help and answers, only to be flooded with a hundred different styles of harness or collar - with new ones coming out every day it seems! With all of this information, how do you determine what the most ideal tool for your dog is? Let’s dive into some of the different types, and help you make an educated choice that will help benefit both you and your dog.


Harnesses

Husky and Akita playing in snow in harnesses

Easily the biggest front-runner in the industry right now - along with one of the oldest - but also most recent trend in the dog world is the harness. Originally designed and created for sled dogs and joring dogs to encourage pulling safely as they pulling sleds, skies, and more; today’s harnesses are vastly different. These come in plenty of styles and it seems like a new one is being developed everyday, so is this the tool you should run to? Most trainers, myself included, will give a resounding no. While a harness can be a great assistive tool for training your dog to walk appropriately on leash, it is often not the solution, and many studies have discovered they can do more harm than good in the long run when used as the primary tool.

a bulldog in a harness outside

Any tool that restricts and controls a dog’s natural movement has the ability to be detrimental. At its core it is NOT a training tool - it is a control device. Harnesses like the Easy-Walk and Head Halter function by twisting and moving your dog's body as they pull ahead. Doing so for long periods of time can cause fatigue and alter your dog’s natural walk cycle - which can be uncomfortable. Especially in terms of the head halter, remember you are putting a guiding tool on your dog’s most sensitive organ. This can be very invasive and uncomfortable for the majority of dogs, and has been linked to TMJ ( temporomandibular joint ) in canines. 

This may all sound scary or negative, but today’s harnesses can be good assistive tools for your dog, while you train them on other tools not to pull and respect your boundaries of the leash! Working with a trainer on how to effectively use both to achieve the results you are hoping for.


Collars

Our other standard option for training tools are the collars, these come in a few different styles - flat collars, martingales, slip collars, and prong collars. Each collar has its own benefit, and used incorrectly, each has detriments as well. Keep in mind any tool used incorrectly is harmful for your dog in the long run - seeking a trainer to ensure you are doing what you can safely to show your dog appropriate walking behaviors on leash is the most ideal way to make sure you are being safe!

two weimerainer dogs on leashes and collars


Flat Collar

The most common of the four main collar types! This is your standard, everyday collar and useful for holding tags, and looking cute. Flat collars come in probably the most styles compared to the other collars, however without training are some of the more dangerous of the four. Because of the flat surface covering the front of the throat - a dog who pulls or keeps that collar tight on a walk poses a risk of

a greyhound dog in a martingale collar on a deck

damaging or collapsing their trachea. While not impossible to train a dog on a flat collar, the key point to note is that if you go too long without mastering a walk, it generally becomes a waiting game of “when” that sensitive throat on your dog gets damaged, not “if”. 


Martingale

Right behind the flat collar is the martingale! These were developed for narrow headed breeds, like the greyhound, who tend to have a head smaller than their muscular neck. This collar type is great for escape artists, and sighthounds who have the ability to back out of and get away from the standard flat collar. With their slip design this changes the pressure applied to the neck from just the front to more of a squeeze on all sides, which is more comfortable for the dogs and less harmful for the average breed. Again, with the flat design and surface area the collar takes up, extensive pulling can still damage a dogs throat and collapse a trachea, so training early and fast is necessary! 

a chocolate lab dog in a slip collar

Slip Collar

Slip collar, or previously named choke collars, are one of the more controversial of our four. Largely weaned out, but still used, these provide a tighten and release design - much like the martingale. With a simple design and ability to put on and take off, this is preferred by many for quick outings and training. Much like the martingale, the pressure applied onto a dog’s neck is more distributed, and the narrow design helps minimize the space it takes up on the neck, allowing for a potential second collar for tags or a secondary piece of equipment!. The slimmer style also provides a quicker correction than the other two with much less effort.


Prong Collar

Probably the most controversial of our four collars, and definitely the most demonized, is the prong

a chocolate lab in a prong collar outside with a stick

fitted prong collar should not pinch a dog's skin! Instead, it applies a concentrated pressure on small fixed points. Where this collar tends to excel is, unlike the other three, no steady pressure is placed in one area. Like the martingale, its design is meant to evenly distribute the pressure on all sides. However, thanks to the prongs, this is not a flat pressure and poses the least risk to your dog’s neck. The prongs are made to simulate the pressure of another dog’s mouth, giving a natural form of correction when used properly. Keep in mind breeds with sensitive skin or extremely short fur, like Pitbulls or French Bulldogs, can have a reaction to the usually stainless steel of the collar. Many brands, including Sprenger, have curogan (a copper and tin alloy) or gold-plated collars to help with those dogs with sensitive skin!


Understanding what equipment is generally used for and knowing your dog's sensitivities will help you make the safest and most informed choice for you and your dog. It is good to remember that any tool, used incorrectly, can and likely will damage your dog either physically or emotionally. Along with deciding on a collar, finding a trainer who can show you its correct and safe usage and continue to educate you on communicating with your four-legged friend will be key to getting a dog who is happy, healthy, and well adjusted. At Final Call Dog Training we will guide you towards what tool may best suit you and your dog and set you up for a lifetime of fun and productive walks!

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