Where to start
If you go to your local pet shop or search online you will find a hundred different types of special collars, harnesses and head collars which can make choosing the right one really difficult.
The first question I ask someone is Why is your dog wearing that equipment? The answer is usually Because he pulls or sometimes Because I thought they were supposed to wear it or even Because my trainer sold me it!
I will let you into a trade secret... the best piece of equipment to walk a dog on is his regular collar and lead! Okay I appreciate that does not help me sell you equipment but there is a qualification to my statement, which is your dog needs to be trained to walk nicely on lead first.
The time spent training your new puppy to walk nicely on lead is a good investment unless you want 15 years of being pulled down the street. Dogs that are already established pullers may need greater time and dedication on your part to learn to not pull. You may be helped in this process by using specific training equipment.
Let’s look at the options:
- Simple flat collar and lead – made of fabric or leather. This is the perfect solution for a trained dog.
- Choke chains. These do what they say, they choke your dog! This will be uncomfortable for your dog however he will eventually learn to ignore the pain. Unfortunately long term this can cause damage to his throat, neck, and spine.
- Check chains. A marketing company realised that choke chains sound horrible so re-branded them as check chains.
- Half-choke / half-check chains. These only half choke your dog. They are limited to stop choking him to the point of turning blue!
- Prong collars and spike collars. These are more common in the USA that the UK but still used by some. They look like chock chains but have prongs or spikes that cut into the dog’s neck. These are nothing short of barbaric!
- Harnesses with a back clip. These on the surface seem like the perfect humane solution to a pulling dog. The dog will no longer choke but will often pull more due to the reflex (opposition reflex) to pull against things.
- Harnesses with a chest clip (e.g. Easy Walk harnesses). These are humane yet discourage your dog from pulling since they take him slightly off balance. The disadvantage of any harness is you don’t have control of the dogs head so these will not be suitable if your dog has problems with other dogs.
- Head collars. These are also humane yet discourage your dog from pulling since they turn his head towards you. These are more suitable when you need to control your dogs head. These can be fiddly to put on and some designs can ride up the dog's face into his eyes. I have found the Gencon to be not only easy to put on but also much less likely to ride up into the dog's eyes. They can also clip back onto his regular collar for added security. Head collars can take time to get used to for some dogs.
There is no one piece of equipment that is suitable for every dog. The best solution often is to just use a regular collar and lead and to train your dog to walk nicely.