First let’s go over the basic purposes of a collar:
1) Control - A collar allows you the control to lead your dog in the direction you wish them to go or stop them from moving all together by holding the collar.
2) Training - Whether you want to teach your dog to sit or walk nicely, a collar can help you by simply being a place to attach a leash or as a tool to aid in training.
3) Identification - Collars can be a place to hang your dogs ID tag with contact information in case they ever get lost.
Now we can go over some of the options available:
Buckle or snap: This collar is the most common and provides the least amount of control or help with training but is ideal for providing a place for identification. A buckle collar is best for a dog that does not pull during walks or for dogs that wear collars around the house. It is recommended that all collars be removed during rough play as many dogs have been injured when one of the dogs jaws get stuck in the collar. If a collar is necessary, a break-away snap collar is the safest option.
Martingale: This collar provides good control, helpful in training and can also be used for identification. The martingale was introduced for greyhounds and other sighthounds as their necks are wider than their heads. They can easily slip out of a buckle or snap collars. These collars are ideal for any dog that is skilled at slipping out of their collar. When adjusted properly the collar will tighten when the dog pulls but not enough to possibly strangle. The pressure is distributed evenly around the neck so less pressure is placed on the throat and windpipe.
Head halters and no-pull harnesses: These collars are probably the newest additions to the collar game. They are toted as being a more humane option for control and training as well as providing a place to clip identification. A head halter fits over the dog’s muzzle and the leash controls the direction of the dogs head, very similar to a horse halter because the body tends to follow the direction of the head. Also it can be used to redirect the dogs eyes and attention on you instead of the distraction or pulling forward.
The no-pull harness looks much like a normal harness, but with a big difference, the leash attaches to the front of the harness instead of the back. A harness with the leash attachment on the back gives more control to the dog as it practices the dogs opposite force reaction. The harness applies pressure across the dogs chest and his natural reaction is to push against it. Not very helpful when training loose leash walking but fantastic if you want to train your dog to pull a sled or a wagon. However, a harness with a rear attachment is ideal for small dogs as they are more prone to tracheal damage from a collar and don’t have the strength to pull the owner while on a walk.
There are a few different types of no-pull harnesses but the general idea is to pivot the dogs body so it’s attention is redirected to you and not a squirrel or other distraction.
Slip or choke: This collar provides control and correction-based training. It is not typically used for identification due to the lack of a spot to hang tags. The difference between a slip collar and a choke chain is the material used. A slip collar is usually made out of a durable rope and can also be a leash and collar in one. One end of the leash has a sliding loop for the dog’s neck and the other end has a non-adjusting loop for the person’s hand. A choke chain is made out of a metal links that can come in a variety of thicknesses. The choke chain is named as such due to the training methods that were and sometimes still are used by trainers to correct dogs from pulling, jumping, barking and to train basic commands. Today, neither the slip or choke collar is recommended because of the endless ways they can be misused. It can cause a number of injuries including tracheal collapse, burst blood veins in the eyes, and severely damaged airways.
Prong: This collar provides plenty of control and is commonly used for training, including correction training but like the slip collar it does not provide much in the way of identification. This collar is very controversial. Many people are immediately turned off by the way a prong looks. It uses metal links with blunt prongs that connect to each other and apply even pressure or a pinch when used to give a correction. It looks more menacing than it actually is if used properly. This collar is labeled an “aversive” collar as it can be used to punish a dog for an unwanted behavior. The punishment is an uncomfortable sensation around the neck given as a correction by the person or a self correction when the dog hits the end of the leash. Prong collars come with 2 loops, the live loop and a dead loop. The dead loop when attached to the live loop turns the prong collar into a martingale style collar. If you have no intentions of giving proper corrections, always clip the leash to both loops which will prevent any corrections.
Now that we’ve reviewed the different types of collars, let’s talk controversy and debate.
Prong collars are sometimes called the “power-steering” collar. They can be very helpful for strong dogs that deserve to go for walks and be socialized in public but don’t respond well to other types of collars. This argument can also be used against the prong collar as prong-critics call it the lazy approach to training. That statement is usually far from the truth. Many dog owners have dogs that respond very well to training and walk on a loose leash 95% of the time. But then a squirrel runs in front of them... and now Fido, their 75 pounds of pure muscle has yanked the leash right out of their hand and is loose in a potentially high traffic area. This terrifying situation is something responsible dog owners face on a daily basis. A prong collar would prevent that situation without the damage of a choke chain, or even the head halter or no-pull harnesses. Both the halter and harness can cause injuries if the dogs hits the end of the leash at full speed. The head halter can cause neck damage and face chafing and some varieties of the no-pull harness can cause shoulder injuries while others can cause painful chafing where the harness rubs under the front legs. Another aspect of the debate is the negative associations a dog can form while wearing a prong collar. For example: an excited dog wearing a prong collar that lunges to visit another dog can learn to associate the discomfort it feels with meeting dogs. This can develop fear and later aggression.
I believe there are pros and cons to each and every one of these tools. A responsible dog owner needs to evaluate their dog’s energy and personality and also the specific purpose for the collar they use. Some dogs should never wear a prong collar because their high energy level could become aggressive when given a correction. Some dogs never react negatively to the prong, never need a correction and walk like angels when wearing it. On the other hand, some dogs have such a negative reaction to a head halter, they freeze with fear or struggle the entire time to remove it from their face. While others who are slowly and positively introduced can become easier to manage on walks.
No collar should be used as a quick fix for any behavior or issue. Positive training is crucial in every aspect of the use. Before adding a new tool to your training, it is important to evaluate your dogs needs and your expectations. It is also best to consult a professional.
A responsible dog owner wants what is best for their dog and sometimes that can be a controversial decision.
Websites used for reference:http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/which-types-of-collars-and-harnesses-are-safe-for-your-dog