Dog Collars: Prong/spile/buckle/choke/Martingale…& Harnesses

As a groomer, I see dogs wearing all sorts of contraptions, and more and more, I see them in harnesses.  I know that people don’t want to hurt their dogs, but, unless your dog has a serious diagnosed trachea problems and/or is a guide or tracking dog, harnesses are the wrong choice for most dogs.

I’ll get into why they are so wrong, but let’s start with the various choices and the right choices.  Now that we know  what humane training methods are and that you don’t have to  choke your dog to get his attention—that you can get the dog to follow a toy or a treat, chokes are generally a bad choice for every day wear.  Virtually all groomers  know of someone whose dog got stuck in the collar. The collar was too loose, and the links got stuck in the dog’s teeth, or got hung up on a fence or on furniture, and some dogs strangled.  IT’S A TRAINING COLLAR.  But, like the prong/spike, people leave them on their dogs, use them incorrectly, and hurt their dogs.

Buckle collars, which you can adjust, attach a leash to, and leave tags on, are generally excellent choices.  Now, I know many dogs are micro-chipped with the owners contact info (a very good idea), but if your dog becomes loose & is found, many people don’t know to take the dog to be scanned for a chip, or don’t have time. A tag with owner contact info (in fact, a tag that include’s a friend’s or groomer’s phone number as well) is what most people look for.

Sighthound owners use MARTINGALE style collars.  I feel these are excellent for most dogs, as they tighten up from both sides &  not like a choke.  But the dog can’t  back out of the collar if it is properly fitted.  Premier makes an excellent,  cheap line of Martingales, and there are many manufacturers you can find on line.  I noticed that Justin Silver, the dog trainer on Dogs in the City, suggested that  his client with the Bulldog take the dog out of the harness, and use the Martingale, with immediate success.

People tell me they use harnesses because their dogs pull.  Well, if your dog is a Seeing Eye or Guide Dog, or a tracking dog, you WANT your dog to pull without being constrained.  Why would you want your pet dog to be able to pull you around? This not only makes no sense at all, it creates a bad dynamic.

What I see happening is dogs wearing harnesses,  out of control because they haven’t received any obedience training, but who want their people to be leaders, are put in the position of being a leader…but the dog doesn’t want to be a leader, so he pulls wherever his ‘instinct’ (or nose) tells him to go. The owner pulls back, but the  dog’s instinct is telling him to pull away, and the dog becomes even more neurotic than he would be otherwise.  I see this all the time, and the owners tell me the dog is hyper active, or sensitive, or crazy….but I never have any problem with the dog. My body language tells the dog I am in charge, and he can relax.  No joke.

If the dog pulls,and you don’t want to do formal dog training (not sure why you would say you love your dog, but not want to learn  how to communicate with the dog….), a Halti or Gentle Leader, bridle type  head harnesses, works extremely well with most breeds—at least the dogs that aren’t bracheocephalic (with the pushed in faces).

Here’s the thing:  dog ownership is not a democracy.  In nature, there is a pecking order. If you are not going to choose to be in charge  and be the leader, you force your dog to take control, and believe me, the dog does not want to be in charge. Too much responsibility for his little brain.


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