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I’m sure you know the dilemma. What to get for your dog, a harness or a collar? And the question that arises next is what type of collar or harness?
If you are a new dog owner, and you are training your dog commands, as well as showing you are in charge, and teaching him how to properly walk on a leash, there are different tools to use for your dog to learn positive reinforcement. However, every device has pros and cons, and not every device is suitable for every dog. Sometimes, it takes a few different tries to figure out what works best for your dog. If you are adopting a shelter dog, training him could be a little more challenging since you don’t know what type of trauma – if any – he has experienced. In that case, a professional dog trainer – sometimes called a “dog whisperer” – is the best choice. A dog trainer can show you what works best for the size of dog you have, as well as the breed.
Let’s take a look at the different training tools you can use for your dog, so he learns not to pull on the walks, or to jump, as well as listen to commands.
A harness is of good use because you can control your dog better, without hurting your back or arms, and – most importantly – without hurting your four-legged friend. The harness prevents your dog from pulling, whereas if you would walk him with just a leash attached to his collar, your dog could pull and move forward, reinforcing his pulling being successful. With a harness, your dog would be redirected, since it is attached to his chest between his shoulder blades, and the pulling won’t be reinforced. A harness is especially useful if your dog is a puppy that doesn’t know how to walk on a lead yet. A harness prevents your pup from getting caught up in the leash. Therefore, a harness is great for young dogs to learn to walk on the leash and learn commands, as well as dogs who are stubborn and have a temperament, and who need to be trained.
Nevertheless, there are two different kinds of harnesses, either; straps or vests.
Strap-harnesses are lighter and often used for larger size dogs, who are also strong – such as American Pit Bull Terriers. These types of harnesses are also great for hot weather but could be confusing to put on.
Vest-harnesses are great for smaller breeds, or dogs who are skittish to feel more comfort and support. Smaller breeds also benefit from a vest-harness because it distributes pressure over the entire body and won’t cause any strains. A collar could cause damage to his back and neck. However, other dogs might feel restricted in movement with a vest-harness. There are four types of popular harnesses dog owners use:
● Head halters
If you need something more controlling than a harness, you can use a “halti,” instead. Also, known as a gentle leader, headcollar, or head halter. Which – if used correctly – can help teach your dog good behavior and how to properly walk on the leash without pulling. However, keep in mind that haltis can also cause injury to your dog’s neck and spine when your dog tries to lunge, and he’s turning his head to the side. Regardless, haltis should only be used in combination with training, not as a replacement. Also, since it’s a training tool, such as supporting wheels for someone who’s learning to ride a bike, this device should be used temporarily until the target behavior is taught and progress is being made.
These types of collars are usually made of fabric, leather, or nylon and have a small loop within the collar which tightens when your furry friend pulls. The action hinders the collar to slip off when your dog pulls, and the pressure caused by the pulling makes it feel uncomfortable and enforces your dog to stop this behavior. Breeds with narrow heads, such as Whippets, Greyhounds, and Shelties, benefit most from this collar since it prevents the dog’s head from slipping out. Dogs who pull a lot also benefit from this collar. Keep in mind that if your dog is a strong puller, a Martingale collar is not the right fit.
Similar to Martingale collars; choke collars have the same purpose. However, they are basically a metal chain loop which can cause more pain since it’s more narrow and will feel uncomfortable for your dog.
Prong collars, also known as pinch collars, are metal chains with spikes and a chain loop that tightens and pinches your dog’s neck when he pulls. Supporters of this collar justify it by saying it imitates a mother dog’s bite to correct the behavior of the young pup, but there’s no scientific evidence supporting this claim.
Some dog trainers would use and suggest a choke or prong collar. Which – if used correctly – can help teach your dog good behavior and how to properly walk on the leash without pulling. But these types of collars should only be used with a trainer, or if you know how to use them correctly, use them in a setting that doesn’t cause anxiety to your dog. And only use these collars for training purposes, and only for a short period per day, since they can cause severe damage to your dog’s mental and physical health.
Nevertheless, choke and prong collars can encourage negative reinforcement. Besides the psychological trauma, they can also cause physical harm to your dog, such as fainting, spinal cord injuries which could lead to paralysis, a fracturing of the trachea followed by asphyxiation,
whiplash, a fracturing of the bones in the larynx, damaging of the esophagus, and bruising around the neck can occur. As well as brain damage and prolapsed eyes can develop in the long run caused by the poking from the collar. The negative reinforcement can also feel like a stranglehold, also known as a “chokehold” to your dog, and can make him feel fearful and therefore make him aggressive.
These types of collars shouldn’t be used under any circumstances. Because they enable your dog to learn and make choices, which would cause “learned helplessness” behavior. Shock collars can also reinforce aggressive behavior.
Regardless of what kind of device you use to train your dog, he should always have a regular collar, known as a “flat collar,” so his tags are visible, like his name and his rabies shots. Keep in mind to choose the right size of a collar. You always want to be able to put two fingers in between the collar and your dog. You probably want to get a long-lasting sturdy collar – like a leather one, that way any hair your dog is shedding won’t stick to the collar. Nylon and fabric collars usually have that issue. As you can see, there are different training tools. If you are still unsure, you can always ask your vet or an employee at your nearest pet store and make sure your dog is present. Oftentimes, pet stores also offer leash walks and training and show how to put a harness and special collars on your dog.