Overview: Dog Training Collars

by Melissa R. on December 27, 2013

Having a new puppy this year has been quite an adventure. Teaching a pup to walk nicely on a leash probably comes easier to some dogs… my pup is a challenge. I’ve tried all sorts of training collars, with success and failures. So I though I would share my experiences.

Head Collar Training Collars:
Head collars are a bit like a halter for the horse. The basic idea is that they guide your dog’s head, and when they pull – their head turns around and stops them from pulling. You can read my detailed experience with a head collar here. This is what we tried first, and I loved it for quite awhile. The problem we ran into is that my pup can be reactive to other dogs on a leash when walking, and I was afraid her pulling, shaking, twisting and going crazy was going to wind up with an injury, plus, she had managed to wiggle her way out once or twice and scared me. I believe a head collar is VERY useful for most dogs and should be a great choice for many – but conditioning to it, and being aware of your dog’s neck is important.

Front Pull Harness:
A front pull harness hooks your dog’s leash in the FRONT of their chest, rather than around their back. When they pull – their body then pulls around, making them stop pulling. We tried this for awhile, and I feel like it is a very good option for the right dog. It didn’t work well for us because I couldn’t seem to find one that would fit my pup just right. All we wound up having was the harness pulling over to the side. I have many friends who use a front pull harness with HUGE SUCCESS and I highly recommend it if your dog is not too much of a puller. One friend uses it for jogging with her dog and claims it is a miracle!

Prong Collars:
A prong collar looks pretty frightening. Metal, with little prongs on it. What happens is when your dog pulls, the prongs tighten and make your dog stop pulling. They soon learn that pulling=prong tightening, and stop pulling. This was recommended to us by one of our trainers. I was hesitant to use it, and used it only as a last resort. I did find that it worked VERY WELL, especially with my reactive pup, because it stopped her reacting to other dogs very quickly. I have read that some dogs get MORE reactive with the use of a prong collar, but this was not our case, my pup seemed calmer with it on. It is important to ONLY use a prong collar when shown how to properly fit it to your dog, and how to properly use it. I would not recommend this for just anybody, so please use with caution & training only. They do have their place in training, though, with the right dog. In the end, I have moved away from the prong collar as I felt my pup sorta “got used to it” after awhile and stopped responding as well.

Right now we are using mostly just a flat collar, and a head-collar when needed. I am trying to phase out of the training collar use at all now that she has a solid foundation of training. My most important piece of advice when selecting a training collar is:

USE WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR DOG. Not every method is going to work for every dog. Some dogs may not even need a training collar and learn to walk on a leash just fine without one. For us, it was a matter of safety, and sanity. Frustrating walks got us nowhere, and the use of training collars helped us along greatly.

About the author: Melissa is a devoted pet owner with several cats: Kai, Cirrhi & Ritter; and the newest addition, Emme a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Melissa is an avid dog agility enthusiast, and hopes her new pup will someday be an agility champion! She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the DrsFosterSmith.com and LiveAquaria.com websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Danielle Bellivesu December 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I have large breed dogs who start training at a very young age. My trainer has always recommended prong collars–start out with light weight puppy size and change weight and size as they grow. I have used a ‘Halty’ in conjunction with prong but my fear of hurting the neck was a huge concern. Harness is great if you want a sled dog! I always have control with the prong and rarely need to use the ‘pressure’ of it. I wouldn’t switch to a flat because I always expect the unexpected.

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