An In-Depth Look at Leash Walking Equipment

Do your walks with your dog feel more like a tug of war match? If so, it is probably time for a change in the type of collar you are using. This article will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the most common types of collars available to dog owners.

Before I get into the pros and cons of the various types of collars, I want to make it clear that there is no substitute for adhering to proper training technique to teach a dog to stop pulling on the leash.  The point of using equipment is to give you a training aid to improve your technique.

Front Clip Harnesses
Front clip harnesses are currently all the rage. The Easy Walk Harness made by Premier is one of the most well-known brands. The front clip harness is designed to deter pulling by redirecting the dog’s forward momentum to the side or backwards. Because the point of tension is on the dog’s chest rather than the back, the dog’s forward movement is restricted when the leash becomes taut.

Pros

  • They generally work great for small dogs.
  • They don’t put any pressure on the neck area.
  • Most dogs adapt to wearing the equipment quickly.
  • Can work well to deter pulling in large dogs that are moderate leash pullers.
  • Easy to put on and take off.

Cons

  • Does not provide much control for dogs that have a tendency to lunge toward dogs, cars, people, etc
  • Some dogs can escape out of the harness if they twist in just the right way.
  • They have a tendency to loosen during the walk and need to be tightened consistently to maintain effectiveness.
  • Can cause chaffing in breeds with short hair.
  • Restricts full range of movement in many breeds.
  • Should always be removed after walks so dog does not chew them off or get their teeth caught in the strap across the chest.

Traditional Harnesses
A traditional harness will have a leash connection ring that is located somewhere on top of the dog’s back. You can teach a dog to walk without a pulling using this type of harness, but all of the training must be done by the handler.

The harness itself has no adverse pulling effects built into the equipment. This is why tracking dogs, sled pulling dogs, and search and rescue dogs generally wear harnesses. They are encouraged to pull on the leash at times.

Pros

  • Quick acclimation period
  • May be the best choice for the toy breeds
  • Great choice for certain training tasks such as tracking and protection work

Cons

  • May cause chafing in some short haired breeds
  • Does not deter pulling on the leash
  • It will increase the ability for large strong dogs to pull the owner toward objects

Head Halters
The two most popular head halters on the market are the Gentle Leader and the Halti. Head halters work by controlling the dog’s muzzle thus controlling the dog. They provide a lot of control and can deter pulling with most dogs including the giant breeds

Pros

  • Very effective at deterring pulling
  • Owner has the ability to control lunging even with dogs over 100lbs.

Cons

  • It can be difficult for some dogs to acclimate to the sensation and may take a couple of weeks of short leash walking sessions before the dog accepts it without pawing at it.
  • The halter tends to slip off short muzzle breeds such as Boxers and Bulldogs.
  • Can cause chaffing and irritation to the skin in some dog breeds

Star Mark Collar
This collar is a hidden gem that most dog owners are not aware of. It is not widely available in pet stores, but can be purchased online through Amazon.com. This type of collar deters pulling by constricting plastic points built into the collar.

Pros

  • Can be very effective at deterring pulling when used along with proper technique
  • Quick acclimation period.
  • Product comes in small and large sizes that can work on all sizes of dogs.

Cons

  • May be ineffective with severe leash pullers or large strong dogs when poor technique is implemented.
  • Collar links should be inspected periodically for wear and may need to be replaced to ensure collar does not break unexpectedly
  • Can be somewhat difficult to put on and take off until you get the hang of it.

Metal Pinch/Prong collar
The metal pinch or prong collar is a constricting collar with metal points. The collar is designed for the points to constrict when the leash becomes taut and release pressure when the leash becomes slack. The collar works by causing an uncomfortable sensation when the dog pulls into the collar and then feels relief when the collar loosens.

Pros

  • Can deter pulling and lunging in large breed dogs
  • Owner can transition back to a regular collar once lunging and pulling is resolved
  • Quick acclimation period when used correctly

Cons

  • May be difficult to use properly for the inexperienced owner
  • May cause continuous discomfort or pain when used improperly
  • May be difficult for some owners to put on dog
  • They look intimidating

Slip/Choke Chains
Slip collars or choke chains come in various material from cotton to metal.I never use slip collars for teaching dogs to walk on leash. They can become infinitely tight which can be harmful to the dog and they are generally ineffective.  They do make excellent safety backups for other types of collars.

My recommendations

Now that you have a better understanding of advantages and disadvantages of the type of equipment, I will give you my general recommendations from my own experience training dogs.

First off, if your dog is under 4 months of age or younger, there is no reason why you should be training on anything but a regular nylon neck collar or harness. An adult human can control pulling even with the giant breeds at this age. Training a young puppy to walk on leash should be done through encouragement and food rewards.

Star mark collar- I really like this collar for a large majority of dogs that are in the habit of pulling on leash. Dogs get use to the sensation quickly and it is effective. If you have a dog that is between 30-70lbs and has the tendency to lunge and pull on the walk, I recommend trying this collar. Because the collar fits around the neck, it allows for you to transition back to a regular neck collar when you have a sufficient amount of training completed. You can purchase the collar off amazon.com by searching for “Star Mark Collar”.

Easy Walk harness- I really like this setup for small dogs. It does not put pressure on the throat which is important for the smaller breeds. I have mixed feelings when it comes to these harnesses for large dogs.

I have worked with plenty of large dogs that do well on these harnesses and clients tend to really like them so I am not completely opposed to their use on large dogs. The main problem I have with them is when a big dog decides to lunge toward something and the front clip harness is the only form of control I have. The point of tension in front of the chest does not allow me much control of the dog's head which is very important when a dog is lunging toward something. It can also cause the dog to flip on its back if they hit the end of the leash while they are in midair.

If it works for you, great! But if you are currently using a harness and your dog is pulling, I would recommend you do some experimenting.

Gentle Leader- If you have a dog that tends to lunge at other dogs or moving objects on the walk, this is generally a good choice. It provides a lot of control, probably the most control. However, this collar is rarely my first choice because of the long acclimation period before the dogs accepts the head halter. Some dogs will adapt in a couple of days whereas others can take several weeks. They work well though; so itt may be worth trying on your dog.

Prong Collar- The design of these collars look intimidating. When used appropriately however, they can provide a lot of control with large dogs without the uncomfortable sensation of a head halter. I personally don’t have a problem with a client that wants to use a prong collar with their dog. The goal of all training collars is to get the dog walking with just a regular neck collar. Depending on the dog, training with a pinch collar along with food rewards may very effective.

Use your own judgment when deciding to try this type of collar. If you don’t like this type of collar, you should not use it. It is your dog and you should never feel forced into using something whether it be from a trainer or pet store owner.

Summary
With all of the different sizes and breeds of dogs, there is never going to be one style of collar that will be the best for all dogs. Use this list article as a guide to begin experimenting with the style of collar that is going to work best for YOUR dog.