Choosing the right collar for your dog can be a difficult decision. There are many factors to consider before making a final decision. First of all, whether you opt to use a training collar or not, you will still need a regular collar if you tie your dog outside (not recommended) or are using an aversive collar that cannot be safely left on the dog at all times.
So, let’s start with the types of regular collars you can purchase: flat, Martingale or head collar.
Flat collars are the most commonly used and typically have a buckle or plastic snap closure as well as a ring to attach tags and a leash. You can find these in most supermarkets and big box stores in a multitude of colors and designs. If you are a new dog owner this is your safest option to start out with. Make sure the flat collar is comfortable snug on your dog’s neck. To check, see if you can fit underneath the collar.
The flat collar is a good go-to for any breed from Chihuahuas to St. Bernards.
If you own a greyhound or have ever tried to walk one, you know these cunning canines are masters of escape. The martingale collar, also called the limited-slip collar, is for dogs with narrow heads, like greyhounds and Salukis. However, it can be used for any dog that slips out of his collar easily.
The martingale has a metal ring at each end of the collar with a separate section of chain, or sometimes more material. A leash attaches to this loop. If the dog tries to back up or wriggle out of the martingale, it tightens around the dog’s neck. However, when properly adjusted, it should not choke your dog.
This collar can be difficult to use and has some drawbacks. It fits on the head like a horse’s halter. One strap goes around the muzzle and one around the neck to sit behind the ears. You attach a leash under the muzzle loop. The head collar may be necessary for energetic dogs who jump or pull. It isn’t really a training collar, but, with the halter around his muzzle, your dog loses leverage and cannot pull against the least as hard.
It is important not to yank this leash to avoid injuring your dog. Ask a knowledgeable salesperson for help with fitting the collar. Your dog will not want to put this collar on and may require a lot of treats and patience to change his mind. If you leave this on your dog all the time, they will learn to slip it off and chew on it.
Training Collars/Aversive Collars
If you have only had docile dogs that do not pull or jump or run away from you with fearless abandon, then you are truly blessed. Most of us have seen beleaguered owners being pulled along by headstrong dogs. Others have been mauled by an overly eager pet while visiting friends. It isn’t always easy to train a dog to stop harmful behavior. Training collars can help.
For the best decision on what type of training collar, if any, is best for your dog, you must consider their size and temperature. Some Rottweiler’s have kind, sweet dispositions, while some collies can be ferocious. If you are able to afford it, work with a trainer so that both you and your dog can learn how training collars can be most effective without injuring or traumatizing your dog. Training collars are often referred to as aversive since they provide negative stimulus to avert bad behavior.
Unlike restraining collars, training collars are designed to reinforce desired behavior and deter undesired behavior. Using a training collar may cause your dog to become stressed or fearful. On the other hand, for overactive or aggressive dogs, they can be a great tool for changing unwanted behavior. Below, we examine the pros and cons of prong, choke, anti-bark and electronic collars.
Training collars that react to your dog’s behavior in order to help correct it should never be used to punish your dog. Misuse of training collars can result in injury. For example, the prong collar, sometimes called a “pinch” collar, should never be left on your dog if you are not walking him. It doesn’t really pinch your dog, but applies pressure that is evenly distributed around his neck.
The loop around your dog’s neck includes fang-shaped prongs with blunt edges. Although these look cruel, when combined with proper training, they can be quite effective. However, the Humane Society recommends using another collar to train your dog due to the fear, emotional distress and pain caused when the loop is pulled tight, applying pressure to the dog’s neck.
You will probably be familiar with the choke collar, since many people use it. It is even employed for owners showing dogs in contests. In this type of training collar, a chain encompasses the dog’s neck. To properly put it on your dog, form it into a “P.” Hold the collar up as if you were going to put it on your dog. Form a P by placing one ring at the bottom of the P and the other ring half-way up the leg of the P. This configuration allows the collar to release after a correction. Otherwise, it will continue to choke the dog.
Simply pull on the leash until the dog stops the unwanted behavior. Eventually, he will associate the negative stimulus with the activity and repeat it less frequently.
Avoid using an anti-bark collar if your dog is around other dogs, or it may be triggered by the other dogs’ barking. There are several versions of the anti-bark collar.
Spray. When you dog barks, the collar sprays a burst of citronella or air. This startles the dog and deters him from barking.
Shock. This is the harshest anti-bark collar. It delivers an electrical shock every time your dog barks.
Ultrasonic. This collar sends out an ultrasonic sound only your dog can hear. It interrupts the bark and deters your dog from barking.
This is the harshest and most criticized collar. The Canine Journal does a great job of effectively weighing the pros and cons of using an electronic shock collar. Among the reasonable to use it are affordability, fast results, the fact that you don’t need to be present for the correction to happen. For example, you can establish a distance that your dog can travel away from home after which he will receive an electric shock. Since you can set the intensity, this type of collar doesn’t have to be unnecessarily cruel and can be adjusted for the dog’s size and temperament.
Reasons not to use the collar include the fear and anxiety that can develop and permanently impact your dog’s behavior and personality. The pain of the shock can make your dog afraid to go in the yard or outside the home. There is no positive reward associated with this type of training. Additionally, since you aren’t present to control the shock, your dog may wander into a “forbidden” area and trigger the shock without knowing why, resulting in overcorrection that merely confuses him.
The main point against all of training collars is the potential long-term impact on your dog’s psyche. If an electronic collar causes the dog to become afraid to go outside, he may begin relieving himself inside the home. Fear itself can cause a dog to become more aggressive or to act out. So, there are a lot of things to think about before making a final decisions. Ultimately, if you aren’t desperate and have some patience, there is usually a better way to train your dog. If you can’t afford formal training, and your dog’s behavior is a danger to himself or others, then you may not have a choice but to use the tools at your disposal.