Step 2: Harnesses and Collars

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Collars are meant to hold dog tags. They also work well as a backup, safety tool when double clipped to a harness. However, it not safe to walk a dog with a leash attached solely to a collar since tension and jerking can cause damage to the neck, spine, trachea, oesophagus, thyroid, optic nerves, nerves leading to the front legs, and more. Just like us, dogs have necks that are extraordinarily sensitive and delicate.

A flat/buckle collar or martingale collar is a great option for holding ID tags. These collars can also be double clipped to a harness for an extra layer of protection, especially when you have a flight-risk on your hands.

Prong/pinch and choke/check collars are designed to be aversive. Therefore, while they may discourage pulling, they concurrently create new problems. Using them is like playing a game of “whack-a-mole” – the pulling may be temporarily resolved but 3 more issues can pop up in it’s place. These collars can cause fear, anxiety, pain, reactivity, frustration, and ultimately, complete shutdown. These collars are NOT recommended by qualified professional dog trainers, veterinarians, or by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior because they cause physical and psychological damage.

Using a head collar (like Gentle Leader, Halti, Snoot Loop) can be a humane way to stop pulling. However, these collars should only be used on healthy, non-geriatric dogs who weigh over 20-25 lbs. Small and toy breeds are not ideal candidates for these collars and they should not be used on them unless absolutely necessary and overseen by a qualified trainer. These collars are also inappropriate for dogs with neck injuries or sensitivities. Extreme caution must be exercised with brachycephalic dogs (pugs, French bulldogs, boxers, etc.) and those with eye issues.

Back-clipping body harnesses are great for puppies and small/toy breeds. These are also great for older dogs who need support or balance. However, be sure that dogs wearing these harnesses have a full range of motion with all their limbs. Clipping a leash to the back does NOT cause a dog to pull – it simply makes pulling more comfortable because the weight is evenly dispersed. Dogs wearing back-clipping body harnesses still need to be taught to walk politely on leash.

Front-clipping body harnesses (like Freedom and Haquihana) are great for strong pullers. The leash clips to the front of the chest and discourages pulling by adjusting the direction in which the dog is moving. Front-clipping body harnesses are generally wonderful but some are ill-fitting and poorly made. This can cause them to droop too low in the front and thereby, affect the dog’s gait. Watch to make sure dogs wearing these harnesses have a full range of motion with all their limbs.