Collar Types

There are all kinds of various devices you can use to help control your dog, but nothing really replaces some good old-fashioned training, especially the clicker (or positive reinforcement) method. I'd start doing that in the home with as few distractions as possible, but in the meantime you can use one of those walking aids while walking out in the real world. These aids are just that—they are supposed to help you teach your dog walk on a simple buckle collar, which is the ultimate goal.

Traditional ones:

Choker collar--generally not recommended by clicker trainers; some traditional obedience trainers use it still, but they are pretty adept with it. Some post mortems on police dogs showed scarring around the trachea area. There is a new type of choke collar called the Scruffy Guide; it is similar to the choke collar but is padded.

Pinch collar--generally considered more effective and safer than the choke collar. Some people find them easy and helpful. However, I've seen some dogs still pull their owners around with these, and some trainers believe that these collars can make a leash aggressive dog even more aggressive. As with the choke collar, you need to be schooled in its use. It also needs to be fitted correctly.

Ones generally used with positive reinforcement and espoused by the humane societies I've worked with:

The gentle leader: It is practically impossible for a dog to pull you with this. Some drawbacks are you could damage your dog's neck if you do not use it correctly or you use it with a flexi-lead. This method also needs some instruction and practice to use. It also MUST be correctly fitted. You should have someone experienced with it to help you with it before you use it. Some dogs do not do well with it--they get almost depressed with it on.

Harnesses: one I've used is the Sensation harness. I liked it, and it's good for dogs who get depressed with the gentle leader. They still can do a little pulling, but not like with the collars. Another drawback is that it doesn't help the dog learn how to respond to pressure on a plain buckle collar. Probably not a good idea to use it AND to be training your dog to do drafting work.

Limited slip collar--These function a little like a choke collar, but the amount of tension is restricted. It also is good for dogs who know how to back up and get out of their collars. The dog can still pull, so it should be used on dogs who are not oxes on leash.

To pinch or not to pinch

from the berner-l

I would certainly prefer the gentle leader over a choke chain or pinch collar. BUT, they don't work for every dog. I assume (which is not always wise) that if the trainer is used to using them exclusively, then s/he should know how to fit them properly, so Duncan's objection is not a fitting issue. If there is any doubt about the fit, get it checked as that alone can make the difference. That said, Tyra's gentle leader is properly fitted, we used lots of positive reinforcement to get her used to it, and she still hates it. Now she will walk on it, but the minute we even pause, she is rubbing her nose on the ground or scrapping her face with her paws. So, I finally gave up and got a prong collar for her. I really haven't had to use it much, but it definitely saves my arm and gets her attention. It was the only thing that worked with my old Rotti - and worked so well that eventually we were able to phase it out entirely.

I really don't like choke collars because they put all the pressure on the windpipe (so do regular collars if you've got a heavy puller) and so can do quite a bit of damage. The prongs look horrible, but aren't really painful - I tried one on myself to make sure, and I don't even have the heavy fur coat to protect my arm (not my neck, though hubby might have liked having the extra control (smile).

We've got a lot a fantastic trainers on the list who are sure to give you some suggestions and advice. And Ruth Reynolds also has some really good thoughts on how to get Duncan to want to do what you want him to. Good luck.

Here's a basic rule of thumb I use in any kind of teaching or training, Kim. If the message doesn't get through the second time, look for an alternative technique for teaching while trying it the third time. If if doesn't work the third time, it ain't gonna.

Choke chains, head halters and pinch collars should not be for controlling a trained dog. They are useful in situations where the dog is stronger than the human and the human needs "power steering" during the early stages of training the dog.

Regardless what equipment you've used, the problem lay in your dog's inattentiveness to you...not on the specific equipment you've tried. Some people use these pieces of equipment to GET the dog's attention. If the dog is not rewarded immediately and consistently for directing his attention, no tool or gimic will aid in teaching him much.

Your dog may HATE the head halter. I know I would. However if he pulls and tugs on a pinch or choke collar repeatedly, you can injure your dog's trachea or cervical structures.

I think it's best to think about how to get your dog's attention and keep it. Briana offered a GREAT suggestion with the peanut butter on a spoon. Try this with Duncan in a stationary position sitting beside you. Next have him STAND beside you....stand STILL beside you. Now THAT is a hard STAND STILL! If he can do that for a peanut butter treat, then he can probably, without so much fuss and muss stay beside you a little better while he's moving on the leash.

Baby steps. Start with ATTENTION exercises. Come up with a cue word. I use "watch" which means, "direct your attention to ME." Quickly reward when the dog complies. As he progresses he'll begin to "watch" on his own. Catch him "watching" you (he's really waiting for the peanut butter to appear) and PRAISE him, "Good watch."

When you have success with stationary attention, it's time to progress to moving with your dog. That's where I like the life saving circle. It has saved my arm, if not my life!

Have you worked with Duncan on a collar and leash doing circles to the left? He cannot forge and pull without being caught up in your feet if he forges while you're turning in a 10 ft diameter left circle (if he is on your left side.) Lots of u turns to the left and circles to the left help the forging dog to be respectful of the handler's physical being.

From the forging dog who's put into a small circle while heeling, " Ouch, you ran into me! Ouch, are you blind? Gee, I guess I'm gonna have to look out for YOU!"

I have a rescue lab-mutt who was never leash-trained, and we tried EVERYTHING- choke-chain collars (she broke one), Halti (gentle leader-type)(her neck muscles were stronger than my shoulders), and an under-the-armpit type(she pulled herself bleedingly raw). I finally broke down and did something I had vowed I would NEVER do - I got one of the pronged pinch collars.

The difference was like night and day! I pulled tentatively on it at first - to no avail. Then I broke down and gave her a good yank when she pulled me out the door. She yelped, and then tested me one more time. We have had pleasant walks ever since! It never seemed to cause her any distress other than the surprise and/or momentary pain of the yank. And it got her attention in a way no other training or device had, and she caught on to what I wanted, I guess.

I certainly don't recommend them if they aren't necessary, but there are times, I guess, when they beat the alternative. I don't have to use it any more - don't even have to use a choke-collar of any type. So they can work very well.

2009 collars