With so many choices in equipment for dog owners, the market can be a little confusing if you don't know what you're looking for. There are pros and cons to all of the choices of equipment, which could influence how you choose to walk your dog. It's best to think about the behaviour of your pet as an individual, as well as the breed and species as a whole. So what are your choices?
There are many different types of collars, all of which have different uses. A normal collar for a dog is fabric with a clip and a metal ring to attach a lead and identification tag to. They are adjustable, but it's important to pick the right size collar for thickness as well as width, as this can cause discomfort and can also impact your dog's breathing. It's best to have your dog fitted with a collar by somebody with experience of fitting them, and always keep an eye on how their collar fits - it should be tight enough that it cannot pull up over their head, but you should still be able to fit two fingers comfortably underneath as an average measurement that it fits securely but not too tight. Their collar should be snug but not restricting. Greyhounds and other breeds with long, slim necks should have a greyhound collar, which prevents them from slipping the collar off.
Collars are useful for walking well trained dogs that don't pull. It's not advisable to walk particularly strong dogs, or ones that have had little training and tend to pull ahead a lot, on a collar as they can end up choking themselves. Older dogs and more laidback ones walk well on collars if they have been trained to.
Remember that puppies will need a puppy collar at first, but will grow out of them quickly and require bigger collars as they get older. Also, it is a legal requirement that all dogs must wear a collar with an identification tag, even if they are microchipped.
Greyhound types need thicker collars as their necks are more sensitive
Again, there are different types of leads that suit different dogs. A standard fabric or leather lead works well for dogs that walk calmly on a collar and lead, or for dogs without many behavioural issues. Chain leads are stronger than their fabric counterparts, so they are useful for dogs with a chewing habit or ones that tend to pull a lot as they are less breakable. With both of these types of leads, there is a distance limit that dog has - this can be useful for training but inhibits their ability to run, so it could be worth looking at retractable or long line leads.
Retractable leads are usually much thinner than a normal fabric lead, as they have to be able to wind up inside the handle of the lead. They are useful for giving your dog more freedom to explore whilst still on a lead, and are also good as they can be lengthened or retracted when needed. However, the thin cord makes them more liable to break and they can easily get wrapped around trees or other people. Longline leads allow your dog to explore up to 30 feet away from you, which is nice to give them the freedom whilst also ensuring they are still linked to you. This makes them ideal for training recall. However, it is much harder to control a dog on a longline leash and they are likely to become tangled.
Norris was happiest on a collar and lead
Harnesses can be very effective in reducing pulling, and are easy to use because they don't require much acclimation time for your dog to get used to them. They are incredibly useful for dogs that would cause damage to themselves if they were walked on a collar, particularly dogs such as Staffies who are prone to fainting. It eliminates the risk of them choking on a collar or pulling too hard and injuring themselves. It is also useful for small dogs, who would suffer if a lead was pulled with too much force whilst attached to a collar rather than a harness, as it redistributes the weight of the animal to a more secure area: the back.
They aren't always necessary - for example, some dogs don't tend to pull, so a harness could be cumbersome and uncomfortable for them. A downside to them would be putting them on, as they can be confusing if you'd not had much experience with the different designs on offer. There are harnesses that slip over the head, and others that the dog steps into, so it would be worth choosing a design that would work best with your dog's behaviour (for example, getting a harness over the head of an excitable dog could be a big task).
Angel the Staffie cross walked best on a harness
Canny Collars are recommended for dogs that pull, and come in a range of sizes for different breeds. They come with instructions for fitting them and this is based on neck measurements. The Canny Collar fits around the dog's nose and mouth, and then goes behind the head where the lead is attached. This makes it much easier to pull the dog backwards as the control comes from the head rather than the neck. However, you must give your dog time to adjust to the product and there is no guarantee that it will prevent pulling - this depends on the individual.
Haltis and similar collars are also designed to stop pulling, but they work in a different way. These also come in a variety of sizes, which are designed to accommodate different breeds. Haltis fit around the back of the head, with straps that come down along the side of the head and over the nose, with the ring to attach the lead underneath the chin. This makes them much different to other products as they lead the head from under the nose, make it much easier to control a dog to stop them from pulling. Haltis are very useful for training, or even every day use if the dog pulls an exceptional amount. However, they can be difficult to get on and require time for the dog to adjust.
We have a wide range of collars and leads available at the centre
If you would like help fitting a collar, harness or Canny Collar we would be more than happy to help! Visit our pet shop and our staff can give you a hand. Remember, if you are unsure on which equipment is best for your dog it's best to ask to avoid any health problems.