Harnesses, Collars, and Halters, Oh My!

Dog Behavior & Training > Training Your Dog >
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Has this ever happened to you? You’re heading out the front door, arms loaded up with groceries, car keys, and bags, and your dog slips right out ahead of you. You throw everything on the ground and start chasing after the escapee. Luckily, he heads along the sidewalk instead of into the street. After plenty of coaxing, he lets you grab his collar. Then, like Houdini, he slips right out of it. It’s back to the drawing board.

This situation can be scary, not to mention dangerous. Your dog needs a safer collar. How do you choose between all of the options available, though? How many collars does one dog need? Here’s how to select the right harness, collar, or halter for your dog.

Best Dog Collars

Experts generally recommend having one collar that holds the dog’s ID and rabies tags and another to which you can attach a leash. If you’re getting a collar for your dog, you’ll need to start out with the right size. You should be able to fit one finger under the collar when it’s secured. This ensures that it’s not too loose or too tight. As the dog grows, you can expand the collar. Get a new one when the collar feels too tight even at the largest setting. Make sure that the material is rugged enough to withstand day-to-day wear and tear.

What about flea collars? The Irreverent Vet recommends against the use of generic flea collars that you can purchase at the pet store. These bands of material let out toxic gases that remain near the pet’s head and neck or get absorbed into the skin. Some dogs are sensitive to these chemicals. The materials can be toxic if your dog licks or eats the collar. Instead of putting a flea collar on a dog, consider putting the band into your vacuum canister to kill the insects as you clean your house.

What to Use When Walking the Dog

Walking a dog is a great way to bond, it’s also an effective way to connect with and train your dog. Dogs need the exercise. They also love the mental stimulation that comes with a walk. However, if your overactive dog seems uncontrollable, walks can end up in frustration for both of you.

You may pull on the leash to correct your dog. This behavior only causes your dog to pull in the opposite direction, making the problem worse. Tugging at the collar is also uncomfortable for your pet. Additionally, this habit can be harmful to small dogs.

Active dog harnesses may be your best option to use while walking, running, and hiking. Back-clip harnesses are comfortable, especially for small dogs. This is also called a dog harness vest. These devices allow you to clip the leash on at the dog’s back, which prevents it from becoming a tripping hazard. A back-clip harness might not stop your dog from pulling, though. In fact, your canine might get a kick from the feeling of dragging you along like a dog sled if he’s not trained to walk on a loose leash.

According to Vet Street, front-clip harnesses are more effective for dogs that like to walk you. Canines can feel every movement of the leash. With their lead attached at the powerful and sensitive chest, dogs can better respond to motions and commands.

Dog training halters might be best for extremely strong or overpowering dogs. Head halters often get confused with muzzles because they wrap around a dog’s snout and jaw. These types of trainers are kind of like a horse’s halter. The design gently encourages dogs to stop pulling because it directs their snout down and back when they start to barge forward. According to the Humane Society, this doesn’t hurt the dog the way a choke chain or prong training collar could.

To fit a head halter properly, make sure that the band around the neck sits high, just behind the ears. The strap that covers the nose should be able to slide down to the area where the nose meets the fur. When the dog’s mouth is open, that strap will rest closer to the eyes.


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