So, what kind of a collar should I use for my dog, you ask. Today most veterinarians and trainers recommend using a harness when walking your dog. There are some animal physical therapists who assert that a harness changes the mechanics of a dog’s natural movement, which could result in problems down the line. But given that collars can be so detrimental to your dog’s breathing pathways, many dog care experts agree that a harness is the option with the least potential for harm. What kind of harness then?
Back Hook Harnesses
These harnesses have a ring on the back, usually around the dog’s shoulders. If you want your dog to think she’s a sled dog, get this kind of harness. This will do nothing to stop the pulling, and may actually encourage pulling.
Front Hook No-Pull Harnesses
These harnesses have a ring in front of the dog’s chest. They work by holding the dog back and even turning them a bit around if they pull too hard. These are generally a great choice for dogs who pull. One brand name out there is the PetSafe Easy Walk Harness, but there are others. I have found that on some strong pullers and some dogs with thin coats, that this type of harness may cause chafing in the armpits. PetSafe sells a Deluxe version of their Easy Walk Harness which has extra padding to eliminate this problem. Amazon sells these at a decent price.
OK, so you’ve decided on a collar or harness that is good for your individual furry friend. Now what about leashes?
Retractable Leash, i.e. Flexi-Leash
These are the plastic contraptions with a long retractable cord that comes out and gives your dog a considerable amount of freedom. Sounds great, right? But be careful! They are also quite dangerous. If the cord retracts while it is touching you, another person, another dog, or your own dog, say hello to a nasty rope burn or even a broken bone on a small dog. It happens all the time. If you are dead set on using a Retractable Leash, practice getting good at using it and use it with courtesy and caution. Never let your dog run up to another dog while on it. When you see another dog, retract the leash and keep your dog close. After all, your dog may be friendly, but if you don’t know the other dog, you don’t know what kind of issues that dog (or the owner) may have (good advice no matter what type of leash you use or if your dog is off leash). And even if it’s a buddy, you need to make sure that no one gets tangled up in that cord.
Standard Six Foot Lead, either nylon, leather, hemp, or any other material:
A Standard Six Foot Lead is what most municipalities would like to see you using with your dog. Keep in mind how much your dog pulls when you purchase the leash. Nylon leashes are not kind to your hands when you are trying to hold back a pulling Great Dane – leather is a better choice.
Waist Belt Jogging Leashes
There are a number of Waist Belt Jogging Leashes out there for those who jog or just want to go hands free. These work fine for some people, but they usually come with a bungee style leash portion, which is often too long in the first place and then allows the dog too much room to potentially get tangled around your legs, not exactly what you want when you are walking, let alone jogging. They can also cause lower back problems if your dog is pulling you.
Cross Body Leashes
These go over your shoulder like a purse or a seatbelt. These are my preferred choice, so much so that I sell my own version, The Link Leash (TheLinkLeash.com). These offer several wonderful benefits. First of all they reinforce the heel position for both you and your dog. Secondly, they offer tremendous control for dogs that pull – giving you the advantage of using all of your body weight against a pulling dog. And, they are multi-purpose! Most offer several length options for use as a traditional leash; the hands-free cross body option; use as a temporary tie out when out walking, hiking, or dining out with your dog; and the ability to walk two dogs with one leash.
Harnesses and Leashes, a blog series by Mel Barnes owner of Four Paws Adventures.