Which Type of Collar DO you choose?
The options for collars, harnesses, and leashes at the pet store seem endless! Which to choose?! Here is a rundown of the most popular types, and what the pros and cons are for each:
Buckle Collars, either flat, braided, or rolled leather
These are the most popular collar option for dogs. They are simple and do the job of holding identification tags. If your dog walks well on leash, this type of collar is probably all you need. But if you have a young puppy, a dog that doesn’t want to be on leash, or a dog with a small head, such as a greyhound, this is a dangerous option. These are often easy for a dog to twist and pull their head out from, and then you have a dog on the loose without even a collar to help you grab them. And, if your dog pulls, this is not a good collar to use. The pressure that any collar puts on a dog’s neck can lead to a crushed or partially crushed trachea, making it harder for your dog to breathe. In the Arizona heat, panting is the primary way that dogs stay cool, and it is important that their breathing passages be kept healthy. It is also possible that collar pressure is a contributing factor to esophageal paralysis later in life, in which the esophagus does not open and close properly, leading to breathing difficulties and aspiration (breathing into the lungs) of food and water, which can cause serious infection.
Martingale Collars, either with a chain, nylon, or leather loop
Also known as a Modified Slip Collar, Martingales have a loop in them which tightens a limited amount when a dog struggles to get out of them while on leash. The dog cannot pull out of the collar if it is properly adjusted. These are highly recommended for small headed dogs and puppies that twist and struggle when learning to walk on a leash. But they still have the same potential for neck damage as Buckle Collars.
Choke Collar, either chain, nylon, or leather
These collars tighten with no limit when a dog pulls or you pull your dog on leash. This is a very dangerous type of collar to use for the same reasons that a Buckle Collar or a Martingale can damage your dog’s breathing passages, but with a Choke Collar the damage is compounded by the fact that the collar can tighten very, very tight. There should be no place in your collection for a Choke Collar. If you do choose to use a choke collar, only use it while your dog is on a leash and directly in your control. NEVER leave it on your dog or use it to tether your dog to anything!
Prong Collar, either metal or plastic
The manufacturers of Prong Collars have gone to great lengths to get the general public believing that Prong Collars do not hurt dogs. There have been many injuries caused by Prong Collars and my general advice is to put it on your arm and apply the same amount of pressure that your dog does pulling, with a few additional jerks on the collar to “get the dogs” attention. If it hurts your arm, it will hurt your dog. If you still opt to use this type of collar, only use it for walks – never leave it on your dog. It could get stuck on something and your dog will seriously hurt herself trying to get free from the entrapment. Also, always remove this collar when at the dog park or when your dog is playing with his buddies. Dogs often bite each other on the neck during play and this type of collar, especially if it’s metal, has the potential to chip teeth. Veterinary dentistry is expensive – you do not want to be the one responsible for that bill.
“Head” Collar, i.e. Gentle Leader or Halti
Head Collars can be a great option for strong pullers, and I once heard a very well-regarded dog trainer correctly point out that dogs are the only animals that we lead around in collars, rather than something more akin to a halter. The big drawback to Head Collars is that many dogs flat out HATE them. They will paw at their face, trying to get it off, sometimes even scratching themselves with their own claws. They will balk and refuse to move. They will rub their face on you, the sidewalk, the grass; anything that they think will help them get the thing off. If you opt to try a Head Collar, keep your receipt, read the instruction manual thoroughly, and take the process of introducing it slowly and patiently. Never leave a Head Collar on when you aren’t actively walking your dog.
This blog series was written by Mel Barnes owner of Four Paws Adventures service Phoenix Metro area
APPSA Vice President 2017