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Healthy Paws: Choosing the Right Collar or Harness

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Leash pulling is a common and frustrating dog behavior, but walking calmly on a leash is not a natural instinct for dogs and learning to do so requires training.

One important component of training is using an appropriate collar or leash that provides secure restraint, gentle control and can aide in discouraging leash pulling.

Not all collars and harnesses are created equal and here are some points to consider when making the right choice for your dog:

Flat Collar or Martingale Collar — These collars are excellent for keeping identification and tags on your dog at all times. They can also be used with a leash for walks, but are best for dogs that never pull or require leash corrections. With leash pulling these collars can cause strain on the neck, press against the airway or elevate pressures in the eyes. For dogs with neck pain or discomfort — these should be avoided.

Head Halters — These are a great training tool for dogs who are persistent leash pullers, especially large breed or strong dogs that are difficult to control. Since the point of leash attachment is the head and not the chest, a head halter disrupts the drive to pull against the leash.

When used appropriately, it also allows for gentle control and correction during training without causing pain or pressure. Again, for dogs with neck pain or discomfort — these should be avoided.

Chest Harness – These can be a good alternative to a neck collar or head halter as they provide secure control of the body and avoid any risk of neck strain or pressure. There are many varieties and styles, but they can be simply divided into harnesses with a leash attachment on the top of the back and ones with a leash attachment on the front of the chest.

These are the best to use when there is any neck or back discomfort. They can also be useful in dogs with mobility issues as a “handle” for the front end.

Choke Chain or Pinch/Prong Collar — These are designed to be training device that provide a negative stimulus for leash pulling or other unwanted behaviors. However, punishment training techniques for dogs can increase fear, anxiety and stress.

When using a choke chain or pinch collar, dogs can become more fearful of any stimuli that is associated with the collar being tightened — including interaction with other dogs or people — as they learn to associate these events with pain. For this reason and the medical dangers associated with these collars — strangulation, elevated eye pressures, nerve damage and neck strain — these should be avoided and are generally not recommended for any dog.

Choosing the right collar or harness for your dog may also require trying a few different products to see which provides the best fit and what is most helpful in achieving your training goals.

Additional recommended resources on collar/harness selection and leash training:

For the full article — check out our website. Have a topic you’d like us to write about? Email us at [email protected]. We want to tailor these posts to the topics that interest you the most.

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