So you adopted a dog and have already taken care of all the essential stuff, like buying food, treats and toys. Chances are the next thing on your to-do list — besides cuddling on the couch — is to pick a proper collar and leash for training and daily walks. Whether you have a dog that's an old pro at walking or a new puppy you need to train, there are plenty of options when it comes to collars, leashes, muzzles and more. It's important for you to determine what gear is best suited for your particular pooch.
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A flat collar is what to use as your dog’s daily collar. It's where you affix a tag with your pet’s name and your contact information, just in case your dog goes missing. This kind of collar is great for the times when you’re not out walking your dog, or if your dog is well-behaved on a leash. Flat collars come in all sizes and designs, some with belt buckle-like clasps and others with plastic snap clasps.
Designed specifically with narrow-headed dog breeds in mind — think Greyhounds, Whippets and Salukis — a martingale is a great choice for any breed that tends to wriggle out of its collar. The collar has a metal ring on each end, with a separate loop of material that passes through the two rings to create the collar. A leash attaches to that piece of material and tightens against the dog’s neck if it pulls or attempts to escape from the collar. When the dog is behaving and walking well on the lead, the collar should not cause any discomfort or choking.
The choke collar, also called a choke chain, was made to assist with training and to help control unruly dogs. When attached to a leash, the collar is supposed to fit snugly at the top of its neck, behind the ears and under the jawline. Extreme caution should be employed when using a choke collar, because it’s difficult to control the amount of pressure on a dog’s neck. Never leave your dog unattended with a choke collar, as your dog could accidentally strangle or seriously injure itself. Many animal rights groups are opposed to the choke collar due to the ease of misuse and potential injuries they can inflict on dogs.
METAL PRONG OR PINCH COLLAR
One option reserved for extremely stubborn dogs is the prong or pinch collar. This design is similar to a choke collar, but the collar is made up of blunt-pointed metal prongs that point toward your dog’s neck. When the dog tries to pull at the leash, the prongs dig into the loose skin on your dog’s neck, making it uncomfortable for your dog to pull. It is a means to discourage pulling, and also control unruly or powerful dogs. Many animal rights advocates are opposed to the prong collar because when used improperly or too forcefully, the metal prongs can penetrate into the dog's skin and create open wounds. Like the choke collar, a leashed prong collar is meant to sit snugly at the top of the neck, behind the ears and under the jawline.
These types of collars are designed to assist with training, control excessive barking or create invisible fencing. Shock collars contain two metal contact points that rest against the dog’s neck. When activated, these prongs send an electrical current to your dog via remote control. The signal can range from mild to intense, depending on the settings you decide. These are controversial devices that many people view as inhumane, as they’re easily abused and can actually cause the dog to be fearful of certain objects, people or places. Electronic fences work by sending a shock to the dog when it steps over a boundary line. The shock is often preceded by a sound that warns the dog that it’ll be shocked.
For big-boned dogs (like Bulldogs) that tend to pull or have more delicate necks, a harness may be ideal. Standard dog harnesses fit over a dog’s chest and snap around its midsection. The leash is then affixed via a loop on the dog’s back. This is perhaps the most comfortable option for a canine, but isn’t the best choice when training a dog how to walk on leash. The harness gives the dog ample leverage for pulling and is thus more difficult for you to control. However, the harness is a popular option both for its comfort and safety, and because it can be used immediately with no acclimation period.
This leash is the most common type you will see in your local pet store or out in the neighborhood. It consists of a line of fabric — usually leather, nylon or cotton — with a loop for your hand on one end and a clip on the other. Standard leashes come in a variety of colors and designs, oftentimes to match a flat collar. This leash is perfect for casual walks around the neighborhood if your dog does well on a lead.
Some dog owners like the idea of a long lead without having several feet of leash to juggle. A retractable leash has a hard plastic contraption on one end where the length of the leash — made up of a thin cord — gets wound up automatically. It also has a locking system that lets you to decide how long you want the leash, allowing you to lock it in that position. But this leash is not guaranteed to be a safe way to walk your dog. If the locking mechanism fails and your dog takes off, the cord may be long enough for your pet to dart onto the street and into oncoming traffic. Or if you drop the handle, the leash could retract quickly and snap back into your dog. If you have an easily startled dog, dropping a retractable leash handle can cause your dog to bolt.
Some dogs require muzzling during walks because they have the tendency to bite or snap at other dogs or people. There are two main muzzle designs to choose from: the basket or the nylon muzzle. The basket might look more aggressive, but it’s the best for your dog’s health because it allows the dog to pant. The nylon muzzle looks like a small sock over your dog’s mouth, and it is not able to pant as readily. Getting a dog used to wearing a muzzle takes considerable effort and time. It is not something you should rush into.
Next: 10 Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog
On first glance you might think this head-hugging collar is a muzzle, but it’s used for a different purpose. A head collar works like a horse’s halter by fitting around a dog’s neck and loosely around its muzzle. The leash attaches to a ring at the bottom of the muzzle strap. This kind of collar is great for excitable dogs who tend to pull and jump. The muzzle strap gives you an advantage and takes control away from the dog, as it is not able to use its full weight to pull at the leash. Your dog may need some time to adjust to the head collar, so be patient and never yank at the leash as you may injure its neck. Only use this collar when out on a walk.