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Choosing the Right Collar

There are lots of dog collars to choose from; how do you know which is best for your dog? For most dogs, a regular nylon or leather collar works just fine, provided that it fits him properly. Use a tape measure to measure your pet's neck, then add two to three inches; this will be your correct collar length. Choose a collar and leash width with hardware that matches your pet's size. Smaller, lightweight choices are for small dogs and puppies, and wider, more durable styles are for bigger, stronger pets. Make sure that every collar you own has a current nametag with address attached to it at all times.

Regular nylon or leather collar – A traditional dog collar is available in a multitude of styles, colors and widths. Whichever style you choose, the collar should ride high on your pet's neck, not loosely so that it slides down toward the top of his shoulders. Any dog collar should fit snugly, with just enough room to fit two fingers between your dog's neck and his collar. For his safety, the collar should not be loose enough to slip over the dog's head. Take care that the collar is not so tight that it could restrict breathing or cause coughing – don’t forget, particularly with young animals, that your growing pet will need to graduate to a larger collar as he matures. Check your puppy’s collar size frequently as he grows.

Dog harness – A harness, which holds a pet securely without encircling his throat, is recommended for dogs with upper respiratory disease or problems with the throat or trachea. A regular collar would put pressure on this area as Fido pulls on his leash, causing irritation and coughing. The harness safely bypasses that situation altogether.

Several other types of dog collars for specific training situations are described below.

Halter-type dog collar - This collar resembles a horse's halter, with one band around the head, and another around the nose. The leash attaches to the collar beneath the chin. When you pull on the leash, the dog can only walk beside you or behind you, which gives you a great deal of control when training Fido not to pull on the leash. The best known brand of halter-type collar is the Halti. Read here for more on training your dog to use a Halti.

Choke chain dog collar – The chain-slip or 'choke collar,' can be an effective training or retraining tool IF used correctly and on the appropriate type of dog. If you plan to use a choke collar on your dog, it is imperative that a trainer show you how to use it correctly; incorrect usage of this type of collar can be very harmful to the dog. This collar should only be worn during training sessions, and never when the dog is crated. Small or delicate dogs should never be subjected to this kind of training collar.

Make sure the trainer helps you choose the proper size choke chain for your dog, and teaches you how to put it on the dog correctly – if worn backward it may not release immediately as designed, which could cause your dog to choke or gag.

Pronged collar – Thepronged collar is made up of blunt prongs that protrude inward from the links in the chain. Designed for only the biggest, most muscular and most stubborn leash pullers, a pronged collar is a temporary training tool used to change a dog’s behavior when he doesn’t respond to any other type of collar. This collar doesn’t truly hurt the dog; try it yourself by wrapping it around your thigh and pulling on the chain. You’ll feel the pinch, but no real pain. Nevertheless, this type of collar should be used only as a temporary training device. A halter-type collar would actually give you more control over your dog, unless he’s so massive and stubborn that he requires the pinching in order to learn.

Please note that none of the above training collars are intended to permanently replace basic obedience training – and in most cases a properly trained dog will no longer need these restrictive training collars at all.

Training your dog to use a Halti halter-type collar
Plan to spend a couple of weeks getting your dog used to the Halti collar and leash before you take him out for a walk with it – the time investment will be worth it. The Halti is a whole different kind of collar and leash system than the one he’s used to, and he needs to getl comfortable with it so that you don’t have to do battle every time you walk together.

First things first: make sure the fit is correct. The Halti Collar needs to fit more snugly than a typical collar; only one finger should be able to fit under the portion of the collar that snaps or buckles behind the ears. The nose portion of the halter should sit at least ½ inch away from the eyes.

  • Place the collar over your hand, while holding in that hand a small crunchy treat. Go to your doggy and offer the treat, while saying “Collar!” in a happy voice as he eats it.
  • With another treat in your hand, offer it while saying “Collar!” in that same happy voice again. As Fido reaches for the treat, let his lips touch it while you simultaneously slip the halter over his face. This time while the dog is munching away on his cookie, finish fitting the collar and snap it closed.
  • Now that the Halti collar is on, distract him from scratching or pawing at it by playing with him using his very favorite toys. Attach no leash to the collar. After he has begun to ignore the collar for at least 2-3 minutes, remove it and keep playing with him for a few minutes. For the first week, do this series of steps several times a day.
  • Once he can be distracted for up to 5 minutes at a time without scratching at the collar, attach a leash and play with Fido while he is wearing both halter and leash. Again, detach it once he has ignored it for a few minutes, continuing to play with him. Keep this up, as often as needed for as long as needed, until attaching both the Halti and the leash causes minimal reaction.
  • At this point begin luring Fido with treats after the Halti and leash are on. Take the leash in your hand and walk with him, offering a treat and asking him to come along with you on his own. Make it all seem like it’s his own delightful idea to accompany you - use the leash to pull him as little as possible. Once he’s got the idea, you can slowly start to practice out in the world, taking him for short walks and using the leash to guide him. As time goes on, he’ll accept the Halti as easily as he accepts his everyday collar, and you’ll both learn to enjoy your walks together.

Please note: the Halti is not intended to be a substitute for obedience training. If your dog is a leash-puller who ignores your commands to heel, he needs obedience classes. The Halti is a wonderful training tool meant to be used in conjunction with other forms of training. A properly trained dog should eventually need no special collar to walk appropriately on a leash.