Types of Collar

Collars and other tools are not substitutes for proper training, and any tool if used improperly can lead to injury, and some tools can be unsuitable for particular dogs, owners, or situations. Please use common sense when using any training device. If your dog appears in pain, uncomfortable, or miserable when using a certain device, or if the dog runs and hides at the sight of it, you should not use this tool on this dog, no matter how 'good' or 'humane' other people might claim it is. Here follows a list of types of collar and other training devices and the situations they are suited for.

Flat collar
This is the most basic collar that most people are familiar with, used to attach an ID tag and a lead. Puppies in training should use these collars. The collar must be removed when the dog cannot be supervised to avoid the dog becoming caught on something and hurting itself.

Rolled collar
This collar is essentially the same as a flat collar, but the body of the collar has a circular cross-section to minimise chafing on the coat that would otherwise be caused by the edges on a flat collar. This collar is normally used for long-coated breeds. The collar should always be removed when not needed to further minimise damage to the coat as well as preventing dogs catching their collars and hurting themselves.

Quick-release collar
Rather than a specific collar, this is a type of fastening. Quick-release buckles are easier to remove than ordinary buckles, which means they can be a good option for people with arthritis and other physical disabilities. Quick-releases are not as strong nor reliable as a traditional buckle. A quick-release buckle is more likely to fail than a normal buckle should a collar become caught, but this is not guaranteed, and quick-release collars should still be removed whenever the dog can't be supervised.

Breakaway collar
Breakaway collars are for people who, for whatever reason, need to keep a collar on their dog when they're not able to supervise it. They are fastened with a buckle that is designed to fail if the collar is subjected to a sudden force. These collars have two D-rings, one either side of the fastening, and it's important to always make sure the lead is attached through both rings to keep the dog safe when walking it. These collars can be a hazard when someone tries to hold a dog by the collar for safety as the fastening can fail, resulting in a loose dog with no visible identification. If you need to use a breakaway collar, it is always a good idea to have a second more reliable collar for when you are with your dog, and to change them. I do not currently make breakaway collars.

Martingale collar
The martingale collar is a collar joined at the ends with a circular chain to which the lead can be attached. This means the collar can tighten or loosen depending what the dog is doing. A correctly fitted martingale on its 'tightest' position should fit the dog's neck with very slight 'finger room'. Martingale collars are extremely easy to take on and off as they just slip over the dog's head, so they can be a great option for people with physical disabilities who have difficulty putting on and taking off other types of collar. They are also a good choice for dogs with small heads and a habit of escaping from other collars. The martingale collar must always be removed when the dog cannot be supervised and when there is any risk it could get caught on something in its loose state. Martingales are not good at protecting coat even when they are made in a rolled style as they move around on the neck too much.

Choke chain
The choke chain is a loop of chain that can tighten or loosen. This tool is often used to train adult dogs who have developed a habit of pulling due to improper training, or to help the handler manage a dog who is otherwise lead trained but lunges at people or other dogs. It should not be used on puppies, and it should never, EVER be used to yank a dog about to 'correct' it. The choke chain redistributes the force of pulling around the whole neck, unlike a standard collar where it loads onto the D-ring and the side of the collar opposite it and exerts all the force of the pull onto the soft tissues of the dog's throat. Dogs tend not to pull as hard when wearing a choke chain and are hopefully less likely to hurt themselves or their handler. It should be stressed that the choke chain does not stop a dog from pulling and you still need to train the dog to walk with the collar loose. It does however make quite distinctive sounds when it slackens or tightens, which can reinforce things like clicker training and make the dog more aware of what it's doing. Choke chains must always be made from high-quality chain to ensure they slacken responsively and immediately once the dog stops pulling. 'Slip collars' and 'slip leads' made from leather or fabric are not effective for this purpose and they can jam. It is important that the chain is put on properly and you should consult an experienced person about how to do this if you are going to use one. The choke chain should be removed every time you remove the lead to avoid any risk of the dog becoming caught on something. Choke chains shred neck hair with their constant movement and are not good for long coats.

Electronic (vibrating, beeping) collar
This collar is fitted with a battery-powered device that is used with a remote control and can be made to produce a vibration or sound while the dog is working away from you. These devices can be helpful for training dogs who are deaf or have other disabilities, and you can also train the dog to associate the beep or vibration as a confirmation just as you'd do with clicker training. I can make collars to accommodate these devices. Please note that devices intended to produce an electric shock are no longer allowed to be used on dog collars in the UK.

Prong collar
This collar is intended for dogs who pull harder than their handler is able to hold, and is designed to cause discomfort to the dog to stop it from pulling. This is a last resort tool if nothing else has worked and you are unable to exercise your dog otherwise, and if you need to use it you should get advice from a trainer with experience in using it, as it must be fitted and put on correctly otherwise it can cause injury or fail. I do not sell these collars and I am not qualified to advise on their use.

Head collar
This isn't a collar, but a device that fits on the dog's head like a livestock halter. It makes it difficult for the dog to walk ahead of the handler because the head is pulled into an unnatural position whenever there is any tension on the lead. The position of the straps on this device can put pressure on sensitive areas of the dog's muzzle and can make it difficult for dogs to look directly at something that is worrying them, so they can exacerbate fear issues and cause insecure dogs to feel even more vulnerable. A panicking dog can also easily escape from this device or injure its neck. I do not make head collars; nor do I recommend them as training tools for dogs.

Harnesses are used in certain dog sports and activities where the dog has to work away from the handler or pull loads. Harnesses can also be necessary for dogs who have a medical problem with their necks and can't wear a normal collar and lead because of this, and are used as seatbelts by dogs travelling in cars. I don't recommend harnesses be used generally for walking dogs, and I don't make them as they are difficult to fit correctly. Harnesses by their nature tend to interfere with normal movement, and the harnesses that interfere least are probably the ones that are least secure and dogs are most likely to escape from! A study found that harnesses marketed as 'non restrictive' in fact restricted movement more than other harnesses! If your dog needs a harness, it is best to go to a shop and try on different ones to find which ones your dog seems most comfortable in. Poodles tend to have high head carriage compared to other dogs and a lot of harnesses aren't designed for this, so check that the harness does not restrict the base of the neck. Another common place where harnesses often fit poorly is in the dog's 'armpits'. The front assembly in dogs and other quadrupedal animals is attached to the ribcage entirely by muscle (if you've ever butchered a deer or other animal, it's possible to strip off the entire arm and shoulderblade without cutting through bone). The prosternum (front of the chest below the throat) is also an area with soft tissues that could potentially be damaged. Check that the dog seems comfortable to stand and move normally in the harness. Also check that the harness maintains its shape and fit and doesn't 'capsize' when a lead is attached and the dog pulls on it. Harnesses that function well are quite a high-tech product, so larger companies that have resources for research and development often produce better quality models than generic shop brands and no-name businesses. This is worth considering if your dog needs to wear a harness a lot of the time.
Some harnesses are designed to cause discomfort or unbalance the dog when it pulls. I don't recommend using these harnesses. Harnesses are probably the worst thing you can use if your dog has a long coat and you want to take care of it. Because harnesses are in contact with a lot of area on the dog's body and are constantly moving against the coat as the dog moves, they will cause matting.

A properly fitted muzzle is not unkind and should not be uncomfortable for a dog to wear. A dog wearing a muzzle does not necessarily mean that dog is aggressive towards dogs or people. Most dogs who wear muzzles in public do so because they have a habit of picking up and eating things that may not be safe for them. If your dog needs a muzzle, it is best to try on several types and sizes to find the best fit and the style that works best for your dog.