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Choke, Chain, Shock, Oh My! What is the best collar and leash for my dog?

Dog collar dilemmas

Force Free dog training

What type of collar is best for you to use on your dog?
There are many collars and harnesses to choose from today and they are readily available on the Internet and at Pet Stores.

Many pet owners choose the type of collar and leash to use based on their dog's behavior inside the home and at the end of the leash.

But my dog doesn't behave with a normal collar! He's aggressive on walks and pulls me! What can I do?

Let's go back to the basics.
Most of the undesirable behavior comes down to the training your dog has had or is currently receiving. Proper dog training goes hand in hand with what collar you choose to walk your dog with in a positive, fun way.
Many people are somewhat familiar with the phrase “Force Free” and/or “Positive Reinforcement” dog training and know that it is one of the most humane ways to train a dog and reward him for good behavior. This includes unruly dogs at the end of a leash. It's not fun walking a dog that is pulling and tugging or starting fights with other dogs while on his walk.

What does Force Free training have to do with choosing a collar, harness or leash?
Choke Chains can hurt little guys like him too!
 Force Free dog training has been around for some time but has most recently captured the attention of numerous pet owners all over the country thanks to the likes of such dog trainers such as Victoria Stilwell from "It's me or the dog" on the Animal Planet Television program.

While there are still dog trainers that believe that “Teaching the pet owner to be the Alpha of the pack,” or “Teaching the dog who the boss is” by using intimidating factors along with shock, prong or choke collars are the way to gain control of the dog,  we've pleasantly come to agree that Force Free training is proven to be more positively effective and makes for a much happier, confident dog and pet owner.
Happy dogs are Good dogs!

For example. Clients must bring their dogs to a vet clinic if that pet becomes ill, injured or is in need of vaccinations. This can be a very stressful event for both pet owner and dog if the dog is not socially well behaved in public or by wearing a collar with a leash.

Having to warn other pet owners in the veterinary lobby that their dog is unpredictable and to stay away from them, can be very stressful to the pet owner. Typically this type of dog owner opts for the use of a prong, choke or shock collar in such situations to control the pet from his undesirable behavior.
So why is that so bad? Because it's dangerous and painful.

Below are several medical problems that can be associated with the use of a prong or choke collar around a dogs neck. These conditions are often painful and can cause life long problems.

1. Damage and bruising to the skin and tissues of the neck
2. Disc disease, spinal and neurological injuries
3. Psychological problems
4. Dislocated neck bones
5. Vocal cord damage
6. Bruising of the trachea and or esophagus
7. Brain damage
8. Eye prolapse

Imagine if you will, 50 lbs of pressure on your own neck with a choke collar being tightened and jerked with force. Painful I'm sure.
Unfortunately dogs can’t tell us their collar is causing them pain so they begin associating the pain and the undesirable behavior with each jerk of the collar. This can worsen your dogs behavior on the end of a leash.
Positive reinforcement is the opposite.

Using the reward system for "good behavior" on the end of a comfortable harness and leash. Good behavior equals yummy reward. No pulling, no barking, no aggressive behavior on walks equals more yummy rewards, not pain. See the difference?

Playtime Pet Care

Howland Studios

Another possible danger presented with the use of a choke chain around your dog's neck on his walk is the possibility of encountering another dog, one who is threatening your dog. Dogs' teeth can get caught on a choke chain while fighting which can lead to both dogs panicking, twisting, and thrashing. This can lead to severe mouth and neck injuries as well as strangulation of one or both pets.

Buckle collars can be just as unpredictable in their safety and dependability. Although they are certainly a better and a less painful choice than the use of a choke, shock or prong collar, your pet still runs the risk of unnecessary pressure around his neck which in itself can cause pain and physical damage. Some people don't know how to properly fit a dog collar. Many collars are too loose or too tight. Too loose can equal a dog escaping, too tight can cause injury to the dog's neck.

So what are safer options?

Just one opinion would be to use a durable, no-pull, nylon harness with a nylon or leather leash as well as using "Force Free" training techniques. The positive reward system.

Positively Beautiful
A nylon harness is safe, non-painful, prevents injury around the neck and spine and is a great way to walk your dog without causing pain. The harness puts the pressure on the dogs chest, not his neck, making him/her less likely to dislike the walk and/or the walker.

Positive reinforcement dog training works by rewarding your dog with food or praise for good behavior. This includes walking on a harness/leash without pulling. You shouldn't have to resort to the use of a painful choke chain or prong collar if your dog is properly trained.

A dog's life photography
Image copyright

If you are currently using a choke chain, prong collar, or a shock collar, please reconsider your choices and purchase a more effective and safe harness/collar and discuss possible behavior modifications with one of our veterinarians. By seeing one of our veterinarians first allows you to rule out possible health conditions your pet may be experiencing that could be the cause of the undesirable behavior.

We recommend consulting with a "Force Free" professional dog trainer after your pet has been examined first and deemed healthy by one of our veterinarians.

Kathrine Breeden is a well known valley force free dog trainer and one of our official members. You can read more about Kathrine by visiting her website at

Kathrine and Mr. Poodles

Stay tuned for our next article about the dangers of retractable leashes!

Thanks pet parents!

Kim MacCrone-CVT

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