There are many types of collars available, so how do you know which is correct for your dog at different stages of their training or age?
As a positive reinforcement trainer, I intrinsically believe you begin working with a dog using the least aversive products and techniques, and then proceed to using other methods if and when everything else fails.
It is also important that you have been trained properly in product usage. However, there are products available to you if need them.
Prong or pinch collars: These are meant to tighten around the dog’s neck as a correction for lunging or pulling. Some have rubber caps on the prongs, which are certainly better.
There is also a plastic version called a Starmark collar, which does not look as imposing on the dog and the short plastic prongs are blunt. If you must use this type, please try this one first. This collar has a built in stop which prevents it from collapsing the trachea.
When would you use a prong collar? If you have tried everything else first! I have seen petite women who cannot handle their powerful lunging or even aggressive dogs have to use these. People use these because they like the image it creates (if you can believe that).
If you have tried benign training tools such as flat collars, harnesses, martingale collars and gentle leaders and they have not been effective, then you might need these.
You should understand, though, how this affects the dog’s brain. Studies have shown that they can cause a dog to become more aggressive as they fight against control.
Martingale collars: As a trainer, I like a Martingale if it is trained and fitted properly. They are even OK for puppies as long as you don’t yank.
A Martingale comes two different ways – all fabric or fabric and chain. The chain does not choke them but provides an audible correction. The fabric one is good for puppies and hound dogs.
The reason this is a successful product that has been around for 100 years is that it works for dogs that pull, but are not excessive pullers that may require other products.
The key to product use is to begin with training, not just the use of a specific tool. Learning how to properly walk on a leash with rules is where you begin, not with the use of a prong or other corrective collar.
Whether it is a new puppy or an older dog, you might have to try different collars to see what works best. This does not mean they use a product forever. Very often as your dog learns to walk better, you might switch to something that better suits them.
Likewise, you might have to change to something more corrective in a collar or harness. Some dogs do much better on a harness than they do on a collar.
Work with a professional to see what products are best for you and your dog.
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com