W alk into any pet supply store and you are greeted with rows of colorful leashes and collars. Sometimes it’s easier to go strictly by appearance or price, but choosing the right items can make a huge different for your dog and you! The mass variety of productions on the market can make decisions overwhelming.
Different dogs benefit from different things. My go to choice for smaller breed dogs are harnesses. Small breed dogs and mixes (around twenty pounds or less) have a high prevalence of trachea problems. Harnesses distribute pressure more evenly in the event a dog is pulling, releasing the neck from carrying the entire load. This decreases the chance of hurting a fragile trachea.
Harnesses are also great options for dogs that are strong pullers. They can be more comfortable than outdated choker and prong collars. Front clip harnesses give owners more control then back clips. Back clip harnesses can actually encourage pulling, since a dog’s immediate reaction to pressure is to pull in the opposite direction.
Another option is martingale collar. Martingales tighten when a dog pulls and loosen when tension is released. It’s a gentler take on choke collars and prong collars. Choke collars keep tightening where martingales release. Though they look scarier, prong collars are actually less invasive than choke chains. Chokers and prong collars tend to rely solely on the walking equipment to stop bad behavior, rather than using training to teach leash manners. Martingales can be a great training tool to help instill loose leash walking thanks to the addition and release of pressure.
Loose leash walking is the best method to control pulling and teach proper leash manners. Instead of yanking back on the leash when a dog pulls, you stop and wait to resume walking until the leash slacks up. Over time, this teaches your dog that when he is not pulling, he gets to walk, and when he is, the walk stops. The walk is the reward! If you stop and your dog is still pulling at the leash, try getting his attention with a name call or some treats. It can be helpful to carry treats to redirect attention from exciting stimuli such as squirrels, dogs, people, bikes, etc. The more practice and reward of desired behaviors and the less time spent performing unwanted behaviors helps a dog progress faster and stronger.
A traditional collar with tags is important in case your pup ever gets loose, but choosing a front clip harness or martingale can help you make large strides developing polite walking skills. Putting in a little training each day can eliminate the desire to turn to more controversial equipment options like choke chains, prong collars, or even shock collars. Every dog is an individual, so asking pet supply staff or a trainer can help better assess your dog’s case. Happy trails!