Updated: May 20, 2020
SO MANY CHOICES! WHERE DO I START!?!
Walking into a pet store as a first time dog owner, can be both an exciting and intimidating experience. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what toys, which food, and what kind of walking equipment is the BEST to use. Although most of this advice is well intentioned, it can make the buying process difficult to navigate, and often times expensive when you end up buying multiple harnesses and collars to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered. After fostering, walking and working with dogs for several years, I’ve seen everything from prong collars, to harnesses and I’m here to break it down what walking gear works for you!
Puppies, whether they are 10 weeks old or 4 months old, are still in the process of discovering the world around them. As anyone who has owned or worked with a puppy can attest, “walking” a 10 week old puppy is kind walking with a small dumbbell on a leash: They stop every 2 feet to smell or sample something different, and don’t always share the same urgency to get from point A to B as you do. Although this type of behaviour is totally natural, figuring out how to teach your puppy to walk on leash, and what sort of equipment to buy them to help can be tricky.Here are some ideas that should help solve some of the challenges:
1. keep your puppy equipment on the cheaper end of things
Although it can be easy to get swooped up in designer dog clothes, and handmade collars. Puppies outgrow, or destroy their gear quickly. You can equate a puppy collar to a pair of baby shoes. Cute, but they don’t get a lot of wear before you need to buy another.
2. Go for a harness that clips in the front, or a standard collar with some room to grow.
One of the first things puppies seem to learn, when they get the “hang” of walking on a leash, is to either start chewing the leash, or pulling you to and fro as they please. It’s important to get a well fitted collar, or a martingale collar, to ensure your puppy doesn’t get out of their equipment on a walk. Martingale collars are an excellent tool for most doggies, and tend to have a little more adjustment room than simple collars do. They also work well for a family that would rather leave the collar on all the time, as a posed to putting on a harness and taking it off when arriving back home from a walk. Regardless of what collar you use, make sure that you can slide 2 fingers underneath the collar at all times to ensure the collar isn’t too tight. You WILL have to replace the collar a few times as your puppy grows, so be conscious of this to prevent causing discomfort to your growing puppy.
Front Clip Harnesses
Getting your puppy on a harness that clips at the front, can be a slightly more expensive option (as you’ll have to replace them as the puppy grows) but provides an excellent training tool, and can often times prevent your puppy from pulling all together. Harnesses that clip in the back often tap into a dog’s natural instinct to pull on something that has any kind of physical resistance. Especially with herding and pulling breeds like (huskies, pitbulls, austrailian sheppards etc.), having a back clip harness can help curb this natural pulling instinct.
Front Clip Harnesses (Like the easy walk harness) are great for teaching dogs who pull, not to. It’s not a be-all-end-all solution, however if you have a dog that pulls, you should notice an immediate difference when using a front-clip harness over a regular collar or a back-clip harness.
When you have a harness that clips at the front, every time your dog pulls forward, he/she is forced to look back, or have their body tilt towards their owner. This gives you the opportunity to connect and correct your dog’s walking, and also deters the natural instinct to pull forward. Front clip harnesses are most comfortable for the dog to wear when they are walking beside you, which gives you another advantage whilst training your dog to walk properly. Harnesses like the easy-walk harness, have an added cinching mechanism in the front, that cinches the dog’s shoulders inwards, and makes it even more difficult for the dog to pull theirowner. These types of harnesses are a great tool for new and experienced dog owners, and for rescue and breeder dogs, alike.
Face Haltis control a dog’s walking habits, simularily to that of a front-clip harness. They are another tool that can help with chronic pullers, with a few key differences. As a face halti is fitted to the dog’s head, it can also be used with dogs who pick up things off the ground constantly, and in some cases can be an excellent tool to use (in conjunction with proper training) on reactive dogs. As the owner controls the motion of the dog’s head with these devices, keeping a dog’s attention on the owner is more easily facilitated, as is ensuring the dog’s head stays off the ground. For these reasons, I’ve recommended Haltis to many of my clients wanting to jog with their dogs.
The long and short of it is, back-clip harnesses encourage a dog to pull. They are fine for dogs with no pulling issues, and dogs who have been properly leash-trained, but I would not recommend them for most dogs.
Simple Collars or Flat Collars are excellent for keeping your dog’s identity tags organized, and are appropriate for any dog, especially well balanced, non pulling dogs.
Martingale collars, or no slip collars, are basically the same as simple collars, which the addition of an extra link of chain or fabric, which cinches around the dog’s neck when they pull. These collars do NOT choke the dog, as there is a limit to how much the chain or fabric tightens. These collars are excellent for escape artist type, or fearful dogs, as they prevent the dog from slipping out of his/her collar. Funnily enough, these collars are also great for dogs, like my senior dog Jacko (pictured below),who have wider necks and smaller heads :), as they adjust in size.
Muzzles are used as a preventative piece of equipment. They are to be worn by dogs with the potential to bite other dogs or humans. Muzzles should be worn on reactive and aggressive dogs as a precaution. However, a muzzle should be used in conjunction with proper training or behavioural therapy, and should not be seen as a quick fix to a problem. To maximize comfort for your dog, and allow easy breathing, use a basket muzzle instead of a fabric one. I will be writing an article on properly desensitizing your dog to training equipment shortly. Check back soon!
Choke Collars/ Prong Collars/ E-collars/ Spray Collars
Unfortunately, all of these devices are still widely used in the canine world, and are routinely used on dogs under the guise of “training collars”. Prong Collars, and Choke collars (or chains), can be extremely dangerous on a variety of different dogs. They can cause pain, strangulation, and in severe cases, tracheal damage. Everything that they are intended to help, can be trained in a more humane way. Time and time again, humane training methods have proven to strengthen the bond between owner and dog, and leaves a longer lasting effect on a dog’s overall behaviour than any collar will.
If used properly, electric and spray collars have a much higher success rate in training a dog out of a bad behaviour than prong and choke collars do. This being said, I am absolutely NOT condoning the use of either of these collars. They are inhumane in nature, and there are other ways to correct the same behaviours. Interestingly enough some electric collars come with a function that can be an excellent training and conditioning tool for your dog. This is the “beep” or “frequency” setting. This setting does not harm your dog in any way, and if used correctly, this setting mimics the use of a “clicker” tool. Keep in mind that although this setting can be effective in conjunction with proper training, it still acts as a negative reinforcer. I have had a few clients come my way with “difficult” dogs, who have used this method with great success, and without using shock or spray as a method of conditioning.
Last but not least LEASHES! Which leash you buy, totally depends on the size, temperament, and age of your dog. A few things to keep in mind when buying, and purchasing a leash are:
Is your dog a chewer? If so, buy an inexpensive leash, a chain leash, OR make sure to always store your leash out of reach of your dog after walks. This goes for any other walking equipment you use for your little shark!
Consider that this is a tool you will likely use every day. I recommend getting something that feels strong, and comfortable to your hands, and is made out of a durable material with a strong clip. I have been through a many poorly made leashes in my career, and this is one piece of equipment I would definitely suggest investing a little more research and money into.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope there are some good tips in here for everyone!
Come back soon for more!