As a continuation from last week’s post I want to review some of the most popular gear to help minimize (or not) dog-pulling on leash.
When deciding what kind of equipment to use, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
1. Efficacy of the equipment
2. Comfort level for the dog
3. Ability of the person(s) walking the dog in using the equipment appropriately
4. Good fit
Not all anti-pull equipment is as effective in helping with pulling. Notice that I am not saying that the equipment will prevent or teach the dog not to pull; it will just make it less likely that the dog will pull in most circumstances with the most efficient equipment.
Of all the types of gear available such as: harness with front and back clip, prong collars, flat collars, martingale collars, choke chains and head-halters, the head-halter is hands-down the most efficient in curtailing pulling on leash.
Second best is the FRONT clip harness.
Third is the choke chain. But, really? Are we still resorting to this sort of equipment? The choke collar even though it looks benign is actually “worse” than any of the other type of gear listed above. Not only is it really constricting the dog’s air passage when the dog pulls or the person corrects with a leash pop, but if not fitted correctly, (there is a right way and a “wrong” way of putting the end of the chain through the loop) it can indeed choke the dog!
Some people have problems walking their dogs on leash because for a myriad of reasons their dog barks, growls and lunges at either people and other dogs – or both. Now, if the dog is already engaging in this kind of high-arousal behavior(s) can you see how constricting the air passage will only contribute to more discomfort and the dog not being able to take a full (calming) breath? Again, just try it on yourself: Constrict your air passage and report back to me.
The Prong Collar: Even though it looks really “evil” it is less damaging and discomfort inducing than the choke chain. The problem with the prong collar is that dogs can develop a callus to the tightening of the collar making it ineffective. If this callous is not developed by the dog when the prong collar is tightening then the dog is experiencing at least discomfort, potentially pain and for sure constriction of air flow.
Harnesses: A harness in my view is a good thing to use because it gets us off the dog’s neck. Big bonus! However, most harnesses are poorly fitted on dogs. It could be that the harness is ill fitted because the person did not follow the sizing directions or fitting instructions. Some, of course, are better than others. In any case, back clip harnesses do NOT help with the pulling. The same oppositional reflex (dog pulls, person pulls back dog pulls again against the pull felt) is in place unless the person is actively preventing the dog from pulling i.e.: teaching the dog to walk on a loose leash.
Front Clip harnesses are definitively a good option to lessen the pulling and one of my favorite solutions if it is fitted properly. Notice if the straps to the side of the front legs are preventing the dog from taking a full stride. Similar to us girls expected to walk with a very tight fitted skirt AND high-heels 🙂
Flat and Martingale Collars: Again, not really indicative to stop the pulling or teaching the dog anything. If the person is exercising corrections these too are bad news for the dog. In my view, flat collars should be used only in two types of scenarios: Dog has learned to walk nicely on a leash – so the dog is not pulling and for ids.
Quick-Release Collars: They are worth mentioning here because as their name implies, they will come apart easily, if needed.
These collars are the only collars that dogs should wear when playing with other dogs. There have been quite a few cases of dogs getting stuck in another dog’s collar and choking to death. It is not a pretty scene and very difficult to right if it happens.
Head-Halters: The head-halter is similar to a horse halter. It fits on the dog’s head and the leash clips to the bottom of the ring under the chin. There are quite a few brands out there and while people should pay close attention to sizing and fitting for the brand they are using, they all work the same way.
The only drawback of head-halters is that there is normally a period of acclimatization for the dog. If one is consistent and bites the bullet it is not long before the dog learns to be comfortable with the halter.
The head-halter not only is the most efficient piece of equipment to stop pulling but in a pinch it is also the best tool to help re-direct unwanted and even dangerous behavior on leash, because wherever the head goes… the rest of the dog’s body follows.
If using a head-halter people should be very gentle in maneuvering their dog. Absolutely no jerking of the halter – the position of it high on the dog’s neck can create damage. Head-halters just like any collar should never be used with a long line (sometimes called a drag line or safety line).
In summary: My preferred recipe for success and the comfort of both parties, is for dogs (with no severe fear or aggression issues) to be fitted with a front clip harness while the dog is learning to walk politely on leash. This gives the human-side of the equation some relief when they are not willing to practice loose-leash walking.
Second best and the only safe option for dogs that lunge at other dogs or people are properly fitted head-halters.