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The Ins and Outs of selecting the right leash and collar for you and your dog.

Collars and leashes are on everyone’s list of things to purchase for a new dog. They also need to be replaced from time to time. An appropriate collar and leash are very important for the safety of your dog while out of your home.  A good leash and collar make sure your dog does not get away from you near roads or other dangers. Collars also let owners attach contact information in case your dog happens to get away from you.

You have probably noticed that there are many types of collars and leashes available. Each is designed to help you restrain your dog in a different way. Here are a number of things to consider when picking a leash or collar:

COLLARS

Flat collars

Flat collars are one of the most common types of collars.  They can be made from a variety of different materials, such as nylon or leather. These collars have a buckle made of plastic or metal and a D-ring for clipping a leash and adding identification.

There are many different sizes available with different lengths and widths. Make sure you pick an appropriate one for your dog. You want to be able to fit a few fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar but you don’t want to be able to slip the collar over the dog’s head.

If you have a puppy and want to use flat collars, you’ll likely need two or three different sizes as your puppy grows. Pick a collar that isn’t too wide but can be lengthened. Puppies grow quickly so it is very important to check the fit of the collar every couple of days to make sure it isn’t getting too tight.

If you have an adult dog, get a collar that can be shortened or lengthened a bit as your dog may gain/lose weight or their coat thickness may change throughout the year.

Head collars

Several types of head collars exist. Most fit over your dog’s nose and buckle around the back of their head. These allow for much more control over your dog’s head.  They are usually used if you have trouble with your dog pulling.

Most dogs need some training to get used to their head collar and will scratch at the collar if they are not used to it. Gradually introduce the head collar to your dog while using treats. For example, you can start by putting the head collar near their head and giving treats; then move the collar away from their head. Next, you can put the collar up to their nose or put their nose slightly through the collar while giving treats. Gradually work up to having the collar on fully.

Choke chain collars

Choke chains are designed to “choke” a dog when it pulls and then release once they stop, in an aim to teach your dog not to pull. Choke chains need to be put on properly, as looping the wrong way allows the chain to tighten when your dog pulls but then not release. These collars should not be left on your dog unsupervised as they could tighten if caught on anything.

Due to the risks of injury to dogs with choke chains, the use of choke chains is generally not recommended. Instead, it is recommended that you use either the flat or head collars described above and train your dog not to pull while walking.

Martingale collars

Martingale collars are the combination of a flat collar and a small loop of chain or fabric that is designed to tighten when your dog pulls. Unlike a regular choke chain, this type of collar releases immediately and will not lock in place when your dog stops pulling.

This type of collar is designed to provide a small correction when your dog pulls and releases when they stop. They DO need to be fitted properly so that the ends of the flat collar brought together by the smaller loop of chain or fabric does NOT touch when the collar tightens. If this happens, it means the collar is too loose and may slip off your dog. If your dog is playing with others while wearing a martingale collar, it is important to supervise the play as teeth or paws of other dogs could get tangled or stuck in the extra loop.

Harnesses

Harnesses are often bought with the idea of preventing your dog from pulling while walking. However, harnesses were actually designed to help animals pull heavy loads.  They put pressure of the restraint on the dog’s chest and allow them to put the full power of their legs and body against the harness.

For this reason, these are NOT a good option for restraining the average dog. However, if you have a dog that you are training to pull for outdoor activities or if your dog has a neck or back injury, this might be the ideal option for you and your dog.

Prong and pinch collars

Prong and pinch collars are designed to cause pain when your dog pulls on the leash. Be aware that these collars can easily cause permanent damage to your dog’s neck. For these reasons, these collars are very rarely, if ever, recommended. Using positive reinforcement (e.g., providing your dog with treats when they act in a positive manner) to train your dog to stop pulling and using other devices described above are much better collar options for you and your dog.

LEASHES

As with collars, there are many types of leashes available to you and your dog. Nylon or leather leashes are the most common and have a clip to connect to your dog’s collar and a handle for you to hold.

There are many lengths and widths of leashes available, and it is important to consider the types of activities you will be doing with your dog before buying. Very long leashes have the potential to get tangled around objects and other dogs while on walks, but very short leashes may not give your dog adequate freedom to explore while walking. Keep in mind the height of the people walking your dog, as adjustments to length could be needed for this reason as well.

If you will be spending a lot of time walking your dog, make sure the handle of the leash is comfortable for you. Also, be aware that wrapping long leashes around and around your hand could cause injury to you if your dog suddenly pulls on the leash.

Flexi-type leashes are also common; however, they can be dangerous and can also teach your dog to pull on the leash. Flexi leads work by allowing your dog to continue to pull a longer leash while they walk away from you, which can actually teach them to pull while walking. They can also be problematic when meeting other dogs as the long line can get tangled around the dogs or the legs of the people with them, potentially causing injury.

It is important to ensure that the collar and leash that you choose for you and your dog are comfortable, safe, and fitted properly. If you have questions, make sure you get guidance from an animal-care expert, such as a veterinarian or an animal trainer.

As well as having proper restraint, training your dog not to pull on the leash will make walking much more enjoyable for both you and your dog. Making sure that your dog has an excellent recall (i.e., coming when called) is also very important in case you ever drop the leash or your pet accidentally slips out of their collar. Proper training combined with the right collar and leash will ensure that your daily outdoor adventures together are fun for all!

If you’re looking for leashes and collars, make sure to check Kijiji first!