For a new dog owner or one experiencing dog walking issues, the sheer amount of leads, dog collars and harnesses available can be overwhelming. If like me, you’ve been confused by everything on offer, here’s a breakdown of what’s available.
Different types of dog collars are designed for different breeds and sizes of dogs.
Regular collars usually come in leather or nylon and fit around the neck on a buckle or snap lock (which you release by squeezing the side) and usually have a D-ring on the fastening where you can hang your dog identification tags or clip on a regular lead.
I would only use these to hang your dog ID and maybe for use on a well behaved dog since they are invariably too flimsy for use on a dog which pulls. It can also cause damage and chaffing to the neck of an excitable dog (especially smaller breeds).
Slip collars, consist of a length of smooth chain or rope with a ring at either end. You pull the chain through one ring until it stops to form the loop of the collar, and slip it over your dog’s head before connecting the lead to the other ring (or use as a lead itself as these days slip collars are generally longer and serve as the lead as well). Slip collars are generally used as a training aid to encourage dogs not to pull on the lead, or on headstrong dogs that have a tendency to pull and in order to give an additional degree of control. The problem with slip leads is that they can choke a dog (the pressure is partly what makes it effective). To counter this you should position it around the back of the dogs head and under the jaw but it is easy for it to slip if you have a puller (which is why you are probably using it in the first place).
There are two types of harness, the head and the chest harness.
The head halter is a nylon device which loops behind the back of the dog’s head and over the nose, with the lead attaching at the nose point. It is often effective in stopping pulling on larger dogs but is not suitable for small breeds and obviously won’t fit on snub nosed breeds. Your dog will hate it at first but they can learn to tolerate it. That’s why it works (most of the time). Dogs do not enjoy a head halter and so will learn to slow down and let you have control. This can be preferential to both dog and owner than having a dog pulling and chaffing on the lead and causing issues to to those around him/her.
Harnesses are worn around the body of the dog, fastening on the back AND front. Good ones also allow you to clip the harness to the regular collar for added control and protection. Harnesses are great for small dogs as they take the pressure off fragile necks and throats. Softer harnesses provide snugness without chaffing which can be a problem with leather and nylon harnesses but are more likely to break when met with the resistance of a pulling dog. There is some controversy over whether harnesses actually make pulling worse since the dog meets no unpleasant resistance to the throat. It is for this reason that many owners use front clipping harnesses. It’s principle is similar to that of the head harness. It gives closer control and works by throwning your dog slightly off balance from where it wants to go. Some experts are cautious about long term use of head and front leading harnesses as it may permanantly effect gait and balance.
Lots and lots of leads. Small leads, long leads, extendable leads, training leads, double ended leads. Which do you need?
Rope and leather Leads:
Rope leads are comfortable and strong and although cost a little more than the nylon leads, usually last a lot longer. Usual rules apply. If it seems too cheap, it probably is. Retractable Leads:
Retractable leads are good because you can control how little or far your dog can wander. They’re good for giving a bit of freedom for dogs that can’t be trusted to come back on their own or not to jump up to say hi (they reel right in). The problem with retractable leads is that on length, an excitable dog can get twisted in the thin nylon and there have been incidents of people losing fingers when a dog pulled and the thin nylon got twisted around an owners hand. The thin nylon of many of these leads is also easily chewed in half if not properly supervised. If you’re going to go with a retractable i’d suggest buying one of the more expensive flat/tough nylon types, rather than the thin rope style. It’s basically like a longer training lead but on a retractable spool.
The cheapest choice and available in a wide range of colours and patterns to accessorize your dog. But you get what you pay for. The poundshop ones WILL break. Spend wisely.
They’re like your regular lead but longer, often having a clip on both ends for use with training harnesses. Used for teaching recall and come command without losing your dog. It offers your dog freedom and security. Can’t be reeled in as easy as a retractable.
Chain leads are strong and good for pullers, however they can sometimes rust and some dogs hate the sound of the metal clinking. This can unfortunately make them pull harder. NEVER ever use these type of leads as slip leads as it can cause distress and choking.
Slip leads are good because the more a dog pulls, the more it tightens, however they do run the risk of choking and throat injury if incorrectly used. For that reason, they are becoming more and more controversial in the UK and used less and less.
Other types of lead:
Prong, electric and other types of choke collar. Most of these types of collar are rightly considered as cruel and unnecessary and so are rarely available in the UK these days. You may still see them on the internet but closer inspection will show them to be mostly now used in the US only.