As I have stated previously ANY collar can damage a dog as can a harness that is not fitted properly. Too much emotion gets attached to this subject as humans try to justify what they feel to be the best. Ask the dogs and they would prefer to be collar free - but they usually cannot be.
I believe that any training program that does not work towards the goal of taking each dog towards whatever its' highest potential can be is lacking.
Further, I believe that any training program that bases it's work on a
particular piece of equipment is a program that is equipment dependent.
It must also be considered that a dog may work "naked" for one person and require equipment of some kind if another handler is trying to control it.
1. Buckle in any form. All of the pressure is on the throat and
constant pressure on that area can cause soft tissue damage. A buckle collar that is on tight enough to prevent escape is too tight for comfort. Therefore, a comfortable fit is a collar that can be slipped if the dog panics or stresses. Dr. Sue Ann Lesser tells me that constant pulling on a buckle collar can also cause neck and shoulder problems. Left on a dog, buckle collars cause coat damage. An apprentice of mine lost a beautiful afghan who jumped up and caught her buckle collar on the fence. Don't think that they
are totally safe.
2. Choke collars: On most dogs must he high on the neck to be effective. Must be fitted correctly. The lightest link possible is the best bet. Should be used with finger tip control. Hard to escape and if properly fitted and of the correct linkage will hold up if panic strikes. Should not be left on an unattended dog. Accidental deaths have occurred. Watch a canine chiropractor work. You will see that the quick and light pressure needed for adjustments is less than what a moderate jerk on a collar causes. Therefore, when you jerk the
collar, you "adjust" the neck. There is growing evidence that old age
spinal problems in the neck may be caused by jerking the young dog too hard on a choke. If the dog will only listen when his/her choke is on, you have equipment dependent behavior. Keeping a choke collar high and loose is an art. This is one of the most difficult collars for novices to use correctly.
3. Prong collars: they come in several weights. One can select from the lightest to the heaviest. Chiropractically the best collar BUT they do inflict a higher level of pain and they cannot be left on a dog
constantly as they cause horrible neck sores. Equipment dependent behavior is very high here. Since any jerk on a collar causes discomfort, one must think about the dog at the end of the lead. If really hard correction on a choke works but very light correction on a prong works, which is safer for the dog? Again, finger tip control is needed. These collars cause HIGH emotional reaction from some people. Those who use them must be prepared to both educate
and endure censure.
4. Haltis or Gentle Leaders - Some dogs are so offended by these "safer" tools that they rip their faces up trying to remove them. Can cause serious neck damage very quickly if the dog over reacts. Looks like a muzzle so people are hesitant to approach which can affect the dog's mental outlook.
Cannot be used for training all commands. Cannot be used in Agility or some other sports in training therefore progress made in obedience is negated.
Head halters can cause quite an attitude adjustment in some dogs. To use them safely since they can be slipped, another collar and lead should be on the dog until the handler feels totally secure in the dog's acceptance of the equipment.
5. Martingale type collars - for some dogs with fairly soft temperaments, a wonderful and safe collar that is a kind of combination of buckle and choke type collar. Heavily used in the show ring, these collars can stay high while radiating a fairly even pull around the neck. However, ever notice how many show
dogs gag on their high collars? Ever wonder about the higher incidence of tonsil problems in show dogs? Constant tension on the tender throat isn't a good thing with ANY collar.
6. Anti Pull Harnesses: Only work on pulling and once the equipment is removed the dog eagerly returns to previous habits.
7. Harnesses: If fit properly, they allow dogs to pull safely. If fit
improperly and the dog is allowed to pull they can cause some serious
7. Shock Collars: Cause very little if any physical damage to dogs. They can cause great mental damage. Give any shock collar trainer a few root beers too many and they will tell you about the dogs they have ruined forever.
Horrifying that they are so readily available to the general public. I
have also known Akitas who were shocked and kept going.
8. Spike collars: (inverted spikes that cut into the neck of the dog)
these are barbaric.
Clicker training- what a novel thought - no collar needed to initially
train. Just enough of a collar to prevent escape. But even with clicker work, you reach a point where you have to decide on one of the above.
Again, I stress, if you cannot control your dog without a specific piece
of equipment around the neck, then the dog's performance is equipment dependent.
That is where the majority of the dog owning population is. Not wrong. Not bad. Just where they are. There is one more step and it is not always a step that can or should be taken --- the dog works because the collar is invisible-- it is called a total relationship. Any time we must use a collar to determine behavior, we need to understand that our dogs have an agenda that does not include pleasing us as their highest priority. And for some dogs, that is just the way it is.
Copyright Terry Wright 1999 revised 2001