Collars, Harnesses, Chains, or Prongs- What is the Best Solution for your Pet’s Health?
Pet supply stores carry a wide range of walking aids for dogs. Often I receive questions from my client’s owners regarding what type of lead is best- using a leash attached to a collar, front lead harness, back lead harness, chain collar, prong collar- the list goes on. There are so many options, and the perfect lead for you may not be the perfect lead for your pet.
Many new dog owners will enroll their pets in training, which I highly recommend. A good dog trainer will point you in the right direction for aids and teach you and your dog the skills you need to succeed both on leash and off.
In training my two rescue dogs I have tried all of these lead options. Here are a list of my pros and cons to the most popular choices. Remember, this is personal opinion on what has worked with my dogs and what hasn’t. All opinions are entirely my own.
Collar and Leash
Pro: The most traditional approach with the least amount of effort on the owner’s part. Simply snap on the leash and leave the house. What could be easier?
This is arguably the most common walk aid for dogs. There are a wide variety of collars that come in many different fabrics and styles. My personal favorite are the Cork & Canvas collars by Geopetric. Geopetric collars and leashes are made in the United States and come in an array of beautiful styles. For the fashionable pet owner, or one who wants to match their pet’s style, they even make products for “hoomans” too. As an added bonus, 10% of all sales go to animal shelters. For more information, read my full review of Geopetric.
While we have the Cork & Canvas collars, I refuse to give up my Kong leashes. They come in a variety of colors, are sturdy, and have not shredded or faded at all in the years I’ve had them. They are durable and high quality. I have the 6-ft leash with traffic control. This has been extremely useful with Beau as we approach other dogs, because he does not a bit more control.
Con: Collars slip off very easily with little resistance. Often I will see neighboring dogs so excited that they have learned to move in just the right way as to slip their collar and run for my dogs, the street, or me. Always with love, thank goodness. However, extremely dangerous for that dog and for others.
Additionally, if your dog is not trained on a loose leash then the collar puts unnecessary strain on your dog’s neck. Many dogs can throw their necks out or have slipped disks because of pulling or yanking at the collar. While canine massage can help prevent and speed healing of these issues, it is recommended that collars not be relied on in the first place.
Not recommended. The collar and leash is, in my opinion, the least safe option if you want safety and control of your pet.
Most dog trainers will recommend that you use a harness. It provides maximum control with very little ability to slip out. Although there are some Houdini’s out there that have managed it, like my Gonzo. He’s a smart fellow. Fit is very important, so that it is not too tight causing rubs and not too loose where they can get tangled or slip it. There are two main types of harnesses available.
The front lead harness allows the leash to connect to the front of the dog, on it’s chest. Many people choose this option for dogs that pull badly on lead. I walk two large breed dogs and having front leads is rather awkward for me.
That being said this is a very popular option for many people. I suggest that you take turns walking your dog from your left and right as often these leads can lead to a slight muscle imbalance. If they pull at all they start walking a bit sideways, putting pressure on one side over the other. This may not be the choice for you if you prefer to always walk your dog on a single side.
Pros: The back lead harness is easy to put on. In addition, you have more control as you are able to support the chest and dog evenly while walking. As a bonus, it’s perfect for car rides as you can click your pet safety belt to the back of the harness. Eh voila! Your dogs muscles stay balanced in this type of harness and do not put pressure on the neck or a single side. Much better for muscle tension.
Cons: Some dogs are very strong. This harness may not allow you to have as much control as you need to, especially if the dog is aggressive. This will also not deter pulling on leash unless you incorporate positive training methods.
Chain Collars or Chain and Cloth Collars
Both these collars are not meant to be worn all day every day. They are meant to be put on for a walk only. How they work: the chain and cloth collars are adjustable. Both types tighten when your pet pulls and slowly choke your dog, added tension to their jugular and neck.
Pros: Slip on easily.
Cons: I really dislike these collars. They are not an effective deterrent for pulling on leash and can cause severe discomfort, pain, and damage to the neck and jugular. Because they tighten and release, they are also not effective at stopping your dog from slipping out and running off.
Like chain collars, prong collars are more aggressive and should only be worn on walks. These should NOT be worn all day, during play, or unsupervised. Also similar to chain collars, they are adjustable and are meant to fit comfortably but fitted.
Pros: The most control for your pet that I have found. If used properly, it serves as a reminder not to pull and most dogs obey very quickly.
Cons: These are often used incorrectly or as discipline. I do not believe in negative reinforcement or punishment. A mark should NEVER be left on your dogs body nor should you use it to jerk them.
Recommended only for large dogs or heavily muscled breeds that need extra control. Owners should receive training by a professional before using.
So what walking aid do I use?
When taking my dogs in the car, to the vet, or walking one-on-one I like to use a back lead harness. It attaches nicely to their safety belts and allows for a good amount of control. Because my dogs love the vet and the car, they will pull a little in excitement and the harness doesn’t really deter it. But I use training to offset that. Unless I visit their daycare, then they pretend to be sledding dogs pulling me along.
When I take both my dogs on walks at the same time, I use a prong collar. My dogs are not afraid of it nor have ever been injured because I know what I’m doing. I am small and they are large, I need that extra control. Both walk beautifully by my side 99% of the time. However, Gonzo is one of those Houdini dogs that has slipped collars and harnesses and done a runner. Further, Beau is reactive and more prone to lunging at another dog, I need that prong collar to keep everyone safe. Beau’s reactivity is slowly reducing with training, desensitization, and CBD treats but he is still a work in progress.
My favorite of all the aids is the back lead harness. There are so many benefits and very few negatives.
What is your favorite walking aid?