Gag, choke, cough, tongue hanging out, eyes bulging, no control…..these are a few things that can happen when leashing your dog to a regular buckle dog collar, martingale dog collar, choke chain, prong/pinch collar. You get the idea. Dexter The Dog has been collarless since 2012 and I have not attached a leash to a collar to him since 2010.
As a professional dog behavior consultant, it was pretty easy to teach Dexter The Dog how to walk politely on a leash. But that didn’t change the fact that in the learning stages and even around some distractions, he may pull at the leash for a moment. And each of those moments I felt sure were causing damage and pain to his body such as his neck, eyes and spine. Obviously, electric shock collars are not an option. I began to exclusively leash Dexter to a dog harness at a very early age.
Over the past few years, I have urged my dog training students to switch off of dog collars and transition to dog harnesses. I have started to do some research and have found a variety of sources that confirm my suspicions of the harm a dog collar can do to a dog and the dog’s anatomy.
According to Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM, some of these issues can include Hypothyroidism, ear issues, eye issues, excessive paw licking, foreleg lameness and neck injuries including whiplash. A study by Amy M. Pauli, DVM, Ellison Bentley, DVM, Diplomate ACVO, Kathryn A. Diehl, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVO and Paul E. Miller, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVO confirm that “Intraocular pressure increased significantly from baseline when pressure was applied via a collar but not via a harness.” Animal chiropractors like Dr. Sherry Fries are against using collars and a leash combos. “I implore people to use harnesses as opposed to any collar,” she says.
So what kind of options do I prefer? Harnesses and headcollars are my personal preference. More specifically I like front clipping harness to help teach a dog not to pull on his leash. The Easy Walk Harness and Freedom No Pull Dog Harness are two that I have personally used and recommended. The Walk In Sync Harness looks interesting too, but I have not tried this one yet. For headcollars, my go to is The Gentle Leader a runner-up Halti Headcollar.
That said, they need to be used as directed to keep your dog safe. A headcollar that is tight and if you allow your dog to keep pulling and it keeps his head at an unusual angle is not safe. A front clipping harness that is tight and again pulled to the side is not the correct way to use the tool. So, please work with a qualified professional dog behavior consultant to learn how to correctly and safely use these dog training tools.
So, I hope you reconsider using your dog’s collar as a way to control him. There are much easier and safer ways to teach your dog how to walk nicely on a leash without pulling.
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