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A Guide to Collars, Leashes, and Harnesses

Community Manager
Community Manager
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You’ve probably heard a few differing opinions about what kinds of collars, harnesses, and leashes you should use on walks. As a dog sitter, you won’t be making decisions about which training tools are right for your dog, but familiarizing yourself with the different tools out there will help you identify how to use them. And, if you have a dog of your own, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about what’s right for your needs.

First things first: Only use training tools provided by the dog owners. However, we do recommend suggesting to dog owners that they leave you with a harness and fixed-length leash—they’re safer and more reliable than a collar and flexi-lead.

Back-Clip Harness

When fitted properly, these harnesses are harder to slip out of than collars. However, they’ll actually encourage the dog to pull on walks because of what’s called “opposition reflex.” Essentially, when you push on a dog, he’ll push back. When you pull on a dog, he’ll pull back. Don’t believe us? Try gently pressing on your dog’s side, and he’ll lean into you!

No-Pull Front-Clip Harness

When fitted properly, these harnesses are harder to slip out of than a collar. They’re great because they reduce pulling. When a dog pulls, they get turned back toward you, when what they actually wanted to was to go forward. In order to get what they want, they need to walk with a loose leash.

Head Collars/Halters

The principle behind these walking tools is similar to halters on horses. Essentially, where the nose goes, the body follows. Most dogs are inclined to dislike these at first and need to be trained to associate them with positive things. They work wonders for not pulling, but there’s training involved if you don’t want to have to stop every few seconds on walks while your dog paws at his face.

Martingale Collar

These are generally cotton or part-cotton, part-chain collars. The idea is that it’s part choke collar, so when a dog pulls, it tightens. Interestingly, wide versions of these collars are required for dogs with heads the same size as their necks, like greyhounds and whippets, as they can slip right out of a regular flat-buckle collar.

Aversive Collars

These training tools are used for correcting dogs for problem behaviors. Use caution when asked to use these tools—punishment training can lead to increased dog aggression. We suggest following the owner’s instructions to a T when asked to use these sorts of tools—correct timing and technique are key. If you use them incorrectly, you can create a fearful, suppressed dog.

Prong Collar

These collars are designed for leash corrections during walks. They are a series of metal links that put small metal prongs into the dog’s neck whenever you pull on the leash.

Choke Collar

Choke collars aren’t used much anymore—they’ve been proven to cause tracheal damage. And because they have no control of when they stop tightening, they can strangle a dog.

Shock Collar

Some owners may ask you to use a shock collar to correct barking or pulling. These administer an electric shock to the dog, triggered either by barking or by pushing a button on a remote.

Learning a bit about the training tools owners choose to use for their dogs will help you use them effectively. And if you have questions about how to use them, ask! Dog owners will appreciate your dedication to providing great care for their pet.

Author: Kathryn Lisko

1 Comment
Dog fanatic

I have used an "Easy Walker" harness for my 85 pound lab mix for about 5 years. It is a wonderful tool as he cannot slip out of it and he doesn't walk me down the beach, instead we walk together at my pace. I highly recommend using this type of collar if your pup thinks he's a slead dog.