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Choosing the Right Collar and Leash

Katheryn Weaver gives expert advice about how to choose the right dog-walking gear from the many types of dog collars and leashes available today.

Flat Collars, Greyhound Collars, Pinch Collars,  Gentle Leaders, Haltis, Flat Leashes, Leather Leashes,  Retractable Leashes...Do your eyes glaze over when you walk into a pet store and see walls filled with collar and leash choices? How do you decide what type will work for your pet? 

Let’s start with the collar, which has two main purposes. First, it provides a “handle” for you to take quick control of your dog. Just as importantly, it displays the dog’s identification tags. 

Choosing the proper size is easy...you are not going to mistakenly put a collar that will fit a giant breed such as a great Dane on your little cockapoo! If you cannot take the dog shopping with you, measure her neck with a tape measure and look for a collar that is about three inches longer.

Adjust the collar to ride high on your dog’s neck. Check to make sure you can comfortably fit two fingers under the collar! Be sure the collar cannot slip over the dog’s head; you don’t want him losing the identification tags, which should prominently feature your phone number. (Your cell number if you travel with the dog!)

If you are buying a collar for a growing puppy, check the fit weekly and adjust as needed. Check the fit quarterly on your mature dog in case she is gaining or losing weight.

But there’s a bewildering variety of collars available. So, here are a few guidelines when navigating this maze.

Traditional flat buckle collars are made to lay flat against your pet’s neck. Usually nylon or leather, they are great for putting on identification tags, your county licensing tags, and the rabies vaccine tags.  If you have a long-haired breed you might want to consider a rolled leather collar to reduce fur matting.

Depending on the size of your pet, a flat or rolled collar is probably all that you need. But if your dog habitually pulls when on a leash, you can improve your control with several types of collars.

Greyhound or martingale collars are made of flat nylon but have a slip loop that tightens the band when a dog pulls or tries to back out of the collar. Designed for breeds whose necks are larger than their heads, such as greyhounds and whippets, they will give you extra leverage. Great for neighborhood walks, they are gentler on the dog than traditional slip collars.

Traditional slip collars (aka choke chains) and  pinch collars (aka prong collars) are best fitted with the help of a trainer. Both of these collars are effective as long as you have them fitted correctly. Not everyone is comfortable using either of these items. Misuse of these collars does nothing more than give your dog a stronger neck or, worse, cause preventable neck and throat injury.

Gentle Leaders, also known as Haltis, loop over the muzzle and work well with a dog that needs direction. It’s best to work with a trainer to ensure proper fitting and get your pet to accept the leader on its face. 

Halters were made for tracking dogs, which work without handler control. In recent years pet owners have chosen to use a halter with breeds that might develop breathing or neck problems. (For example, with mini and toy breeds that are prone to trachea collapse.) A Roman Halter is the best because the figure-8 or step-in halter can be escaped from with little effort by a pet of any size. But because halters were designed for tracking dogs, which work ahead of the handler and without the handler controlling them, you really have NO CONTROL over your pet no matter what the size. 

Like collars, leashes come in many sizes and lengths. Find a flat leash that fits well in your hand. A length of 4 ft or 6 ft will give you the best control of your pet.

Retractable leashes give you NO CONTROL !!!!!! You can have the best collar going for you and your pet when that unforeseeable situation pops up.  When you attempt to reel in your pet to keep it out of harms way -- the retractable locking system breaks! Then you have no choice but to drop the handle or be dragged into a situation that you did not plan on.

The retractable leash was made for tracking dogs, to be attached to tracking harnesses. It is designed to go to the open field, beach or hiking trail, not for neighborhood walks. Don’t even think of using a retractable leash in busy places such as crowded city sidewalks, dog shows, art festivals, sporting events, and other situations where you need maximum control of your dog.

Finding the equipment combination that works for you and your pet is vital to having wonderful experiences and truly enjoying the great outdoors together. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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