There is a myriad of information bouncing about on the internet about training tools, so it can be hard to glean bits of correct information. As I’ve started my journey with training my young puppy and trying out a handful of dog sports, I have grown to see the benefits of using training tools and how they can communicate to your dog when you are just not getting through to them. Even if you just want your dog to start paying attention to you in public spaces or certain situations, training tools can be beneficial!
This is the first training tool I ever used. When I picked up my first puppy from the shelter, they handed me a choke chain. Choke chains were popular during the “jerk and praise” training era. Many people who use choke chains (like myself!) did not put them on correctly, rendering them useless. One end of the choke chain is looped through one end ring, and when the choke chain is put on the dog, it should form a “P.” The ring where you clip the leash should be at the top of the dog’s neck, sitting behind the dog’s ears. The choke chain should be relaxed on the dog’s neck, and your leash should be slack. When the dog pulls or acts up, the handler pulls or jerks the leash to correct the dog, and the choke will tighten. After the correction, allow slack back onto the leash. If the leash is not slack, you won’t be able to correct the dog again. The choke collar works well, but it is very dependent on the handler to know when to apply pressure, versus when to take it off. The pressure is applied to the dog’s windpipe, versus evenly like a prong collar.
Remember, your choke chain must be in the shape of a “P.” This allows the chain to loosen after a well-timed correction, if it is placed on incorrectly, the chain remains tight and the correction loses its effectiveness.
The leash attachment must be directly above the head.
This choke chain is the proper size for the dog, although it is placed incorrectly, where the leash attachment is at the bottom near the throat. You want the choke chain to fit loose enough so it can tighten for a correction, but not so loose that it slips off the dog’s neck, even when the leash is slack.
Prong Collars are made up of prongs and apply pressure evenly across the dog’s neck, versus a flat collar. When a dog pulls on a flat collar pressure is applied to just the front of the neck. The prong collar is thought to be more effective than the “quick jerk and impact of a choke chain or the steady, relentless pressure of a flat collar.” The prong collar is meant to sit high on the dog’s neck, right below their ears. It is to be fitted tightly, so that it doesn’t rub against the dog’s neck and create uneven pressure. A prong collar can “only be pulled so tight” and mimics the natural correction of dogs, a corrective nip on the neck. When purchasing a prong collar, always be sure to purchase one that has the tips rounded so it doesn’t puncture your dog’s neck. Some prong collars may seem more affordable, but the tips often aren’t rounded down, leaving them sharp.
The correct placement of the prong sits high on the dog’s neck, right behind the ears. The clip for the leash is on the middle and top of the neck, behind ears.
In this picture the prong is a bit loose, and the clip is sitting on the throat, in the incorrect spot. It’s hard to tell in this picture, but the prong should NOT be loose and should NOT fit like a necklace.
They look like regular flat collars, but about ⅓ of the collar is a loop that tightens with tension. There is a D ring attached to the loop, which is where you would attach the leash. When the dog pulls, or when the handler pulls on the leash to apply a correction, the martingale tightens and applies pressure on the dog’s neck. The martingale works similar to a choke chain, however, is probably not a good option for a stronger dog or a dog that is used to tough corrections. They fit more like a regular collar, and don’t sit quite as high on the neck. They are great for dogs who are escape artists because they are more difficult for dogs to break free of.
The martingale attachment should go above dog’s neck, so proper pressure can be applied.
You cannot see the martingale attachment in this photo, meaning it is pulled to the side or to the front, applying pressure to the wrong side.
They work similar to a halter on a horse and are based on the belief that “where the head goes, the body will follow.” When the dogs pull, the idea is that the pressure on the halter will snap the head back towards the owner or the dog’s shoulder. The pressure around the muzzle is also said to be similar to the mother dog gently correcting a puppy. The pressure applied while using the halter is not meant to be a quick jerk, like a choke chain, or it can hurt the dog. If the dog isn’t properly introduced to the halter, they tend to fight it as well, and try to paw and get it off. This tool is specifically geared towards pulling, although it stops some dogs from pulling, some dogs will fight through, and pull even harder.
The head collar fits like a halter on a horse, one strap goes around dogs muzzle, and the other attachment goes around the dog’s neck.
Once again, this is specifically used for pulling. These harnesses have straps that go behind your dog’s shoulders, and clip behind their front legs, and at their chest. They generally work as a martingale, so when you clip the leash to the front clip, and the dog pulls, pressure will be put on the dog. This makes pulling uncomfortable, stopping the dog from pulling. Some dogs who have shorter, finer hair don’t do well in these harnesses because they tend to chafe. These harnesses need to be clipped in the front in order to work. If they are clipped on the back like a regular harness, then the dogs tend to pull just as much. A lot of people think that regular harnesses stop pulling, but in reality, it is the opposite. If you have ever seen a sleddog team, harnesses are put on them to encourage pulling.
The clip sits in the front.
Sideview--the straps go behind the dogs front legs, clip is in front, and the second strap goes over the dog’s chest.
Clip is in the front (to the side), defeating the purpose of anti-pulling harness.
Clip is on the back of the dog, rendering the tool useless.
A widely misunderstood tool that is helpful, and actually, gentler than a lot of tools on the market. The e-collar of today is very different from e-collars used in the past. A lot of people assume e-collars burn dogs, or that they “shock” the dogs, when in fact they are “much the same as a tens unit that us humans use frequently for physical therapy.” If sores appear at all, they are usually from not rotating e-collars, from leaving e-collars on for too long, or from fitting the collar too tight (they should be form-fitting, but not choke the dog). E-collars “in the old days they had few levels and COULD be extremely unpleasant at all settings.” E-collars in the modern day, can have up to 100 adjustments (sometimes more!), so you can properly find the setting that works for your dog. If the dog is conditioned properly, the e-collar can be used to communicate effectively to your dog. They are used as an invisible leash and as a reminder to your dog what behaviors are okay and are not okay. Because they are so highly adjustable, they can be a better choice for more sensitive dogs, and dogs who don’t do well on other tools. If the e-collar is not properly rotated on your dog’s neck, not fitted correctly, or you are not using the e-collar at your dog’s proper working level, then it can render the tool useless, and yes, potentially dangerous.
The e-collar should fit tight, and the contact points should be on the side of the neck. It should sit higher on the neck, not as high as the prong, but a bit below.
Incorrect e-collar fitting. It is too loose and the contact points don’t touch, rendering it useless.
Remember that every tool in the wrong hands, even a flat collar, can be dangerous and harmful to a dog. Finding the correct tool isn’t “cheating” or “taking shortcuts,” it is finding a way to communicate effectively with your dog. Behaviors like excessive barking, leash pulling, and reactivity are just your dog’s insecurities and lack of confidence pushing through. By building up your dog’s confidence and working through those insecurities, you will have a much happier and relaxed dog. Remember, if you are not comfortable with these tools, always seek the advice of a professional dog trainer!