Dogs And Collars

Hello, Sam

I just had a question about your opinion on certain dog collars and methods to prevent dogs from pulling while on a leash. I have 3 dogs. My terrier rarely pulls on the leash; he was a stray and I don’t know his background. My chocolate lab pulls very hard – we have had him since he was a puppy, and I was a child myself. He is now 8 years old. Our third dog, a mutt of some sort, came from a homeless camp. He is medium sized and pulls the hardest when we go on walks.

Some people have recommended the training prong collars to me. I’ve seen pictures of how these can damage a dog’s neck to the point of drawing blood, and I’m afraid that won’t teach them to respect me and slow down while walking like they claim, but that it will teach the dog to fear the pain that I give it and have a negative association with walks and those collars. I want to know if I’m being silly to not want to use these collars. I’d also really appreciate it if you had any suggestions for how I could change this behavior.

Thanks for your help,


My response: 

Dog collars and methods. This is kind of a long conversation, especially without knowing your dogs. Here is a simplified answer.

Leash pulling is partly because a dog learns to self reward by pulling ahead on a walk. Part is because a dog has natural instincts to be curious and explore when on a walk, which also drives the pulling. Part is breed, since generally, herding dogs have more instincts that make it easier to train them to be alongside you, whereas, say a coonhound, is more likely to pull ahead and was never bred to be walking at Heel with anyone. Part is because the owner hasn’t developed engagement with the dog when doing activities so that the dog wants to be with the handler. All of these aspects need to be addressed.

The choice of collar starts with determining the sensitivities and breed of dog. I have a dog I’m working with right now that is very sensitive with any kind of collar around her neck, and we are having to be very careful so as to not let that develop into an aversion to anyone touching her neck, including grabbing her collar or putting on a leash. We are puzzling out what collar will be best for her. On the opposite side, I remember working with a 200 lb Boerboel that hated children and strangers, and would pull like a freight train. Only a prong collar would be enough to hold that dog back in case he lunged. Fortunately the wife was strong and 6 feet tall and her husband was a power lifter. He was not sensitive about his neck, so that wasn’t an issue. Lastly, I have worked with many sight hounds, such as Italian Greyhounds, who have such thin and sensitive skin that generally you use some kind of a wide Martingale collar on them so as to not bruise their necks.

Good training fits the dog, not the other way around. I do not believe there is a “one size fits all” answer regarding collars. Thus the choice of collar has to take in the dog’s breed and motivations, the owner and dog’s physical structure, the dog’s sensitivities, risks to the handler and dog if the dog was to pull hard, and lastly the trainability of the dog.

Sam the Dog Trainer

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