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How to Properly Choose and Use a Collar (Even the scary looking ones)

When you walk into a pet store to find a new collar for your dog, your usually going to be standing, staring at your immense options for some time. Whether its what awesome pattern you want, or how many gems/studs, or which training collar to use, part chain, all chain or those scary looking ones with prongs, your options seem endless. Well rest at ease, because I'm going to load you up with all the information you need to find the collar that fits you and your dogs needs.

First of all, you need to understand that you are likely going to buy two different types of collars at some point in your pups life. A fashionable, adorable (or manly) “flat collar” and a training collar. The flat collar is the ones that's usually left on at all times or when “at ease”. It hold their tags and usually has a safety snap that's easily broken if caught on something so as to not be a choking hazard. The training collar is used ONLY for training methods and when walking your dogs. This collar must NEVER be left on your dog at all times, left on alone or during playtime (with you or other dogs). These collars are not designed to break easily and WILL be a choking hazard to your dog if its gets caught on something. This is the first common mistake I see, usually done with the martingale types (this is the half flat collar with part chain and no clip)

So, just which collars do you buy? Well, I always say a FLAT COLLAR at the very least. These are safe, (they are usually designed to break if the dog gets caught and pulls away hard enough) fun, and so important. Why? Because it tells people “this dog is owned” if they get lost. It hold their tags, equally important. Why? Because it tells people this dog is vaccinated for rabies (yes, that's what that rabies tag the vets give you is for) making them safe. It often will have a name, address and phone number on the tag (which I always recommend anyway) so people can call your dog by name and make them more comfortable to approach as well as get your precious pup back to its rightful owner. When fitting these just make sure you can fit two fingers between your dogs collar and their neck. Its also good to mention, some dogs will only ever need a flat collar and behave well enough to not have to move onto a training collar. In my method of training, I always start with a flat collar and move to a training collar only if needed.

The next bit to go over is the different types of training collars, because really, there is only one type of collar that is safe to be used at all times, and that's the flat collar. But first and foremost I want to go over the proper ways to use these types of collars. These are the ones that are a pretty serious choking hazard if they get caught. They are not designed to break easy! So, I reiterate, DO NOT leave this collar on your dog unattended. This goes for any training collar you buy. The reason these are classed as a training collar is because that's exactly what they are used for, and ONLY for this. When giving a leash correction these collars will give you a better correction then the flat collars, and allow you to have more control (especially on the muscle-like breeds). Whats important in your correction is that its a pull,push type motion. You don't ever want to have the “break on”. This is when you see a dog/owner pulling and the dog appears to be “choking” or hacking. You want to pull (correct) and then push (release the tension). Do not continue to pull, or allow your dog, to continuously pull. This is when damage can be done on the throat (giving these handy collars a bad rep).

The MARTINSGALE COLLAR. This is the collar that's part flat and part chain. Fitting these collars is pretty essential, so lets go over how to do that. Taking your dog with you to the pet store could save you an extra trip or two. There are 2 loops, the smaller loop is called the Control Loop (the chain part). The second loop is the adjustable part of the collar (the flat collar part). Pull the collar up right behind the ears of the dog. This where you want to adjust the collar because this is the point right before the collar slips over the head. When you pull up on the chain, the control loop should tighten. The 2 pieces on each side of the Control Loop should be about 2 inches apart. These 2 pieces of hardware should NEVER touch. If they do, your collar is too loose. You should be able to get 2 fingers between the 2 pieces of hardware on the chain. Properly fitted, the Martingale should sit around the middle of the neck when the chain is not tightened by pulling. To remove the collar, you will have to use both hands and I advise tucking the ears one at a time through the collar. This is perfectly fine and isn't uncomfortable for your pup. This collar is handy on all breed types and is my go-to option when the flat collar just isn't achieving the right kind of correction a dog needs.

Next is the CHAIN SLIP COLLAR, or more commonly known as the “choke chain”. All the same rules apply here, if not more critical. These can and will choke your dog if caught or do serious damage. Again, NOT TO BE LEFT ON UNATTENDED. Those horrible photos of chain embedded into a dogs neck, yuck! That should never happen. These collars are also fitted differently then others. These collars should be sitting up behind the ears and behind the jaw line for the best and safest corrections. When slipped on, it should go easily over the ears when they are laid back, however when taking the chain off, again, you will have to pull it up and remove it one ear at a time. The next part to note is HOW to put it on, this can be kinda of tricky if you don't know any better but is important for the collar to work properly. Hold one ring in each hand, one hand above the other to make it into one long line. Then drop the end of the chain through the bottom ring. It will look like the number 6. Now turn it sideways to look like the letter P with the flat edge facing up. (so a sideways P) THEN slip it on over your dogs head. This will keep the ring from locking up and give you that smooth sliding motion. This collar is best used on large, strong breeds. The more muscle behind the dog the more resilient they become, meaning you may need a stronger correction to get through to your dog.

Lastly, is the dreaded PRONG COLLAR, or “pinch collars”. Again, getting the proper fit is so important. They come in a standard length (sml, med, lrg) which is adjusted to fit the neck of the dog by removing or adding links to the collar. These collars should be sitting up behind the ears and behind the jaw line (just like the chain slip collar). Some people try and put this collar on by slipping it over their dogs head and even moving it down on the neck. That's wrong. Prong collars are designed to be used by unhooking links and unsnapping the collar from around the neck. The right way to unhook a collar is to pinch one of the links and pull it apart. Taking the collar off is always easier than putting it back on. To do this put one side of the prong of a link in one side of the connecting link. Then squeeze the link with the thumb until the other side drops in place. This is easiest done behind the ears, at which point you will have to slide the collars to the side so the rings to attach your leash are on the right side of the neck (or left depending on your dominant hand). Its also important to note that there are two different ways to attach your leash. (dead ring and live ring) I ALWAYS recommend to start with the dead ring. This means you attach your leash to BOTH metal rings so that the collar wont sinch up with corrections. This usually is enough. However, if you have a particularity stubborn and strong dog, you can switch to the live ring. This means the collar will sinch up with each correction and become more amplified. Again, ALL the same rules apply. Never unattended and Never with the “break on”. Despite their harsh appearance, many trainers find these collars effective for strong, stubborn dogs. Especially those large breed dogs loaded with muscle (typically fighting breeds).

There are a few other types of collars, such as show collars, harnesses and head collars, but these aren't typically the go to options. They are used for more specialized situations (yes even harnesses, they encourage pulling rather then treat it). So if you have any questions on the specialized variety feel free to contact me for some advice on the subject. These training collars can hurt more then help if not used, or fitted properly. As well as do some potential serious damage to your dog if left on at all times and unattended. So PLEASE, please, PLEASE follow my advice and only use these for training. Help rid the bad rep to these useful tools by being a responsible dog owner and learning about the collars you want to use. I hope this clears up some information to those looking for the right kinds of collar. If you found it informative and helpful, let me know! Follow my blog for regular updates, and dare I say it, give me a call and hire some help! Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog, the information provided is very important to me, so I appreciate your interests!