A dog collar is a piece of material put around the neck of a dog. A collar may be used for restraint, identification, fashion, or protection. Identification tags and medical information are often placed on dog collars. Collars are often used in conjunction with a leash for restraining a dog. Collars can be traumatic to the trachea if the dog pulls against the restraint of the leash, causing severe pressure to the neck. Conversely, dogs may easily slip out of collars that are too loose. These problems can be avoided by using a dog harness in lieu of a collar, yet collars are still more commonly used.
Collars are made with a variety of materials, most commonly leather or nylon webbing. Less common materials can include polyester, hemp, metal, or “oilcloth” (vinyl woven with cotton). Collars can be decorated in a variety of ways with a variety of materials. The basic collars for everyday wear are:
Several types of collars are used for the purposes of training dogs, though sometimes a collar is not used at all (such as in the case of dog agility training, where a collar could get caught on equipment and strangle the dog). Each training collar has its own set of advantages and disadvantages (briefly outlined below) which trainers might consider before using a select one. Training collars are typically used for training only and not left on the dog’s neck all the time, as some collars can be harmful or dangerous if left on a dog unsupervised.
Some dogs are trained on leash using a buckle or quick-release collar.
Martingale collars are recommended for sighthounds because their heads are smaller than their necks and they can often slip out of standard collars. They can, however, be used for any breed of dog. Their no-slip feature has made them a safety standard at many kennels and animal shelters. A martingale collar has 2 loops; the smaller loop is the “control loop” that tightens the larger loop when pulled to prevent dogs from slipping out of the collar. A correctly adjusted martingale does not constrict the dog’s neck when pulled taut. Others use them fitted snugly to be able to use them in a similar manner to a choke chain but without the unlimited constriction of a choke chain. The structure allows the collar to be loose and comfortable, but tightens if the dog attempts to back out of it.
Head halters, also called head collars, are similar in design to a halter for a horse. They are sold under several brand names. Brands include Comfort Trainer, Canny Collar, Halti, Gentle Leader, and Snoot Loop amongst several others. Brand names are also used when referring to these collars most commonly Halti or Gentle Leader. This device fastens around the back of the neck and over the top of the muzzle, giving more control over a dog’s direction and the intensity of pulling on a leash than most collars that fit strictly around the neck. Pressure on this type of collar pulls the dog’s nose and consequently their head towards the handler. These type of collars can aid in stopping a strong dog from pulling an owner in an unsafe direction. They are also recommended for dogs that pull as the pressure will no longer be directly on their wind pipe.
The theory behind the utility of head halters is that if you have control of the head, you have control of the body. The head collar generally consists of two loops, one behind the ears and the other over the nose. This tool generally makes it more difficult for the dog to pull on its leash. This is a management tool only, it does not train the dog not to pull.
Supporters of the head halter say that it enables the handler to control the dog’s head, and makes the dog unable to pull using its full strength. They claim it is especially useful with reactive dogs, where control of the dog’s head can be a safety issue.
Those who do not recommend use of the head halter say that some dogs find it unnatural and uncomfortable. If the collar is too tight, it may dig too deeply into the skin or the strap around the muzzle may push into the dog’s eyes. Cervical injury is a possible result from improper use of the head halter; if a dog is jerked suddenly by the leash attached to the head halter, the dog’s nose is pulled sharply to the side, which might result in neck injury. If the nose strap is fitted too tightly, the hair on the muzzle can also be rubbed off, or the dog might paw and scratch at its face, causing injuries ranging from mere bare skin to severe abrasions.
Some head halters such as the Canny Collar attach behind the neck and tighten around the nose when the dog pulls to deter the dog from pulling. Manufacturers claim they are safer than halters that attach below the muzzle because they do not pull the dog’s head to one side, avoiding stress on the neck area. Some rear-fastening head halters can have the noseband removed during use, therefore providing an element of training the dog to eventually walk on a regular collar and lead.
Aversive collars use levels of discomfort or an unpleasant sensation to encourage a dog to modify unwanted behaviors. The use of aversive collars is controversial, with some humane and veterinary organizations recommending against them.
Shock collars (also called e-collars, remote training collars, electric collars, zap collars, or hunting collars) are electronic training aids developed to deliver a low intensity electrical signal, vibration, tone, or light signal to the dog via the collar. Used primarily as a means of remote communication and widely accepted as a primary tool for the training of deaf and working dogs. The “aversive” use of these collars is seen mainly in the field of containment where they have been seen as one of the most effective and least invasive of all the aversive tools since the 1980s. Attaching a leash or lead to an electronic collar can pull the contacts too close to the dog’s skin, causing lessened effectiveness of the collar and discomfort.
These consist of a radio receiver attached to the collar and a transmitter that the trainer holds. When triggered, the collar delivers an aversive. The specific aversives vary with different makes of collars. Some emit sounds, some vibrate, some release citronella or other aerosol sprays, some apply electrical stimulation. A few collars incorporate several of these. Of these, electrical stimulation is the most common and the most widely used. Early electrical collars provided only a single, high-level shock and were useful only to punish undesirable behavior. Modern electrical collars are adjustable, allowing the trainer to match the stimulation level to the dog’s sensitivity and temperament. They deliver a measured level of aversive stimulation that produces from a mildly irritating tingle or tap sensation to severe discomfort or pain. Used at high levels collars startle without risk of producing permanent physical injury when used correctly. Shock collars are prohibited or restricted in some places.
Prong collars, also called pinch collars, are a series of metal links that fit together by connecting through blunt prongs that point inward toward the dog’s neck. The design of the prong collar incorporates a chain loop connecting the ends of the prong series, such that it has a limited circumference (a martingale), unlike choke chains, which do not have a limit on how far they can constrict on a dog’s neck. The leash attaches to this chain section. There are two options on the prong collar for leash attachment, the dead ring and the live ring. The live ring is used when a dog needs more correction as it gives more slack when the leash is popped. The dead ring is used most commonly when first training a dog to use a prong. The leash is attached to both rings and as such there is not as much slack as when attached to the live ring. This section commonly has a swivel at the point of attachment to lessen the twisting and possible tangling of the leash. The limited traction of the martingale chain combined with the angle of the prongs prevents the prongs moving close enough to pinch. The collar is designed to prevent the dog from pulling by applying pressure completely around the dog’s neck. Unlike flat, martingale, or choke collars the prong protects the trachea as it distributes pressure evenly. There are also prong collars that buckle and do not restrict.
Prong collars must never be turned inside out (with the prongs facing away from the dog’s skin), as this may cause injury against the body and head. Plastic tips are occasionally placed on the ends of the prongs to protect against tufts forming in the fur or, in the case of low quality manufactured collars with rough chisel cut ends, irritating the skin. Like the choke chain, the prong collar is placed high on the dog’s neck, just behind the ears, at the most sensitive point. This is perhaps one of the most ignored factors of proper prong collar use. The fit and placement of the prong collar are the most important factors when using this training tool.
Like any collar the prong collar can fail. After being used for a while or the prongs simply fall apart. It is recommended by many trainers to include a secondary form of attachment such as a dominant dog collar, or regular flat collar in addition to the prong collar so if this happens the dog does not run loose.
Some dog training organisations will not allow members to use them, and they are prohibited by law in Victoria, Australia.
Force collars are leather with metal prongs or studs lining the inside; similar in effect to prong collars.
Choke chains (also called choke collars, slip chains, check collars, or training collars) are a length of chain with rings at either end such that the collar can be formed into a loop that slips over the dogs head and rests around the top of the dog’s neck, just behind the ears. When the leash is attached to the “dead” ring, the collar does not constrict on the dog’s neck. When the leash is attached to the “live” ring, the chain slips (adjusts) tighter when pulled and slips looser when tension is released. Training with this leash involves a quick jerk with an immediate release, called a “leash pop”, “snap”, or “correction”. This is supposed to correct a dog’s unwanted behavior, such as leaving the “heel” position. Pulling harder or longer on the choke chain presses on the dog’s trachea and/or larynx and may restrict breathing.
Cesar Milan’s “Illusion collar” is a choke collar wrapped in a buckle collar.
Fur saver collars are a kind of slip chain that contain fewer and longer individual links than a close link chain, also known as a long link fur saver collar. Fur saver collars can be used both for long and short-haired breeds limiting damage to the dog’s fur. It can be used for training and daily use as well. The fur saver collar can be ‘locked out’ preventing it from constricting by attaching the leash connector to any link within the chain, this mitigates the unlimited traction effect associated with a slip chain.
No-pull harnesses or restricting harnesses rely on a level of discomfort, force and avoidance to alter the dogs behavior. When the dog pulls, a strap within the harness tightens applying an uncomfortable pressure on the dog’s body which the dog must actively alter the pulling behavior to avoid.