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Articles > Dogs

Specialized Collars and Training Devices

Topic: Leash Laws

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While most dogs are fully capable of being leash trained with a basic collar, harness and lead there are some dogs that may require additional training options. Typically these are dogs that are more mature that are being trained for the first time or dogs that have learned bad or aggressive habits with a previous owner. Any type of specialized dog collar or training device needs to be used with care and consideration since they can often be used inappropriately and lead to injury to the dog. It is highly recommended that anyone using a specialized training collar or device that is not a dog trainer work with a professional trainer to learn the correct use procedure.

Choke Collars

Choke collars or choke chains are found in most pet stores and they are fairly commonly used on larger breeds of dogs or dogs that have a tendency to pull or lunge on the leash. The choke collar is just what it sounds like, consisting of a medium to large link steel chain that forms a loop around the dog's neck, with the leash clasp attaching to the ring end that is sliding through the other steel ring. As the dog pulls against the leash or the handler pulls on the collar the choke collar tightens, literally choking the dog the harder he or she pulls away.

These collars must be used with extreme caution. Owners can choke their dogs, cause the trachea to collapse or permanently injure their dog's necks through rough or abusive handling. The links of the chain in the choke collar can also pinch the skin, leaving painful welts and bruises that the owner may not even be aware of.

Dogs should never be trained on a choke collar. Choke chains should only be used by someone that is fully aware of how to appropriately use these types of collars.

Prong Collars

Prong collars should only be used with very specialized types of problems and they are very dangerous if used incorrectly. They are similar to the choke collars discussed above except they have two blunt prongs on each link of the chain that point in towards the dog's throat. As the chain collar tightens the prongs press into the skin of the throat, creating discomfort for the dog.

As can be imagined these collars are exceptionally risky to use with dogs. Incorrect use can cause the collar to penetrate the throat, leading to the chance of infection, serious damage and chronic irritation of the skin. Only a professional trainer that is working with highly aggressive or non-complaint dogs should use a prong collar. Most trainers will not use these collars and prefer other less dangerous and potentially risky training methods.

Head Collars or Haltis

Head collars, also known as headstalls or haltis are a much less dangerous training option. These collars that resemble a combination of a horse's halter and a collar loop around the neck and around the muzzle to allow the handler to gently control the dog's head by applying pressure that is not specific to the throat. Dogs that are trained on a halti or head collar typically learn very easily and naturally to follow their handlers since controlling the head eliminates the dog pulling away or fighting the leash or lead. Haltis can be used instead of harnesses with most breeds and are very common for training large and giant breeds of dogs.

Although the halti is not the same as a muzzle it will restrict biting and can be used to help socialize dogs that may be somewhat aggressive or dominant. Haltis are often used at veterinarians offices during exams of large or nervous dogs or even with small breeds that may have a tendency to snap or bite.

Electronic Collars

There are a large number of different types of shock collars or electronic training collars. They can be used for teaching dogs to work away from the owner such as herding or hunting breeds. They can also be used in conjunction with electronic fences to help dog's stay within a particular area without the need for a full permanent privacy or dog fence. Electronic fences and collars are popular in many urban areas since they can be used in addition to ornamental or decorative fencing and landscaping.

Electronic collars or shock training collars work by remote device. A battery operated remote is controlled by the handler that can trigger a shock at any time in the training program. This negative type of training is not recommended by most professional trainers that see much more positive and long lasting results using a positive reinforcement for good behavior training program.

Electronic or shock collars do have to be used with care. Some dogs are much more sensitive to the electric current than others and some dogs will learn that once the collar is off they can do what they want. Electronic collars may be a training option, but practice, obedience work and lots of interaction between the handler and the dog is still the most important part of the training program.

Bark Collars

Bark collars can be electronic and provide a shock when the dog barks, but there are also other options. One bark collar sprays a fine mist of citronella into the area of the dog's nose, which will cause the dog to stop barking as they don't like the smell. These collars are sometimes the most effective since the dog learns to associate barking with an unpleasant odor, not necessarily understanding that it is coming from the collar.


Some dogs, because of their breed or because of their behavior, may need to have a muzzle when out off of the owner's property. Muzzles are designed to loop around the back of the head and restrict the movement of the upper and lower jaw, preventing the dog from biting. Owners need to realize that a muzzle does not stop aggression; it merely prevents the dog from being able to actually bite. Muzzled dogs are at risk of being bitten if they are approached by another aggressive type of dog and need to be carefully monitored to avoid any potential injury.

Many very well behaved dogs have to be muzzled because of local laws and breed leash requirements. Training a dog to accept the muzzle does require some patience as dogs do not like this restriction around their mouth. It is also important to carefully monitor a dog with a muzzle as they cannot pant and may be more prone to heat stroke and other heat related problems during the hot summer months.

Other articles under "Leash Laws"

Article 1 - "Leash Etiquette For Dogs"
Article 3 - "Breed Issues and Leash Laws"
Article 4 - "5 Tips for Leash Training"
Article 6 - "Leash Laws around The World"

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