A controversial sector of Training equipment are the electronic training tools. These tools combined with all other tools of dog training (consistency, reward, correction, praise, motivation, ET AL) are what complete the entire training plan. There must be a training plan in order to train your dog to the level of acceptable obedience that I want from my human and canine client teams! Electronics are one option of a tool, but not a requirement by any means. TOOLS also do not equate training. You will work to train your dogs, these are not magic wands. You must know when and how to use them, and you must train your dog first before overlaying this on them for best success.
I am not going to talk about head halties or harnesses in this article. I consider them management equipment and not training equipment. These types of equipment are designed to keep the pressure on the dog at all times, and not allow for decision-making ability on the part of the dog. That being said, the following equipment is not a "magic wand", you need to train your dog to know what the options are.
The following are all TOOLS that are used in a training program with other TOOLS. This is a small but important parts of training that is combined with handler confidence, body position, praise, rewards, consistency (arguably the most important tool), vocal tone, motivation (as in what does your dog naturally like to do, and use it) and training plan. None of these operate well without the others. Reading your dog and their response to tools and stimuli is also important. Have a trainer handy to walk you through whether your dog will not work well on the collar, or are just going through common avoidance antics. This is often hard for a first time dog owner/trainer to judge. You also need someone to help you fit these properly. None of these should be too loose, and the metal training link collar should have about two inches of extra link in it (depending on the size of your dog of course, this is the rule for most medium and large dogs—smaller dogs need much less slack as well their necks are teeny tiny). Generally, these tools and some training methods are used after a dog has become approximately six months of age.
Nylon slip collar:
Pros: 1) Allowed as a collar in AKC competition. 2) Can be purchased in a configuration with a clip to better fit your dog, which is not available in the metal training collar. This is good for your “fat headed” dogs. 3) Doesn’t rely on timing as much as the metal training collar can. Firm upward pressure is used for stationary command until command is performed. This does not mean choking off your dog’s air supply. It is very easy to control. 4) Easily taken on and off. 5) Allow “off pressure” time for the dogs to make a decision for themselves, properly in a training plan. 6) Extremely affordable when they can be found.
Cons: 1) Some can cause hair loss on the bottom of your dog’s neck, especially the thick ones. 2) Many aren’t designed well and uncoil. 3) Not as clean a correction as the metal training collar. 4) Unlike the prong collar, this collar can be pulled too tight, however this would be the handler’s decision and not the fault of the equipment. 5) Dog MUST be supervised while this collar is on. It can get caught on something and choke the dog unsupervised. This is a TRAINING collar. 6) You will get the hairy eyeball from some people, but less so on this collar over the next ones. 7) Hard to find. Not at Petco or PetSmart for instance. 8) Used INCORRECTLY, you can get a permanently pulling dog or a dog that you are constantly “nagging” with corrections. 9) More prone to injuring a dog during long line work due to muted correction ability, which causes the dog to be more likely to make the wrong decision again and again. 10) If the rings are not set up in the proper position for left side handling, then the collar will not work as it should (You could set it up for right side handling too, but the standard has been on the left side. Must be England’s fault LOL.) 11) Someone using this collar abusively, carelessly, and incorrectly could cut off the dog’s air supply, which would take substantial effort and knowledge on the handler’s part.
Uses: 1) Can be used with prong collar to prevent springing open unexpectedly without becoming entangled like the metal collar. 2) Used with clients that may having timing issues, OR may be adverse to a metal training collar.
Types: 1) Ones with two rings on each end of nylon. Neither is movable, and it is put on like a metal link-training collar. 2) Ones that have the two rings on the end of the nylon, and one movable ring and clip. Good for fitting correctly on a “fat headed” dog.
Metal Training Link Collar:
Pros: 1) Properly used, give clean and well-timed corrections. 2) Correction strength easily managed. 3) Acceptable collar in AKC competition. 4) When corrections are done properly, quickly begins the process of dog training very reactive and hyper dogs. 5) Puts absolutely no pressure on the dog when they are trained correctly, and only puts pressure on when either handler sees a need for a correction or the dog goes completely off the course. 6) Used well with long line for the beginnings of off leash and leash training. 7) These have been used in dog obedience for a long time, because they work! 9) An affordable piece of equipment.
Cons: 1) Medium hairy eyeball from some people, especially if you need to give a correction. 2) Not that this is expensive equipment by any means, but cheaply made ones or so called “dog friendly” ones can pull on long coats or not make the timed correction that you would want. 3) Used INCORRECTLY, you can get a permanently pulling dog or a dog that you are constantly “nagging” with corrections. 4) If the rings are not set up in the proper position for left side handling, then the collar will not work as it should (You could set it up for right side handling too, but the standard has been on the left side. Must be England’s fault LOL.) 5) Someone using this collar abusively, carelessly, and incorrectly could cut off the dog’s air supply, which would take substantial effort and knowledge on the handler’s part. 6) None that I know of have been made specifically to fit the “fat headed” dogs like the nylon does. However, I still have not had that much of a problem with this.
Uses: 1) This will sound odd, but this is excellent off leash and collar training equipment. “What you can’t do on lead, you can’t do off lead”-quote author unknown 2) With the correct training and use, will quickly train a dog that pulls into a dog that is leash trained. 3) Gives the owner/handler advantage over a dog of a certain strength and size.
Types: 1) Herm Sprenger brand is the best brand for this type of collar. Due to their expertise, all the collars I have had from them have operated as expected. They cost a few bucks more than the cheaply manufactured ones. Buying this brand makes me personally feel good about the quality of my collar. 2) There are fine jeweler link collars made for your toy breeds, heavier chain collars made for your larger breeds, and ones of different shapes.
Prong Training Collar:
Pros: 1) Easy to fit to dog. 2) The prong collar cannot be pulled so tight as to restrict the airway of your dog, unlike the nylon slip or metal link-training collar in the wrong hands. 3) The prong collar mimics a “natural” correction, but without the force that a natural correction would have. 4) Easier for the handler to master timing and correction than the metal training link collar or nylon slip. 5) Easier on owners/handlers with very large and strong dogs. 6) Generally will eliminate the nagging that many handlers get used to on the slip and metal training collars, and with less effort. 7) A very nice collar for the elderly in order to limit the dogs desire to pull them off their feet. 8) An affordable piece of equipment.
Cons: 1) Not a collar acceptable in AKC obedience competition (I mean on your dog in the ring, you can train your dog on it prior to). 2) Major hairy eyeball from some people, whether you give a correction or not. Some people may hunt you down for a “talking to”. 3) Not easy to click close with arthritic hands. (There are collars you can buy with clip for ease of opening). 4) Some of the easy clip openings for prong collars spring open unexpectedly. 5) Really should be used with nylon slip training collar to prevent accidentally loosing your dog. 5) You will probably need to take off flat dog collar, as this will be too much collar on your dog, and will impede the correct usage of the prong collar. 6) Cheaply made non engineered ones have sharp edges and will do what it is not designed to do, be sharp and hurtful on your dog’s neck. 7) Some very thick coated but not groomed dogs fur can get entangled in this collar, but generally is a better option for thick coated dogs if mats are avoided in fur.
Uses: 1) Excellent collar for those whose dogs do not respond to metal training link collar, and whose dogs are very big. They can be big and friendly and still pull you around the yard. 2) Good collar for those very thick-coated dogs, whose coat actually mutes or gets entangled into the metal training link collar.
Types: 1) Herm Sprenger is the best brand for this type of collar. You don’t want the cheaply made sharp edges that they then sell plastic tops for, but a nice blunt engineered edge. They cost a few bucks more than the cheaply manufactured ones. Buying this brand makes me personally feel good about the quality of my collar. 2) Due to the lashing out by certain groups, prong collars have been designed to be hidden and look like a regular dog collar! I have never tried one, and can’t therefore vouch for the quality.
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Author, Robin Rubin
Owner and Head Dog Trainer in Maine, Robin Katherine Rubin, started her Maine dog training business in September 2004. Our dog training facility is located in Southern Maine in York Beach and we help families enjoy their dogs more, making sure they listen reliably and resolving unwanted behaviors.