I have heard veterinarians
, and other dog trainers
tell people that the only way to teach
their dog to walk politely on a leash
is to use a choke collar. (aka "choke chain.") Choke collars are metal chains with a ring on each end that loop over a dog
's head and rest on its neck
. When a leash is attached to one of the rings, it pulls the collar
the more the dog pulls ahead. 25 years ago, it was the only real option trainers and owners had. Luckily, the behavior field has grown and evolved
since then, and now we know that choke collars are not just un-nice, but dangerous
as well, especially when used improperly.
If a dog pulls hard enough at the end of his leash while wearing a choke collar, serious injuries can result. Some of these include: tracheal scarring, asphyxiation, and eyeball prolapse. More often than not, choke collars aren't all that effective anyway, so why use one?
One alternative to the traditional choke collar is a garish looking device called the "Prong Collar" or "Pinch Collar." While clearly not as dangerous as the choke chain, the pinch collar is effective because it provides a moderately painful correction around a dog's neck when he tugs at the end of the leash. Many people argue that pinch collars don't hurt, but the fact of the matter is this: If they didn't hurt, they would not work. Granted, unless a pinch/prong collar is grossly misused, no dog who's being trained with one is going to need emergency veterinary attention because of it. But there are pain free, correctionless methods of teaching the same polite leash walking, and so I invariably choose one of those alternatives instead. Why not?!
The Sporn Pull-Control Harness is a remarkable two-piece thing that fits around your dog's neck like a regular canvas ID collar, and has straps that go under the dog's front legs then connect to the collar under his chin. When your dog pulls while wearing this thing, it provides an unfamiliar, yet painless pressure to the front of his chest. (Incidentally, when a dog pulls you down the road, he's not using his neck anyway. He's using his chest and his front paws!) It's akin to someone grabbing your bra strap as you walk past them on the street. (For at least some of the boys here, I suppose that's not a great frame of reference...) Anyway. If the dog attempts to pull, the harness presses against his chest, causing him to stop pulling for at least long enough to say, "hey, what the hell?!" at which time, you can praise your dog and reinforce him for having stopped pulling. With the Sporn Harness, you can literally teach your dog a perfect "heel" without ever correcting him for anything. The harness does all the work for you!
Premier Pet Products makes a thing called the "Gentle Leader Head Collar." This one, and the "Halti" head collar, both work exactly like a horse's harness, and in fact, that's what they're both designed after. A strap goes behind your dog's ears, and another one fits across his snout. A tiny ring hangs just under his jaw, to which you attach your leash. If your dog tries to pull forward while wearing this equipment, his head is automatically turned back to face you. Nobody can walk past their own face. No jerking, tugging, or snapping are required with a head collar, dogs don't pull against them simply because they can't.
If the Sporn Harness and/or the head collars are used consistently and properly, no harm can befall your dog in the name of training him to heel. (Unless you both get run over by a truck.) Eventually, heeling on the handler's left side becomes a matter of course, whether your dog is wearing his training equipment or not.