Choosing the Best Collars and Leads For Your Dog

Taking your dog for a walk can be one of the most satisfying things you do with your dog. It’s a good bonding experience; your dog enjoys the fresh air, all the fun smells, and just getting out and moving around. But you need the right collar and lead to make the experience truly enjoyable. Here are some things to consider.

Collars.

Once upon a time, a dog collar was a dog collar. The main concern was finding a collar that fit. Collars were made primarily of leather and were available in any color you wanted—as long as you wanted black or brown.

But as more people realized their dogs’ true position as furry members of the family instead of some sort of animal, they began to pay more attention to the needs of their dogs. And guess what? A standard dog collar isn’t always the best option for every dog in every situation.

That being said, a standard collar is a good choice for many dogs. You need to be sure it fits properly: tight enough it doesn’t easily fall over the dog’s head, but loose enough you can put two fingers under it comfortably. Your dog should always wear his identification and vaccination tags. Leaving a standard collar on your dog at all times can be a good way to keep his tags on him. If your dog walks well on a leash, a standard collar may be all he needs.

But some dogs, especially sighthounds like Greyhounds and Whippets,  have heads that are smaller than their necks. If your dog fits this description (regardless of his breed), check out a Martingale collar. This collar has a large loop for the dog’s head to go through and a smaller loop that you attach a leash to. If the dog pulls against the leash, the large loop tightens enough to keep the dog from slipping his collar, but not enough to choke him. These collars are great for walking and training your dog but should not be left on the dog when he is unsupervised.

Harnesses.

Another option for walking or training your dog is a harness. A harness fits on the dog’s chest and can clip either in front or in back. Harnesses are a good choice for dogs that depend heavily on an unrestricted airway in their throats, like short-nosed dogs. Harnesses are also very beneficial for dogs that are prone to tracheal collapse, and may be comfortable for small dogs.

One drawback to a back-clip harness is a dog may be more inclined to pull against his leash. A front-clip harness helps prevent minor pulling and makes it easier for you to guide your dog, but it’s not a good choice for aggressive dogs.

Leads.

The right leash for your dog can depend on a number of things: his size, where you walk, and how often you walk.

Rope leads have become popular in recent years. Many people envision the traditional rough, braided, natural fiber rope that is used by sailors, farmers, and others for tough jobs. The rope used for leads, however, is nylon climbing rope. These leads are lightweight and exceptionally strong. You can get them in a variety of colors and designs and can even get reflective ones. Some are even made from recycled material!

Retractable leads are another popular choice. As the name implies, these leads are ones that have a plastic handle with a very long cord that can be released and retracted as needed. The action is similar to that of a tape measure.

There are definite benefits to these leashes: since dogs naturally tend to walk faster than most people do, your dog can walk at his pace and still be on a leash. He can wander farther from the path than you do, or follow an interesting scent. You can give him more slack to check things out when you’re alone on the path, but reel the cord in and have him walk closer to you when other people or animals appear on the scene. It can give your dog more freedom to explore without you giving up all control.

But there are some serious drawbacks to retractable leads as well. Since the dog learns that as he pulls on the lead it will extend, it can encourage some dogs to pull against their lead. Sometimes the lock on the lead stops working, making it impossible to either reel it in or give your dog more slack. Some dogs have run to the end of the lead only to have it stop short, seriously injuring the dog. People have been badly injured when a finger or hand is caught in the path of the returning cord. Pedestrians or bicycle riders don’t always see the cord, which can cause accidents.

Finding the right collar and leash combination is as essential as training your dog to walk with leash. Get the right equipment and teach your dog to behave while on a lead. Your “W-A-L-K”s will be better than ever!

By: Pam Hair

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