Dog restraintsA couple of the most essential items you need when you have a dog is a collar and leash. Not only is a collar used for restraining your dog, it is also something to affix your dog’s identification, license and other types of tags.

Restraints also help prevent your dog from running off after something and getting lost or worse yet, running into a busy street and getting hit by a car.

While there are many styles and patterns of dog restraints that reflect your personal style, there are some other more important factors to consider when choosing a collar and leash.

State and Local Law Requirements

The first thing you should check is your state’s law about restraining dogs.

In Ohio, you are required by law to “keep the dog physically confined or restrained upon the premises of the owner, keeper, or harborer by a leash, tether, adequate fence, supervision, or secure enclosure to prevent escape.” An exception to this rule is when you are actively hunting with your hunting dog.  An additional requirement under the law is to, “keep the dog under reasonable control of some person.” This means you are not allowed to let your dog run loose.

In addition, some cities are including tethering laws for people who leave their pets tied up outside most or all of the time. While some kinds of dogs prefer to be outside, chaining them outside all the time is detrimental to their well-being and is a known cause of increasing a dog’s bite factor.

Another important law Ohioans need to be aware of is any dog over 3 months of age is required to have a dog license through your county. Some people complain about this fee but having a dog license is legal proof of ownership and a way for you to be reunited with your pet if they do get out. It also required for a county tag to be on your dog’s collar. You should also have your dog’s Rabies vaccination tag on their collar.

Having a collar and leash are for more than just going for a walk. They are important tools in being a responsible dog owner. Now that we know about the laws, let’s look at the different types.

Collars

Flat Collars

By far, the most common collar is the Flat Collar. It can be a buckle or the plastic clasp and come in different materials such as are leather and fabric. The fabrics ones are very popular since they can come in many different colors and patterns appealing to owner’s styles. But depending on your dog, you may want to consider another type.

Martingale Collars

Martingale Collars or limited slip collars, are designed for dogs whose heads are around the same diameter as their necks, such as greyhounds, but can be used for other breeds too. These types of dogs can potentially slip out of flat collars. They mainly look like a flat collar but instead of a buckle or clasp, they have an extra piece of fabric or chain that the leash attaches too.

If the dog tries to back out of this kind of collar, the extra piece tightens. It can help some for dogs that pull, but there are better options for pulling. Martingale collars help best for dogs that try to slip out of their collars.

Head Collar

A Head Collar is similar to a horse’s halter. A strap fits around the dog’s neck and up around the back of the ears, there is another strap that goes around the dog’s muzzle. The leash connects to a clasp under the muzzle. This type is used for dog’s that pull and jump. The strap around the muzzle prevents the dogs from using its full body weight. For this type of collar to be effective, it is imperative that it is fitted correctly and that you never yank the dog’s head with the leash while they are wearing it. You can really hurt your dog by trying to use corrections that you would use for other types of collars. Never leave this type of collar on your dog. Only use it when walking. It may take some time for your dog to get used to it and some of these types of collars come with a training DVD.

Aversive Collars

Choke chain collars are an old design that is typically used for training purposes. There are newer designs and more positive ways to train than using a choke collar. They are also designed to be used during the training session and not to be left on the dog all the time. A short sideways tug, tightening the collar is the correction.

When not properly used they can cause whiplash, fainting, crushing of the trachea, damage to skin and tissue, asphyxiation, and even spinal cord injuries.

Prong and pinch collars have metal prongs that dig into your dog’s neck, applying pressure if they pull. The prongs can scratch and puncture the skin and tissue. Plus, over time scar tissue can develop, building up a tolerance to the pinching, negating the purpose of this collar. The pain can also cause aggression.

Shock collars use an electrical current that passes through metal contact points to give your dog a signal. There is an audible tone before the shock and the goal is for the dog to hear the tone and stop the behavior before the shock comes. Shock collars have become popular since they can potentially discourage an unwanted behavior faster then a more traditional training approach, but there are many adverse reactions associated with this type of collar such as, burns (which can be severe), confusion, fear, anxiety, increased aggression, and even cardiac problems.

In an article about shock collars on companion animal psychology website, there was scientific research study done on the effects of shock collars in the UK. The report says “the study did find behavioural evidence that use of e-collars negatively impacted on the welfare of some dogs during training even when training was conducted by professional trainers using relatively benign training programmes advised by e-collar advocates.” (p4) They also found that the e-collar was not more effective than rewards-based training for recall and chasing, even though this is the scenario that e-collar advocates particularly recommend it for.” They are considering banning the shock or e-collar in the UK. It is already banned in some part of the UK and all of Wales.

People and even some trainers resort to training dogs with correction or punishment. Aversive collars only rely on pain (or at least discomfort) to try and teach your dog what not to do. It may stop the unwanted behavior but in no way does it teach your dog what the proper behavior is. And there can be unintended consequences to using punishment as the dog can start to associate good behavior with punishment or even causing the dog to behave aggressively due to the constant pain. Positive reinforcement training rewards your dog for the correct behavior. In this way they learn what you want them to do. Do research when you are looking for a trainer. So many advances have been made in dog training but there are some who still cling to archaic punishment training.

Harnesses

An alternative to using only a collar, there are harnesses you can try if your dog is pulling too much for walks.
Traditional harnesses have a ring where a leash attaches to the back. This harness has straps that wrap around the upper body of a dog. This was originally designed to leverage a dog’s body weight to pull heavy loads. Many people resort to using a harness if their dog pulls during a walk. This does prevent a dog from choking while pulling from a collar; it is still designed for pulling.

Front clip harnesses are the best way to go if your dog pulls during a walk. They are specifically designed to help with a dog pulling on a walk. They may still pull, especially when seeing other dogs or prey, but it is most often much more manageable, making it a preferable training tool.

There are basically two types of leashes. A regular leash that is leather or fabric and is usually 4-6 feet long. The other popular leash is the retractable dog leash. The retractable leash has a large plastic handle where the line for the dog is wound inside. Why many people like this type of leash is that it can let their dog wander further away from them, sometimes even up to 30 feet. It seems harmless to get this type of leash since you can lock the leash at a more traditional length if you wish. However, there are many hidden dangers to this type of leash.

Some of the dangers of a retractable leash are; an aggressive dog can more easily approach your dog, the thin cord can break, the cord can become entangled around you and can cause injury. According to an article about the dangers of retractable leashes by Vicki Clinebell on DogTime.com, “Dogs have also been seriously injured by retractable leashes. When the leash runs out of line there is a sudden jerk on the animal’s neck that may cause neck wounds or burns, lacerated tracheas, or spinal injury. Dogs have been hit by cars darting into the road at the end of a retractable leash – still on their lead, but dead. Others have been injured getting tangled up with other dogs and bicycles. There have been cases of dogs getting twisted in the cord and having a tail or leg amputated by the deep cut made when the cord retracts. These things happen quickly, often too fast for the handler to react.“ They suggest training your dog on a regular leash before using a retractable one.

All in all, there are resources out there to help you if you have any trouble training your dog. Do some research, talk to other people, and then decide what is best for your and your companion. Working positively with your dog only strengthens the wonderful bond you will share.