Pet Care

Walking Equipment for Your Dog

Dog with head halter

Although it’s much more pleasant to walk dogs who don’t pull on their leash, it’s not an easy task to teach them. Dogs naturally forge ahead on walks because they move faster than us and are excited to explore the world. By the time their guardians decide to teach them to walk politely on-leash, many dogs have spent months, if not years, forming a strong pulling habit.

There are many kinds of leashes and collars to consider. We discuss the pros and cons of some of the most common choices below to help you choose the equipment that’s right for you and your dog.

What Kind of Leash?

Pick a leash that you feel comfortable using. Some people prefer the feel of leather leashes, while others find different materials easier on the hands. Keep in mind that a type of leash that’s appropriate in one situation might not be appropriate in others. For example, you might walk your dog in the park on a Flexi retractable leash every day so that he can roam and get lots of exercise. However, you’ll probably want to switch to a leather or fabric leash when in other situations where you need to keep your dog closer to you and away from others, such as when walking in crowded places, at the vet’s office or in pet stores.

Type of Leash

Pros

Cons

Four- to six-foot leather or fabric

· Great choice for regular walks and training time

· Limits the distance your dog can roam

Chain

· Good choice if your dog likes to chew or tug on leather or fabric leashes

· Inappropriate for training your dog not to pull on leash

· Can be cumbersome and difficult to handle

Retractable leash (Flexi, WalkAbout)

· Appropriate for walks in the park or in other open areas where your dog can explore further away from you

· Inappropriate for training your dog not to pull on-leash

· Can be cumbersome and difficult to handle

· Can get wound around objects and people’s fingers and bodies, causing injury. It’s unsafe for use on trails with runners and cyclists who often can’t see the line and get entangled or injured)

· Unsafe during play because it can wrap around a dog’s body parts and cause injury

Long line (ranging from 10 to 30 feet in length)

· Useful when teaching dogs to come when called

· Appropriate for walks in the park or in other open areas where your dog can explore further away from you

· Inappropriate for training your dog not to pull on-leash

· Can get tangled or wound around objects and people’s legs

· Unsafe during play because it can wrap around a dog’s body parts and cause injury

Collars, Halters and Harnesses

Consider the pros and cons of each kind of walking device before deciding on what’s appropriate for you and your dog.

Equipment

Pros

Cons

Flat buckle or snap collar

· Humane

· You can attach your dog’s identification, license and/or rabies tags

· Can be worn all the time

· Some dogs can slip their heads out and escape

· Without specific training techniques, will not reduce pulling

Martingale or greyhound collar

· Humane

· Good choice if your dog has or could develop a habit of slipping out of her collar

· Without specific training techniques, will not reduce pulling

Head halter or headcollar (Gentle Leader® Headcollar, Snoot Loop®, Halti®Headcollar)

· Humane

· Effective in reducing or eliminating pulling on-leash for most dogs

· After initial acclimation to the head halter, no additional walking training is required

· You will need to help your dog acclimate to a head halter before using one. (Please see our article, Introducing Your Dog to a Head Halter.)

· Some dogs, despite acclimation, seem to dislike the feel of head halters and will try to rub or paw them off, or will seem stressed or depressed

· Some guardians object to the way head halters look (some people assume they are muzzles because they’re worn around a dog’s snout)

· Must be fitted properly

· If fitted improperly or if a dog’s skin is sensitive, can cause irritation or loss of fur on the bridge of the snout

Front-clip harness (SENSE-ation Harness, SENSE-ible Harness, Easy Walk Harness)

· Humane

· Effective in reducing pulling on-leash for many dogs

· Can be used immediately, without acclimation period

· Some dogs can still pull on-leash when wearing these harnesses

· Not as effective as head halters in reducing pulling

· Must be fitted properly, which can sometimes prove difficult, depending on a dog’s body size and shape

Sporn Training Halter

· May work for dogs who don’t respond well to front-clip harnesses or head halters

· Puts pressure under a dog’s front legs and can cause irritated skin

Regular harness

· Humane

· Good choice if your dog has certain medical problems, such as tracheal damage or megaesophagus

· Appropriate for some small dogs

· Can actually increase pulling (harnesses of similar design are used with sled dogs to encourage pulling)

Choke chain

· May be effective for some dogs if used under the supervision of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT)

· Ineffective without specific training techniques

· Can cause coughing, tracheal damage and pain

· Can cause or exacerbate serious behavior problems, such as fear and aggression

Prong collar

· May be effective for some dogs if used under the supervision of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT)

· Can easily cause pain

· Often fitted too loosely or too tightly, which makes it ineffective

· Can cause or exacerbate serious behavior problems, such as fear and aggression

· Some people object to the way the prong collar looks

How Do I Choose?

What’s right for one dog might not be right for another. Some dogs happily wear head halters, for example, but other dogs find them uncomfortable. Some dogs pull much less when wearing front-clip harnesses, while other, less sensitive dogs pull less only when wearing head halters.

In general, good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is the equipment I’ve chosen effective in reducing pulling? Or does the equipment at least make it easier for me to handle my dog?
  • Does the equipment cause my dog distress or significant discomfort?
  • Do I feel comfortable and confident handling the equipment?

How Do I Introduce My Dog to New Equipment?

Some kinds of walking equipment, such as front-clip harnesses and buckle collars, don’t require any training before use. However, if you need to use some other kind of equipment to effectively reduce your dog’s pulling, like a head halter, you’ll need to help your dog get used to it before you can use it during her regular walks. Please see our article, Introducing Your Dog to a Head Halter, for more information.

About Training

To benefit from certain types of walking equipment, you and your dog will need specific training. If you choose to use a choke chain or a prong collar, seek guidance from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) who has experience using those kinds of training tools. (Please see our article called Finding Professional Help to locate a CPDT near you.) If used incorrectly, choke chains and prong collars are ineffective at best and painful at worst. It’s best not to attempt to use these collars without guidance from a professional.

Please note that no piece of walking equipment will teach your dog not to pull in general when the equipment is removed. Dogs learn very specifically. If you train your dog to walk without pulling using a choke or prong collar, he won’t automatically know not to pull when he’s not wearing that collar. Similarly, although head halters and no-pull harnesses are effective tools, making walks more pleasant for you and your dog, they won’t have any effect on pulling when your dog is not wearing the equipment.For more information about training exercises that will teach your dog not to pull on leash, please see our article, Teaching Your Dog Not to Pull on Leash.