Your dog's collar is more than just a canine fashion accessory--it's a place to hang his identity tags and a way to keep him safely contained on walks. The right collar can even be used in training and as a tool for behavior modification.
Head Harness & "No-Pull" Collars
If your dog is fond of taking the lead during his daily walks, consider the benefits of a head harness or "no-pull" collar. Similar to a horse's harness, this type of collar is placed over your dog's head and muzzle, providing you with extra restraint when your dog pulls at the leash. Proper use of a well-fitting head harness can, over time, teach your dog that pulling at the leash is fruitless, which may help to break the habit.
Choke chains or collars were once a popular training tool for dog owners, but they are largely avoided in training dogs today. Operating as a noose around your dog's neck, a choke collar corrects unwanted behaviors by, in effect, strangling your pet temporarily when you pull on or "snap" the attached leash, which causes the collar to tighten. Such punitive measures cannot only cause your dog to become fearful or anxious, they may also be dangerous to your pet.
Pinch (Prong) Collar
Pinch collars are fitted with metal prongs that jab your dog in the neck when you yank or tighten the leash. They can be effective in deterring a dog from pulling, lunging, jumping or lurching at an animal or person because they cause discomfort that teaches your dog to avoid the behaviors associated with the pain. Some dogs, however, may react negatively to the painful jabs in the neck and may develop a resistance to being collared or walked as a result of their discomfort. Using a pinch collar or anything that causes pain to train a dog should always be a last resort.
Shock collars deliver a jolt of electricity through metal prongs into your dog's neck and can be an effective, though temporary, solution to excessive barking, lunging, jumping or, when used in conjunction with electronic fencing, staying within preset boundaries. Though some trainers use automated remote-controlled shocks to inhibit unwanted dog behaviors, they are NOT a preferred training technique, as a dog that receives anonymous shocks may develop nervous or fear-based aggressive tendencies associated with the pain.
Spray collars deliver a burst of citrus odor or citronella when activated by barking or a remote-controlled device. Because the smell is unpleasant to dogs, the associated behavior involved in the release of the scent may be perceived as its cause in the dog's mind, which may assist in breaking the habit over time.
Ultrasonic Sound Collar
An ultrasonic training collar utilizes high-frequency sound waves to command your dog's attention or correct unwanted behaviors.The collar may come equipped with a remote control that allows you to choose different sounds--those that are agreeable to a dog, for positive reinforcement, and those that are negatively perceived to correct unwanted behaviors. Your dog will learn over time to associate the irritating or pleasant sounds with the triggering behaviors, which will then be averted or reinforced.
By Tammy Quinn McKillip
About the Author
Tammy Quinn McKillip has written extensively in print and online publications about pets, parenting, theater, design, health and environmentalism since 1999. She is the editor of the Macaroni Kid National Family Safety newsletter and publisher and editor of "Macaroni Kid," a local family-friendly weekly events newsletter. She is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at City College of New York.