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Collar me crazy

Slip collars, slip chains, choke collars or choke chains are a length of chain, nylon or rope with a ring at either end so that the mechanism can create a loop around the neck just behind the back of the head and ears, not the middle of the neck.

A quick jerk with an immediate release is used to correct a dog into a heel position. Ordinary check chains which fit around the neck must be just large enough to fit over the dog’s head with about four links of play.

Unfortunately, many people use lengthy check chains which dangle and are obstructive and ineffective. If a lengthy chain is used to correct a dog in training the dog will easily pre-empt the handler by hearing the movement of the chain across the links and will correct itself rendering the eventual jerk as a ‘snap’ too late for effect.

A Martingale collar is very popular, but was designed for dog breeds whose heads are smaller than their necks. This mechanism best prevents the dog slipping out. This feature has made this collar a safety standard at many boar-ding kennels and animal welfare shelters.

The Martingale has two loops; a smaller loop is the control that tightens the larger loop when pulled. The collar doesn’t constrict, but rather creates a general even pressure.

For powerful large breeds, for medium-sized dogs with untrained attitudes of pulling their handlers off their feet and reactive dogs, a head halter is the ideal collar mechanism to render them much safer in public – and the owner not having to suffer a shoulder dislocation. The design is similar to the halter on a horse.

The halter has been available for about thirty years and was originally known as the Gentle Leader, but since then various manufacturers have devised other names such as the Halti and Snoot Loop. This collar device fastens around the back of the head where it joins the neck, over the top of the muzzle, giving the owner full control of the dog’s head, direction and pull.



Even the slightest pressure applied will gently close the dog’s mouth and pull the dog’s head to the side and towards the owner. It is highly effective if applied correctly. Dogs adapt to it quickly and it can be used in conjunction with other collars.

For swimmers a floatation collar has been designed for greater buoyancy. It is also used in hydrotherapy services to assist in the rehabilitation of injured dogs. These may be constructed of closed cell foam material that is inherently buoyant or an inflatable plastic material.

Force or Prong collars are leather or metal collars with metal prongs staggered along the inside. The prongs or spikes are blunted and designed to apply multiple pressure points to prevent the dog from pulling. This is also placed high on the dog’s neck just behind the ears where it is most sensitive for a response. The application has created enormous debate in the canine training fraternity.

It is most commonly used in powerful large breeds with an incredibly high pain threshold and one never encounters a dog complaining with this attachment. In fact, the response to its usage has assisted positively with many canine obedience instructors and animal behaviourists in an attempt to control and teach unruly dogs whose owners had failed to attend puppy socialisation classes and basic obedience training.

Sometimes the spiked collars are used as a fancy fashion accessory. Your veterinarian, veterinary nurse, animal behaviourist and dog trainer will always advise the most appropriate type of collar for the individual character, dog breed and behaviour problem requiring counter-conditioning and rehabilitative training.

Ideally a dog should be trained early enough that is from eight to twenty weeks of age until it can walk alongside its owner with only a slack slip lead. Then there will be no need for drastic measures with some horrific devices such as electronic shock collars.

In summary, a collar is for control and prevention from escape, not as a loose necklace fashion accessory through which the dog can escape or injure itself. I call on all dog owners out there to please write this down a hundred times and remember it forever because it seems that most people forget this principle ten minutes after a training class due to the “Ag, shame” syndrome.

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