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Fashion or function? Choosing the right dog collar.

When you go to the pet store to purchase a collar for your dog the selection can be overwhelming. Friends, family, and neighbors, as well as the clerk at the store you shop in, may have advice as to what type of collar and leash may work best. But in the end it’s up to you to make the right choice for you and your dog. There are certainly many colors, materials, and styles available to select from, so finding the safest and best dog collar should be easy if you stop to consider a few factors before you buy. And that starts with measuring the diameter of your dog’s neck before you head out to collar shop.

The four most desirable features when shopping for a dog collar are size, ability to clean, durability and safety. Depending on the size of your dog, especially if your dog is a puppy, you may need a collar that adjusts easily as he grows, or you might choose one for him as a puppy and another for him at his adult size. Look for dog collars that can include your pet’s name and your contact number just in case he is lost or gets away from you. Consider reflective materials if you plan to walk your dog at night.

The ideal fit should allow for one to three fingers to fit between your dog’s neck and the collar, depending on the size of your dog:
• If your dog is very small, (under 20 pounds), leave only one finger’s width between the collar and his neck.
• If you have an average, medium-sized dog, go for a two-finger fit.
• If your dog is very large, a three-finger fit may be better.

Dog Collar Styles
“Slip” or “choke” style dog collars consist of a length of leather, nylon or chain link, with rings on each end. They are used as training collars, and the concept is to snap the collar to “correct” the dog. Choke collars work on the principle of punishment, and many trainers now recommend a purely “reward-based” training. They are NOT to be used as everyday collars. Choke collars should NEVER be used on toy dogs or dogs weighting less than 20 pounds.

“Pinch” or ”prong-training” dog collars are appointed with blunt prongs that face the dog’s neck. They are controversial because they dig into the dog’s flesh, although some experienced trainers find them useful in dealing with large, powerful dogs. NEVER use a pinch or prong collar as an everyday collar or put one on your dog because you think it makes your dog look mean or tough.

Electric “shock collars” are NOT recommended for puppies. While useful in specialized training environments, such as field training of gun dogs by experienced handlers, shock collars should NEVER be used by inexperienced or impatient pet owners as a substitute for proper training, discipline, or socialization. Improperly used, they can do more harm than good.

Head halters and body harnesses are similar to what you’d find used on a horse. Head halters wrap around the dog’s mouth just in front of his eyes like a muzzle. However, the dog is still able to drink water, bark, and bite; it doesn’t keep his mouth closed. Body harnesses wrap around the body rather than the neck. Some people consider this to be a more humane dog collar, however, you should consider how well it will work in helping you to train your particular dog. Body harnesses are ideal for small or toy dogs.

The traditional body harness fits across the dog’s chest and the leash hooks on his back between the shoulder blades. This type of harness stops the dog from coughing and choking because it takes the pressure off of his trachea, but the pressure is still felt at the dog’s chest and that reflexive instinct is still there. With the pressure distributed across the chest most dogs pull harder. The body harness that works best is a front-clip harness. This harness easily slips over the dog’s head and buckles behind the front legs, the difference is that the leash hooks on the front of the dog, at the middle of the chest. This simple change in design changes the pressure from the front of the dog to the side of the dog removing the natural feeling for the dog to lean into the pressure.

Leather is a good choice for a dog collar; however, many dogs are dedicated leather-chewers. If your dog spends a lot of time around other canines, check the collar frequently for signs of chewing damage and replace right away if necessary.

If you choose the right collar or harness for your dog walking him will be more fun for you both. Now go get that leash, put your new collar on your dog, and enjoy a walk with your pet!

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