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There’s no doubt that dogs can be pretty excitable. Janice and Leroy react to just about everything – a shift in the wind, a good smell that comes on that wind, interesting sounds, other animals, treats, new toys, visits from friends – just about anything can awaken their curiosity.
The trouble is, sometimes dogs can react very physically to external stimuli. In fact, if my own experience is any indication, and if I also go by what my dog park friends tell me, the most difficult part of training a dog is convincing him not to pull on the lead.
Pulling isn’t just annoying, either. It can actually be dangerous. A big dog, for instance, can easily take you off your feet if he decides to take off after something interesting, and it’s not just that you could get hurt – your best buddy could run into traffic and be seriously injured or even killed. If you find that your dog is walking you, instead of the other way around, you’re going to have to do some training. You might also find a no-pull dog lead or collar helpful.
There are all kinds of different products made for dogs that are given to yanking their people around, so first we’ll talk about no-pull dog leads and other accessories in general, and then I’ll recommend a few that you can consider.
The harness style of no-pull dog lead is actually a combination of leash and vest. The vest is worn around your dog’s front legs, and secured beneath the stomach. This gives you a lot of control over the way the dog moves, and also reduces the pressure on your dog’s neck that can be caused by collar-attached leads.
This type of no-pull dog lead is best for small- to medium-sized breeds, though. In fact, it can be nearly useless if you’re dealing with a dog that’s big enough to use pure brute force to get his own way.
Some dogs also find no-pull harnesses uncomfortable, and might resist having them put on. It’s not much fun trying to “dress” a big dog who really doesn’t want to wear a harness so I’d reserve the use of a no-pull harness for smaller dogs.
Head Collar Leashes
A head collar no-pull dog lead will work on pretty much any size dog. Essentially, this is a collar that attaches to the dog’s head and gives you a lot of control. If you have a big dog, pulling on the lead is going to work to pull his head toward you, lowering his inclination to pull.
The downside to a head collar is that some dogs find them a bit hard to get used to, and this can mean that training might not be all that easy to begin with. There is also a possibility that if your dog pulls very vigorously, he could strain his neck. Accordingly, it’s best only to use this type of device in conjunction with a short training leash, not with a longer walking leash.
Choke Collars and Prong Collars
These are also called “aversive collars,” and there is a raging debate as to whether they should be used at all. In The Truth About Prong Collars, I suggested that there were some (albeit few) circumstances in which using an aversive collar could be beneficial. I’m not changing my mind on that, but I do urge you to use aversive collars carefully, and if you must use an aversive collar, to use the right kind.
A choke collar has a ring at either end. To put it on your dog, you simply take part of the chain and slip it through one ring, making a circle. If you hold the ring that will be attached to the leash away from your dog’s neck, it should look like the letter “P” laid on its side – not like the letter “Q.” Now, take a look and see how much chain is left when you snug up the collar – it shouldn’t be more than a couple of inches; otherwise your dog could slip out of the collar, or get it caught on something and strangle.
Properly used, a choke collar does not actually “choke” a dog. It creates pressure on his neck when he pulls, essentially getting his attention. A choke collar only causes pain in the wrong hands, so if you’re using this type of aversive collar, remember only to pull – never yank. Yanking can cause pain and make your dog frightened, and that’s the type of punishment-based training that I believe all right-thinking dog owners want to avoid.
If you’re not sure how to use a choke collar properly, I’d recommend a session or two with a professional trainer. Also, use it only as your second-to-last resort.
Your last resort would be the prong collar.
A prong collar is a nasty-looking thing. Imagine a choke collar with another collar attached, consisting of chain with short metal prongs on the inside. The chain part of the collar provides the control. Then, when the dog pulls, the prongs on the part of the collar that he’s actually wearing work to pinch his neck. In the wrong hands, a prong collar can be nothing less than an instrument of torture, so you should only use one in extreme situations – when the dog simply cannot be controlled any other way. They should only be used in the short term, and I would also recommend that you see a pro to learn how to use them properly.
Training Your Dog Not to Pull
Once you have the right no-pull dog lead, keep in mind that it’s not a solution to the problem of pulling – it’s a tool that you can use while you find the right solution. With most dogs, this means positive reinforcement in order to learn how to behave on lead. So, grab some treats, put the lead on your dog, and go for a short walk.
I’m suggesting a short walk simply because dogs have short attention spans. And if all you’re doing is teaching him how to behave on lead, that’s not a whole lot of fun. So keep it brief, keep the pace fast, and then when you’re done, do something else. Have a game of fetch, or let your dog off lead for a run in the dog park.
Now, let’s talk about the best no-pull dog leads and collars.
Great No-Pull Solutions for Your Dog
As I said before, there are a lot of different types of no-pull dog leads and collars. I’m sure, though, that you don’t want to read a 10,000 word post, so I’m going to narrow it down to one that I particularly like in each category. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t shop around – there might be other, similar items that you prefer. Just make sure that whatever you’re using, it’s not going to cause discomfort to your dog. Also, resist the temptation to go “on the cheap,” because if your lead breaks when your dog pulls, you will have lost all control and could be putting your dog in danger.
Here are my top Picks
1. Wiggles Wags and Whiskers Freedom No-Pull Harness Training Leash
The Wiggles Wags and Whiskers training leash is a harness-type lead that gives you very good control. Although, as I’ve stated, I’m not crazy about the idea of this type of device for large dogs, it does come in all manner of sizes and it’s very strong (made from stainless steel and nylon), so if you want to give it a try on a large breed, I’m not necessarily going to tell you that this won’t get the job done. It’s also a good deal more comfortable than many similar offering, thanks to the velvet lining inside the straps.
Another really great feature is the adjust ability – you can tighten or loosen it at four different points, so it will fit virtually any dog. And if you’re a bit of a fashionista (or your dog is), you’ll also appreciate that it comes in a huge range of colors.
This collar is very simple and also very inexpensive, and will give you full head control. The Premier Pets Gentle leader Head Collar comes in six sizes, and is also adjustable, so it will fit just about any dog. It’s made of strong nylon, and because it doesn’t impede your dog’s ability to eat, drink, bark or even play fetch, it can be worn practically all day long. It’s comfortable, too, and good for dogs from eight weeks up through adulthood.
If you’re new to head collars, you’ll also appreciate the fact that this no-pull dog lead comes with full instructions, and even a DVD.
This no-pull dog lead works a lot like a harness type, in that it fits around the dog’s chest and delivers pressure if he decides to pull. It differs from the usual harness-type lead, though, in that it has fewer buckles and clasps.
The only down side I could find to this no-pull dog lea is that it’s not as customizable as other types, since it only comes in two sizes – small and large. With the Weiss Walkie No Pull Dog Leash, it seems that the company assumes that you can adjust up or down for medium-sized dogs. This means that sometimes it can be a bit too tight for a big dog, and it also means that small dogs might be able to squirm out of it. You’ll have to be careful to make sure that you get just the right fit.
I really can’t tell you often enough – this is the absolute last resort, and please don’t use it without professional supervision to start with.
The prong collar is actually safer than the choke.
Now, I know you’re saying “But Ash, then why is the prong collar the absolute last resort? Why isn’t the choke the last resort?”
Well, it’s because the prong collar doesn’t deliver pressure to your dog’s neck. It’s very unlikely that you will cause physical harm to your dog by using a prong collar.
In the wrong hands, though, a prong collar can be more an instrument of punishment than correction. Imagine how you would feel if you had steel prongs driven into your neck. You probably wouldn’t be hurt, because you’d stop what you were doing in order to stop the discomfort. But you would probably be afraid.
A dog will not usually be frightened if gentle pressure is applied using a choke collar. A prong collar can frighten your dog, and if not employed by someone who is very sure of what they’re doing, can do more harm than good. You don’t want to frighten your dog, and with a prong collar, there’s a very real danger of slipping over from positive reinforcement into simply forcing your dog to understand what he’s not supposed to do.
Sometimes, though, a prong collar can be a good first step when it comes to showing your dog that you want him to scale back on the pulling. So, if all other measures have failed, a prong collar could be a way of beginning to teach your dog not to pull.
If you must use a prong collar, I believe that the Herm-Springer is one of the best.
Whatever level of pulling your dog is presenting you with, you should be able to find the right solution with one of these options.
It’s not much fun going for a walk with a dog that’s going to pull you all over the place. Depending on the severity of the problem, you might get by with a harness or a head collar, or you might have to use a choke or a prong. No device, though, is ever going to be a substitute for proper training. So by all means, choose the tool that will best help you to deal with the problem of pulling in the early stages. Consider that tool to be just a means of showing your dog what you want, though. And remember that your dog wants to please you. The best way of teaching your dog not to pull is not to rely too much on no-pull dog leads, but to offer lots of praise (and a treat!) when he gets it right. Keep this in mind, and in no time you’ll be walking happily with a well-behaved dog.