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For the new dog owner and even experienced dog lovers, the array of different types of kit on the market to manage and control your dog is vast, and can be rather baffling. How do you know what kind of collar to use on your dog, or if he would do better with a harness? What type of lead is best? If you're somewhat confused by the variety of goods on the market and are not sure what you need, read on for a simple explanation of the different types of equipment available and their correct usage.
Different types of dog collars are designed for different breeds and types of dogs and usage. Perhaps the most commonly seen type of collar is the buckle collar, which consists of a simple band of leather or nylon with a buckle attachment to adjust the size. A variation on this type of collar has a flat plastic connecting clasp which can be easily released by pinching the sides of the fastening, and is adjustable by pulling the fabric through the fastening loop to ensure a good fit. These types of collars are suitable for most dogs to use. Break away collars and safety collars work by releasing themselves from the dog's neck if excessive force is applied to the collar, such as if the dog gets the collar caught up on something and pulls away in panic. These collars can be useful for safety reasons in situations where your dog may be playing unsupervised or out on a run in the country and might get tangled on something and hang up before you realise or are able to react- although for dogs that pull a lot on the lead, these collars may prove unsuitable due to their propensity to break under pressure. Slip collars, also known as choke chains, consist of a length of smooth chain with a ring at either end. Pull the chain through one ring until it stops on the second ring to form the loop of the collar, and slip it over your dog's head before connecting the lead to the free hanging ring. Slip collars are generally used as a training aid to encourage dogs not to pull on the lead, or on headstrong dogs that have a tendency to pull and in order to give an additional degree of control. Slip collars made of soft nylon braid are also available on the market. You can either connect the lead to the 'active' ring, which will constrict around the neck, or the 'passive' ring, which does not constrict the collar, for varying degrees of control. Outside of the UK, various other types of collars are available including a pronged version of the slip collar, which has blunt metal tines on the inside of the collar which dig into the dog's neck when the handler pulls the lead. Also available are electric collars, which can be programmed to deliver a low level electric shock to the dog when activated by the handler, in order to discourage behaviour such as pulling or barking. The use of both of these types of collars is highly controversial, and they are not readily available within the UK. It is not recommended that you use either of these types of collars on your dog- Increased physical force or potential discomfort and even injury for your dog is not an appropriate price to pay for poor training and handling practices. Dog collars are generally adjustable within reason, and different weights and thicknesses of collars are available for all sizes of dogs from the tiny teacup Yorkie right up to the giant breeds.
There are two types of harness or halter available for dogs- the head halter and the chest harness. The head halter is a thin nylon device which loops behind the back of the dog's head and over the nose, similar to the type of halters used on horses. The aim of the head halter is to provide more control over the dog's head, although there is some debate over the effectiveness and appropriate usage of a head halter for dogs. It may have a tendency to dig in or sit in an uncomfortable position, and it is even possible to cause injury by inappropriate use of a halter. You should consult your vet or a dog training professional beforehand if you are considering using a head halter on your dog. Harnesses are worn around the body of the dog, fastening on the back and consisting of two bands, one around the front of the chest and one around the abdomen, connected by a strip of material along the back. Harnesses may be used alongside a regular collar, or on its own. Harnesses are a good alternative for dogs with head or neck injuries that contraindicate the usage of a collar or for dogs that pull constantly, as a harness produces less pressure on the neck- although some say that the lack of pressure on the neck from the handler to correct pulling actually increases the dog's propensity to pull.
As with collars, different types of leads are available for different types of dogs, and different situations. When you buy a lead, it's important to buy one that is suitable for the size and strength of the dog in question- Some of the large chain leads on the market are heavier than some smaller dogs! Most leads will indicate on the packaging the weight of the dog which they are suitable to use on, and using a lead that is too light for the dog in question can cause it to break when under stress. Retractable leads are the leads which consist of a sturdy plastic box containing a reel around which thin but strong nylon is wound, which can be extended and retracted by the handler in order to give the dog more or less freedom on the lead. These leads can be useful for dogs which are not allowed off the lead in open spaces, to give them more freedom and space to roam. Other types of leads come in many different materials such as chain, leather and nylon, the choice of which really comes down to the personal preference of the handler and their experience of what works best on the dog. Standard leads come in various lengths to account for the height differences between various types of dogs, and generally divide into two separate styles- a regular length lead adjusted for the size and height of the dog which allows the dog to walk freely at the heel with ease, and tab leads, which are comparatively very short and are designed for training or precision work such as in competition and showing. Finally, one piece of kit no dog owner should leave home without- pooh bags! You can buy small plastic doggy bag dispensers to attach to the lead or collar to make sure you never find yourself caught out on a walk without any! Remember, there's no such thing as the dog pooh fairy- so please pick up after your dog.
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