Three dogs with collars looking up.

Types of Dog Collars and Harnesses

February 1, 2019 4:05 am Published by 5 Comments

Some dogs have their own closest with sweaters, scarves and a million other accessories. Other dogs want nothing to do with high fashion and are quite comfortable with their collar as their primary accessory. Dog owners may have an everyday collar, a training collar and even a special occasion collar.

If that wags your dog’s tail, great! Just make sure all collars have tags attached with the right contact information.

Types of Dog Collars

There are all sorts of collars you can find at the pet store. These include fabric collars, often made of nylon. There are leather collars that tend to be heavier duty choices for larger dogs or just something to make a tiny dog seem tougher with his big buds at the dog park. These are considered everyday collars and while they can be used while training, are not training collars.Pug with party hat and collar.

Training Collars

Training collars help pet owners better control their dog during training sessions or on walks. Whereas a treat is designed as positive reinforcement, a training collar is used as negative reinforcement. Whether it is a tug, pinch or other negative response, your dog begins to associate a negative experience when he performs certain actions.Image of choke chain

Chain Collars to Control Dogs

A chain collar, often called a choke chain, is often the first training collar for most puppies. Even though it is called a choke chain, when used properly, it gives a tug and releases. To properly put the chain collar on, slip part of the chain into one large end circle. The chain should make a “P” with the loop going over his head.

When given a quick tug or snap of the leash and collar, the chain tightens and immediately releases to prevent actually choking him.

My dear Chewie was a stubborn pain in the butt. After going through two trainers who didn’t get very far with us (yes, I played my part), I found the best trainer I could who happened to be a two-hour drive away. While she reassured me that Chewie was one of the smartest dogs she had ever encountered and would be the best dog I ever had once she was trained, the trainer concluded with, “I’m just glad she isn’t mine.” Uh, okay that means I’m really in trouble.

The one thing I recall from my days working with this professional dog trainer is when you control the head, you control the dog. Using the choke chain properly was critical.Image of pinch collar.

Pinch Collars

Pinch collars are also called prong collars and look the least humane of all the collars out there. They have little teeth that close in on the dog’s neck when given a tug on the leash. They work similarly to choke chains. When used properly, pinch collars are an effective training solution for aggressive and extremely powerful dogs.

Fitting the pinch collar is one of the most important things you can do. Too tight will lead to extended pressure and potential pain for your dog. Too loose can lead to great force of the prongs when tugged and cause internal injuries. When fit properly, the prong collar is actually safer than a choke chain because it limits how far it bears down on your dog’s neck unlike the choke chain.

Puppy running on grass to fetch stick

Off-leash training can sometimes require help.

The pinch collar is not put on by slipping it over your dog’s head but instead by taking it apart with the links and putting it around your dog’s neck. It should not be loose but fit snuggly just behind the ears and jaw. It shouldn’t be hanging around the neck like Guido’s gold chains.

Remote Collars

A remote collar allows you to provide negative reinforcement via a small electric shock. These collars can be used for recall training or whenever the dog is off-leash and doing something you don’t want him to such as digging or barking. The remote collar has a remote button that you press to administer the shock.

This sounds so inhumane. I really really agree. That’s a double really! But here’s the thing, I desperately wanted Chewie to be an off-leash dog I could take to the beach and trust she would come back when called. As it was, I once chased her down an entire lakeshore where she had found a blue heron nest in the muddy bog water. We both almost died at the hands of the momma heron.

I needed a solution. This was my last resort. I purchase the collar and stared at it for a while. She looked at me, pretty much unconcerned. Out of the packaging it came and right to my wrist. Batteries were in and it was ready to go. There was no way I would shock my dog if I didn’t know how bad it was.

Truth be told, it was a shock but not stick your fingers in the light socket shock. It was a quick jolt. Heck, I even use a TENS unit that gives me sharper shocks.

This remote collar was set up for 100 yards. I kept her on the leash and took her for a walk. As she fell out of step with her heel command, I tried the shock. It was like a pony making a cute little prance backward. It seemed to work and she didn’t get distressed by it. After a couple of days, we set out to a big field near the house.

In that one training session, Chewie not only learned the difference between 100 and 101 yards, but she also figured out that rolling in a puddle would cause me to stop using the collar until she dried off. Yeah, she was a real joy on some days.

White dog jumping in lake

Spray Collars

Spray collars are a type of training collar that releases a small amount of an undesirable smell or substance when your dog misbehaves. The most common spray collars in pet stores are citronella collars. Most are used for barking while others may have a remote control. When the dog barks, a small mist is released upwards to his nose. The smell and slight sting is a negative reinforcement.

Citronella spray collars are found to be more effective than shock collars. They also have a more humane reputation compared to shock collars. Other types of spray collars may use lemon juice or bitter apple. These are non-toxic mists that stop the dog with something that doesn’t feel good but isn’t harmful. Dogs pause their behavior and ideally begin to change it to avoid the spray continuing.Man kneeling with white lab in harness.

Body Harness

A dog body harness is usually a set of straps or webbing that wrap around the dog’s larger body parts including his chest and back. The straps fit under the front legs to secure the dog and eliminate the need yank at the dog’s neck with his collar. The idea is to disperse pressure over the larger muscles and reduce the chance of injury.

I had refrained from using a harness for a long time with Chewie because I wholeheartedly believed the trainer. If I controlled her head, I’d control her. But when I started taking her alongside my bike down the river path, I bought a harness.

It was the safest for her and for me to handle. Like a husky in the Iditarod, she was off. Which was fine because she determined the pace, got her exercise, played in the river to cool off and slept when we got home. Win-win for all and a double win for the harness because everyone was safe.

Final Thoughts on Dog Collars for Training

There are a lot of choices out there. Start with what you can work with easily and correctly every time. This keeps you and your dog safe. Talk to a professional trainer about how to use training collars.

Remember that training collars are not the identification collars. Always make sure your dog is tagged with the current and correct information. We want every dog to get home.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: , , ,

This post was written by


  • Lynee Port says:

    I think you forgot about the designer collars that have matching flowers… like Sweet Poodle’s collar.

    But seriously, have you tried the spray collars – do they work?

    • kleonard says:

      Poodle’s collar was in the first section 😉 I haven’t used a spray collar. I’ve heard mixed results. Some dogs just learn to deal with it and keep barking.

  • Jess says:

    I normally use a harness on my pooch (hes a yorkie) because the vet said they have some sort of throat issue that makes them even tell pet owners to deter from using a collar.

    • kleonard says:

      I didn’t know that about Yorkies. I have several friends who have them and never heard of that. Make sense though. I’m sure he’s happy with his harness. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *