There are many leashes and collars out on the market today. Like many areas of new dog ownership, the individual can be very overwhelmed with all the different opinions and options available. Below is a description of many of the products available on the market today and AGA’s opinion why some are better than others and why some are just plain dangerous!
When it comes to leashes nothing beats a 6 foot braided leather leash! Not only does it become more comfortable over time with ware, but also you never run the risk of “rope burn” like you do with nylon and retractable leashes. Leather also withstands dogs chewing a lot better than their Nylon counterparts. The reason we prefer a braided leash over a stitched leash is because stitching comes apart with wear and tear. Braided leashes will not come apart at the handle or snap no matter how old they get.
Nylon leashes work fairly well. Here you run the risk of rope burn as well as stitching malfunctions. Dogs can also chew through a nylon leash a lot quicker than a leather one. The positive side to a nylon leash is that they come in a variety of colors and designs and they can be used when swimming.
Retractable leashes are not recommended by AGA. Besides the endless reasons they are awful for training, they are just plain UNSAFE! The sixteen to thirty feet of retractable running leash ends in a sudden jolt. This can result in injury to both dog and owner. Muscle pulls and tears, even dislocations can occur. Dogs who are likely to bolt after bikes, squirrels, etc… are examples of just how dangerous a retractable leash can be. Slips and falls are not uncommon when that jolt happens on slick footing. Retractable leads tighten when they tangle; this is where rope burn can cause serious injury! If a retractable leash is dropped while walking, the result can be disastrous! Most dogs startle when the plastic case hits the ground. The noise the dragging case makes behind the now running dog compounds this. The faster the dog runs, the louder the noise gets! And, a volunteer lost the tip of her finger when she dropped the leash and went to pick it up and the string wrapped around her finger and her dog bolted again… literally tearing off the first finger joint.
A flat buckle or snap collar is needed to carry a dogs identity and rabies tags, and in most situations is sufficient for regular training and walking purposes if you are dealing with an older or quieter dog that does not pull on the leash.
Martingale collars are great for a bit of added safety particularly for a young or excitable dog that likes to pull out of their collar. The martingale has a slip type attachment that tightens up when a dog pulls on the leash. The good part about the slip is that is stops at a certain point and does not continue to tighten if the dog continues to pull. This attachment also makes a martingale collar a good choice for a nervous or frightened dog that may try to escape off of their leash in times of stress. A martingale collar is also a good training collar for dogs that do not pull excessively on leash as it applies only a small amount of pressure when the dog pulls which can be enough to deter a mild puller. A martingale collar should be used as a training collar and not as an ID collar. It is designed to prevent a dog from slipping out of the collar, so in the event the dog gets hooked on a fence for example, the dog is unable to break loose. This can be very dangerous not to mention terrifying for the dog!
Choke collars are not recommended by AGA. These collars are chain linked metal collars that thread through themselves to form a slip noose. A choke chain slides tighter as the dog pulls and loosens as the dog allows slack in the leash. Choke collars are designed to do exactly what they say… choke the dog when there is tension on the leash. The choke collars intended use is in conjunction with quick, sharp tugs on the leash. Whenever the correction is applied, the slip will tighten up the whole way around the dogs neck applying pressure to the trachea and to the spine. Because the choke collar is made of dull metal, the corrections usually require some force to get the dogs attention. Over time, this compulsion can cause permanent tracheal damage. A choke collar should never be used as an ID collar as it is designed to get tighter with pressure. This can suffocate a dog if a dog gets hooked on a fence for example.
Pinch collars are not recommended by AGA. AGA prefers the Easy Walk Harness when working with Golden Retrievers. The Easy Walk Harness is fairly new and all trainers using positive training techniques are using it now. We find that there is no need for using Pinch collars any longer; particularly because they are dangerous if not properly fitted. Do not attempt to use a pinch collar without proper instruction from a trainer.
Gentle leaders or Halti’s are not recommended by AGA for Goldens. Gentle leaders are nylon head collars that fit on the dogs face much like a halter fits a horse. Head collars are designed to take control of the dogs head. The thought is that if you control the dogs head, you control the body. If you have a dog that is not a stubborn puller or that is fairly calm, this might work well, however for a stubborn puller or a young rambunctious dog, a head collar puts tremendous amounts of pressure on the dogs neck and spine as it lunges and pulls forward jerking the head to the side. The head collar also takes a long time for the dog to get accustomed to and in the initial days or weeks of use the dog can spend more time trying to rub the collar off that walking.
Remote or Electronic collars are not recommended by AGA for Goldens or Great Pyrenees. Remote or “E” collars have been a very controversial training tool. Most modern remote collars have implemented new technology by way of electronic muscle stimulation, abandoning the old fashioned static shock. This advancement has allowed remote collars to become waterproof and even apply the stimulus while the dog is submerged in the water. A remote collar should never be used without professional supervision. This tool can be devastating if used incorrectly and purely as a correctional device.
Easy Walk Harnesses are highly recommended by AGA for any golden who pulls on a leash while walking. The Easy Walk Harness is designed to gently discourage your dog from pulling while walking on a leash. Traditional harnesses can actually encourage dogs to pull harder because of the “opposition reflex.” That’s the reflex that makes sled dogs do what they do. The Easy Walk Harness’ unique front-chest leash attachment stops pulling by tightening slightly across your dog’s chest and shoulder blades. The gentle pressure steers your dog to the side and redirecting his attention back towards you. The Easy Walk Harness never causes coughing, gagging, or choking because the chest strap rests low across the breastbone, not on the delicate tracheal area.