Are you walking your dog right?
The classic leash-and-collar method of dog walking has come under fire lately from many professionals. The problem is the pressure the collar places on your dog’s neck. This study from the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association shows how pressure on the neck can exacerbate existing issues in canine eyes, such as glaucoma and cataracts. There’s also the danger of a neck injury. Say you’re walking your dog, and an unfriendly animal approaches. When your dog starts barking and jumping at the other animal, you naturally pull on the leash, attempting to separate the two animals. With your pet pulling the other way, this is a good recipe for neck injuries such as pulled muscles and, in cases where the animal is prone to certain medical problems, worse issues such as a collapsed trachea.
A choke collar is just as dangerous, perhaps more so. Moreover, many people do not use the choke collar in the correct place. It should not be used in the same place as the regular collar. A choke collar is designed to sit higher up on the dog’s head, just below the ears, so that they feel the correction better and also to protect their throats.
So where does this leave you?
A good alternative is a harness. Fitted properly, a harness removes many of the safety concerns of a regular leash/collar, and can be helpful in training your dog. Trainers disagree on whether a harness that fits on the back versus one that fits in the front is better (see images below). Many feel that the front-connecting harness is a superior option, because it draws the dog’s attention to the walker when you pull the leash, connecting the moment of discipline with the person and breaking the dog’s attention from whatever stimulus caused its agitation. However, which harness you choose may depend on your trainer.
Before you decide whether a leash/collar or a harness is right for you, talk to a professional dog walker, trainer, or veterinarian. They will be able to help you determine the right choice for your breed. For more information, here is a good, comprehensive page on the matter: