There are many different training tools on the market which can make it very confusing for dog owners to know what's best.
The best advice I can give is to get a consult with a professional who is well versed in all tools and the way they work and can demonstrate them for you and teach you how to properly introduce them to your dog.
Some of these tools are controversial largely because of lack of education as well as propaganda and fear mongering from animal welfare extremist groups. All tools have a proper use and all tools can cause harm if used improperly or with abusive intent. We will go over some of these pros and cons in the list below.
Prong/pinch Collars: Best option for hard pullers, exuberant high drive dogs.
Yes, this certainly have a concerning/scary appearance. However, they are actually one of the most humane and effective options.
Vets who have been taught about them along with animal chiropractors and the most experienced and well respected trainers, all agree that it is one of the safest to use. This is because of the way it works, displacing pressure evenly in small points around the neck and not applying pressure/causing damage to the trachea. Many believe it was made to mimic another dogs correction, I believe this makes sense as well. This being said, the most ideal use is as a form of gentle communication before any correction should happen, it's not just about correcting dogs.
The prong collar is actually the least likely to cause injury even with improper use, you would not be able to cut off oxygen or pierce hide which many people are afraid of.
The ugly pictures of holes in a dogs neck that often gets circulated to tell people they're dangerous is actually from an embedded collar (so neglect and abuse - being left on for months as the dogs neck grows) this happens with every single tool because it is the human neglecting the animal, not the tool doing the damage.
As amazing as this tool can be for many dogs, it is NOT the RIGHT one for EVERY dog which is why there are so many tool options out there. If there is an issue with dog aggression, this may or may not be the way to go, sometimes it's still good but there's also the risk of it intensifying their fight response once in a fighting state - this is usually only the case when a dog hasn't been properly introduced to the collar and has become used to constant pressure.
Choke/slip/dominant dog collars (chain and nylon): best option for fearful, sensitive dogs or working a dog through dog aggression.
Nylon slips/dominant dog (snap around) collars have the same mechanics of a choke chain but are superior 1. Because you can fit it properly to each dogs neck (sitting snug at the top of the neck, behind the ears. And 2. The nylon moves smoother than chain, often chain can stick a bit so you can't be as fluid with your
This collar is the safest best option for dogs that have potential to try and escape their leash or for dogs working through aggression issues where you may need to get them out of a fight/fight mode. This is because the best way to get a dog off of another dog if they're clamped on, is to cut off air supply. This greatly helps prevent greater damage to the other dog as well as ends things much faster than any other method of breaking up a fight.
E Collars/Remote collars('shock' collars): Fantastic for any training need, very versatile.
The main reason there is so much controversy over remote trainers is because of the early models as well as the cheaper models with only a few levels to choose from. These were very harsh so were only useful for a punishment only scenario example: dog that intensely tries to bite car tires - get them used to wearing the collar and then set them up with a moving car and correct when they get close to create a strong negative association with the moving vehicle and fix the problem so they don't get hit/killed.
There are only a couple brands we will use to do the type of gentle communication training that we do. Ecollar Technologies (provided with our training program) and Dogtra. Their collars have at least 100 levels, some models have more. These collars have the ability to be extremely gentle while also having the capability of being more firm for situation like the above example. Again, every dog is different so for some dogs, they're so sensitive they can feel a level one, in this case we will add on a stim reducer which cuts the sensation in half therefore giving still a wide range to work with that dog at whatever level is best for them.
For most dogs the regular version is perfect and on average we mostly see dogs working between a 5 and 10 (we personally don't feel anything until 14/15 - we've had some clients feel 10 on themselves and some don't feel anything until 30). There are some dogs with very high 'pain thresholds' that need a stronger version in order to have a level that will snap them out of their fight state (if you're needing to correct a major aggression issue).
They work the same as a TENS unit (Dr. Ho!), they do NOT electrocute. This tool has revolutionized dog training with it's versatility and ability to have more precise timing mostly in the situation of off leash/distance training. It has made it far easier on dog owners as trainers and owners alike are able to get to their goals much quicker than before when used properly.
When people see injuries from these collars, it is because of pressure sores and/or hotspots though the misinformed believe it's because the dog has electrocution burns.
The way the collar needs to fit snugly so that the contact points are touch the skin, if you neglect to rotate the collar part way through the day (if it is staying on all day) or take it off at night and/or for part of the day, this can create a pressure sore. Like having an elastic on your wrist, for quite sometime you don't even notice it, the more time goes by, the more you start to notice, just a bit annoying, then if you ignore that it can actually get a bit sore and leave an indent in your skin (which we know if we continued to leave it, it would actually make your skin raw). The other thing that can happen is if the dog has gone swimming or gotten a bath and didn't get their collar taken off after to dry them off, the heat and moisture from the wet fur will create a hotspot.
There are also 'pager only' collars available now - ecollar technologies makes a vibration system with 100 level range. This can be a good option where ecollars are banned (UK). Some dogs will do just fine with this but some will still do better with the full ecollar.
Bark collars (different from e collars):
Bark collars can come with options from a strong ecollar stim, vibration and tone. This is a good option for dogs that are incessant barkers and are not phased by other forms of being corrected such as throw chains(thrown on the floor near the dog to catch them off guard and interrupt the current behaviour), pet corrector/convincer(compressed air - makes loud 'SHHH' noise), yelling NO etc. Again you have to be careful of
brand here and there options for how it goes off, some go off at the vibration from the vocal chords and some are triggered by sound (not so good in a multi dog situation).
When people see injuries from theses collars, it's the same reasons as the e-collars.
Martingale collars are one of the most commonly used collars but of course still frequently misused. This collar when fitted properly should be able to prevent a dog from getting away from their leash but they also tend to
loosen up really easily and quickly so often they can still back out. This applies pressure around the neck to guide or correct but wasn't even invented as a training collar, it was simply made to prevent dogs from escaping their collars by tightening. Injuries commonly seen are damaged trachea (you will know if the dog coughs frequently and with little pressure to the throat area). Of course this is due to misuse but these are misused frequently including by some 'professionals'.
Harnesses ('no pull' and regular):
Harnesses were made for pulling. So, especially for medium to large dogs, you lose control as the dog has all the power. There are 'no pull'/ez walk harnesses that are supposed to stop pulling by making the dog
uncomfortable because of the bit of extra pressure that gets applied in front of the chest. Often it can deter a little bit but once a good distraction comes along, they still have lots of power. This also has shown to cause joint damage because of the way it restricts their movement and pulls on their shoulder area.
If your dog has a neck injury that needs to heal, this can certainly be a good option but usually this is a tool you want to use for a pulling sport. Note: there are padded and wider harnesses that are best for pulling sports such as weight pull.
Head Halters (haltis/canny collars):
Head halters are often preached by their advocates to be the 'gentlest' option but unfortunately this is the tool
that can cause greatest damage to the neck (ask a chiropractor!), some dogs have even died when they bolted to the end of their leash on a head halter, that's how badly it twists the neck.
Often when this tool gets put on, dogs hate it, they're uncomfortable even when you're not applying pressure. Many dogs get awful wear marks and even eye infections (likely partly to do with incorrect fitting but again, many people are not fitting and using tools appropriately).
They were made based off of halters used for horses with the thought that where you direct the head, the body will follow.
Just like any of the other tools we're listing, this has it's place. It can be an effective 'management' tool for someone with a pulling dog but I have also watched people be dragged across the park still with this on.
This can be a good starting option for dogs that have had someone using other collars wrong and desensitizing the dog to lots of pressure on the neck.
For some dogs, once the initial frustration wears off, it can actually have a bit of a calming effect.
It is not often something we use because of it's higher risk for injury if a dog does decide to suddenly pull after something and because it is just not as effective for leash communication.
Supposed to be a 'more humane' option to a bark collar. When a dog barks, they get a little blast of citronella toward their face. Dogs noses are 50x more sensitive than ours (they have around 300 million olfactory
receptors where we have around 6 million).
While this can be an effective tool for some to stop the nuisance barking, personally I find this one to provide more undue punishment than a bark collar, the strong scent lingers right around and in their nose even after the negative behaviour has stopped. There are pros and cons to both, and like any tool, you should be applying training not just grabbing a tool to hopefully stop all your problems that are likely due to lack of rules and or exercise.
Flat buckle collars:
This collar is what everyone has usually for the dog tags and for fashion. This is what a dog should be able to
graduate to once they've been trained and gotten to a place where you no longer need to worry about them trying to flee from something, trying to attack something or trying to pull you.
If this collar is being used while a dog has constant pressure on it, the dog is receiving damage to their trachea. There are flat collars that are wider and have extra padding called 'agitation' collars for dogs doing sport bite work or police work. They provide a little more cushioning but can still cause trachea damage if they're working on them frequently. A padded harness is best for this when you're encouraging a lunging and pulling behavior for certain tasks.
There are other 'tools' out there that do not go on your dog like pet corrector (compressed air to make a sudden
loud 'shhhh' sound) and scat mats (a mat that you can put in your kitchen entrance or on a piece of furniture that you do not want your dog to be on - it will provide a mildly uncomfortable shock that will catch them off guard).
These are the main/most common tools being used by dog owners and professionals and their pros and cons and potential for injury.
**While I have my preferences for tools, I remain open to the use of all of them depending on the situation and individual in front of me in order to achieve the best results for the dog and their owner. We want a happy dog that also listens well and that is very doable no matter the tool or if they need to be corrected. Corrections DO NOT equal abuse, there is a huge difference, part of which is the intent of the human (or dog) applying the correction.**