By​ ​Courtney​ ​Emken
co-written​ ​by​ ​​Jen​ ​Larson,​ ​KPA-CTP

In the past, we’ve discussed the dangers of retractable leashes, and why we hate choke chains. And today, we want to share our list of the absolute worst collars and harnesses. The list ranges from aversive tools no one should EVER use, to ineffective equipment owners should avoid.

Without further ado, here are the top five worst dog collars and harnesses:

#1 The Prong Collar

If you follow our blog, then you probably guessed the first entry on our list. The prong collar earns the number one spot due to its incredible health risks. For instance, you can:

Plus, you’re not only physically damaging your dog, but emotionally harming them as well. Aversive tools may make dogs obey, but they do so through fear instead of trust. Your relationship with your dog could suffer dramatically, and might never be completely repaired.

German prong collars, and collars that use plastic prongs instead of metal are no exception. Even if they’re slightly less painful, they still use pain as a motivator for obedience. No amount of measures implemented for pain reduction can change the harmful nature of an aversive tool.

To help people understand how prong collars feel, we use the four finger test.Take four fingers and press them against your neck. Then, remove the fingers one by one, without decreasing pressure. Afterwards, remember that a prong is much smaller than a finger!

#2 The Choke Chain

We’ve talked about choke chains before, and they haven’t gotten any better. It’s a single piece of chain with two different-sized loops attached to it. The chain loops around a dog’s neck like a collar, and squeezes their neck depending on how hard it’s being pulled.

The biggest danger of a choke-chain is that there’s no limit to how much it constricts. When a choke chain is pulled, it will just continue to get smaller and smaller. There are no safety measures in place to prevent the choke chain from choking your dog to death.

While it’s unlikely that a choke chain will cause death, they’re also an aversive tool. They cause dogs significant pain, and have similar risks and consequences to a prong collar. They will teach your dog to be afraid of you instead of excited by you.

#3 The E-Collar or Electronic Collar

“E-Collar” and “Electronic Collar” are both euphemisms for the shock collar. Many people buy these tools assuming they’ll only use them in vibration mode. There are a couple of problems with this:

  1. Vibrations, however small, are still aversive corrections
  2. There’s always the temptation to increase the voltage when you don’t see results

The vibrations don’t actually teach the dog either, they just make them fearful. Without proper training and trust built between dog and owner, there’s a chance that the owner may resort to using actual shocks when the dog isn’t deterred by vibrations any longer.

#4 Citronella Collar

This collar is further down the list because it doesn’t have the same potential for serious bodily harm as the others. However, it can still cause considerable discomfort for dogs. What’s worse is that Citronella collars only confuse your dog, not train them.

The way Citronella collars function is that the they spray Citronella Oil directly into a dog’s face when they bark. While that may not seem so serious to us, dogs have an incredibly powerful nose. Instead of just sniffing an unpleasant odor, it’s like they’re being smashed in the face by it.

Many people assume that since the collar sprays only when the dog barks, they’ll eventually associate the spray with barking and stop doing it. However, they’ll actually associate whatever they’re looking at with the pain or discomfort… which could include you!

#5 Back-Clip Harnesses

The back-clip harness is low on our list because it doesn’t directly cause harm to dogs. Most people pick one up thinking that it will make their walks easier, especially if their dog pulls. Unfortunately, these harnesses can actually make pulling worse.

We once had a client whose dog started to vigorously pull during walks. We discovered that he had just begun to use a back-clip harness with him. Not only does the harness reinforce pulling for dogs, but it also allows them to put more power into their pull too.

If your dog isn’t much of a puller, then this style of harness might be ok. My little Chiweenie Noodle pulls like one of Santa’s reindeer: jumping in the air and trying to steer me. Luckily, Noodle only weighs nine pounds. Even when I use a back-clip harness, he can’t cause much hassle on walks. But my 80 lb. Dane/Lab mix Rebel is a different story altogether.

Generally, we recommend using a front-clip harness instead, like the SENSE-ation harness. We also like the Freedom harness, which has two attachments on the front and back. You can use both attachments for greater control during walks, the front attachment for loose-leash walking, and the back one for walking or running together.

There’s always a more positive solution for pulling than using tools that cause pain or discomfort. If you need help with a pulling dog, or know someone who does, please contact us today. Our trainers are experts in positive methods, and have never met a dog they couldn’t help.

Image Permissions

Prong Collar by swong95765

Sad Dog by Elise Ramsey

Wacky Dog Harness by masayoshi hoshiba