Yep; I'm talking about collars again, I just have to. But before I get down to the information on different collars and neck damage; a few words about collar usage in general. Please do no leave any collar on your dog when not on a walk. Many dogs have died getting snagged up on their collar. If you feel a loss of control when your dog does not have a collar on; time to train. Okay onward.
I think about dogs and the fallout of using different collars on them. These are my views; I've done alot of research on the subject although it is not easy to find facts on neck damage caused by collars. First off you have to consider the anatomy of a dog's neck; most breeds have a substantially long neck, much longer than ours. Like ours the dogs spine runs from their body through their neck into their head. The most sensitive area of a dogs neck is where the spine connects to the brain. This sadly is the area that many trainers and owners use to place their collars. By placing a collar at this exact position; directly behind a dogs ears it is easy to control them.
A dogs neck is made up of 7 vertebrae; the function of the vertebrae is to stabilize and protect the spinal cord, along with other muscles and tendons. When you place a collar around a dog's neck and yank or the dog itself pulls and tugs there can be damage. Not all damage is caused by choke collars; but much of the damage to the canine neck is caused by choke collar training and the whole philosopy that surround it.
Damage can be caused to many different parts within a dogs neck not only the spinal cord. All collars can damage if used incorrectly; the thin collars that tighten when pulled are the worst. But even flat buckle type collars can severely damage a dogs neck if tugged on; resulting in whiplash type injuries. And head collars; even though they are a good option must be used with great care. The owner must not jerk on it or allow the dog to flail around while on a head collar. So what is the best thing to attach to your dog?
Okay; let's talk about choke collars and pinch or prong collars. Choke collars belong in the dark ages and the history books alone. Slip collars; the same as a choke collar but made of a different material are the same. They are softer and may not inflict the same harsh correction but they still tighten on a dogs neck. Pinch or prong collars; are most definitely better than a choke but they can deliver severe fallout behaviors because they work by inflicting pain. Just the other day I saw a woman walking her lab mix on a pinch; each time it lunged at another dog she gave a harsh correction which in turn caused the dog to lash back at her with an open mouth. She actually seemed oblivious to what was going on.
I see people walking dogs on choke collars all the time; even puppies who have very little muscle strength in their neck. The damage can be most severe to a young dog. So no choke chains, if you have one toss it.
So what about flat collars? They are okay if your dog doesn't pull or tug and you should NEVER, EVER yank or tug on them either. If you are going to use a buckle type collar the wider the better. These rolled type leather or 1/2" collars put alot of pressure on a small area of the neck. Best to get a 1 1/2" or 2" width to spread out the pressure on the neck.
The head halter is good but as I said already; great care must be taken when using them. No yanking or tugging on them; you have complete control of your dogs neck when using these so calm controlled walking is a must. And NEVER EVER use an extension leash with these. Now speaking of extension leashes; I do like them but only when you are not in a public crowded area. They can give your dog the sense of being "off leash" when they are on leash. Many people hook them up to choke, slip or flat collars and yank away. It doesn't seem as bad because your dog is so far away; these should be used sparingly and please only when there is no one else around to become entangled with.
The body harness; although they are not invincible, I believe they are the best option. You can still damage a dogs neck on a body harness, although it is more difficult but yanking a dog around on anything can be damaging. There are many type of body harnesses and some of the best are the non pull type like the Easy Walker by Premier which is what I use. Using a body harness keeps your dogs neck free of damaging collars which is good.
So there you have it; my opinion on collars and harnesses. All this said; dogs must be taught how to walk nicely on a leash, no one piece of equipment is going to do it all. Time, patience and understanding is needed. But most importantly "do no harm," a saying that many professions pledge toward their charges, we should do the same.
A very good read on collars and neck damage.
A quick overview from the UK Apdt