There are myriad other collars and harnesses on the market. Some of them are controversial at best and, in our minds, inhumane at worst. Recently I saw a post on Facebook by Victoria Stilwell, noted dog trainer, opposing prong collars. I was surprised at the number of people who bashed her for her stand against them and who supported their use. At DVGRR, we are opposed to their use. (If you have any questions as to why, feel free to email me [firstname.lastname@example.org]. The San Francisco SPCA website also has some good information about why prong collars are not a good option.)
Here are what we consider to be the humane alternatives: Flat nylon or leather collars are great for holding the dog’s ID tags. They are okay for walking dogs that do not pull; however, they can cause injury to the neck and spine and even the eyes of a dog that does pull. Two other options are head harnesses and front clip harnesses. At DVGRR, we use the Easy Walk Harness. It clips in the front, so if the dog pulls, it tends to pull his body around and back to you. It’s made of flat nylon, so it doesn’t cause pain. We’ve found dogs are generally comfortable wearing them. Of the hundreds of dogs on which we’ve used them, I’ve only seen two that would not walk with them on, and both of those were fearful puppy mill dogs. The front clip harnesses require very little training on both the dog and handler’s part for them to be effective. This makes them a great management tool as you train your dog in loose leash walking.
Another alternative is a head harness, which may be the best option for really big strong dogs. We sell Gentle Leaders at Pap’s Place, but there are other alternatives such as the Halti. Head harnesses fit snugly and high around the dog’s neck and have a loop that goes around the dog’s nose. This controls the dog’s head and stops him from pulling, similar to how a halter works on a horse. They do not cause pain. They do not keep the dog from biting, eating, drinking, or panting. They do require some time to train the dog to like wearing them because they aren’t used to a loop over their noses, but dogs certainly can learn to enjoy them. (Jean Donaldson has a great video on YouTube that shows how to teach your dog to love his head harness.) Handlers must also learn how to use them. You do not jerk or pull on them. The dog should not be allowed to run to the end of the leash so that his head is jerked around. They must be adjusted properly so that the dog is comfortable wearing it. If you’ve never used one, it’s best to consult a professional to teach you how to use it.
While both front clip harnesses and head halters do help you to walk your dog without him pulling your arms off, we still recommend training your dog to walk on a loose leash using positive reinforcement. Harnesses, collars, and head halters are ways to manage your dog’s pulling while you train them. (As a reminder, we never advocate allowing your dog to run off leash in an unfenced area.)