The variety of different dog walking products is somewhat bewildering. Which product is best for your dog, and how do you select the right size? Below we will discuss three of the most commonly used products, collars, martingales, and harnesses. When to use them and how to measure your dog for the right size.
Flat Dog Collars
The most basic type of dog collar is a flat collar, a strap that fastens around your dog's neck and closes with either a buckle or a quick-release snap. The primary function of a flat collar is to carry your dog's ID around in case your dog gets lost. Flat collars can also come equipped with other safety features, such as reflectors, glow-in-the-dark materials, and center escape rings. A center escape ring is built into the collar and allows some "play" in the strap that allows the dog to escape if the collar gets caught on something.
Flat collars come in classic leather, nylon, biothane, and various fake-leather type materials called Durasoft or TuFlex. If your dog gets wet frequently from swimming or the rain, we suggest avoiding leather and basic nylon collars. Otherwise, the choice of material is up to you. As, of course, is the colour.
Martingale Dog Collars
Martingales are collars used for walking the dog on a leash. They have a loop that tightens if the dog pulls back, which prevents the collar from pulling off over the dog's head. A properly fitted flat collar can easily be pulled off over most dog's heads, which can cause a dangerous situation. Other than Martingales, which prevent the dog from pulling loose. Dog trainers prefer Martingales as a tool in teaching leash walking and preventing pulling. Martingales shouldn't be left on the dog when the dog is not on a leash because they can get caught on things and tighten, which can injure or even kill a dog.
Martingales come in two types, with or without a quick-release snap. The ones without a snap have to be pulled on and off over the dog's head, which some dogs object to.
Most martingales are made out of nylon. Some have their "tightening loop" made out of chain but the majority have the loop made out of the same material as the collar.
Back-attachment Dog Harnesses
Harnesses where the leash is attached to the harness on the dog's back between its shoulder blades are a great choice for walking small dogs and large properly leash-trained dogs. They prevent pressure from being placed on the dog's throat. They are also a great choice when doing certain sporting and training activities such as tracking, nosework, and recall training.
Basic walking harnesses come in two types, with a horizontal strap across the dog's chest or y-shaped where a strap comes up between the dog's front legs and splits to go around the dog's neck. There are some concerns about the horizontal strap type inhibiting the movement of the dog's front legs and thus y-shaped harnesses are perhaps preferable.
Most harnesses are made out of nylon. They come in various styles that primarily affect how they are put on the dog, such as whether they are dropped over the dog's head or the dog steps into the harness.
Fitting the Equipment
Flat dog collars should fit around the dog's neck and be loose enough for you to easily insert a finger or two underneath the collar when it is lying in a natural position. Measure the base of the dog's neck, where the collar will naturally sit. Select a collar size with your dog's neck size in the middle of the given range of sizes.
Martingale dog collars when used as an everyday collar should fit loose. You should be able to fit an entire hand between your dog’s neck and the collar.
However, when using it as a training tool it should be fitted very snugly around the top of the dog's neck when the collar is tightened. You should be only able to fit one finger between the neck and the collar. The snugger it fits, the more evenly you distribute the pressure around the dog’s neck.
It should be skin-tight but not so tight it chokes the dog. For the right size measure around the top of the dog's neck, behind the ears, and add 2.5 cm (1 in) for small dogs, 5 cm (2 in) for medium-sized dogs, and 7.5 cm (3 in) for large dogs. Select a size with this measurement in the middle of the given range of sizes.
Harnesses need to be fitted such that they are snug all around to avoid shifting of the harness, and it is important that the barrel strap is positioned slightly behind the armpits, not touching the elbow. Measure around the dog's barrel where the barrel strap will be placed. Select a size with this measurement in the middle of the given range of sizes.
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