Dog collars should be used with caution. Although it isn’t wrong to use a collar in absolutely all cases, priority should be given to the chest harness. With a collar, when the dog pulls on the leash or the owner jerks on it, the forces are concentrated over just a few square centimetres of the neck. This is an area where important organs are located, such as the larynx, thyroid, trachea and large neck vessels. Too much pressure on this sensitive area can damage these organs.
These damaging effects won’t always occur with every little jerk on the leash. In most cases, greater force would be needed – either just once or repeatedly. However, there are specific types of collar that are dangerous and should absolutely never be used. If you have a dog that seems happy to walk on a leash and does so without problems, you can use a normal collar. However, you should make sure there is a finger’s width of space between the collar and your dog’s neck.
- Choke collars without a safety stop
These collars can be dangerous to dogs, causing both physical harm and behavioural problems, including: bruising of the trachea, injuries to the thyroid gland with thyroid-related consequences, suffocation, whiplash, neck sprains, protruding eyeballs due to increased intraocular pressure, and fear and aggression due to feelings of suffocation.
- Prong collars
These can cause: pain, injuries to the skin and neck, scar tissue, fear of pain, increased aggression due to pain and a breakdown in the relationship between you and your dog.
- Electric collars
With electric collars, dogs only 'learn' through fear instead of developing real obedience by forming a bond with the owner. What is more, the use of electric collars can harm dogs in several ways, including: irritation due to tingling, painful shocks, burns and longer-lasting irritation due to inflammation of the neck.
- Training harnesses that chafe under the armpits
When pulled, the girth straps of training harnesses could cause your dog discomfort or even pain.
Special case: the head collar
The head collar (also known as a head halter) can sometimes be beneficial if used correctly. However, if it isn’t used in the right way, it can cause serious damage to the neck area of your dog’s spine.
A head collar for a dog looks rather like a harness for a horse. Head collars are sometimes used with dogs that are difficult to control and/or physically stronger than their human companion (large or heavy dogs). The head collar consists of a noseband that is placed around the muzzle and is connected to a neck strap. One leash is attached to the head collar (either under the muzzle or at the neck) and, for safety, a second leash is attached to the chest harness/collar. Alternatively, instead of two separate leashes, you can use a double-ended leash, with one end fastened to the head collar and the other end fastened to the chest harness/collar.
A head collar shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a chest harness or regular collar. It is only to be used when a dog needs to be controlled during training. The leash and head collar must be used responsibly, as incorrect handling can be dangerous to dogs: neck injuries can occur if the head collar is jerked.
Head collars are only suitable for:
- owners who have undergone appropriate training and know how to use the equipment in a dog-friendly way
- dogs that are used to this type of collar and feel comfortable and relaxed wearing it
As with other types of equipment, a good fit is essential with a head collar. If badly fitted, it can cause painful chafing, prevent the dog from opening their mouth in a relaxed way and cause the dog distress.