An interesting conversation about a hot topic
Last weekend on social media I voiced my concerns about the damage collars cause and received many comments and e-mails in response. First, I am glad the discussion is going because it allows me to understand your point of view and respond and address my main concern, your dog’s health.
So today, I have decided to take a rather non-traditional approach to writing and include some of the comments from our community.
Do large breed dogs need a collar?
Jory S wrote:
Dr. Dobias..with all due respect, you own and handle a Border Collie, a very lightweight handling dog. If you owned and handled a large breed working dog you may find that a pinch collar is actually the best and safest tool to use to train leash awareness and loose leash walking. Our canine chiropractor told me that the pinch causes less issues with subluxation than any other collar. You use very little pressure on a pinch collar and it mimics the feel of a mother dog with her mouth as she corrects her pups.
One other thing...allowing your dog to run off leash is very irresponsible and I don't care how well trained you think your dog is...keep a line on it at all times and put your faith in something that doesn't matter.
Dear Jory S,
I hear you. Handling a larger dog is a little more problematic and I wish I had some sort of magic spell that would make every dog stop pulling. However, what I have learned from several dog trainers, dog behaviourist and my experience is that by being patient, clear and persistent you can stop most dogs from pulling on their leash. You may be surprised to hear Skai was a puller when he was little and it took me at least six months to teach him how to heel.
I see things from the medical point of view and the reason why so many large breeds suffer from hypothyroidism is that their thyroid gland gets traumatized from all the pulling and constriction around the neck.
Also, the force of the pull is much easier to control on the harness. Here is an analogy. If you tie a boat in the front and the engine gets going, the boat will turn towards you and it will be easier to hold it. If you tie it further back, it will be harder to control. The same applies to a pulling dog. A front-clip harness is much easier on your dog and also your arm and shoulder.
I know how you feel, pulling dogs are not easy, but allow me to disagree with your chiropractor about pinch collars. I have seen the effects of these collars firsthand on hundreds of dogs. Ultimately, the choice is yours. I care about sharing this information and it is here for those who feel that it resonates with them. No hard feelings on my side.
In regards to the off-leash comment. I believe, from a health point of view, that every dog should have ample off-leash time. Keeping a dog on a leash at all times is simply less optimal and healthy.
I understand that some dogs may have behaviour issues etc, but this doesn’t change the fact that an off-leash dog is a happier and healthier dog. I like to get as close to the natural lifestyle of dogs as possible. It seems to work the best.
Proper training is the key.
Comment from Heather E:
None of my dogs pull when being walked. The lead is always loose, never taut. Anyone who has difficulty with this should attend obedience classes. I agree that a harness is a great tool to use for dogs that pull. It is essential that the dog be trained to walk properly on a lead and learn to stay steady when there are distractions along the way.
Comments from Sue S:
Harnesses are an alternative to not training a dog to walk on a lead. I now see loads of dogs out pulling on their harnesses. Not a solution to the root cause, just a remedy to prevent symptoms of lack of training.
I too have two dogs, who both walk to heel on loose leads. I have one that is reactive, so I use a harness to prevent neck damage in the event of an incident, but he still has to walk beside me on a loose lead for the rest of the time and I work hard to prevent the reactive behaviour.
Thank you Heather and Sue,
I fully agree that most dogs are fully trainable not to pull on their leash. If any of our community members know of a video or materials on how to stop dogs from pulling, please send it our way so we can share it with others!
Types of harnesses that people use
Some members of the community have given us examples of harnesses they use and my plan is to ask a couple of chiropractors for their opinion. It may take a few weeks before we have these. Thank you all for your submissions!
However, I do have a couple of suggestions. A front clip harness prevents pulling injuries more effectively than the back clip ones - remember the boat example.
Nasal harnesses usually make dogs hold their head in a very unnatural position, with the front of the neck flexed. There are two problems I commonly see from nasal harnesses - injuries to the first few cervical vertebrae and damage or obstruction of tear ducts that come from the eye to the nose. These are the two main reasons why I do not recommend nasal harnesses.
Something to mention
Annellise S says:
Sufficient and proper training on how to walk on a leash is the only key! No jerking or yanking the collar. Never had any problems in over 30 years without all the so-called 'new tools'. Isn't this just all about wanting to sell their products?
Thank you for your comment, Annellise,
I agree that in an ideal world, no harnesses or collars would be needed. In fact, I sometimes use a collar and leash on Skai because he never pulls or jerks on the leash and I also use a Featherlight leash, which is amazing for absorbing shocks.
I believe that all the harness makers have a very sincere intention to make a difference in the lives of dogs. Think about the cost and labour that goes in the harnesses. I do not think that they make big money.
However, I have seen many even relatively well-trained dogs for getting excited, wanting to greet a dog as an example. Every pull, every tug can create more damage and before you know it, a health issue comes up.
I see a harness as similar to a seatbelt. It should not be used in place of safe driving, but it is a great lifesaving tool.
And that is all for today. For those who are running out of supplements for your dog, our value packs are back, here is the link.
Stay tuned for more on harnesses, leashes, pulling and other healing and nutrition tips for dogs.© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM