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Updated: Mar 14, 2023

GRRA’s dog handling and training philosophy adheres to the “positive” school of thought, (over aversive or punitive methods.) We believe this approach greatly increases the chance of developing a dog who thinks and works cooperatively with people as part of a team, rather than a dog who simply obeys commands.

Punitive training techniques hurt dogs psychologically and physically and so do some pieces of equipment. Prong, choke and shock collars are known to do damage to your dog’s neck, spine and internal organs.

From a medical perspective, the anatomy of your dog’s neck is exactly the same as yours, so too much pressure on this vulnerable area can cause thyroid problems, trachea collapse, breathing problems and heart issues. These health problems occur when a collar constricts around the throat, and are usually associated with the use of prong (pinch) and choke collars.

From Humane Society of the United States

Aversive Collars

Some trainers use aversive collars to train "difficult" dogs with correction or punishment. These collars rely on physical discomfort or even pain to teach the dog what not to do. They suppress the unwanted behavior, but they don't teach the dog what the proper behavior is. At best, they are unpleasant for your dog, and at worst, they may cause your dog to act aggressively and even bite you. Positive training methods should always be your first choice.

Choke Chain

As the name implies, this collar is made of metal links and is designed to control your dog by tightening around your dog's neck. Unlike the martingale collar, there is no way to control how much the choke chain tightens, so it's possible to choke or strangle your dog. It can also cause other problems, too, such as injuries to the trachea and esophagus, injuries to blood vessels in the eyes, neck sprains, nerve damage, fainting, transient paralysis and even death.

It is best for your dog if you avoid using a choke chain. More humane collars and good obedience training should make it unnecessary to resort to this aversive collar.

Prong or Pinch

The prong or pinch collar is similar in style to the martingale. The control loop that the leash is attached to is made of chain. The loop that fits around your dog's neck is made of a series of fang-shaped metal links, or prongs, with blunted points. When the control loop is pulled, the prongs pinch the loose skin of your dog's neck.

The prong collar must be properly fitted. The size of the prong links should be appropriate for the size of your dog. The collar should sit high up on your dog's neck, just behind their ears. The fit should be snug, so the prong links can't shift to the front of your dog's neck where they might pinch your dog's trachea.

More humane collars and good obedience training should make it unnecessary to resort to this aversive collar.

Shock Collars

Shock collars use electric current passing through metal contact points on the collar to give your dog a signal. This electric signal can range from a mild tickling sensation to a painful shock.

Shock collars are sold as training devices and to stop barking. They are also used with pet containment (electronic fencing) systems.

The least humane and most controversial use of the shock collar is as a training device. The trainer can administer a shock to a dog at a distance through a remote control. There is a greater chance for abuse (delivery of shocks as punishment) or misuse (poor timing of shocks). Your dog also may associate the painful shock with people or other experiences, leading to fearful or aggressive behavior.

GRRA Recommended Equipment

Flat Collar

This is the standard collar for dogs. It has a plastic snap ("quick-release") closure which is recommended over the buckle style. A flat collar should fit comfortably tight on your dog's neck. It should not be so tight as to choke your dog nor so loose that the dog can slip out of it. The rule of thumb says you should be able to get two fingers underneath the collar.


The martingale collar is also known as a limited-slip collar. It consists of a length of material with a metal ring at each end. A separate loop of material passes through the two rings. The leash attaches to a ring on this loop. When your dog pulls, the collar tightens around his neck.

If the collar is properly adjusted, it will tighten just to the size of your dog's neck and won't choke him.

CAUTION - Martingales are not to be worn around the house and never when a dog is unattended. They are for walking.

Martingales also come with a chain in place of fabric loop. That does not make it a choke chain, but the fabric style is recommended.

Head Collar

The head collar is similar in principle to a horse's halter. One strap of the collar fits around your dog's neck and sits high on the head, just behind the ears. The other strap of the collar forms a loop around your dog's muzzle. The leash attaches to the ring at the bottom of the muzzle loop.

Because the halter is around your dog's muzzle, instead of his neck, your dog loses a great deal of leverage, and will be unable to pull on the leash with the full weight of his body.

It may take some time, patience and lots of treats to get your dog accustomed to wearing a head collar. Put it on your dog for short periods until your dog is comfortable in the collar. The dog should only wear it when you are taking him out on a leash. Don't leave the head collar on your dog all the time; eventually he will manage to pull off the muzzle loop and use it as a chew toy!

VERY IMPORTANT: To be effective, the head collar must be properly fitted. And to be safe, make sure not to yank your dog's leash while wearing a head halter. Proper fit and use should minimize the risk of injury to your dog. Watch this video to see how to fit the gentle leader for your dog.

Special-use Collars

Bark Control

Though several types of collars are available to control excessive or unwanted barking, none of them address the root cause of the barking. Dogs can bark for several reasons, such as fear or territorial behavior. Though some bark collars may reduce barking, they will not reduce the stress that causes a dog to bark.

  • Spray: Barking causes these collars to emit a burst of citronella or air, which interrupts and deters your dog from barking. Spray collars sometimes don't react to high-pitched barks, making them ineffective. Tip: Don't use a spray collar when your dog is with other dogs. Another dog's bark may trigger your dog's collar.

  • Shock: The least humane is the shock collar which delivers an electrical shock to your dog when he barks.

  • Ultrasonic: When your dog barks, the ultrasonic collar interrupts barking by emitting a sound only your dog can hear.

Flea/tick Collars

This collar is impregnated with chemicals and helps protect your dog against fleas and ticks. It is worn in addition to a regular collar. The flea/tick collar is effective for only a short time and must be replaced periodically.

Vibrating Collar

Use vibration, not electric shock, to get your dog's attention. Vibrating collars can be useful to train a deaf dog who can't hear your voice or a clicker.


NEVER USE A RETRACTABLE LEASH. They provide zero control over where your dog can go. They can wrap around a dog's leg and cause much more serious injury than a traditional leash. If you try to retract the leash, the leash naturally becomes tighter around the victim. Clearly, with less control over your dog at a 30-foot distance, dogs have been known to wander into the street and get hit. When dropped, they recoil, and dogs have run as though being chased by something they do not understand and into dangerous situations.

Double-handled Leashes

Double-handled leashes are especially great for big dogs because they offer two levels of control. Loop the end handle around your wrist for comfortable walks and grab the handle closer to your dog's collar when you need more control. Both handles are padded for comfort. If you are a nighttime walker look for a leash that is stitched with reflective thread for visibility.

Braided Leather Leash

Leather is a classic material for leashes for big dogs. It’s durable, flexible, soft on the hands, and STRONG. This classic six-foot leash for big dogs has a braided handle and brass bolt snap for extra strength.


There are many types of harnesses on the market, depending on your needs for walking your dog. Front Clip and and Back Clip are the most popular.

Proper fitting of the harness is essential. Although the harness should be fairly snug to prevent slippage, it shouldn't be too tight, especially around the ribcage. A too-tight harness could restrict your dog's breathing. It’s also really uncomfortable. Like the martingale collar, it is meant for walking the dog, not for wear around the house.

Front Clip Harness

This type of harness has the D-ring where the leash is clipped on, in the middle of the dog’s chest. It gives you more control and prevents your dog from pulling you. It’s not uncomfortable for him, either — even if he tries to yank. A front clip harness is perfect for training your dog to walk with a loose leash. It’s also appropriate for anyone who needs to walk a strong dog safely.

Back Clip Harness

This is perhaps the most common type of harness available. It features a single D-ring at the back of the harness, between the dog's shoulders.

A back-clip harness is best for small dogs and those who walk with a loose leash. If you have a strong dog who doesn't walk nicely on a leash, this type of harness is not for you, as it basically allows him to drag you around with the full force of his weight. Use the front clip instead.


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