Before bringing your new pup home you’ll have to make sure you’ve got all the accessories she’ll need. So, let’s going shopping for collars, leads and harnesses.
When you enter your local pet shop you might be overwhelmed by the range of collars on offer. There are collars in all shapes, sizes and colours, and made from a variety of materials. Some are simple vinyl or nylon, others are glittering with jewels, some are made from leather or bamboo. But which one is right for your new pooch? Obviously a small dog that spends most of the time sleeping on your lap needs a dainty collar – your choice might come down to style rather than durability. While an active outdoor dog will need a sturdy water-resistant collar made from a quick-dry fabric. It’s worth waiting until you have your dog with you to properly fit a collar – too tight and it will cause discomfort, too loose and she can slip out of her collar, especially if it’s attached to a lead. It should be tight enough that it can’t slip over her ears, but loose enough that you can easily fit two fingers underneath.
A strong lead is essential for all dog owners, and like collars, these come in a variety of sizes, lengths, colours and materials. The length and thickness of the lead you choose will depend on the size of your dog. A cloth webbing lead no longer than two metres is all you need. You want it long enough to give your dog some room to move comfortably. If it’s too short he will constantly be pulling, which is not something you want to teach him, but if the lead is too long, you won’t be able to keep him walking close beside you. Whether you go for a fancier lead with a padded handle and reflective strips is up to you. A word of caution – don’t be tempted to buy a retractable lead. The RSPCA warns against these, citing incidents of burns, cuts and serious eye and hand injuries to children and pet owners. As well as being dangerous, these leads give you no control, often break and just encourage your dog to pull.
Once you have your pup or new dog at home you might find she pulls on the lead or even slips out of her collar when you go for a walk. A harness might be the answer to this problem. Harnesses increase your control of the dog while easing pressure on her neck. You have two options here – a back-attached harness and a front-attached harness. Ones that attaches at the back aren’t always the most effective, though for small dogs they are a good option. A front harness is effective for training and walking as it gives good control without risk of hurting your pet. The harness fits around your pet’s chest and behind her front legs and when you pull it helps gently guide her towards you.
Head collars or head halters slip over your pet’s nose, and the idea is that they can help manage your dog on the lead by guiding the head. However, the RSPCA does not recommend using these as the first option for walking your dog. Talk to your animal trainer or vet about the appropriate use of a head halter, if you are thinking of trying them out.
Dog-control harnesses and collars
The use of check-chains, anti-bark collars and martingale collars is discouraged by the RSPCA. These collars have been used extensively in the past to control dogs while on the lead and to stop barking, but not only are they often not effective in preventing the unwanted behaviour, but they can make the behaviour worse, as well as causing damage to your dog.