Training Equipment

The best training equipment in the world is of little use if your training techniques are not appropriate for you or your dog, and if the relationship between you and your dog needs some work. Suzanne Clothier

Dog trainers are often asked by pet owners about what training equipment they recommend. From my perspective training equipment is for two purposes each of equal importance. First training equipment facilitates communication between the handler and the dog. Second training equipment helps the human to manage the dog in a safe and humane manner.

Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph, ...

Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph, “His Master’s Voice”, The Original RCA Music Puppy Dog Logo Symbol for Advertising (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)

I ask my clients to use no adverse methods or equipment while training with me. This includes choke collars, prong collars and electronic shock collars. It includes no physical punishment or what has become euphemistically called a “correction”. It also includes no “alpha rolls” or other dominance based methods.


Dog Collars: A simple flat nylon web collar, with a steel a buckle and D-Ring. Collar pressure often causes the diog to pull, so I prefer to walk many dogs with a harness.

Front Snap Harness: I particularly like the Step In Harness or Sensation Harness by Soft Touch for teaching the dog to walk without pulling. Harnesses combined with a double ended leash allows for two points of connection. Two points of connection increases  communication to the dog in a more subtle mannern without collar presure and facilitates learning to walk without pulling.

Leashes: I recommend every dog owner have 3 leashes. A six-foot double ended  (a snap on both ends) leash. A 15 foot long line and a 30 foot long line for training recalls, play and exploratory walks. I like leather or a new all-weather material called biothane for a leash. They are comfortable to handle unlike nylon which is slippery , do not absorb water like cotton and are easy to just wipe off if they get dirty.

I do not recommend retractable leads.  they make it difficult to control the dog at the other end, who can pull to reach any intended object, person or dog and then can not be pulled away in an emergency. Second, they break very easily, especially the cord type. Most dog owners don’t know the difference between cord-to-tape and all-tape versions. Third, they are difficult to use,  they do not quickly lock to limit the length of the lead. Fourth, they encourage pulling (yet are often used with ‘no pull’ devices) because there is always tension on the lead. Finally, they are noisy if dropped scaring the dog, If a long lead is needed to help your dog exercise safely, discard the retractable lead and buy a long lead.

English: Dog halter-style collar Photo by Elf

English: Dog halter-style collar Photo by Elf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Head Halters: I occasionally recommend a head halter to an owner who has a dog that has learned to pull and is highly unmanageable to increase safety for the owner. My experience is that not all dogs are able to tolerate the sensation of the halter on their face and may never learn to accept it. Some owners find head halters difficult to fit correctly. In these situations I think it is worth trying, but  it may cause more behavior problems that it helps and may need to be discontinued. I believe dogs do not learn the skills of walking on a loose lead as well.  They may however be a useful transitional tool while the dog and owner build a more positive working relationship.


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