FREE dog training advice from a pro!

How to choose the right training collar for your dog

Learn about choke chains, prong collars, nylon collars, harnesses, halti collars, and shock collars

Lots of different dog training collars are available both online and at your local pet store. In fact, the selection is so vast as to quickly overwhelm the average dog owner. Unfortunately, this means many people end up choosing the wrong type of training collar for their dog.

Every training collar is designed with specific temperaments and behavioral issues in mind, so it's important to choose a collar that fits your dog's personality. In this article, you'll learn how to choose the type of training collar that will work best for you and your dog. The types of training collars we'll discuss include nylon martingale and flat collars, harnesses, metal and plastic prong collars, choke chains, Halti® and Gentle Leader® headcollars, and electronic shock collars.


Nylon collars are appropriate for timid and very small dogs. If your dog is confident or large, a nylon collar is probably not your best choice, as it will provide you with very little control. This is particularly problematic if your dog is boisterous or has a tendency to pull on his leash.

If you decide to use a nylon collar, get a Check Collar as it will offer slightly enhanced control of your dog when you need it.


Harnesses are designed specifically to help a dog pull. That's why sled dogs wear harnesses: they evenly distribute tension across the chest, allowing a dog to safely pull heavy objects across long distances. So, If you don't want your dog to pull at the end of his leash, DON'T buy a harness. Really, harnesses are a good choice only for very small or low-key dogs. Instead, choose a nylon or prong collar, depending on your dog's temperament.


A question I regularly hear from owners is , "Are choke chains safe?" Many pro dog trainers will disagree, but I recommend against using choke chains for dogs of any size or temperament, because when used incorrectly they can damage a dog's windpipe. If you are thinking about buying a choke chain, consider purchasing a prong collar instead. Prong collars offer better control than choke chains, and they are far less likely to harm your dog's neck.


Owners also often wonder if prong collars are safe. Considering their appearance, I understand why; but, maybe surprisingly, a prong collar is often a good choice for large, confident, and hyper dogs. Unlike a choke chain, a prong collar is unlikely to damage your dog's neck, so it's a safer option for boisterous dogs. Plus, prong collars are more effective than choke chains — lots of dogs will pull against a choke chain even while it strangles them, but are unlikely to do so with a prong collar.

Prong collars come in both plastic and metal options. The biggest problem with the plastic prongs are that they sometimes pop open; so, I prefer the metal versions.

A prong collar is sometimes a good choice for obedience training, since you can use it to give your dog light corrections when he ignores commands that you are certain he understands. If you do decide to use a prong collar for obedience training, you should work with a well-qualified trainer to ensure you use the tool correctly and humanely.


If your only real goal is to prevent your dog from pulling at the end of his leash, then a Halti® or Gentle Leader® headcollar may be a good choice for you. Headcollars are designed to make it physically impossible for your dog to pull on his leash. In my experience, however, headcollars are not particularly effective for teaching obedience.


Electronic shock collars are effective for teaching obedience ONLY if they are used correctly. Many police departments use electronic collars to train police dogs because of the precise obedience these dogs require.

The potential to misuse an electronic collar is very, very high. If you're interested in using an electronic collar, work with a professional trainer to get you started on the right path. Thoroughly interview the trainer to ensure they have a lot of experience with electronic collar training. Also, make sure the trainer uses low levels of correction and high levels of praise and treats to ensure a positive training experience for your dog. Lastly, make sure you buy a high-quality remote collar that offers at least 10 different levels of correction, like the electronic collar pictured at right (nine stimulation levels plus tone only).

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