We’re often in a position that clients ask us what type of harness, collar, leashes, etc. While it is important to mention that ALL equipment has the potential to be aversive (something that causes a dog fear, pain, or distress), we try to recommend equipment that is suited to both dog and handler in the least aversive manner. To start our list in a positive manner, we’ll list things in order of our preference, with quick notes on why we like the particular product. We’ll also include amazon links to a general product type, though we ALWAYS encourage purchasing from individual and local retailers to support small business whenever possible.
Dogs are safest learning to walk in a y-front, front-clip harness. These have been studied and shown to be the best-fitting harnesses with ergonomic considerations. The most highly-rated (and therefore our favorite) is the Balance Harness by Blue-9. Similar harnesses can be found (more economically) on amazon. We like this one, but there are also variations which include fun safety accessories like a safety light (found on this harness) and a handle (found on both). Any harness should NOT have a strap that goes straight across the front of your dog’s chest, which would inhibit shoulder movement. Harnesses should make a y-shape beneath your dog’s neck and have a d-ring to attach the leash both in the front of the chest and on the dog’s back. Harnesses should clip around the neck and the girth, and not slip over the dog’s head.
Dogs often need a collar to carry id tags, vaccination information, or identify the dog as a well-loved member of the family. We recommend a flat buckle collar for this purpose in almost every case. Dogs with long or brittle hair coats may benefit from a rolled leather collar. There are many shops on Etsy which have similar collars that may have identification information on the buckle, engraved or embroidered onto the collar, or a metal plate riveted onto the collar. We highly recommend some similar kind of id that cannot fall of your dog’s collar.
Martingale collars are a favorite of ours, as well. They’re perfect for dogs who are easily frightened or have learned to slip out of flat collars or harnesses. Dogs who are oddly shaped, like bulldogs, whose necks are as wide as or wider than their heads, also benefit from the added security of a martingale collar. These collars tighten when tension is put on the d-ring, but when properly fitted, they do NOT choke the dog. We prefer that no equipment be slipped over a dog’s head, and instead using a buckle-style martingale collar for the best fit and experience for your pup. Collars like these are our favorites.
Our favorite leashes are European (sometimes called multifunctional) leashes like this one. They can be used hands-free and the length is adjustable. Any leash that has two handles is a good choice and will provide a little more control for the handler. All flat leashes are acceptable and safe. If you need more room for your pup to roam safely, our local wal-mart has 20ft training leads like this for $10, but any long flat training lead will do the job.
While we seldom use clickers for our clients’ dogs, we often use them in our training and we sometimes have clients who enjoy them. They’re great for people who struggle to speak and who enjoy the physical reminder to mark good behavior. These clickers are good, but we’ve also found a multi-dog clicker here. Multi-clickers are great for dogs who are sensitive to sounds or who need a separate tone to differentiate between their marker and that for another dog.
These like all equipment, are just a convenience. We find it easy to have a bag specifically for our training equipment. Women, especially, may benefit from the convenience of an extra pocket (or more than one). We keep things like a high and low value treat, a clicker, potty bags, car keys, spare change, and often our cell phones in our training bags. Our favorite bag style is a “leg bag”, often a favorite of motorcyclists. We’ve used this one for years and are impressed by the durability and versatility. Other bags might include a traditional fanny pack like this, a silicone treat pouch (very washable!), a treat pouch with a magnetic closure, or anything including and not limited to a ziploc baggie.
We. Love. Muzzles.
Every dog should be muzzle trained for a whole host of sensible reasons that we’re not going into here. That said, we have baskerville muzzles in every size they make and we use them as training muzzles regularly. This is NOT the brand we recommend for most dogs. The fit, while somewhat adjustable, is almost never suitable for long, comfortable wear. We do like them for training and for short outings with dogs who are not a severe bite risk. Our favorite muzzles are muzzles that fit and serve their intended purpose. A wealth of knowledge and assistance can be found in this facebook group “Muzzle up, Pup! – The Pro Muzzle Community“. While we don’t always agree with some of the training advice or methods found therein, the information for fitting and finding the right muzzle is spot on! Our favorite muzzles are Dean and Tyler Freedom Muzzles (bite proof), Jafco Muzzles (bite proof), and we’re excited about this new Kickstarter muzzle project, “The Muzzle Movement” (may be bite proof–unknown). Other good muzzles exist. We’re happy to talk to you about muzzles. Our best advice is to go to the group referenced above for sizing information. Do NOT rely on muzzle manufacturer alone to help you size your dog for a muzzle.
Head collars are a lot like halters for horses. Except that dogs aren’t horses. With very few exceptions, we don’t usually recommend that clients use head collars. The use of any equipment can be aversive to your your dog, and head collars require a lot of initial counter conditioning for the average pup to accept without stress. That said, in some extreme cases when we’re worried for a person’s safety with a strong dog, a head collar can be a good idea. We’re not picky about style, but we do like to make sure that the nose band is not in the dog’s eyes and that there is a safety strap from the head collar to a traditional collar or harness in case the dog works loose from their head collar. This style seems very appropriate.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of equipment. We have an entire building devoted to dog stuff. But we hope that the consolidation of these recommendations is helpful to our clients and readers. If you have a product that you love, please feel free to share it with us!