Veterinarian - San Diego
1540 Morena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110



By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
April 19, 2013
Category: Pet Care
Tags: Untagged

How to choose the right collar/leash for your pet.

With so many options available nowadays (from traditional leashes to harnesses and gentle leaders), it is no wonder the immense amount of time one can spend in the pet aisle searching for the best collar and leash option for you and your pet.  Here are some suggestions on finding the right collar/leash combo for your dog.

First things first, it is essential to understand the purpose and reasoning of using collars on your pet. Not only are collars beneficial in providing tag information (identification and Rabies vaccination licensing), but they also act as a training tool.  It is also important to recall that dogs are descendents of wolves and still possess some of these wolf behaviors and tendencies.  One way a wolf challenges the pack leader is to bite the neck of its opponent to show domination and gain control.  This is why many animal behaviorists like to use the analogy of pet owners acting as the ‘pack leader’ of their canine companions and why neck collars and leashes are used as key tools for training dogs. 

Some dogs will catch on quickly acknowledging that you are in charge, but others will initially rebel and challenge you as pack leader, thus requiring more extensive training.  You may find it beneficial to talk with your veterinarian prior to selecting any collar.  Your veterinarian can recommend an option based on your dog’s medical and breed background to ensure your pet’s safety and happiness. Below are some of the current products of collars and leashes available to you and your pet.

Your basic flat (or buckled) collar:

This is your standard collar for dogs.  It has a buckle or snap closure and a ring for attaching a leash as well as identification tags.  A flat collar should fit comfortably around your dog’s neck.  Typically, one should be able to fit two fingers underneath the collar to prevent choking, but not too loose that he/she can slip out of it. 

Gentle Leader:

The gentle leader is ideal for strong, energetic dogs that have a tendency to jump and pull.  Similar to a horse’s halter, these collars have one strap that fits around your dog’s neck and another strap that loops around your dog’s muzzle.  The leash attaches to a ring at the bottom of the muzzle strap and discourages pulling by turning the dog’s head to the side.  The notion behind this collar is that your dog will not be able to pull you with the full weight of his body.

It may take some time, patience, and lots of positive reinforcement to get your dog accustomed to wearing a gentle leader.  Start by putting it on your pet for short periods of time until he/she gets comfortable in the collar.  Then your dog should only wear it when you are taking him/her out on a leashed walk.

Martingale/Limited Slip collar:

These collars tighten a small amount when pressure is applied. The martingale consists of a length of material with a metal ring at each end.  A separate loop of material passes through the two rings and attaches to the leash.  When your dog tries to back out of the collar, the collar tightens around his/her neck. A mechanical stop on the collar limits the amount of tightening to the size of your dog’s neck, preventing choking and the collar from slipping off the dog’s head.  Traditionally, these collars have been a popular choice for greyhound and other breeds that have a narrow head and are adept at slipping out of collars.


Harnesses wrap around the upper body of the dog and are particularly suited for those pets with diseases or soreness of the throat/neck where a traditional collar would cause harm from pulling.  A front-clip harness is a newer option available that allows pet owners to clip the leash to a central area on the front of the dog’s chest.  This diminishes the dog’s ability to use his body weight to pull you and these collars can be very effective with strong pullers.


Leashes serve as a method of control for training your pet and typically come in a variety of materials and lengths.  Lighter materials and thinner widths are ideal for smaller breeds, while heavier materials and thicker widths are used for larger breeds.  Many trainers recommend using a standard leash for everyday use and training since it keeps pets at a manageable distance and is relatively easy to use.

Additional Tips:

  • If you walk your dog at night, keep safety in mind. Wear reflective clothing and get a leash and collar made of reflective material so both you and your dog will be more visible.
  • If your dog suffers from extreme issues on the walk, it is best to consult your veterinarian first to rule out any medical reasons for his/her unruly behavior, followed by a consultation with a behavior specialist in your area for guidance.

Part 2: The Importance of teaching/training your dog to heel on a leash! Stay tuned...


Understanding Training Equipment Options-Collars, Leashes, and Crates. Association of Pet Dog Trainers. 2013.

A Good Leash on Life. The Humane Society of the United States. October 2012.

Dog Collars. The Humane Society of the United States. November 2012.