Equipment Matters

In Calgary, dogs are required to be under their owners’ control while off their property, and to be on-leash except in designated off-leash areas.

The leash has to attach to the dog somehow, right? There are several equipment options to achieve this, and there are trade-offs for each.

Flat collar

Comes in many materials such as nylon webbing, leather, cotton ribbon, have several fastener options like a metal buckle or plastic clasp.

Pros: Available from many stores; countless colours and designs; inexpensive; generally reliable.

Cons: Places pressure on the dogs neck if they lunge or pull. This can cause injury to the sensitive tissues in the neck: larynx, esophagus, and can contribute to leash reactivity.

Deb’s take: I like collars as a way to keep identification on a dog, so that if something happens – your name, phone, the dog’s name, the licence number – are all on the dog and they have better odds of getting home safe. Dogs can learn to respond to subtle collar pressure so loose-leash walking with the leash attached to the collar is often safe.

Martingale Collar

Also known as a limited slip collar, these collars’ original purpose was to prevent the dog from slipping out if their skull was narrower than their neck – often the case in whippets, greyhounds, Italian greyhounds, borzoi, or other sighthounds. They come with either a chain slip or a fabric slip.

Pros: Well-suited for those sighthounds, a limited slip collar prevents that narrow head from slipping out of the collar.

Cons: Many people do not fit the limited slip collar correctly, so it chokes the dog. In the past few years, I’ve seen more handlers using it for correction – this collar should never be used that way.

Deb’s take: I only like the fabric version, because I find the chain version is always moving on the dog’s neck – it seems to be very distracting. Since I tend to spend significant effort on training Attention To Handler, I prefer to not compete with the collar for the dog’s concentration.


Harnesses allow us to attach a leash to the body of the dog instead of the neck. Harnesses have many practical purposes for working dogs (sledding, weight-pull, carting, doggie backpack for instance) and have many styles, configurations and materials.

Pros: Harnesses are becoming more common and easier to find, and easier to properly fit. If a dog has not yet learned to walk nicely on-leash, a harness can help protect the sensitive tissues in the neck if they do happen to pull. Some harnesses can help lift an aging or injured dog, with a handle on the back. Harnesses are generally hard for a dog to get out of, but there are some committed escape artists that can wriggle free.

Cons: Some body shapes of dogs are hard to properly fit to a harness. A badly fitting harness is not good for anyone. Harnesses (good ones) tend to be more expensive. Harnesses sometimes require adjustment as the dog wears it. Some dogs can reach the harness with their teeth, and could chew it.

Deb’s take: I used to be of the opinion that harnesses taught a dog to pull. Through experience with my own dogs and many client dogs, I have learned that is not the case. I prefer a harness with two points of attachment – at the back and at the chest. This configuration, with he leash attached at both places, allows for solid control and safety for the dog. Once the dog learns about loose-leash walking, only one point of attachment will be needed.

Ideal configuration – a great collar, with the dog’s ID attached to it, and a well-fitted harness.

In a future post, I’ll share my favourite equipment pieces and my not-so-favourites.

Have fun with your dog!





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