My goal with this blog is for you to enjoy your time here. Most of the posts talk about my experiences raising my two yellow Labrador Retrievers, some are just for fun, and others share the best dog related information and products I have found.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Our progression through collars

Our dogs like all big dogs grew very fast in the first year. Buying collars was a progressive journey. We started with the 1/4" nylon and quickly moved on to the 1/2" nylon collars. It wasn't long before we were done with the last of the vaccinations and ready to explore the world beyond the back yard.

We tried the Gentle Leader and, although many dog owners swear by it, my dogs were completely depressed by even the sight of it after only 1 week. They absolutely hated it!! If I brought it out they hung their heads. All the suggestions to leave it on and let them eat, sleep, and acclimate to it were impossible with having two dogs. The way they wrestled and played and chewed on each other made leaving it on them a safety risk. I tried everything, the slow progression to wearing it, to using treats for accepting it, even special treat for just when they wore it. After a week I was done with my dogs hanging their heads when we got ready for a walk.

By 4 1/2 months despite my initial hesitation we had moved on to the small link Prong collar. The most important thing with the Prong collar is to make sure you link through both rings so the collar won't cinch up on the neck. Also stick with the small links and just add links as they grow as the small links don't hurt or pinch as much. The quick release designs are the safest. Always have a backup 1/4" nylon cord choke style collar that is at least 24" - 26" long as the smaller prongs can on a rare occasion unhook from each other. The backup collar should in no way cinch up it is simply there as a backup

Because we were consistent with their training and daily walks by 9mo I was looking for a nice Martingale collar. I hated the idea if Choke collars and knew that would not be an option especially with my physically insensitive dogs. ( The Lab Through a Lover's Eyes) I still needed a mild sensation reminder component in the collar, but was looking to get away from the prongs as my only collar option. If I could have had my preference I would have skipped the Prong and moved to the Martingale from the Nylon buckle collars, but with two dogs and having to split my training time the Prong collar helped tremendously. When I started looking for Martingale collars my search found me on greyhound and greyhound type dog sites. Most of the collar styles were at least two inches wide and that wouldn't work at all for me. The nylon only Martingales were not going to stand up to my 70+ pound dogs, and looked like they could eventually loosen and easily slip at the adjustable buckle. I still needed a bit of "adjustability" as the puppies were still growing and I wasn't going to sacrifice on safety. It was also hard to find 1 inch thick collars at the length I needed for my dogs. I wanted the wider collar to avoid injury or stress on their neck if they were excited and pulling at the leash. I finally found an awesome Martingale collar made with a Labrador in mind. They are made by a company called Silverfoot. The adjustable buckle has small teeth that hold well. The cloth designs that are stitched on top of the nylon not only offer great choices but help with the buckles ability to hold its position. And I bought mine at DogGoneGood.com.

So far we have had them for seven months. Although my dogs can occasionally loosen them if they are wrestling and chewing on each others necks I have yet to see the collars cinch up tight accidentally during play.

I realize that many of you out there will have your own reasons for choosing the collars you do. Everything from fashion, to function, to training philosophies. This journey through collars was simply my trial and error process not an assertion that is the best progression.

10/12/06 Update:

I just noticed that the metal used in the collar pictured above is plated not solid stainless steel. I have since found better collars. Here's a picture. For the full details click here.

11/17/06 Update:
Here's a great article "Training With The Prong Collar" by Suzanne Clothier, on the proper use of prong collars and when they are appropriate from her web site Flying Dog Press.

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