Good collars for training your dog

Posted on: March 16, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Training a dog means being able to correct it. That’s where a good collar comes in.
Photo from Pixabay

And you thought you had problems with short-term memory.

Your dog is worse.

Rich Kerlin of Kerlin Kanine Training in Aliquippa believes that if you want to correct your dog, you’ve got to act fast. Science says so.

“Research has shown that you have about seven seconds maximum to correct your dog. Past seven seconds, your dog has absolutely no idea why it’s being corrected. And the ideal timing is two seconds,” Kerlin said.

That impacts – or should – your collar selection.

Dogs “correct” themselves in one of two ways, Kerlin said. They grab one another by the scruff of the neck and shake or do a muzzle handshake, which is where one dog takes the muzzle of another in its mouth.

It’s not really practical when training a hunting dog to do either, Kerlin said.

“So we need a more effective way of training a dog. We do this with training collars,” he said.

There are three primary kinds.

One is what’s commonly referred to as the “choke” collar.

“It doesn’t work by choking your dog into submission,” Kerlin said.

Rather, it mimics a scruff shake. When a dog lunges forward, the trainer gives a command and “pops” the collar. A properly-sized collar – just slightly bigger than the dog’s neck — grabs and immediately lets go.

“It’s pop and release. Pop and release. It’s not pop and pull back,” Kerlin said.

They come made of various materials, from chain to nylon to leather. Kerlin prefers the chain model, partly because they’re less likely to stick. It’s also about noise.

“If you use it correctly you’re going to get a zipping sound. What happens over time is the dog learns to associate that sound with correction,” he said.

A second training collar is what’s known as the gentle leader. It’s a halter- or harness-type collar that has two sections, one of which goes around the dog’s neck and one of which goes around its muzzle.

It’s meant to simulate the muzzle handshake dogs do to each other, Kerlin said.

“It’s a fantastic collar if there are young kids involved. It doesn’t matter how big, tall or strong you are,” he said.

Dogs wearing one can still eat and drink. It does sometimes interfere with retriever training, though.

The third training collar – developed by two veterinarians in the Pittsburgh area – is the scruffy guider. It’s essentially a double choke collar, Kerlin said. They work in tandem.

“It offers a more uniform grab on the scruff, higher on the neck,” he said.

The design, according to Misty Pines Pet Company, the Sewickley manufacturer, “imitates a canine’s earliest sense of training: the gentle nudge and scruff squeeze of the mother to keep her puppies under control.”

The collar has a handle, too.

There are other collars out there, of course. But Kerlin recommended avoiding any that don’t work on the scruff or muzzle. They just aren’t safe, he said.

“It’s either working on pressure points, nerve endings or pain,” he said.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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