Training Collar Recommendations For Dog Training

by | Oct 8, 2018

Let’s first talk about why we are using a training collar in the first place. We are working to teach our dogs a new behavior, and we are using a training collar as a tool to help us.

While we use a training collar to help teach our dogs many new behaviors – one of the main behaviors we focus on is teaching our dogs to walk next to us. Some dogs naturally will follow your lead very easily. Others will need us to help teach them the way. Luckily we have quite a few options of training collars to choose from. We want to find the collar that is the best fit for you and your dog.

Which Training Collar Is Right For You?

Every dog is unique, and every situation is different, therefore I do not have a “one size fits all” training collar solution. When first working with a dog it is not uncommon that I will try three different types of collars (or more) to figure out what is the best fit.

I’ll list the collars I find I suggest the most, and share what works well for clients I work with. I encourage you to read through the different types of training collars. Think what may be a good fit for you, and give it a try (ideally with the help of a trainer)!

Each training collar has it’s own pros and cons. They may excel in certain situations, and be detrimental towards progress in other situations.

Training Collars being worn comfortably

Kona and Mocha comfortably wearing martingale collars.

The Most Effective Training Collar Is The One You Are Comfortable With

Use the collar that you are most comfortable with. The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to help teach your dog a new behavior. If you do not want to use a certain type of collar, don’t!

I always work with the training collars clients want to use, and I’m happy to offer suggestions. Having an experienced trainer show you how to use a training collar correctly can help boost your confidence. Another tip – practice, practice, practice, in a calm atmosphere to start with.

My Go To Training Collar: The Martingale

When first working with a dog, I usually start with a martingale. I find this type of collar gives the perfect balance between comfort for the dog, and control for us.

When properly sized the collar won’t slip off, won’t get too tight, and stays in a good location towards the top of the neck. I prefer martingales with a chain component on the clasp. Jingling the chain lets us give the dog an auditory cue very easily.

Martingales are great in many training situations, including letting dogs socialize. However if you have a big strong dog that is a big puller the martingale may not be the easiest solution. 

The martingale is a great starting point for training, if you find you are having difficulties with leading your dog, you may want to give a different collar a try.

Martingale Training Collar

My dog Chata wearing a martingale training collar

Head Collar / Gentle Leader For Training

Gentle leaders are a head collar instead of a traditional neck collar. The contact point for where the leash is attached is very far forward, and sits just below the eyes and around the mouth. Moving the control point this far forward makes it very easy to lead the dog and turn their head. If you have a very strong, large, or a dog who likes to pull, a gentle leader may be a great option to help with training.

gentle leader training collar
gentle leader training collar
Data and Xena wearing a gentle leader above.

horse wearing a halterThe head collars closely resemble halters people use for horses. No surprise that these type of collars can work well with big and powerful animals! Some dogs do not mind the the sensation of the gentle leader around their mouth. However some dogs may not tolerate it and will need to be calmly accustomed to wearing one.

Slip Leads – Training Leads

I assume slip leads were probably the first leash humans ever used – and provide a lot of advantages.

They give incredibly quick feedback when you are getting your dogs attention, and they make it very easy to lead your dog around. I’ve never seen one slip off a dog. They are very easy to put on. The actual leash is used so you do not need an additional collar.

Slip leads are most often used at dog shows and I see them in most veterinary clinics.

I find that the nature of the slip lead – being a slip lead – can be a negative at times in certain situations. If a dog exhibits extreme uncontrolled pulling (strong prey drive, overly excited, etc.) the leash may impede breathing until less pressure is applied. If I find myself in the situation an easy fix is to hold the dog by a separate collar until they calm down.


Slip lead training collar being worn

Hercules wearing a slip lead. And sitting rather funny 😀

Harnesses For Dog Training

Harnesses were traditionally made to give dogs the ability to pull as much weight as possible. If you see dogs who are in weight pulling competitions, or involved with dog sledding they are all wearing harnesses. The control point is usually attached towards the middle of the back of the dog, which gives very little capability to lead, or steer, the dog. 

Due to this I do not recommend a traditional harness for training purposes very often. However – I do find harnesses are an ideal options for dogs less than 10 pounds. I have also used harnesses in conjunction with other training collars with great success. 

A little dog wearing a little harness

A little harness for a little dog!

Front clip harnesses are great

If you would like to use a harness with your dog I suggest looking for one that has an attachment point at the front (around the chest area). This allows us to guide the dog in different directions.

Easy walk training collar worn by Zoey

Zoey wearing an “easy walk” harness that has a front attachment.

Prong collars

Prong collars look scary but when used correctly – and in the right situation – are very effective. They can be an option for dogs who are very strong pullers. I would say these are an advanced option, and I would suggest having an experienced trainer help show you how to use them correctly. 

Before using a prong collar I like to teach people and their dogs training techniques starting with a different type of collar (usually a martingale). Once some basic skills and concepts are learned, moving over to a prong collar is relative easy. 

I would not recommend them for dogs who are nervous, anxious, or when teaching new social skills.

prong training collar

Callie wearing a prong training collar next to my dog at Marina Park.


What I don’t recommend – Choke chains

I have a good amount of experience with using them, and overtime I have found they do not offer any advantages over the other training collars. They are rather easy to misuse. I find the other training collars mentioned work just as well, and are much more comfortable for the dog.


What Training Collar Do You Like The Most?

Please leave us a comment and let us know what training collar you like the most for your dog!