Do you want to walk your German Shepherd in style? Here are five different tools you can use when walking your dog, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Regular choke collar. The main disadvantage to a choke or chain collar is that these give the dog walker very little control over their pets. German Shepherds typically are able to pull right through these collars. In addition, the slip action of the collar can actually damage your dog’s trachea.
- Martingale or greyhound-style collar. These limited-slip collars function just like a plain buckle collar, except that when your German Shepherd pulls, the collar tightens enough that it can’t slip over the dog’s head. Many people find these collars useful for walking a well-trained but large dog, such as a German Shepherd, or a dog who can easily slip a regular collar.
- Prong collar. (Pictured above) Prong collars work with the same limited-slip action as a martingale collar, but with metal prongs on the inside that close in a pinching action on the dog’s neck when tightened. Often used for strong pullers, prong collars are meant to be “self-correcting”: that is, the handler should never pull or yank on the leash. Before using a prong collar, consult with a trainer to be sure it is correctly fitted. And never put your hand or fingers inside the collar while it is on the dog! A disadvantage of prong collars is that dogs can become reactive to (bark and lunging at) other dogs, because they associate the pinch of the collar with seeing another dog; or dogs who are already reactive can progress to aggressive behavior. Use with caution.
- Head halter. The Gentle Leader and Halti are two examples of head halters. Two advantages of the head halter are that they give the walker control over the dog’s muzzle, and creates power steering. A disadvantage of the head halter is that German Shepherds usually dislike wearing them, at least at first, so the owner needs to train the dog to wear the halter using positive reinforcement. Another disadvantage of the head halter is that if a dog likes to pull, it can rub the dog’s face. The third disadvantage is that unless the dog walker is willing to use the halter to teach the dog not to pull, the dog can still learn to pull right through the halter.
- Anti-pull harness. An anti-pull harness is not the same as a regular body harness. A regular body harness fits around the dog’s chest, straps under its stomach and clips in the back. These harnesses are very similar to the style used by sled dogs — and guess what those are designed to do? Such harnesses encourage a dog to pull. An anti-pull harness typically clips in the front and physically prevents the dog from pulling, because the dog’s front legs become crossed if it tries. These work for all but the most dedicated pullers and are usually well accepted by German Shepherds.