When it comes to leash training equipment, there are many options available including flexi-leashes, Martingale collars, harnesses, choke chains, electronic collars, and the head-halti.
Each option has its own strengths and weaknesses. To effectively leash train our dog, we want to pick the most appropriate tools based on his unique temperament, energy level, size, and style. Using inappropriate equipment may complicate training, worsen our dog’s behavior, and sometimes even cause physical harm.
After getting a new piece of equipment, I always read all the instructions carefully. Incorrect use of leash training tools, may also inadvertently hurt our dog.
Note that collars and leashes are just one aspect of leash training. Consistency, patience, and technique, are also very important to teach our dog to walk without pulling.
Leash Training Equipment 1
Collar and Leash
While leash training my dog, I use a flat, thick (1 inch), Martingale or buckle collar. The thicker collar will distribute the force when our dog pulls, so he is less likely to choke himself. Unlike plastic snap-on collars, Martingale and buckle collars are strong, and less likely to slip or break when under strain.
I also use a regular 6 foot leash. I like the leather leashes best, because they are easy on my hands, and have very little give when my dog pulls. Cotton leashes easily stretches when force is applied, which gives me less control over my dog. Nylon leashes are a good alternative to leather, but they are a bit more abrasive on the hands.
Do not use a flexi-leash until we are extremely confident that our dog will walk close to us, and will not bolt at the sight of cats, squirrels, dogs, or other environmental triggers. The flexi-leash gives our dog a lot of freedom to roam, but provides us with very little control over his movements.
Flexi-leashes should only be used as a reward for a leash-trained veteran, who is not reactive to the environment, and is very responsive to voice commands.
The flexi-leash can be a useful first-step, for teaching a dog how to walk off-leash. Only do this after he has mastered how to walk on-leash, using a regular 6 foot lead.
Leash Training Equipment 2
If we have a smaller dog that pulls a lot, and is constantly choking himself on the collar, it may be best to use a harness, especially for long walks.
Premier has an Easy Walk harness, where the leash is attached to the front (chest area), rather than back of the dog. This harness gives us slightly better control over pulling, compared to a step-in harness. However, the Easy Walk harness is also more difficult to put on a dog.
The Ruffwear harness is more secure, and will prevent our dog from escaping during walks. It also provides good body support, which is why I used it for my 3 legged dog.
Most dogs will object to the harness initially. Therefore, make putting on the harness, be a positive experience that is paired with food and praise. Then, follow it up with an enjoyable dog walk. Remember to remove the harness at the end of the walk.
A harness may not be as appropriate for a larger dog that pulls, because it amplifies the pull force, and makes him even more difficult to control. For larger dogs, consider using a head halti.
Leash Training Equipment 3
The head halti is an effective tool to stop dogs from pulling, especially larger dogs.
It allows us to control a dog’s head, with very little force, in the same way that horses are controlled. When a dog pulls, his head is automatically directed back to us. By controlling his head, we can stop him from pulling, obsessing over squirrels and cats, as well as lunging after other dogs.
The problem with the head halti is that it does not really help with leash training our dog.
Once we take it off, our dog will likely start pulling again. I use the head collar, when I take in-training dogs for long walks at the park. In this way, I have good control over them, and do not have to worry about them pulling, or taking off to chase after squirrels.
However, I also keep up with regular, halti-free leash training sessions, during shorter neighborhood walks.
Another weakness of the head collar is that it has straps across the dog’s face and muzzle. Since these areas are more sensitive to touch, the friction and force caused by the collar may generate a fair amount of discomfort for the dog. Initially, most dogs will dislike wearing the head halti, and some may refuse to walk when they have it on. By pairing it with positive rewards and experiences, we can train some dogs to get accustomed to wearing it.
Do not use the head collar with a flexi-leash. The high force jerk that occurs when a dog hits the end of a flexi, may cause significant harm to the dog. For safe use, make sure to read the instructions very carefully, and fit the collar properly on our dog’s head.
Leash Training Equipment 4
Prong Collar and Choke Chain
Prong collars and choke collars (also called choke chains, slip collars, or slip chains) are used to implement stronger leash corrections.
Only use a prong collar as a last resort, and under proper supervision by a professional trainer.
Choke chains apply a more extreme pain stimulus to the dog than even prong collars, and may cause injury even when fitted properly. For these reasons, I do not use choke chains on any of my dogs.
Here is another article by Paddy Driscoll on the dangers of using choke collars.
Note – Because of the risks associated with choke chains, they are often given other fancy names, for example the Illusion collar. Be careful to do research on the collars we use, to make sure that they are not a renamed version of choke collars.
Leash Training Equipment 5
Shock Collar or Electronic Collar
Shock collars or electronic collars are often used to train working dogs that must herd livestock, or perform other tasks from a distance, and with great accuracy. They can be easily be misused, and are unnecessary for house dogs.
Do not use a shock collar unless we have good prior experience in training dogs, and only use it under the direction of a professional trainer, for very specialized work tasks.
Shock collars are risky and generally not recommended for modifying or stopping bad dog behaviors. Scientific studies show that these collars increase stress, lower general quality of life, may worsen our dog’s behavior, and may even encourage extreme aggression.
Dog Leash Training Equipment
Training equipment including choke chains, prong collars, Martingale collars, the head halti, and harnesses, should only be used during supervised training sessions. I use them during walks, and remove them as soon as I get home. Training collars and leashes can easily catch on furniture, or other objects around the house, and cause our dog physical harm and emotional distress.
The only collar I leave on my dog for the long term, is a properly fitted flat collar. When I leave a flat collar on a puppy, I make sure to readjust it regularly to accommodate the puppy’s rapid growth rate. Some flat collars may also slip with use, and become loose. Thus, they may need regular adjustment even for adult dogs.
My dog is growing very rapidly, I have no issues taking him for walks. I’am very grateful that he listens and walks next to me. He has always worn a harness. I now have to buy him a new harness. Thinking of getting a chest harness. Really like the leather options for durability yet I have heard many things. Some good some bad, therefore leaving me very confused. Do u have any pros and cons on this matter.
I have never used a leather harness before, nor have I looked into them, so I don’t have much to say.
In general with harnesses, I look for ones that are lightweight, will be comfortable for my dog, and will provide my dog with enough support. With leather, the first two concerns that come to mind are weight and possible chafing.
I’ve been using the Mekuti harness (back, and front/side points of attachment and 2-ended leash) and it has been brilliant. Walking my previously hard-pulling 7 yr old scent hound is now a pleasure and my hands don’t get sore. My dog likes the harness too and puts his head through it by himself when I hold the harness in front of him.
I have a Siberian Husky and he is not leash trained. When he sees a dog he will pull and I have trouble holding him back. He does not get along with other dogs! I used a regular PetSmart collar and this caused him to choke every time he pulled. I was wondering what collar you would recommend to train my Husky so he will stop pulling every time we go for walks.
I mostly use the red-light-green-light technique and the 180 turn around technique to leash train my dogs.
I always start small and only very slowly build up the environmental challenge. In this way, I set my dog up for success. More on how I leash trained my puppy.
For dog-to-dog reactivity issues, I do desensitization exercises. When I was having issues with my Shiba Inu, we also visited with several professional trainers. It can be a challenge to find a good trainer, but the good ones can be very helpful.
There’s a new development now though with Lady Loki’s scream. I can understand the concept of “if she screams, walk is over” but isn’t it counterproductive if she WANTS to go back inside and screams when I won’t let her? I don’t know what to do! It’s getting really bad! People are actually thinking that I’m hurting her! I caught our creeper neighbor peeking out his door at us when she was screaming and pulling to go back in the house! It makes me want to cry 🙁
I want nothing more than her to behave on the leash while we’re outside doing business or “trying” to go on a nice short walk to the mailboxes. But she’s terrified of everything, pulls, screams, everything you can imagine a displeased Shiba does. She can’t stand the noises the neighborhood children make, a passing stranger makes her scream and pull, you get the picture. And what’s worse, there are NO obedience trainers or doggy classes in this whole area. I don’t know what to do!
Yeah, dog training is very situational. It depends a lot on the dog, the surrounding environment, routine, and also on us. With Sephy, I have found that it is useful to get information from many different sources (books, online, scientific studies, trainers) and then I choose what is appropriate to apply based on Sephy’s temperament, situation, body language and more.
For example, my Husky Lara was afraid of loud noises when she was young. Some things that helped her with loud noises-
1. Noise desensitization exercises.
2. I first walked her in the house and in our enclosed backyard, where it is quiet and there are few distractions. In this way she is less fearful. If necessary we would drive her to quiet, enclosed, spaces so that the walks will be successful. I only walked Lara outside *after* she was fully vaccinated.
3. The more successful walks Lara had, the more confidence she gained. As she gained confidence, I was able to *very slowly* increase the environmental challenge.
Screaming that arises out of stress, anxiety, and fear, is very different from screaming out of frustration, is very different from screaming out of anger, etc.
Here is a bit more on dog anxiety.
As for neighbors, I also got a lot of looks from them with Sephy. Here is a bit more on being embarrassed by my dog.
Thanks for the quick reply! I will start following your advice on our next walk 🙂 There is one more thing I would like to ask about.
How can I stop Lady Loki from releasing that ear shattering scream? Just last night she wanted out of her pen for something, and she released a scream that was so loud, so blood curdling, that I thought the neighbors would call the landlord or cops to complain! It was a scream to wake the dead! How can I stop her from doing that at night when we are supposed to sleep through the night?
Thank you! :3
LOL! Yeah the Shiba scream can be pretty terrible.
Sephy only did this when he wanted something or is objecting to something. He is very clever, so if he notices that his screams cause people to give-in to him, he will just keep doing it.
For example, we had a dog walker who took Sephy on nice outings to the park with a group of other dogs. Sephy quickly learned that if he did his Shiba scream, the walker would get embarrassed (understandably so), would lose her cool, and would lose control over him. From then on, he just kept using the Shiba scream on her.
What works with Sephy is to always stay calm (even during the scream), and to have a decisive response plan. If he does this during our walks, I march him home right away and the walk ends. I do not try to make him stop, or engage him physically, which usually just makes his behavior worse. Instead, I just ignore him and we walk very quickly home. He learned pretty quickly that
Since screaming did not bring him good results, he stopped doing it with me.
If he screams while at home, go goes directly to timeout. He gets to come out when he stops screaming and calms down. I am always very consistent with Sephy, and I set up a very consistent set of rules that he always has to follow. He is stubborn and very mischievous, much more so than my Sibes, so he has more rules around the house.
Hi! I love reading your articles about Shiba inus, especially now that I have a nearly nine week old female myself named Lady Loki. I’ve had her for a few days now and been doing my best to instigate some leash training, but I don’t think it’s going very well. Can you help?
We go outside in front of the house, with Lady Loki wearing a soft harness with the clip in the back like normal. I try to encourage her to walk, but often she’ll just sit on the ground and not move no matter what. And then she’ll start screaming like crazy and shaking the leash around with her mouth! Then there’s the pulling in the opposite direction of where I want to go. She screams during that too and goes completely crazy, and we live in an enclosed trailer park. HELP PLEASE! How can I help her to not scream and pull/not move an inch?
I experienced something similar with my Shiba Inu, Sephy. He would bite on the leash, vocalize, and even started biting on my jacket. Some things that helped with Sephy –
1. It was very important for me to stay very calm. If I got angry, frustrated, fearful, or upset, Sephy would pick up on that energy and get even more crazy.
2. It was very important for me to have a plan. That way, I can be decisive about stopping his leash biting behavior.
3. I practiced leash walking him inside the house first. In this way, he gets used to walking on the leash, following commands, and listening to me in a non-distracting environment. If he starts anything up inside the house, then he goes to timeout briefly. Then I try leash-training again a bit later, after he has calmed down.
4. Once Sephy is doing well with walking on-leash inside the house, then we practice door manners. This gives him even more practice in listening to me and doing commands.
5. If he does well at the door, then we go on our walk. In the beginning, I would go for shorter, but more frequent walks. If he acts out during our walk, I can bring him home quickly and end the fun walk. This teaches him that –
Leash biting and screaming = Walk ends,
Walk nicely = Get attention, freedom to explore, and the walk continues.
Here is a bit more on my leash biting experiences with Sephy –
I also follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs. It is a good way to establish pack leadership and to motivate them to follow house rules.
Mohamed Eldin says
I have a Shiba Inu puppy, and I’m in my 10 days of hell phase, I’m glad that Enzo is a Shiba Inu, he’s much easier when it comes to potty training, I practically didn’t do anything, he just doesn’t want to do it in the house, only on grass, which makes life easy.
I do however have a problem, the leash part.
I use a small harness from Walmart, nothing fancy at all, and he wasn’t much of a fan of it, but now I don’t plan on using it because it’s starting to snow like crazy in Ohio, and the snow gets stuck on the inside of the harness, which is bad news.
I have a collar, nothing fancy either, so instead, I was hoping if you’d tell me what collar to buy a 9 week old Shiba Inu puppy?
The bigger problem is, his behavior, I always stop when he starts pulling, but whenever I start walking, he lies on the floor and won’t move, I pull him but sometimes he stays and the result is this hilarious looking slide, which I’m sure only makes matters more complicated, how do I teach him to stop when I stop, and walk when, and where I walk?
I read this article, but I think he’s responding differently to some of the things here, I just would like to start with good equipment first, then make my way with walking on the leash straight away.
For now I’ll try to walk with him with a leash and a collar in the apartment, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be met with the usual stubborn approach of his, especially because we’re at home.
Advice is greatly appreciated, thanks for your time, and happy holidays!
I use the Premier martingale collar with Sephy, and a 6 foot leather leash. I adjust the collar so that at its tightest, it is the same size as a flat collar.
Earlier on I had tried using a flat collar, but many of them slip easily so I had to keep readjusting them to make sure they don’t come-off during walks. Also, the plastic clasp on flat collars are not the best and can sometimes crack.
Buckle collars are also pretty good about not slipping, but they take longer to put on.
Note – I use the martingale only because of its no-slip properties. Based on the way that I use it, there is very little difference when compared to flat collars for leash training purposes.
Re The Shiba Lying Down Maneuver:
Sephy also does this. He uses this Shiba-move when he wants to stop and watch people, or when he wants to go in a different direction.
When I don’t want to stop for long, I don’t allow him to lie down. Instead, he sits for a bit, then we move on. It is easier to get him moving from a sitting position.
During a longer stop, Sephy will lie down and sometimes object to getting up. When I want to go, I lift him up by his chest into a sitting position, then I just go at a jog. This usually gets him to come along.
If he is feeling particularly stubborn, I may scrape my shoe on the concrete sidewalk. Sephy does not like the sound of that, and he usually gets up. Then, we move on. This only works, when used rarely. Otherwise, Shiba will get accustomed to the sound and just ignore it.
Congratulations on your new Shiba puppy and big hugs to Enzo!
Mohamed Eldin says
Thanks! I really enjoy having him around.
Problem is, he’s a Shiba Inu, meaning he finds ways to be very stubborn.
He’s okay at home, but outside he’s a nightmare.
He’s outgrowing the harness he’s currently having, won’t be much longer before he’s too big for it, and I used to collars thus far, the results are terrible. He starts screaming and crying, and if I pull him sometimes I hear him choking. I went upstairs and put on the harness again, and now when I pull he doesn’t scream or cry, but it’s the same lying down problem. The biggest problem is, Ohio has terrible weather, and I see him shaking and freezing, and I’ve no choice but to carry him all the way home.
If I jog, won’t he stay in his position lying? Wouldn’t that hurt him? Or will he be forced to jog along?
To make matters all the more exhausting, he’ll almost always only poop in one location, at the top of a hill, and I have to climb in the snow and I’m soaking wet by the end of it, I of course have to wait for him to climb the stairs, usually it takes a very long time, but he never climbed down the stairs so far.
Pretty soon I won’t be able to carry him, and he’s more stubborn than any dog I’ve had, my 2 black labs were quite okay at leash walking, they took almost no training at all.
The nearest petsmart is 7 miles away from me, and I don’t have a car, so sadly I have to do this one alone.
Any ideas? Think I should ignore collars all together? I even took a video of him crying to show it to someone who can help, but I’m just trying to figure things out here. How old was Sephy when you leash trained him? Was he this big a nightmare?
I’m having the same problems you’ve had when you bought Sephy (irnoically, I read the “don’t do this” after I did it, such as the Alpha Roll, boy that was stupid).
I started to leash train Sephy pretty much as soon as I got him (he was 10 weeks old). I first did it in and around the house. I did not truly take him on neighborhood walks until he was fully vaccinated. And yes, he was a very big nightmare. It wasn’t the pulling or lying down – those I was able to stop. The badness from Sephy came from leash biting. It was pretty terrible. My neighbors would sometimes even come out to watch. 😀
I tried lots and lots of things before I found something that worked well for the both of us.
With Sephy, I lift him up into a sitting position first. As soon as I get him on his feet, I go at a faster clip. Once we get going, I can slow down and he will continue to go. I only go after he gets on his feet.
In terms of the collar, I had to desensitize Sephy to it first. However, if Enzo prefers the harness, then it may be best to stick with that.
Sephy doesn’t like having anything on his body, so he likes the collar a lot more. As you say, harnesses are better for small dogs, especially when they pull, because it distributes the force around the whole body and is less likely to cause choking.
In terms of favorite potty spots, Sephy is also very particular about those. He also really likes his routine, so he will only go in certain places. Every now and then though, I will mix things up with him and take him somewhere new. It is good for him to get used to new things so he doesn’t get too set in his ways. 😀
Mohamed Eldin says
Thanks for the great advice man!
I actually read a lot of your articles before getting Enzo, and I even read the desensitizing one ( I was prepared to do it on him because of the train that passes by all the time, but surprisingly Enzo couldn’t care less -_-)
And once I can control him with the leash, I’ll take him to new places for sure, but now it’s just his usual hill which he decides to potty, just to get it over with (I do jog ahead of him to let him know I’m the leader though)
But what I can’t fully understand is what are the desensitizing process for leash training? I’m so happy with almost everything about him, with the exception of leash training and biting.
I started your timeout method yesterday at night, he’s been in timeout 3 times so far, he keeps whining but I don’t give in at all, hopefully I’ll have some results soon enough. How long was it until you got results with the timeout method? And is it okay to feel guilty about it? I’m not planing on stopping, but doesn’t our puppy mistrust us for something like that?
Finally, what should I do when he keeps pulling on the leash? I run in the opposite direction like you said, but will he understand that I’m the Alpha like that? Of course, I also pull him whenever he’s ahead of me, I try to keep it in the heel position.
Out of curiosity, aren’t you afraid when your new Husky puppy matures, he’ll fight with Sephy over Shania? That’s how we got our labs (the son fought the father over his mother, so our friend gave them to us) It’s definitely going to be a challenge I think.
Again, thanks for your help Shibashake! Read about Shania getting bit, poor thing, great to know she’s okay!
Timeout works really well with Sephy because he really likes his freedom. With Sephy, I could tell the difference right away.
However, I try not to use timeouts too often, and I try to set Sephy up for success.
– If Sephy bites, I start with a no-mark and then I then I redirect him onto a toy or with a simple alternate command. This not only tells him that biting is an undesirable behavior, but also tells him what *to do* instead. If he listens, then I reward him with a game and attention.
– If he continues with biting, then I withdraw my attention by standing up, folding my arms, and ignoring him. If he stops biting then, I reward him with my attention.
– If he escalates his behavior, then I calmly say timeout and remove him to a timeout area. I start with a very short timeout duration – maybe 10-30 seconds. If Sephy continues with biting as soon as he comes out, then I put him back in and slowly lengthen the duration. That usually does not happen though.
I think that Sephy started to mistrust me when I was using aversive methods and not being properly consistent and calm.
I tried both aversive and resource management techniques with Sephy. Resource management techniques are much more effective for all of my dogs. I started to regain Sephy’s trust after I switched away from aversive methods, and started focusing on helping Sephy be successful.
Freedom in the house is a very valued resource for Sephy. If he follows house rules, then he gets to be free. If he cannot behave well with people, then he does not get to be with people – for a brief period of time. This teaches him that he has to work for the things that he wants.
Re Alpha and walking ahead –
When I started with Sephy, there were a lot these “alpha” rules that people talked about, e.g. eating before a dog, walking ahead of a dog, etc. I think some rules are useful for providing structure and routine to a dog, however, the rules that I have for all of my dogs are targeted more at keeping them safe rather than anything else.
Sled dogs run ahead of their people all of the time, and they certainly do not think of themselves as alpha. There is a guy who herds goats near where I live, and he has excellent off-leash control not only of his dog but also of his goats. Sometimes, his dog runs ahead to properly herd, sometimes, his dog is off-duty and is just doing his own thing.
After they are leash-trained, I walk my dogs on a loose-leash.
Heh, Lara, my youngest Husky puppy is actually a female. She is now almost 2 years old. What helps me to keep the peace at home is to establish very clear interaction rules. I teach all of my dogs these rules, and taught them to Lara when she was a puppy.
For example, there is no stealing, there is no humping, there is no bullying, and during play, I manage their excitement level by throwing in a lot of play breaks, and I always try to set them up for success. If there are any conflicts, I will step in and resolve things in a fair and consistent way; before it escalates into anything more serious.
This is more on what I do to keep the peace at home.
I see so many people using pronged choke collars on ordinary every day walks when there is really no need for it. My last dog was an Akita mix who had a year’s worth of bad habits before I started working with her, including nearly yanking your arm off once the leash was on (she weighed as much as I did). I used a pronged collar once and that was all it took. She never pulled on the leash again with all of her strength. I would never consider using it again unless the situation was extreme.
I found the flexi-leash to be an excellent training aid for this dog. “Come” was not a command she cared to listen to. The flexi allowed me to give her some freedom while we practiced the command. You imply that the flexi doesn’t give very good control over the dog, but it does have a locking mechanism and a safety button so that you can limit how far they can go.
I agree that the flexi can be a helpful tool in recall training. This was what I said in the article –
However, I want to make clear that recall training (training a dog to come when called) is very different from leash training (training a dog to walk on-leash without pulling).
The flexi-leash is not a good tool for leash training because –
1. The maximum length of a flexi is very large. When not-locked, a dog can run pretty far and then suddenly hit a hard-stop with a force that is proportional to running speed. This makes the flexi extremely inappropriate and dangerous to use with most leash training collars especially the head-halti, prong collar, and choke chain.
2. The flexi only provides a lock/release mechanism. This is in contrast to a regular leash where I can place my hand anywhere on the leash. This allows me to easily and quickly shorten the leash and control tension, both of which are very useful during leash training.
As you say, we can lock the flexi say at 6 feet to get a 6 foot leash, but then we are still limited by our inability to easily and quickly change leash length and tension.
Thanks for bringing up these important differences. I should include some of this in the article so that it is more clear.