Early on in my Obedience Training with Czar, a very experienced and successful husky Mum brought up my choice of collar. As my time in Obedience continued, I realised that there are certain collar types more commonly used under different circumstances, and started asking people about their choice of collar and why. I'm still undecided about whether to make a change, but I now understand a lot more about the topic.
Previously my dogs have just worn normal flat collars, the type with a buckle and a ring for attaching tags. But huskies, between their coats and their independent nature, need something different. Most husky owners use a collar that can be lose around the neck and fluffy coat, and then tighten to stop them pulling their heads out when a handler pulls on a leash. There are a couple of versions of these.
The collars that our dogs normally wear are a style called limited slip collars. One metal ring can travel a couple of inches backwards and forwards inside the mesh loop. The collar usually sits relatively loosely around the neck and coat. Its easy to find the metal loop that the leash attaches to. Once the leash is connected to the end loop, pulling on the leash tightens the collar, but only that couple of inches.
The collars that our dogs normally wear are Windchill collars. J chose Windchill because their limited slip collars are made of heavy mesh, stitched repeatedly to reinforce connections, and with all extra pieces made of metal. They also embroider the collar with a name on request. We have J's mobile number on the collars because our dogs are experts at losing ID tags.
Of course, for more control over a dog, many people prefer a correction chain. Also called a check chain, or a choker chain. This chain is easy to fit on any dog without needing any personalised adjustments. Like the limited slip, the leash is attached to the end loop, and when the handler pulls on the leash, the chain tightens around the neck, all the way. When the collar is up high, under the dog's ears, this gives a very high degree of control over the dog. Show handlers use check chains for this reason. One thing I didn't know about check chains, was that the narrower the gauge, the greater the control. Of course, many people feel that a check chain is potentially cruel to the animal. It is certainly true that if the chain is put on upside down, the chain can jam in the tightened position. It is recommended that dogs are not left unattended with a chain on.
The collar that has been recommended to me at Obedience is called a Martingale collar. Like a limited slip, it only tightens a certain amount. This reduces the risk to the dog's safety.
There is a lot of variation in how these are made. Here are two from Black Dog. The red one uses plastic pieces, including a plastic buckle for fastening the collar around the dog's neck. Both of these tighten by pulling on the black nylon section, which draws the coloured ends of the collar together.
This one, from K9Pro, has almost all connectors made in metal. It also has the black nylon above replaced by a section of chain. As the leash pulls on the chain, the chain runs through the metal loops that attach them to collar.
One theory is that pulling on the chain not only puts pressure on the dog's neck, but also creates a distinctive sound which gets the dog's attention. Its like saying "ah ah" when the dog does the wrong thing.
I was strongly leaning towards a martingale, and I may still try one out, if I can find an all metal one. However, there's an important point to consider - you have to train the dog you have, not the one you wish you had. When I work with Czar, how much time do I spend yanking on the leash to correct him? Generally, not much. When Czar is switched on, he has great focus, great eye contact with me. We successfully walk with a lose lead, and I rarely need to correct him by yanking on the leash. So, for now, I'm going to continue working with our semi-slip collar.