A Guide to the Different Types of Collars and Harnesses

At Paw Pals, we only use force free, fear free, and pain free methods when interacting with our fur clients. This means we do not walk dogs on any type of collar that gives discomfort or pain, like the martingale collar, prong collar, slip lead, and any corrective collar. All images used in this article come from a licensed image database, and none of the dogs pictured are our clients. We do not condone the use of tools that have the intention to give the dog pain, use force, or cause them to feel fear. 


Flat Collar

Without doubt, the most favourite choice amongst dog owners. The standard collar, also referred to as flat collar, comes in different materials, colors, sizes, and customizations. Depending on the material, it will either have a plastic snap or buckle for closure, and a ring to attach the lead and tags on. A well-fitted collar should have room to fit two fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck.

flat collar

Martingale collar

The Martingale collar, also referred to as half-slip, semi-slip, or limited slip, is a collar that tightens around the neck when pulled. Distinctive for the Martingale collar is that it doesn’t slip all the way through. The collar consists of 2 loops. The first loop goes around the neck of the dog, the second smaller loop connects both ends of the first loop. Because of this design, when pulled, the slip will stop once the ends on the first loop meet. 

martingale collar

Slip leads

The slip lead, also referred to as choke chain, is a collar or lead that slips all the way through. It has no stop like the Martingale collar has. They are available as neck part only, which would allow you to attach your own leash, but they are also available as leash and neck part in one. Slip leads come in different materials like nylon, and metal chain links. As the name implies, the design of this type of collar is to control the dog by tightening around their neck and causing discomfort and pain through choking. 

slip lead

Prong collar

The prong collar, also referred to as pinch collar, has a similar design to the Martingale collar. The big difference is that with the prong collar, the part that goes around the neck of the dog has a series of points sticking out intending to pinch and poke the dog’s neck once the collar gets tightened. 

prong collar

Training/corrective collars

There are many types of training/corrective collars, like the shock collar, vibration collar, sound collar, and spray collar. The shock collar sometimes also gets referred to as E-collar (electronic collar), not to be confused with the Elizabethan collar (the Cone “of shame”) which also gets referred to as E-collar. Corrective collars will have a little box-like device attached to the strap that goes around the neck of the dog.

Shock collar: The shock collar works with electrostatic shocks. Which is triggered by sound, or with the use of a remote. Once activated, a shock will be given to the dog. Often the strength of the shocks can be adjusted.

shock collar

Vibration collar: Same as with the shock collar, the vibration collar gets triggered by sound, or by the use of a remote. Instead of shocks, this collar works with vibrations.

Sound collar: The sound collar, also called ultrasonic collars, send out a high-frequency sound when activated. This high-frequency sound is undetectable for most humans but is heard by dogs. The ultrasonic tone should deter unwanted behaviour.

Spray collar: Once activated, this type of collar will spray a substance in and around the face of the dog. A very well-known spray collar is the citronella collar, but other substances are also used. 

All these types of collars are based on the concept of giving the dog a discomfort or pain response, to make them stop a certain behaviour. As these types of collars only correct the symptoms a dog shows us, like barking, but not address the underlying problem, using these types of collars can lead to anxiety and aggression. 

Why you should never use collars that are based on providing your dog with a pain or discomfort response. 

The Martingale collar, slip collar, prong collar, and training/corrective collars, are all designed to give discomfort or pain to the dog to prevent a certain behaviour. They cause physical and mental injury to the dog. These types of collars are not considered force free, and in almost all cases make behaviours escalate in the long run. 

For example, a dog is unsure of children and barks at them to keep them at distance. The owner decides the barking is unacceptable and gets a corrective collar to prevent their dog from barking at kids. Every time the dog sees a child and barks, he gets a shock or spray of citronella in his nose. Because this is uncomfortable and painful, almost certainly the dog will stop barking at the kids. To the owner, it will look like it worked, and the problem is solved. However, the dog has learned that the kids he was first only unsure about, will indeed only lead to pain and discomfort, and barking to keep them away won’t help. Because of this, when a child comes near, the dog will have to resort to other behaviours to keep the child away, which could be for example biting without warning. 


Back clip harness

As the name implies, with a back clip harness, the lead gets attached to a ring located on the back of the dog. These harnesses are often advised for dogs that are calm on walks, as this type of harness is not effective at preventing pulling. On the contrary, for some dogs a back clip might invite pulling as they feel less guidance. 

Front clip harness

These types of harnesses are often also referred to as ‘anti-pull” harnesses. Because the clip gets attached on the front, the leash will move sideways when pulled, guiding the dog back to the owner.

Dual clip harness

With a dual clip harness, the lead can be attached either in front or at the back. Making it a versatile option

Y / H harness

The Y-harness, or sometimes also called H-harness, is a harness where the front will look like the letter Y, when worn by the dog. This type of harness will keep the dog’s shoulders and front legs free from restriction. As this harness has a natural and comfortable fit, this is often a good choice for dogs that are reluctant to wear a harness. 

Y/H Harness

Norwegian Harness

The Norwegian Harness, also referred to as chest harness, will have a horizontal strap across the front of the dog’s chest. The difference with the Y-harness, is that this harness will go over the shoulder blades of the dog, which might restrict movement. 

Any type of harness needs to be fitted correctly to prevent chafing. 

Norwegian Harness

Head harness

The head harness, also referred to as head collar, Halti, Gentle Leader, or Head Loop, is a tool that goes around the head and neck of the dog. The head collar should not be mistaken for a muzzle, as it will not prevent biting. The design of this tool is to control the dog by guiding their head, as the concept is, where the head goes, the body will follow. Misuse, either on purpose or by accident, can lead to serious health problems with the dog’s spine, neck, trachea, and face.

Head harness

Collars and Harnesses

There are many different types a dog owner can choose from. Through this article we hope to have informed pet owners about the different choices available, and which options to avoid. Would you like to know more about our dog sitting or dog walking services, feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help.

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