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Your local pet supply store and online pet retailers are full of flashy dog collars and leashes, but not all of them are right for training. Choosing the correct training collar and leash (or harness and leash) for your dog can lead to safer, more enjoyable walks for dogs and their owners.

While a plain old flat collar is fine for a dog who can walk calmly on a leash, sometimes, dog owners need a little extra help. Walking a dog with a harness, which can be used in conjunction with a collar, is often a more comfortable option. This is especially true for dogs who pull on leash for whom collars can place dangerous pressure on the fragile trachea. The right kind of harness can help to successfully master loose leash walking, especially if used alongside positive reinforcement training methods.

Likewise, selecting the best leash for a dog who’s just beginning the training process can also make a big difference in the success of both your training sessions and daily walks. A strong, flexible, lightweight leash works well for most dogs but some, such as puppies or young dogs who like to chew, may do better with more specialized leashes. 

In this article, we look at some of the features of the best training collars, harnesses, and leashes available for dogs and puppies.

Best Dog Training Collars and Harnesses

This post was updated 1/13/2020 with contributions from certified professional dog trainer, Shoshi Parks

The Ruffwear No Pull Harness offers extra padding and surface area to distribute pressure evenly, helping prevent back and neck strain. This comfortable, adjustable harness is a good choice to transition from training to regular walks, particularly for short-necked or flat-faced dogs.

Why we like it:

  • The extra padding is ideal for extended outdoor activities such as hiking
  • Front attachment for leash helps to gently redirect pullers
  • Four points of adjustment allow for custom fitting (great for smaller dogs)

Verified review: “I loved how durable the harness looked and felt. The padding on the chest plate felt comfortable to the touch, and I think this harness will be gentle on my dog’s skin. I also loved that this harness offers both front and back clips. My dog is not a big puller when she walks, so I’ve never felt the need to look for a front-clip harness—but now that the Ruffwear offers both options, I’ll definitely be trying out both leash positions.”

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Also known as a “limited-slip collar,” this training collar tightens up slightly when a dog pulls to prevent your master escape artist from slipping out of her collar. Martingales are especially recommended for dogs with small heads and long necks (such as greyhounds) for whom a regular collar can easily fall off. They can also be useful training tools for shy dogs who may attempt to back out of their collar on walks.

Why we like it:

  • Made with high-quality durable materials that are still comfortable for your dog
  • A wide band helps to evenly distribute pressure around your dog’s neck
  • Works for various neck sizes
  • Comes in ten fun color combinations

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Based on the design of a horse halter, fitting around a dog’s snout and behind their ears, the Gentle Leader training collar is designed to prevent leash-pulling, lunging, and jumping. By giving you control over the most sensitive part of your dog’s body, a head harness can be used to gently redirect your dog’s head and get ahead of pulling. In order to be used effectively, you must desensitize your dog to the collar before using it. Be sure to read the instructions on how to fit the collar correctly for your dog and never jerk or pull the leash when in use.

Why we like it:

  • No choking or constriction involved
  • Adjustable neck and nose loop allow for a truly custom fit
  • Dogs can still open their mouths to eat, drink, pant, fetch, and bark
  • Works on small and large dogs, available in sizes from petite
  • Eight different color options

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While traditional harnesses feature the leash attachment on the back of the harness, creating an opposition reflex, the front leash attachment on this PetSafe 3-in-1 harness puts you in front of your dog. When they try to pull ahead, the tension on the leash causes them to slow down without restricting the movement of their front legs. This harness also has an attachment at the back to use once your dog has learned not to pull, and a seatbelt strap for safer car rides.

Why we like it:

  • Discourages dogs from pulling with no choking around the neck
  • Extra neoprene padding for increased comfort for your dog
  • Four adjustment points on the harness ensure a perfect fit
  • The black-colored belly strap makes it easy to identify and put on your dog
  • Available in four fun colors
  • PetSafe will replace any collar with wear and tear for a small fee

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Plain old flat collars, used in conjunction with consistent positive-reinforcement training works well for many dogs. The durable Blueberry Designer Basic Dog Collar comes in an endless array of fun colors and patterns.

Why we like it: 

  • Made with high-density polyester, which is both soft and durable
  • Comes in ten intricate, colorful patterns
  • Just one buckle—doesn’t get much simpler than that!

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Best Training Leashes for Puppies

Puppies experience leashes differently than full-grown dogs; here are some to consider for your growing puppy who has different needs.

This lightweight 6-foot Pawtitas Solid Puppy Leash offers a lot of value for the price. It’s made of high-quality, durable rip-stop nylon and comes in two widths, a smaller one for small dogs, and a wider one for medium to large dogs. 

Why we like it:

  • Lightweight nylon material with black nickel hardware
  • Reinforced stitching for maximum strength and durability
  • 11 different colors to choose from, ranging from teal to orchid
  • Matching dog harness and collar are also available (but sold separately)

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While we don’t recommend elastic leashes for dogs that pull, they can help to absorb some shock while beachcombing, on a “sniffari,” or while walking with your puppy on uneven terrain without compromising their safety. This hands-free leash is worn like a belt around the waist and has a loop near the leash clip to grip when you need to keep your dog close. This leash can grow with your puppy as she gets older to make more active recreation, such as jogging, a cinch, but keep in mind dogs should be at least 8 to 12 months of age before their growing joints can handle sustained fast-paced activity.

Why we like it:

  • Stretchy, elastic leash absorbs shock at high speeds or on uneven terrain
  • Hands-free design belts around the waist
  • Has a safety loop to keep your dog close in tight spaces.
  • Six color options

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Available in either 4-foot or 6-foot lengths, this Max and Neo nylon dog leash is made of reflective material and features double handles. The longer handle allows for more slack for loose leash walking, while the shorter handle keeps your dog close in crowded or high-traffic situations. For pups, that traffic handle is especially helpful for providing a little extra control over eager greeters who want to show their love by jumping all over new friends.

Why we like it:

  • High-quality construction
  • Soft, padded dual handles that are lined with neoprene
  • Reflective stitching along the length of the leash for added visibility
  • Strong, durable hardware
  • Available in eight colors

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This 5-foot BAAPET dog leash is a durable option for puppies who are aggressive chewers. Made of chew-resistant reinforced stainless steel wrapped in a waterproof plastic casing, this leash is still lightweight enough to use with small pups.

Why we like it:

  • Soft, padded handle made of foam and thick buckles
  • 360-degree rotation so it won’t ever get tangled
  • Bite-proof and chew-resistant
  • Four color options
  • Money-back guarantee

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While I generally do not recommend retractible leashes, when used properly and with discretion, some pet owners do find them useful. This extra-small Peteast was designed for small dogs and puppies under 25-pounds and is fully retractable. When released, it expands up to 10 feet to give your pet plenty of freedom during walks, but it can also lock at shorter lengths for more control. A lightweight rubber handle is also ergonomic and easy to hold.

But remember, retractable leashes can be dangerous for both dogs and their walkers, and should always be used with extreme caution and never in busy or high-traffic environments.

Why we like it:

  • Single-handed control; you can easily lock and unlock the leash with a press of your thumb
  • Durable, sturdy construction
  • Leash is able to move in all directions without tangling
  • 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not fully satisfied
  • Peteast also offers a 1-year warranty and lifelong technical support

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What about Shock Collars, e-Collars, or Bark Collars?

Many pet owners are frustrated by their dog’s barking, pulling, or on-leash behavior, but using a device that causes pain or discomfort such as a shock-collar, e-collar, bark collar, prong collar or choke collar is likely to create more problems than they solve.

Collars that cause pain or discomfort are dangerous because of the pressure they apply on a dog’s trachea, neck, and spine, and the way they constrict blood flow to the brain. When used on a dog that may be reacting out of fear, they make the world more scary by adding pain on top of an already frightening situation. Using an e-collar or prong collar on a dog that pulls often leads to reactivity (barking and lunging at other dogs and people) because the dog is uncertain what in the environment is triggering their pain.

The best deterrent to barking, pulling, and reactive dogs is positive-reinforcement training. These methods are based in science instead of on the principles of pain, fear and intimidation. If your dog is having difficulty on leash or with barking, contact a certified dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. Never work with a trainer that uses “balanced” techniques or claims they can “fix” your dog within a short period of time. 

The Bottom Line

Using the right training collar, harness, or leash can help you and your dog reach your goals for walking calmly on a leash. Each of these options, however, are simply a method of communication, not a form of control. Proper training is the most effective, long-lasting way to prevent unwanted behaviors. If you need support or tips about how to best train your puppy or dog to walk on leash, consult a professional for help.

Further Reading

For more about training your puppy or dog and other dog walking essentials, check out one of the links below.

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