When training your dog, it’s essential to maintain control as their pack leader and instructor. Two fundamental tools for this are the leash and collar you use. When you’re training, these are not merely accessories that look nice; they help you keep your dog’s attention on you and your commands and to correct mistakes as they happen. But there are so many styles and types to choose from. So what’s the best kind of leash and collar to buy for your dog?

These days, just about anything you buy requires a selection from numerous options—toothpaste, smartphones, cars, breakfast cereal, everything! On the one hand, we don’t lead one-size-fits-all lives, so choices allow us to tailor products to our needs. But on the other hand, all those choices can be overwhelming when trying to figure out what’s best. 

Therefore, we’re going to share with you some insights into the available collars and leashes and some criteria you can consider when determining which products will work best for your dog.

Factors to Consider when Selecting a Leash and Collar

As mentioned, you want the kind of leash and collar that will help you stay in control. How that’s defined depends on: 

  • Your dog’s size vs. your size: If your dog weighs more than you do, you’ll need something stronger than what you’d need to control a six-pound Yorkie. 
  • Your dog’s personality: Is your dog a big bundle of wiggly energy? Aggressive? Fearful? In addition to your observations, we created a tool for you to understand your dog even better—Volhards’ Canine Personality Profile. This tool will help you evaluate behaviors associated with four drives—Prey, Pack, Fight, and Flight. It will help you decide how best to train your dog.
  • Your dog’s sensitivity to touch and discomfort threshold: You want to be able to get and hold their attention without hurting them.
  • Your training skills: The equipment should give you the support you need. 

Dog Training Leashes

Standard training leashes are made of cotton web, nylon, leather, and chain:

  • Cotton Web: These leashes are comfortable to handle, easy to use, inexpensive, and readily available in stores. 
  • Nylon: These are similar to cotton web leashes but might be less comfortable to handle.
  • Leather: These are more expensive but less flexible and versatile than the other materials above. 
  • Chain: These are not our favorites for training since they’re heavy and uncomfortable to use. 

Our top choice for training is a six-foot nylon web leash. We recommend a width of one-half inch for medium and large dogs and one-quarter inch for small dogs.

A Note About Harnesses and Retractable Leashes

In short, our team of dog trainers doesn’t use them. They won’t give you the control you need for training. With a dog still in need of training, you risk injury for you or the dog with these products. If they’re not made well, harnesses sit straight across the chest versus around the shoulders, thus putting your dog at risk for injuries. Retractable leashes have no tension with which to control an untrained dog. 

Dog Training Collars

There are dog collars and dog training collars. The training variety is designed to help you guide your dog through training exercises. We prefer custom-fit slip collars. These collars provide the user with a safe way to maintain pack drive with their dog.

A training collar works best if it’s on your dog two hours before and two hours after training so that they won’t only obey commands while it’s on during training.

Buckle Collar (for Non-training Time)

These collars are nylon or cotton web with plastic or metal clasps and leather with metal clasps. ID tags can be attached to the clasps. These collars are fine for everyday use, but they are not appropriate for training, as they will not afford you the necessary control and flexibility.

Nylon Snap-around Collars

The nylon snap-around collar is our favorite collar for training. It’s practical and comfortable for both you and your dog. You can place this collar high on the dog’s neck below the ears, which provides a snug fit and gives you maximum control. Use this collar only for training time (and a short time before and after training). 

For good quality snap-around collars, we recommend Handcraft Collars. They’ve been our ideal provider for over 40 years. 

Dog Training E-collars 

There are dog training electric collars, collars with remotes, or shock collars available. However, we don’t recommend these for anyone. Without proper training and instruction from a professional dog trainer, it’s too easy for a novice to choose the wrong type of collar and potentially traumatize the dog.

When used appropriately, remote collars can be one of the best ways to train your dog. However, it’s important to remember that not every collar is made equally. Available collars vary in quality, are much more expensive (about $200 to $500) compared to standard collars, and require more in-depth knowledge to use them effectively and safely. Collars that are designed to be used as punishment should be avoided!

A Parting Reminder 

We stick with standard, flat nylon dog training collars and flat, nylon, six-foot leashes. Flat collars work best. They can be used very effectively without hurting the dog. They sit right up behind the ears, and you can easily give the dog direction.

Equipped with the right leash and collar, you will be ready for dog training on a leash and a long life with a well-behaved dog.