There is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about training tools—why they’re used, what they can and cannot do, and whether or not it’s “right” to use them. I respect that everyone will have their own opinion on dog training tools, and here’s mine.

Below are the tools I use most often (and recommend to others) and why.

Herm Sprenger Prong Collar

Prong collars are not what they look like. Yes, they look like a medieval torture device—there’s no arguing that! But don’t judge a book by its cover. The prong collar is actually designed to protect your dog’s trachea by keeping the pressure up off of the neck. When a dog pulls against a flat collar, martingale collar, slip lead, or chain collar, pressure is applied directly to the trachea. The purpose of the prong collar design is to avoid this problem and instead apply pressure in a uniform manner around the entire neck. This actually makes it a very safe tool to use! If you’d like to learn more, check out my prong collar myths video.

I am picky about the brand of prong collar (Herm Sprenger) because I find the pet store brands to be cheaply made. They don’t move as smoothly, and the edges are often very rough—there’s no need for them to be abrasive. Thankfully the highest quality brand, Herm Sprenger, is also very affordable! A Herm Sprenger prong collar is included in all of my training packages so there’s no need to buy one in advance, but otherwise you can get one for about $15 on Chewy.com or Amazon.

Paisley is wearing a herm sprenger prong collar and the e-collar technologies et-300 “Mini Educator.”

Paisley is wearing a herm sprenger prong collar and the e-collar technologies et-300 “Mini Educator.”

E-Collar Technologies ET-300 “Mini Educator”

E-collars also get a bad rap. In the past this bad rap was probably deserved, but modern high quality e-collars are nothing like the old school e-collars. I emphasized “high quality” because e-collars are an area where quality really does matter—you truly get what you pay for! (Do NOT skimp on e-collars!!!)

When most people think of “shock collars” they assume it feels like getting shocked by an electrical outlet or an electric horse fence—but that’s not the case! Modern, high quality e-collars like those made by E-Collar Technologies (my favorite brand) use technology similar to that of a TENS unit used on humans in physical therapy. It is surprisingly gentle! It can become uncomfortable at higher levels, but it is still nothing like the jolt we experience when we get shocked by a horse fence or electrical outlet.

Most of my training programs include the Mini Educator so if you’re planning to sign your dog up you do not have to purchase this in advance, but otherwise, you can purchase the collar through ecollar.com (the E-Collar Technologies website) or on Amazon. The only three brands of e-collar I recommend are E-Collar Technologies, Dogtra, or Garmin.

Leashes & Long Lines (long leashes)

Here’s a short video featuring some long line work with a board & train client.

For walking and for most work I prefer a 4’ cotton leash. I prefer cotton to nylon because I feel like I have a better grip. Lots of people prefer leather, but I’ve never warmed to it.

For distance work, recall work, or off-leash work I am a huge advocate for using long lines. Long lines come in various lengths—I’ve seen them anywhere from 10’ to 100’. Here’s what I use:

  • I have a 15’ long line that a dog will drag around my backyard during socials, etc. I like the shorter length for this purpose because it doesn’t get tangled. It also doesn’t have a handle, which helps. (Note: Sometimes long lines without handles are referred to as “check cords”)

  • I use a 30’ long line when a dog is first transitioning to distance work, like recalling from place cot to place cot across my living room or in my backyard, or short recalls at the park. I start by using about 1/3 of the line, then slowly add more distance.

  • I use a 50’ long line when the dog is doing fantastic on the 30’ line and it starts to feel like the short length is holding us back. Most often this is at the point where the dog is ready to have some mock off-leash freedom but needs to be on the long line to continue the teaching process. (Never let your dog off leash until he’s fully off-leash trained!) It’s easier to catch a 50’ dog than a 3’ dog. ;)

  • Finally, I use a 100’ long line when the dog is fully off-leash trained but we’re in an area where I would like the extra support. For example, when I find a new open space to play fetch I’ll start a dog on the long line until we’re familiar with the area and what to expect there.

Overall, know that there is NO SHAME in using long lines even after your dog is off-leash trained. It is not always practical or wise to have your dog fully off leash. The long line doesn’t make your dog any less trained, it just gives you a backup should you need it.

The Place Cot

The dog on the cot is still learning the place command.

The dog on the cot is still learning the place command.

You can teach your dog the place command using any cot, mat, or dog bed, but I prefer the cot because it has very clear boundaries. There is no argument as to whether the dog is on or off the cot, whereas this gets questionable with a bed or mat. Is it okay if one paw is off the mat? How about two? How about half a torso? After the teaching process is complete you can easily transition to using a mat or bed, but it’s easiest to teach on the cot.

Chewy.com has a great selection of place cots. I use the inexpensive Frisco brand most often, but they have lots of higher-end cots as well.