Choosing the Right Dog Collar to Stop Extreme Leash Pulling

Which collar is best to stop a dog’s extreme leash pulling?

And I mean extreme pulling! Most dogs will pull, but some take it to another level, if you know what I mean.

In my opinion, the best collars to stop a dog’s leash pulling are the Gentle Leader or the prong collar (pinch collar).

I’ve tried almost every collar possible, and those two collars work the best on the widest variety of dogs.

Of course, it also depends on the individual dog as well as the owner’s comfort level and openness to different tools.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Hunter the Lab wearing a Gentle Leader

More about the Gentle Leader and the prong collar

The Gentle Leader is considered a “head halter” and fits around the dog’s muzzle, as shown below on Hunter. If the dog pulls, he has to pull with his face vs. his neck or chest, which is obviously uncomfortable and less effective.

The prong collar fits around the dog’s neck and should be kept high, right under the dog’s chin and behind the dog’s ears. It should not cause the dog any pain. But, like the Gentle Leader, it makes pulling uncomfortable and ineffective for the dog.

You can read my post on the Gentle Leader vs. prong collar, but here’s what I like and don’t like about each tool:

Prong collar to stop a dog's pulling

What I like and don’t like about the prong collar

Pros of the prong collar

1. Almost always effective if used properly

2. Works well for dogs with shorter muzzles who can’t wear Gentle Leaders

3. Easier to transition to a regular collar

Cons of the prong collar

1. Needs to be fitted properly

2. Most dog owners don’t know how to use them correctly

3. You have to stop and adjust the collar often to keep it high on the neck 

What I like and don’t like about the Gentle Leader

Pros of the Gentle Leader

1. It works well for giving the dog owner more control

2. Almost all dogs are easier to handle on a Gentle Leader vs. a collar around the neck

3. It has a calming effect on a lot of dogs

Cons of the Gentle Leader

1. The thin piece of nylon can start to rub into the dog’s skin or eyes

2. Won’t fit dogs with short muzzles (pugs, English bulldogs)

3. Most dogs dislike having something over their muzzles

What about an anti-pull harness?

Some people love anti-pull harnesses, which typically clip to the dog’s chest instead of the dog’s back.

I find I don’t have as much control with any harness compared to a Gentle Leader or a prong collar, especially if the dog is reactive to other dogs or things like skateboarders. I need to be in control, and a Gentle Leader or prong collar is generally what helps me the most.

Coco modeling the no-pull harness

However, an anti-pull harness can work well for some dogs, particularly those with short muzzles and wide necks like English bulldogs or pugs. This is because their muzzles are too short for a Gentle Leader or their necks are just about as wide as their heads.

Also, if you don’t want your dog to look intimidating, a colorful harness tends to make a dog look friendlier than a metal prong collar or a Gentle Leader, which can be mistaken for a muzzle.

And here’s another issue I hear about all the time with Gentle Leaders:

My dog pulls so hard the Gentle Leader is rubbing his skin raw

The dog is pulling so hard that the Gentle Leader is actually rubbing off the dog’s fur or making the skin raw, even causing him to bleed.

A similar problem can occur with an anti-pull harness as well, except the rubbing occurs under the dog’s arms. And understandably, some owners are concerned with prong collars too, if the dog is still constantly trying to pull against the collar.

I have the same problems with some of the dogs I walk, and here’s my tip:

Rotate which collar you use from walk to walk

Yes, buy a prong collar and a Gentle Leader and rotate between the two.

This may sound odd, but if you have an extremely strong puller, you know what I’m talking about.

If the dog pulls so hard the Gentle Leader is pulling into the dog’s eyes or rubbing her skin raw, just switch to a prong collar every other day to give your dog’s face a break.

Or, perhaps you could try an anti-pull harness if you don’t like prong collars.

Just have two different options available that work so you can switch it up from time to time to give sensitive areas a break.

Heck, I’ve even switched collars halfway through walks with one of my foster dogs. I preferred the Gentle Leader with him, but he pulled so hard against it that I had to switch to the prong collar after a half-hour or so to give his eyes a break.

Just be careful if you’re going to be clipping and unclipping collars and leashes during a walk, obviously.

OK, now I want to hear from you.

Does your dog pull? What collar works the best for controlling your dog?

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Related blog posts:

How to teach my dog to heel

Heel vs. loose-leash walking

Gentle Leader vs. Halti

Is it time to stop using choke collars?

37 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Dog Collar to Stop Extreme Leash Pulling”

  1. I have been looking for a basic leash to use; I rely on either a no pull harness or backpack with every walk. It would be nice to have something simpler to just clip on and go. For some reason I’m still perplexed every time I look at our harness. I’ve put the damn thing on Laika hundreds of times but it still looks like a puzzle when it’s just hanging there.

    I am glad that our harness seems to do the trick with Laika’s pulling. I really didn’t think it was going to work, and now I feel like I can’t go on a walk without it.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m so glad it makes a difference too! And the backpack can help a lot, like you said. I used a backpack with Ace when I was first teaching him how to heel.

  2. Not a big fan of prong collars at all. I know there are some dogs that they are appropriate for, but there is so much room for them to be used incorrectly. The worst collar injuries I have treated have been the result of prong collars.
    They are banned in parts of Australia, and that kinda speaks volumes.
    It’s like so many things with dogs “It works – but there are better ways”
    This is a great site BTW.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Prong collars have helped allow me to walk so many dogs I would’ve had a hard time walking otherwise. I think they’re a great tool.

      1. Years ago when we used a flat collar on my GSD. She pulled all the time with a lot of force. We tried to train her to walk easy, without pulling, we took her to many trainers in the Seattle area where we lived at the time. No luck, we just ended up crushing her throat and now she has a hard time breathing. A friend recommended a prong collar and my first reaction was “no that’s cruel”. My friend showed me how to use them and I have NEVER had to give a correction to my dog. That was three years ago and my dog walks beautiful at the heel. She just stopped pulling. So I tried to put the flat collar on and away she went. I had no control. With the prong collar she is perfect.

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          Oh I’m so sorry your GSD hurt her neck. That scares me too with a flat collar and/or a prong collar, and it’s the reason I don’t use slip/choke collars with Remy. I worry he pulls too hard on ALL collars. I’m so glad the prong has been helpful for you.

  3. Neither of mine pull, so I’m pretty fortunate. I use martingale collars though and they work for us. I worked with a trainer to stop Jack from pulling initially – we used the ‘reverse direction’ technique and I have to say he caught on pretty quick and has been a good walker ever since.

  4. We use the Easy Walk harness, which was recommended by our trainer, and love it, even though it used to take me several minutes to figure out how to get it on him initially! We never even tried other options, but my dog is not an extreme puller, just a mild one.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So glad this has worked well for you! I think they work really well for dogs that are more mild pullers, like you said. Or dogs that aren’t as big and powerful as others.

  5. I love the Gentle Leader and it works wonders for our golden who used to be aggressive when meeting other dogs out on a walk. The GL totally took care of this problem. Our springer still pulls somewhat when wearing this, but she is definitely far more manageable. The biggest con is the fact the both dogs know when they are or are not wearing one, so when I use nothing and just hook on a leash to a regular collar, they walk horribly. I’m not really training them to walk nicely, but… I still love the Gentle Leader. I always feel badly when I use a prong. I know I shouldn’t, but I still do. Helpful post. Thank you.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      The Gentle Leader has been so helpful for me with so many dogs. I don’t know what I’d do without it!

  6. Hiccup and I tend to stick to the good ol’ chain training collar. He has very thin, wispy hair and even the chain tends to rub some off, so I know a prong collar would give him a bald neck and make me feel like the worst owner ever. I’ve been curious about trying the Halti, but I don’t think my dog’s snout is long enough for it to work. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog wearing one that wasn’t well-behaved, so I may try one eventually. I did try it years ago on a client’s dog, a beagle who was a crazy as they come. When I put it on him, he was the easiest dog I’ve ever walked for the 30 seconds it took him to slip the thing.

  7. I use the Gentle Leader on Neeko. Neither Bruce or Faolan tolerate having it on their muzzle. My dogs are big, and strong. It is not that I haven’t tried to teach loose-leash walking, because I have. I will admit to using prong collars on my dogs. I never “pop” them, but the dogs self-correct. It works well for us. I know their is a ton of stigma surrounding them, but I would love to meet the person who could control Bruce otherwise.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Haha! “I would love to meet the person who could control Bruce otherwise.” That about sums it up!

  8. I’ve read a few of your blog post and i guess i thought you were a training because my jaw dropped to the floor at the suggestion of a choke chain? I then looked up your credentials and realized it’s just a blog. It’s hard for me not to be all judgy as there are other HIGHLY EFFECTIVE ways to TEACH your dog to appropriately walk nicely on a lead using positive reinforcement training. I lOVE LOVE LOVE the halti and the new version Halti Optifit. Some websites that are useful for positive training are Sophia Yin, Grishna Stewart and Victoria Stillwell. I’ll add I don’t want to hate on people that still use choke collars but they are way old school and potentially harmful but i also understand that it’s a “quick fix” when education and training isn’t available. I’m highly disappointed that this is whats being recommended.

  9. Finishing up 2 weeks with 3 rescued pit ladies, pullers all. Because I am retired, I have Time, giving me the advantage over prolly everyone here. Halti and prong collars are the basics here but IMHO further the opinions the hortifief nrighbors have already devoloped.

    With all the Time in the world, I resorted back to a method I used years ago with a 90# Dalmation. Twirling the leash in front of us vigorously. Too far forward and the leash strikes the nosr or head. Besides focusing attention on me and the spinning lead, this works on or off leash.

    Oh, and I opted for Cesar’s “sleeper” technique, high and (not too) tight.

  10. I use a prong collar for my 75-pound lab who is very strong when he wants to go. He generally is a very good walker, but if he sees something interesting, he will go for it. I also use a gentle leader at times for him also. For my cocker spaniel, I use the Gentle leader. Neither dog really likes the gentle leader, but eventually after a bit, they stop trying to rub it off.

  11. I just adopted a 2 year old Mastiff mix. He had never walked on a leash (or been in a house). Though he’s a cupcake, he’s used to using his strength to his advantage. Squirrel crazy as well. I tried a Halti, harness, prong collar and regular choke collar, and nothing was working. He hated the Halti so much he was making his nose bleed smashing his muzzle on the ground. I finally have figured out the Halti, and the Freedom harness together, can control him. I use the double leash and clip him to both. He still fights the Halti a bit, but I can pull on the leash end attached to the harness when he starts trying to fight the Halti, and that seems to divert him. He looks a little like a Steampunk contraption, but whatever works? I’m hoping with time, he will be able to transition to a regular collar. It took two years with another rescue, but eventually, he was a dream to walk.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve thought about trying some sort of double leash with Remy too. One trainer suggested it so good to know it’s helping with your guy!

  12. We adopted our 3 year old dog almost two years ago now. He spent 6 months in a shelter before we adopted him. He is 83 pounds of strength so I had a hard time walking him. The only thing that worked was the gentle leader. I found the harness gave him more strength to pull me. Other collars would just choke him. One down side of the gentle leader is it looks like a muzzle and people cross the street to avoid us.
    Love this site I have learned lots from it thanks.

  13. SIGH…I think I own every single collar/harness/device. My little pit mix just plow regardless of what she has on. She just turns her neck bright pink from the prong, and no-pull harness makes me laugh they haven’t met my girl! The Halti seems to work the best for her but now she redirects her excitment onto my other dog when we walk, so the girls now wear muzzles to avoid the in-pack fight. Needless to say she is usually trying to get the muzzle off every few steps so we aren’t pulling as bad now HA! Still looking for the magic no-pull device.

  14. As a vet tech I’ve seen the HORRIFIC consequences of using the prong collar, how could you POSSIBLY recommend it? NEVER train using pain – NEVER!

  15. I have a black lab that wants to sniff everything and say hello to everyone so the leash I use is the thunder leash. It wraps around his body and applies mild pressure around his body. The more he pulls the more pressure he feels. Labs are pretty smart and it didn’t take him long not pull as frequently or as hard.

  16. My dog walks me..the only time she is not pulling is when I have a treat in my hand. It’s not fun walking a dog that is pulling you all over the place. Does anyone have a suggestion on what I can use to stop the pulling? I have a 10 pound cockapoo.

  17. Not a Dog Whisperer

    I wish I could say that by reading this blog, I gained some clarity on what I should do with my two dogs. Resolutions for everyone are different. I understand that dogs respond differently, but I have tried everything. Mine are not “aggressive”, they play with other dogs, I think that is part of my problem. One is an English Mastiff, the other American Staffordshire Terrier. The Mastiff pulls and he gets very excited when he sees a dog. I used collars, and he breaks them. I have used a choke chain, but he pulls to where he can’t breath, no matter how early I try to catch him to correct him, he puts his weight into the collar or chain to pull. I was told by a trainer to use the prong collar, which I argued and fought about for a long time, but I gave in. He still pulls like a train when we are coming to a yard that has a dog at the fence. My daughter wants to use a harness but the trainer said the harness will just give him the urge to pull more. So lost. Everyone has such great ideas and success with what they have done and I feel like I have no options for taking the big guy out for walks since every neighbor in my neighborhood has either pit bulls or german shephards at the front yard fences. Then there is the Staffie. She pulls but not as much. She smaller and easier to handle and correct. Her problem is she gets really excited and makes this high pitch whine and sort of a yippie and chirping bark when she sees or hears another dog. This just recently started when she was two. Very embarrassing. No idea how to fix that either! Would love to get suggestions…

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Have you tried a Gentle Leader that fits over the muzzle? How about having them wear backpacks on walks to give them jobs so they burn more energy and have something to focus on other than pulling. My weim pulls no matter what tool I use so I hear ya. I’m using a prong collar most of the time and he still pulls with it.

  18. I started each of my 3 dogs out as puppies with a Halti, and spent A YEAR walking them with it while also practicing loose-leash walking. A. Year. They all hated the Halti, spent much of the walk trying to paw it off, and were incredibly miserable. Eventually, I transitioned each of them to a prong collar. I chose it because two of my dogs’ fur is so thick, that it was the only tool that seemed to get through all of the layers of dog hair and actually be effective. My third dog was a very nervous Rhodesian Ridgeback, and he startled at everything approaching him from behind, particularly motorcycles, bicycles and strollers. It was the only way to keep from being pulled off my feet. Daily walks eventually helped him relax around such forms of transportation, and it only took one instance of him lunging and trying to get away to realize he didn’t want to pull against a prong collar. He walked good as gold after that, as long as the collar was on. Take it off, and he’d pull against his flat collar til he choked. I actually felt like the prong collar did less harm than the flat one, in that case.

    I never used prong collars for training, only for walking, and I made sure to buy the appropriate size for each dog.My smallest dog has a very lightweight one that has very small links, which I have been quite impressed with. The standard link size would, I feel, have been too much for her.

    My oldest dog turned 13 in January, and has slowed down enough with age that she no longer needs the prong collar, and hasn’t worn one in two years. My youngest one probably doesn’t need it any more, either- her pulling, I’ve learned, is not due to excitement or energy, but is because she isn’t able to walk at the pace appropriate for her physiology. She pulls because walking with the older dogs is too slow for her. I read an article recently about how a dog’s proper gait and their comfort is all dependent on walking at a certain pace. Walking slower than that can actually be harmful for their skeletal frame, so they either have to speed up and “pull” in order to walk comfortably, or slow down too much, which is also awkward and unpleasant for them. If I walk her by herself. She doesn’t pull at all.

    The Ridgeback passed away unexpectedly last April. at 9 years old. His successor turned 1 earlier this month, and we have worked really, really hard NOT to use a prong collar with that one- though there have been days when I desperately needed it. He’s doing nicely on a Martingale collar, these past 6 months, and he’s another one that needs to walk at a certain pace in order to keep a loose leash. We had to transition from a flat collar to the Martingale because his pulling when he was younger was so bad we were afraid he’d break loose of the collar. He was attacked last August (badly) by a dog that escaped a yard, and then two weeks later, he startled so badly at another loose dog that he bolted, dragging me through the street. He was barely 80lbs at that point. My old one was 90 and never pulled THAT bad. Poor kid. He was so scared that, when he realized I wasn’t going to turn loose of the leash, he began racing in circles in the street- my bare knee being the pivot point and bearing the brunt of it all. He did 3 full turns before he finally stopped and cowered in fear. I still have scars from the road rash- my ankle, knee and elbow bearing the brunt of it, the knee being the worst. We’ve worked really hard to bring him back from that awful incident, and he’s come along way. If he’d had a prong collar, I might have been spared injury, though.

    A person definitely has to consider their dog, their own needs,and chooses the collar that best suits the both of them.

    1. P.S. In case readers misunderstand my above post, I didn’t mean to imply that I began puppyhood teaching them to walk with a Halti- I only employed it once they were several months older, and past that instinctive “following naturally” phase, and were more interested in pulling ahead to further their own pursuits. at 13 and 6, they walk really well… unless they spy a rabbit or deer (squirrels are old news and don’t warrant the same degree of excitement). Also, buzzards produce a very extreme reaction for some reason. We’ve lived in a lot of rural areas where various wildlife are encountered often. There were days when, if not for the 90lb Ridgeback by my side, the other two (their combined weight was the same as his) would have pulled me off my feet. He really wanted to lunge and pull and try to chase the deer, too, but he knew he had that prong collar on, and so would just stand still, instead. When you’re walking multiple dogs at once, and their total weight is much more than your own, and you’re in rural areas where you don’t know what might be around the next corner, you want to be sure you’re able to keep everyone under control.

      1. This post got me thinking back through the years- I remember the time I “tested” my dogs by bringing out the Halti when it was time to walk.

        None of them would approach me, or even come when called.

        I went back in, got the prong collars, and, without even calling them, they came running, happily milling about me, excited and ready to go. That was testament enough for me.

  19. Our dog pulls so strongly that she made the circle link that joins the chain on the Martingale collar to an oval. 24 pounds of muscle. We may transition to a prong collar. The harness doesn’t really change her behavior.

  20. I quickly replaced the Gentle Leader with the Halti because the pups rubbed off some hair on their muzzles with the GL, and the Halti has that beautifully padded noseband. I used the Halti to teach polite leash walking, and it has worked great – it’s what I still walk Buzz on. I currently use a slip collar on Missy in order to be able to control her when we come across cats and squirrels on our walk. She just really wants to go after them!!

    I’ve also used prong collars and as you said, it’s important to learn how to use them correctly. Most people don’t adjust them by taking out links and just put them around their dogs’ necks, like a flat collar. That will definitely cause injuries.

  21. One of my dogs, a boxer/lab mix, 90 lbs. plus (I had to put him down a year ago this passed December, he was 11-1/2) was a puller. We tried the gentle leader but he would rub his face on the ground to get it off and his face would bleed.
    I now have a rhodesian ridgeback/lab mix, 64 lbs. I’ve had him for 1 year. He’s been in intermediate classes 4 times. He still pulls me. Especially when he sees a cat or a bunny. I didn’t try the gentle leader because of my experience with “Riot” my boxer/lab. He came to me with a no-pull harness, that didn’t work. We then got a few other harnesses that didn’t work either. We tried the Martingale Collar, he slipped out of it to go see a dog. We used the prong collar for a couple months. He did better with that. Although, when he took his good citizen test, he was visiting with other dogs before the test, the collar broke. He is now in a harness. Sometimes he has good days but mostly bad days. I’ve tried holding a “special” treat in my hand and put it near his nose or say “watch me” so he will watch me going down the street with treat near my eyes. Once he realizes he’s not getting the treat, he stops healing and watching.
    I have read Rhodesian Ridgebacks are very stubborn. I can attest to that!!! However, he is a very loving dog.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      With my weim, I rotate between the prong collar, Gentle Leader and a no-pull harness depending on what we’re doing. They all work OK in their own ways but like your dog he pulls all the time. So I’m just saying I understand!

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