There’s always someone out there with an opinion, and at BVH we have ours as well! Choosing a collar and leash for your pet should be an easy decision, but once you enter a pet store you find that there are far more choices than you ever expected. We see all types in the veterinary field, and we’ve experience the good and bad aspects of some of them.
For cats, I recommend that all of them wear a collar. Even my indoor cats have collars on because I worry about one of them sneaking out the door when I’m trying to leave or enter with my arms full. I feel more assured that the average person who might find them outside will realize that they are owned (not a stray) and either leave them alone to find their way back home or take them somewhere to have their microchip scanned. Microchips are the best way of permanently identifying your pet, but always make sure that your contact information with the microchip company is up to date! It can be frustrating to find a microchip only to find out that the contact information was either never given to the microchip company or never updated when the owner’s address or phone number changed. This, of course, goes for both dogs and cats. Back to collars – cats should always have a breakaway collar so that if they jump onto something and the collar gets caught, it will open to free them instead of strangling them.
For dogs, many more options are available. Collars that I find very comfortable for dogs are the thick cloth collars that are typically thought of as greyhound collars. These collars do not make you feel as though you are choking the dog, and most dogs seem to find them comfortable. Other thinner cloth or vinyl collars also work well as long as they are fitted correctly. The collar should sit firmly on the neck, but not be so tight that you have to work to get 2-3 fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck. Conversely, the collar should not be so loose so that your dog can easily pull out of the collar if he or she decides she would rather go in a different direction than you! Chain collars are durable, and if used correctly do not cause any harm. However, if a dog pulls a lot, the chain can put enough force on the neck to cause them to cough and gag as though they are choking. For dogs that pull a lot, other options include the gentle leader or easy walk harness. Always remember to display your dog’s current rabies vaccination tag on their collar. Adding an additional tag with the pet’s name and your phone number can also be helpful if the dog is prone to escaping from a fenced yard. I found a dog on a walk one day that was very friendly, and she insisted on following me and my dog home. Once I was able to secure my own dog in the house, I was able to call the number on her tag and reunite her with her owner in a short period of time.
As far as leashes go, a leash that is 6 feet or shorter is ideal. This allows you to always have good control of your pet, and it prevents your pet from approaching other animals or people that may not react kindly to the attention. Just like we may not react well if another person that we didn’t know came running up to our face, not all dogs react well to that type of greeting. In my opinion, the leashes that are the most dangerous are the retractable leashes. Not only can they get wrapped around legs, arms, and fingers causing significant damage to the pet owner or observer, they also do not allow for good control over the pet. When extended, the pet can easily approach animals and humans with little ability to control the interaction from the pet owner.
If you have a question about a leash or collar, ask your veterinarian or a trusted dog trainer. Not every leash and every collar is appropriate for every dog. They’re all unique creatures!