Dogs seek to understand people and their environment to know that they are safe which is why training your dog is so valuable. A training collar can help you to deter unwanted behaviors—pulling, ignoring commands, and exploring outside of the space you've designated—by allowing you to redirect their attention towards you.
“The core of all really good dog training is having a beautiful bond with your dog," Alison Buehler, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) for Brooklyn-based dog trainers Dharma Dog NYC, told The Spruce Pets. "Equipment that gently deters pulling is helpful but no one should rely on equipment for behavior, it’s our responsibility to teach them how to walk on a leash."
A previous version of this article included recommendations for collars with shock stimulation settings. After consultation with experts and guidance from organizations like the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, we no longer recommend collars that use shocks or other forms of stimulation that depend upon negative reinforcement or positive punishment to teach a dog. For more on this decision, check out the "Why We No Longer Recommend 'Shock' Collars" section, found beneath our product recommendations.
To make this list, we researched a wide selection of products to address common training needs among dogs and their human companions.
Dexil NERVOUS Clip Collar
Clearly communicates your dog's needs
Available in a variety of sizes and for various needs
Coordinating leash available
Quick-dry neoprene padded backing
We wish people communicated this clearly!
If your dog needs space when you are out for a walk, then Dexil's NERVOUS Clip Collar is for you. The bright yellow color and the big bold embroidery spelling out "nervous" will let others you encounter know to keep their distance. Designed to prevent unwelcome encounters, this dog collar will enrich your training experience by minimizing triggers, so you'll be able to focus on slowly building positive habits with your dog. It's made of durable nylon and quick-dry neoprene with a padded back for comfort.
Dexil also offers a matching leash and a variety of other words available (Do Not Pet, Deaf, Training, Friendly, etc) available to reinforce your's pups preferred messaging and current needs.
Price at time of publish: $20
Dog Size: X-small, small, medium, large, x-large, xx-large | Lifestage: Puppy, adult, senior | Material: Nylon, neoprene
Best for Pulling
PetSafe Gentle Leader Head Collar
Comes in several sizes and collars
Might not work for all temperaments
If you are trying to train your dog to walk on a leash without pulling, then a head collar might be useful. The PetSafe Gentle Leader loops around a dog’s nose and the back of their head. Your leash clips on under their chin, and if your dog ever starts to pull, the padded nose loop creates gentle pressure to deter the behavior without any choking.
This style comes in several sizes and colors, and it’s a gentle and safe option for dogs of all sizes. It's designed to redirect your dog’s attention toward you, and from there you can stop immediately and/or turn around so your dog is now behind you. This will demonstrate to your dog that pulling doesn't get them to their goal. We recommend the "Stop and Reward" training method which includes doling out a treat once they've stopped pulling and are able to walk alongside you—we promise your dog didn't bribe us to say that!
Price at time of publish: $25
Dog Size: Petite to giant | Lifestage: Adult, senior | Material: Nylon
Best for Hearing Loss
WOLFWILL Humane No-Shock Remote Dog Training Collar
Adjustable vibration length
Easy to control with remote
No shock stimulation setting, only vibration and tone
Bulky receiver might be too heavy for smaller dogs
If your dog is hard of hearing or deaf, then it's important to find a replacement for voice commands. With the WOLFWILL training collar, you can introduce a gentle vibration to represent common commands such as come, sit, and stay.
There are 16 levels of adjustable vibration, a sound mode, and a built-in light that will flash 5 times. The ladder two may come in handy if your dog unexpectedly escapes. The receiver is waterproof, and the remote includes uniquely shaped buttons for vibration and tone activation. This collar does not have a shock stimulation setting so there is no risk of accidentally triggering and startling your dog.
"The receiver is fairly large and surprisingly heavy, so I can see it being an issue for smaller dogs," noted our tester, but their 60-pound dog had no problems with it. It's recommended for dogs between 22 and 88 pounds.
Price at time of publish: $82
Dog Size: Medium to large | Lifestage: Puppy, adult, senior | Material: Plastic, nylon
Best for Sighthounds
PetSafe Martingale Collar
Loop prevents dogs from backing out of collar and escaping
Available in a variety of sizes and colors
Often used incorrectly
Also known as limited slip collars, a Martingale Collar is used to prevent a dog from slithering out of their collar while walking on a leash. It's especially useful for breeds and mixes whose neck is thicker than their head. Sighthounds, such as Afghans, Greyhounds, and Whippets, fall into this category.
When a dog pulls on its leash, the Martingale loop prevents it by tightening it just enough to keep the dog secure without choking or discomfort. It will then loosen once your dog stops pulling to help reinforce how they should be walking. With this type of collar, getting the right fit for your dog is very important, so we recommend consulting with your veterinarian or a dog trainer who has experience using this style of training collar. This affordable option from PetSafe is made of nylon and available in a variety of colors.
Price at time of publish: $8
Dog Size: Small, medium, large | Lifestage: Puppy, adult, senior | Material: Nylon
Best for Geofencing
Cube Real Time GPS Dog & Cat Tracker
Real-time notifications and tracking
Ability to program geofences
Battery life of 10-60 days
App-controlled ping is loud
Attaches to most standard collars
Bulky design not recommended for smaller breeds
If your dog tends to escape, then this waterproof tracker is the one for you. It is built to keep up with your pup and easily attaches to a collar. A subscription is required for use and includes the ability to view your dog's location from your mobile device, program geofences, and get real-time notifications if your dog crosses a boundary—very helpful if they tend to be an unwelcome visitor in your neighbor's garden.
To help you locate your dog, you can use the app to ping the device and work towards having your dog recognize that a ping means "come" and they'll get a treat. The sound is 100 decibels and it startled our tester's dog on the initial use. We recommend introducing this feature to your dog in a secure space so they can gradually associate the sound as a signal that you are looking for them.
While this collar has a streamlined build, we do not recommend it for smaller breeds due to its size and weight.
Price at time of publish: $30
Dog Size: Medium, large, x-large, xx-large | Lifestage: Adult, senior | Material: N/A
2 Hounds Design Freedom No Pull Dog Harness
Available in variety of sizes and colors
Coordinating leash availalbe
Works well with dogs of all shapes and sizes
Often used incorrectly
If a harness is better suited for your dog, we recommend the 2 Hounds Design Freedom No Pull Harness. To discourage pulling, the harness features a martingale loop on the back of the harness that tightens gently around your dog's chest and a front leash connection clip to help redirect your dog's forward motion when they suddenly lunge forward. When fitted properly, the harness will sit below the trachea, but above the leg muscles. This prevents choking and gagging while allowing a full range of leg motion.
This harness focuses on a dog's chest because that's their center of gravity, so it can help control dogs of all sizes, even the larger breeds. It features four points of adjustment so you can find the perfect fit for your dog. It's made with stainless steel hardware and nylon with velvet lining behind the front legs to prevent rubbing and chafing.
Price at time of publish: $42
Dog Size: X-small, small, medium, large, x-large, xx-large | Lifestage: Puppy, adult, senior | Material: Nylon, velvet
Best for Healing
All Four Paws The Original Comfy Cone
Opaque fabric blocks view and redirects attention
Velcro can rub if not properly aligned, plus makes a loud ripping noise when opened
From surgery to hot spots and allergy flare-ups, if your dog is healing your biggest challenge is probably keeping them away from the area in question. An Elizabethan Collar, also known as a cone, is designed to help pets recover by redirecting their attention and blocking their mouth from reaching the troubled site.
We recommend the Original Comfy Cone from All Four Paws because it's padded for comfort and allows you to adjust the rigidity to align with your dog's needs. The opaque material reduces shadows and distorted views that can cause nervousness and stress, and it can also be reversed to cover the neck and upper chest. It's also more flexible than a traditional cone so dogs can navigate through doorways and furniture.
Price at time of publish: $40
Dog Size: X-small, small, medium, large, x-large, xx-large | Lifestage: Puppy, adult, senior | Material: Hook & loop, nylon, foam
Our top choice overall is the Dexil NERVOUS Clip Collar because it is designed to communicate a dog's needs. Our selection is yellow with the word 'NERVOUS' embroidered to demonstrate to those you come across that your dog needs space, but there are several color and word combinations to address a variety of needs. If you prefer a harness, you should consider the 2 Hounds Design Freedom Harness. Its unique design can help control dogs of all sizes, even larger breeds.
Why We No Longer Recommend "Shock" Collars
While not all stimulation collars use electric shocks, research suggests that an approach to training that uses negative reinforcement is less effective at teaching your dog good behavior.
The Spruce Pets is committed to Positive Reinforcement training, which focuses on rewarding desirable behaviors to encourage their likelihood of happening again. We believe training should focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, removing all reinforcers of inappropriate behaviors, and addressing the emotional state and environmental conditions driving the undesirable behavior.
Whether you are socializing a puppy, have opened your home to a foster, or rescued a senior, you and your canine companion need to find a way to communicate. Humans tend to use words, gestures, and sounds, whereas dogs typically rely on barking, jumping, wagging/tucking of the tail, and licking—to name a few, so finding common ground takes time and patience.
To help there are tools you can use, like a training collar, and treats you can give, but what works for one dog doesn't work for all, so you should consult a dog trainer and your veterinarian to make sure you are using the proper equipment in the right way.
What to Consider When Selecting a Dog Training Collar
Size and Fit
It’s important to find the collar or harness that is best suited for your dog's shape, age, and weight, and most collars can be adjusted for a customized fit. The weight of the collar should also be considered, especially with smaller dogs.
The material of the collar should be suited for the terrain your dog will encounter, and nylon should be suitable for most. If your dog likes to play in the water and you are considering a GPS tracker, a waterproof device is essential, like the Cube GPS Tracker for Pets.
Can a training collar help stop by dog from pulling on their leash?
Yes, a training collar can help you teach your dog to stop pulling. Depending on their age, size, and specific needs, the training collar you select should help to stop the unwanted behavior. Pulling on the leash can happen for a number of reasons. If your dog has a strong instinctual urge to hunt and they see a squirrel, they might start to pull. It may also indicate that your dog needs more exercise than a walk can provide. Going for a run, taking them to a dog park, playing fetch in your backyard, and even running up and down stairs can help to expend some of their energy before a walk.
Are training collars with stimulation safe to use on dogs?
No, we do not recommend the use of training collars with shock stimulation. "Let’s start by debunking stimulation which is a euphemism for an electrical shock," Alison Buehler Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) for Brooklyn-based dog trainers Dharma Dog NYC told The Spruce Pets. "We don’t have the same nerve endings as dogs, so we can’t really test it. We don’t have the same survival response either, so even if we put it on and think it’s not so bad, we can't gauge how a dog feels."
Shock collars may also increase fear in dogs as they learn to live with the anticipation of punishment, and it may cause a negative association with people and/or animals who are in their environment with a shock is triggered.
What is Positive Reinforcement training for dogs?
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, Positive Reinforcement training is the practice of adding something the animal wants when a behavior you wish to encourage is exhibited so that you increase the likelihood the behavior will occur again.
Members of the AVSAB recommend Positive Reinforcement training with Negative Punishment. Contrary to how it might sound, Negative Punishment is the act of removing something the dog wants in order to decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For example, if your dog jumps on you to greet you and you want to apply a Negative Punishment tactic, you would stand completely still and quiet. Once the dog sits or stands calmly, you would offer Positive Reinforcement by giving a treat to your dog.
Shock collars and prong collars, fall under Positive Punishment, which is the practice of adding something the animal dislikes or finds aversive (an electric shock or cutting off airway supply) so you decrease the likelihood the behavior will occur again.
"Positive Punishment has tremendous fallout and it's extremely difficult to use without causing other issues," notes Buehler. "Most behaviors in dogs that we consider problematic are from fear, and it’s unethical to punish any being who is afraid. What we want to do when addressing the behavior in question is avoid fear and pain and to establish trust between a human and dog."Learn More: Positive Reinforcement Dog Training
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This roundup was written by Anna Mejorada, a writer for The Spruce Pets, who shares her home with a pomeranian named Gidget. Before researching and writing about pet products for a living, Mejorada embarked on a self-mandated, ongoing quest to find the optimal items for her dog. She is now delightfully devoted to helping humans discover and select the most favorable products for their pets.
For this article, Mejorada consulted with Alison Buehler, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) for Brooklyn-based dog trainers Dharma Dog NYC. Buehler not only keeps rescue dogs herself, but also provides training support to groups and private clients. Buehler specializes in "force-free" training methods, with a specialty designation that certifies Buehler as an expert in separation training.
A previous version of this article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a lifelong animal lover who has raised and trained several dogs of various breeds and temperaments. She’s had great success using different types of training collars to train her dogs.