I work with many show dogs of different breeds, ages and temperament types and have found that the type of collar you choose to use on your dog can greatly impact how much your dog likes or dislikes the ring. The type of collar can also influence your dog’s behavior in the ring which in turn affects his performance. I always choose the collar that seems most comfortable for the dog. I am not looking solely for control, but also for comfort. My goal is to rely on my training, relationship and reinforcement history for my dog’s performance, not to rely on equipment. There are many different types of collars on the market for show dogs so you don’t have to use what is “traditional” or what people tell you is the only type of collar to use on a particular breed. All dogs are individuals and should be handled and treated as such.
The easiest way to change an animal’s behavior is to change the antecedent. The antecedent is simply what causes the behavior to happen. In other words, if a dog barks at the front window and antecedent change would be closing the blinds or curtains or using a gate to keep the dog out of the room. Changing the dog’s collar is an antecedent change too. With some dogs you can change their behavior simply by changing equipment.
I regularly work with a very sweet Pharaoh Hound. She was doing very well in her training and then suddenly, didn’t want to be hand stacked or have me examine her. We went through anything that could be different and the only change was that her owner had changed her collar from a braided leather resco style loop collar to a braided leather martingale with a chain component. I noticed that her change in behavior started about the same time she got her new collar. I asked her owner to change collars and she immediately went back to being comfortable being stacked. It was an easy fix and as simple as that. She was simply not comfortable with that collar. We don’t know why for sure and likely never will. It could be the sound, it could be that it pinched her skin or pulled a hair. We don’t know why because she can’t tell us and we can’t read her mind, but we can measure the change in behavior to determine that the collar caused her to not want to be examined or stacked. This is not uncommon and this example is just one of many that I have dealt with.
Making sure that the collar you are using with the dog is comfortable for the dog is very important. Because anything happening, pleasant or unpleasant, while the dog is showing will become associated with the show and the show environment. It should be more about simply using what is traditional or the norm and viewing and working with each animal as an individual and considering what works best for him or her. There are many choices from martingales to loops or limited slips and a variety of sources that sell ready made and custom made show dog collars.
So, before settling on what “everyone uses in x breed” or what you see other people doing consider what works for your individual dog.