Have you ever thought walking your dog is more like your dog walking you? You may have had fellow dog owners stop you on the street, in the park, or the pet store - the usual recommendations are harnesses, choke chains, head collars or spiked/prong correction collars to help you make the walk less one-sided and more enjoyable for all involved.
To explain each one, consider these points, keeping in mind that it is ultimately what works for you and your dog while remaining safe AND comfortable:
--The Harness: There are several different kinds, but all serve the same purpose - to not put pressure on the trachea (neck), which reduces coughing/gagging if a dog pulls against the leash during a walk. Harnesses were originally made for what? Horses and other large animals to pull things, like carts or plows. Also, are famous for dogs to pull sleds with - therefore, giving your dog a free pass to pull you on down the street. Not every dog behaves this way of course, and there are a lot of veterinarians who recommend them due to injury or illness, and that is perfectly acceptable.
--The Choke Chain: It is meant to tighten around the dogs neck as a means of correction for pulling behavior. Unfortunately, the choking and gagging of your dog as he or she is pulling you down the street is obviously not stopping the behavior. There are very specific manners to using this device - it is not made to be a collar to be worn by the dog at all times with tags and everything hanging from it. Many dogs die of strangulation because their tags, or the ring the leash attaches to, get caught in a kennel, fencing, grating, etc. and it puts constant pressure on the trachea (neck). Note that there are plenty of people in the world who do this and it has had no effect on their dogs, but it's something that most don't take into consideration.
If you intend on using one of these, use it and fit it the way it was meant to be used - the end ring, without chain going through it, is meant to be on the top side of the dog's neck and the chain is to slide toward you to tighten, and release immediately when you give the leash slack. They are best used under the instruction of a professional trainer if they are recommending this training method.
--Spiked/Pronged Correction Collars: These are probably the most widespread, improperly used collars and are available almost everywhere. They are made to work very similarly to the choke chain, only with spike or prongs on the neck side of the collar, putting pressure on the dog's neck for correction. These have been spotted being used as every day collars for some dogs, and pose the same risks as the chains.
--Head Collars: The head collar was created to give dog owners the ability to have their best friend heel nicely at their sides during outings. I have even seen children 2 and 3 years old walking their family dog out in public. Understand that the collar itself has a science similar to that of a halter on a horse, plus it puts gentle pressure on calming points - it puts pressure on the nose for correction, and releases the pressure when the leash is loosened. The other half of the collar is high on the back of the neck at the base of the skull, making a "v". The design allows a dog to open its mouth to pant, eat, drink, and bark
with it on - contrary to popular belief, it is not a muzzle.
The most noticable benefit of the head collar is no choking! However, the dogs that use these on a daily basis have to be trained with the collar in order for him or her to be calm when it is used - neck injuries can occur if a dog is hesitant and slings its head around violently to get the device off. Also, the owner has to be aware of how they are handling the dog - constant correction from the collar will make the dog more hesitant and may cause panic. A specific head collar that is most widely known, called the Gentle Leader, has created a DVD that is sold in the package with the product that explains how to fit and use it properly - the key to training and safety is knowledge!
An ending thought to this discussion is to keep an open mind - know that every veterinarian and dog owner is going to have their opinion based on previous experience (whether personal or via a friend or family member), and they will let you know all about it. Educate yourself about each product (how it works, how to use it effectively and safely, and the risks), find what works the best for you and your dog, and discuss your dog's needs/risks with your vet. Also, do not be afraid to consult a behaviorist or trainer in your quest to make your best friend a better walking partner. The more you know, the better off you will be!