Choosing a Training Collar
The best collar for your Chi will be one that fits well — in other words, that she can't slip out of — but that is still comfortable and will not hurt her or restrict her delicate windpipe. The following sections describe some of the more common types of training collars used with Chihuahuas.
If you can believe this, some trainers still insist that a Chihuahua puppy should wear a metal choke chain or a nylon slip collar for training. A trainer who is very, very skilled and has the lightest of touches may be able to use this training tool successfully; however, for most of us, one pop with one of these collars could literally flip your Chi around or injure her cervical vertebrae. Ouch!
A dog that appears to be stubborn or resistant to training is usually always a dog that has received negative reinforcement training, such as that used with a choke chain. Once a Chihuahua's enthusiasm for training is squashed in this manner, it is exceedingly difficult — if not impossible — to regain this joy and eagerness to please.
The reason these slip collars (metal chain or nylon) are too harsh for the Chihuahua is that they work by tightening around the Chi's neck (which explains the term “choke” chain). The way the collar works is that a dog hears the uptake of the chains and knows a correction (pop) is coming unless he quickly figures out what he's doing wrong and fixes it.
Negative reinforcement training, the manner of teaching in which a dog tries to avoid punishment, can be very effective. But at what cost? Small dogs are easily injured and frightened, and they sour quickly on training.
A great choice for a training collar is the simple flat buckle collar or the adjustable collar with a snap closure. These collars don't inflict pain on the Chi, and the wider the collar, the less pressure is placed on the Chi's neck structure should she hit the end of the leash on occasion. The adjustable collar is another good option, especially if you have a puppy that might need two different sizes of collars before she's finished growing. Since the Chihuahua will never exert very much pressure on the collar, you don't need to be as concerned with the strength of the clip as a large-breed dog owner would.
Another collar you might consider is a greyhound collar. This collar involves two pieces: a wider band that nearly encircles the dog's neck and a slip of nylon or light chain that loops through the ends of the wider band. When the dog strains against the collar, it tightens; however, since the throat band is quite wide, it does not choke or injure the Chihuahua. Additionally, this kind of collar prevents a Chi from backing out of her collar (that is, pulling backwards until the collar pops off over her head).
Collars come in several different materials: flat and rolled leather, nylon web, and cotton-covered nylon. Rolled leather tends to rub a dog's coat the least and lasts the longest (unless gnawed on by the pup). Nylon web is tough and comes in a huge variety of colors, but it can rub off a soft coat. Adding a cotton cover provides even more style options but it is less durable. The cover will require washing and will eventually fray.
A harness can be used with great success on a Chihuahua, too. The harness has a chest band that fits around the front of the chest and a second band that fits under the chest behind the dog's elbows. The dog cannot back out of a harness. A Chi is not so big that pulling is an issue, and the harness ensures you won't accidentally injure the dog's neck. The harness does, however, need to be fitted to the dog to ensure that it is comfortable and doesn't rub or restrain the Chi's movements in any way.