Leashes and Collars come in all different kinds of sizes and shapes. So how do you know which is right for you? Well, you have to ask yourself what your needs are. Is the leash for training, or for simple walks in the park? Maybe you only use a leash to let your dog releave him or herself outside. The same questions apply to collars.
Lets talk about training leashes and collars first. If you are planning to show your dog then of course you are going to need a show leash. These leashes are both a collar and a leash in one. The purpose of them is to hold the dogs head up while showing him/her in the ring. They are also made skinny so as to not take attention away from the dog. You would not want to show your dog with a fat nylon training leash with smiley faces all over it, this would take attention away from the dog. Show leashes are usually made of high grade leather, and can be quite expensive.
Leashes used to train your dog are usually shorter to keep the dog close to you for correction purposes. Execpt when teaching your dog the "come" command and training him from farther distances. These leashes are generally made of nylon. Nylon is a relatively soft material that will not harm the dog, and is very durable. These types of leashes are usually easier to grip when traing because they are flat and will not burn your hand when your dog pulls on them. They also come in different lengths: 4 feet, 6 feet, 12 feet, 20 feet, etc.
Collars used for training purposes vary in size and shape as well. There is the choke collar and the German Pinch collar. The choke collar is used to tell the dog he/she has made a mistake and needs to correct his/her behavior. These collars are best used on dogs who do not respond to leash corrections with a regular collar or harness. They do not hurt the dog, but they do let him/her know you are serious. I do not recommend using these collars for everyday wear because they are loose when not connected to a leash and could fall off, or get caught on something and choke the dog. Sensitive dogs may yelp when you use this type of collar on them for the first time. That is just their way of showing that they were not prepared for the correction. Most sensitive dogs will respond to a leash correction with a regular collar, however. The German Pinch collar is a nasty looking collar, but does not harm the dog. It is used similar to the choke collar, but for dogs who do not respond to leash corrections with a choke collar. This collar is typically used on very hyper dogs who do not listen well to their masters. In the wild in a pack of wolves, the dominate male will put his mouth around the neck of another misbehaving wolf. This is what the German Pinch collar was designed to accomplish. Both the choke collar and the German Pinch collar are made of metal links. You can also find some choke collars, also known as slip collars, made from nylon and leather.
If you are just wanting to walk your dog, there are all kinds of different leashes and collars available to you. Retractable leashes are popular for this, but they are not good for training. You have a lot less control of the dog on the end of a retractable leash. I recommend using these types of leashs only when your dog has been trained well on a training leash. This way if the dog is acting up 16 to 20 feet away from you, he/she is more likely to obey you. Combining this type of leash with a training collar is not a good idea. Chain and leather leashes are also available. Chain leashes are used more for looks than anything. Some people like to use them for training, but they can pinch your hand easily if the dog pulls. Leather leashes are also popular for traing, and walking. They look good and are strong and durable. However, they are expensive, and if your dog is a chewer, he/she is likely to start chewing on a leather leash. Dogs seem to like the taste of leather.
Muzzles and face harnesses are also options. Muzzles are used on dogs that tend to bite and nip at people a lot. Face harnesses are a relatively new idea for dogs. The idea is that you have better control of the dog because you can control his/her head movement. Like I menchioned, in the wild, dominate wolves will put their mouths around other wolves necks and mouths to correct behavior. This is the purpose behind the face harness. However, face harnesses aren’t really that great on dogs with short muzzles.
Regular harnesses are a better option than a typical collar in my opinion. If your dog is a runner and gets loose, he/she could catch that collar on something and choke his or herself. With a harness this cannot happen. They do make break away collars like for cats, but you rarely see them for dogs. A harness is a great option for everyday wear. Also, they can be used in combination with the training collars menchioned above, because they do not get in the way of the training collar. You can put the dogs tags and license on them like on a collar, and they are generally more comfortable for the dog. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and are typically made of nylon. Harnesses are not very good at all for training purposes by themselves.
A no jump harness is also avaliable to dogs who jump a lot. These harnesses are used to keep your dog from jumping up. They strap on like a regular harness, but also have two loops that go around your dogs hind legs making it difficult for your dog to jump. They can be confusing to put on your dog, and they are not comfortable to your dog, so I do not recommend them for every day wear. They work best as a temporary training tool. There are also harnesses that do not allow your dog to pull on the leash. These harnesses make your dog feel uncomfortable when he/she tries to pull you along on the leash. I feel they are a useful tool, but they are also an easy shortcut from training. If you invest in one of these harnesses, you will probably be using it every time you take your dog on a walk unless you train him/her to "heel."
So there you have it! The basics of the different collars and leashes avaliable. Just remember to ask yourself what you need the leash and collar for. This will help you determine which is right for you.