Are Weighted Collars Good For Dogs? [8 Benefits & Honest Risks]

Weighted collars are a controversial topic. Because they apply additional weight to your dog’s neck, they are mainly used in strength training. Advocates argue that weighted collars build muscle and endurance and contribute to an overall body resistance while running. Opponents stress that an uneven weight distribution applies more stress to a dog’s neck, with health-damaging effects in the long run. The answer to the question if anyone should use weight collars is in need of facts. Let’s look at it in more detail.

Are Weighted Collars Good For Dogs?

Answered: Are Weighted Collars Good For Dogs?

Weighted collars are good for dogs only in certain settings where weight pulling is required, such as hunting or sports. Due to added weight, a weighted collar can increase your dog’s muscular strength. Neck and shoulder muscles may particularly benefit from short-term sessions. As a rule of thumb, weighted collars should only weigh up to 5% of your dog’s weight to prevent adversarial effects. Weighted collars don’t play a part in contributing to visible muscle growth and should only be used on mature dogs and under supervision.

What Is A Weighted Collar?

A weighted collar is a conditioning tool to improve endurance/muscular power of your dog. Just like a normal collar, a weighted collar is worn around a dog’s neck. The promised effects are said to appear by stressing your dog’s shoulder muscles and the base of his neck which may add more resistance to your dog’s body. Against popular belief, weighted collars are not tight collars that choke your dog. Instead, a weighted collar is a tool designed for intense short-term training. It is not supposed to prevent your dog from jumping. When used excessively however, a weighted collar can damage your dog’s neck and spine.

Weighted collars are primarily made from either nylon or leather and come with small snaps or zippered pockets that allow to add or remove small weights, usually one pound (450 grams) per section. These pockets allow for precise control of the weight inside the collar and give you control over adjusting the weight according to your dog’s proportions. Pockets are usually adjustable from 2 lbs (450 g) up to 8 lbs (3.6 kg) in total, depending on your dog’s body weight.

Are Weighted Collars Good For Dogs?

Why Do Dogs Have Weighted Collars?

Dogs raise and lower their head all the time to sense the world around them with their noses. A weighted dog collar promotes the idea of transforming natural motion into exercise. By lowering and lifting their necks, dogs can workout their neck and shoulder muscles. Dogs may wear weighted collars to get trained for competitive scenarios or hunting. Most of the time, weighted collars are used to increase muscular strength needed when pulling items, mostly in competitions or when catching larger prey.

What Muscles Do Weighted Collars Work?

Since weighted collars work neck and upper shoulders, the muscles trained are the Trapezius, Triceps, Deltoid muscles. Increased weight will additionally contribute to stress muscle groups related to your dog’s chest. Yet, inevitably associated with higher weight increase comes the higher stress on your dog’s limbs and his spine.

Are Weighted Collars Bad For Dogs?

Weighted collars may not be the right exercise tool for you if your dog simply needs more exercise. While weighted collars can be very effective in terms of gains, they also bear significant risk to dog owners unfamiliar with weight-based dog training. After all, your dog suddenly carries a significantly higher amount of body weight. Weighted collars add additional stress to your dog’s body and can potentially alter his physiology. Disadvantages of weighted collars can come with lasting health restrictions.

Using a weighted collar, the total weight your dog has to bear will likely be unevenly distributed around his neck. At times, owners simply use an unequal number of weights they add to the collar. In other cases, weights are distributed unevenly around a dog’s neck, adding more pressure in certain muscle groups that are not designated to carry additional weight.

Any additional weight will increase the stress on your dog’s limb joints. Consider that certain breeds (retrievers, shepherds, rottweilers) may be more susceptible to limb-related diseases than others. Degenerative health issues may show over time in ankles, elbows, and knees. If your dog suffers from any previously undiscovered malposition, adding more weight will aggravate this issue.

Are Weighted Collars Good For Dogs?

From a physiological standpoint, a weighted collar rests on the cervical vertebrae, a sensitive part of a dog’s spine not meant to carry weight. An uneven weight distribution may facilitate a subluxation of your dog’s neck, disintegrate his vertebrae, applying irreparable damage on your pup’s spinal cord. As a result, your dog may suffer early from joint-related diseases such as arthritis.

Your pup might not alert you if he is in moderate pain. He is trained to do fulfill commands in exchange for praise and goodies. This means that you might only notice after a while that your dog has pulled a muscle or has injured joints. Such incidents would diminish the efforts of months of training, since regeneration takes its tribute.

It has even been observed that adding more physical stress to working dogs necks can have detrimental effects. If you plan to apply weighted collars to increase your dog’s muscle mass, you probably should opt for another training method. Weighted collars are not a reasonable way to build muscle.

Weighted Collar Dog Benefits

Risks set aside, there are several benefits when you are training with weighted collars. Note that your dog will only benefit from a weighted collar if you apply it correctly.

  • Effective Training For Working Dogs. As you might know by now, weighted collars can be effective for active dogs that are trained for specific tasks. As such, these dogs are fit and sharp. Since their muscles are usually strong, the detrimental effects of weighted collars are of no consequence.
  • Flexible Training Interval. Since weight collars allow you to add or remove weights incrementally, you can start slow and build muscle power over time. Since the visible part of a dog’s muscular mass is mostly determined genetically, you should not expect a major increase of muscle mass, though. Stay realistic and work with your dog.
  • Targeted Muscle Groups. A weighted collar represents a specific training tool that can build muscles of the neck, legs, and chest.
  • Improved Joint Toughness. Weighted collars may be useful in building stronger joints if not used excessively. Refer to our guidelines below.
  • High-Intensity Calorie Burning. The constant weight increase pushes your pup to exercise his body more in order to keep going. During a training session, your pup will likely burn fat and harden his neck muscle.
  • Decreased Training Duration. More weight on your dog’s shoulders take more effort during training. As a result, you do not need to have your pup wear his collar for a long time. A weighted collar can be an efficient tool in lowering exercise duration. This should not be a priority, however.
  • May Aid In Calming. Dogs require our help to stimulate their physical and mental capacities. At the end of the day, a tired dog is a happy dog. Since weighted collars fatigue your dog faster, they can be suitable tools to prepare overactive dogs for regular dog training. In the same vein, weighted collars can contribute to reducing aggressive behavior.
  • May Reduce Pulling. If your dog pulls a lot, a weighted collar may help in slowing down your dog. The increased weight can act demotivating and your dog might be less inclined to walk fast or run.
Are Weighted Collars Good For Dogs?

How Much Does A Dog Collar Weight?

A typical nylon collar weighs around 1 oz (30 g), while a leather collar may weigh 10 oz (280 g) on average. Compared to weighted collars, normal collars are considered very light.

How Heavy Should A Dog Collar Be?

Any dog collar should not be heavier than 5% of your dog’s body weight. Consider 5% as rule of thumb in terms of weighted collars. Therefore, it should be considered as absolute maximum of how much additional weight an ordinary dog should carry. The best option is to opt for as light as possible, unless you consider a collar a training tool.

How Heavy Is Too Heavy For A Dog Collar?

Anything that exceeds the 5% mark in relation to your dog’s body weight is too heavy for an average dog. As per definition, weighted collars are way heavier than normal collars. With most weighted collars, you can choose the weight to be anywhere between 2 lbs (450 g) and 8 lbs (3.6 kg). A good estimate would be 1-2 lbs (450-900 g). Make sure you know your dog’s body weight and confirm that he doesn’t have any injuries. For example, if your pup is a mature Labrador Retriever with an average body weight of 70 lbs (31 kg), you should roughly opt for 3.5 lbs (1.55 kg) of added weight.

How Do You Use A Weight Collar?

Use a weighted collar on short walks. Don’t use it too often if you have little experience. A good range is anywhere between every other walk or every third walk. Refer to the 5% rule in terms of added weight. If your dog is trained and is confident about wearing the weighted collar, you could try to incrementally aim towards 8-10% of his body weight over the course of several months. The goal is to create an efficient training session, less a burden that hinders your dog from moving freely. Take the weighted collar off after training’s over and swap to a normal collar/harness.

If your pup’s breed is known to be prone to joint-related conditions, you might want to have him wear his weighted collar only during swimming exercise. Swimming will take the pressure off your pup’s joint and focus on your dog’s neck and shoulders.

A typical training session with a weighted collar would last around 20 minutes. Increase slowly. Roughly 3-4 weeks are a reasonable interval to raise intensity levels. Over time, you could increase the duration of your walk, incorporate a higher frequency of training sessions, or add a treadmill to train your dog. Do not use a weighted collar when playing games, such as fetch. Intensive movement and interplay of different muscle groups can promote a joint dislocation.

Are Weighted Collars Good For Dogs?

Should I Use Weight Collars?

A weighted collar is not the right choice for an ordinary dog. If you want to train your dog and simply keep him in shape, a weighted dollar is not the right tool to do so. Dogs not participating in competitive settings such as weight pulling or other disciplines should not use weighted collars. Weighted collars will not transform your pup into a more muscular dog.

Never use a weighted collar on puppies or dogs that are still growing up. Dogs reach maturity roughly between 18-24 months. Their muscles and joints still develop during that time. Adding extra weight on your pup’s joints may be detrimental for his health and harm him for the rest of his life. As general rule, use weighted collars only on dogs that are 2 years or older.

Dogs that are not active will likely receive injuries from wearing a weighted collar. First, due to the additional weight around your dog’s neck, chafing and abrasion are likely, and hair loss is a probable consequence. Adding weights to a dog’s body should only be applied by experienced dog owners. The chances of harming your dog are too high when you’re new to the game and might not certainly know what you are doing.

What Are Alternatives To Weighted Collars?

There are numerous beneficial activities you can choose from to train your dog. Dragging some weights, hand walking, agility-based training, fetch, treadmill, and swimming are useful exercises to keep your dog healthy. A similar training tool that exercises a dog’s neck muscles is the spring pole.

Final Thoughts

This article explained why weighted collars can be a useful short-duration training tool designed for active dogs participating in pulling weights and similar situations. Weighted collars allow for flexible training of a dog’s neck and shoulder muscles, yet bear the risk of irreversible joint-related diseases and injuries of the spine. When introduced as part of a training routine, the added weight should not exceed 4-5% of your dog’s body weight. Weighted collars can have multiple benefits associated training efficiency and targeted muscle training if used briefly and correctly.

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