Have you ever seen a dog wearing a really wide collar?
Sometimes more than 2x the width of a standard buckle collar, agitation collars are often padded, use a special buckle, and have a handle attached. These training collars do not “agitate” a dog as their name may imply, but they are designed to encourage a dog to pull against them, which is very useful in some types of dog training.
Bitework, also known as “agitation training” actually requires a dog to pull on the leash. Because of how excited most dogs get during training, the use of an agitation collar or agitation harness is required to keep a dog from hurting himself.
The width of a dog collar is directly proportionate to its effect on the dog. Very narrow collars, like choke chains, actually produce a very harsh effect because they only have a small amount of contact with the skin. A good analogy would be how it feels for someone to grab you with their hand vs. with their nails. Agitation collars are wide to distribute pressure away from sensitive points, like the dogs trachea, to the stronger muscles of your dogs neck. The best designed agitation collars place the buckle and the handle or d-ring as close as possible.
In this design, when your dog pulls on the leash the buckle will be pushed into his neck because the leash connects on the opposite side of the collar.
Whereas in this design the collar and handle are on the same side, and the buckle is covered with a leather flap for added protection.amazon.com
On traditional buckle collars, the buckle can be placed anywhere. If it's placed on the opposite side of the D-ring, it will place the most pressure on your dogs neck. In agitation collars, when you see a D-ring opposite a buckle, you should see an inner leather "flap" on the collar to protect your dogs neck from the buckle. Collars that are not designed this way can be uncomfortable to wear, or actually hurt your dog, and should not be used.
If you’re looking to get into protection sports like IGP/IPO, French Ring, or Mondio, you’ll probably need an agitation collar or agitation harness for your dog. As a rule, agitation collars are better for adult dogs and dogs who have already been started on an agitation harness, because it is still better to use a harness for young dogs in protection sports than collars. The muscles around your dogs chest and shoulders are stronger than their necks’, and better able to tolerate the rigorous work of protection training.
Some people like to use agitation collars as a replacement for a buckle collar, because the look of a thicker collar is more appealing. Technically, this is fine, but for some dogs, wearing an agitation collar for long periods of time can be uncomfortable. The width of the collar can cause chafing around your dogs neck, and wear down or flatten the fur.
Yes, but for any type of work where you expect your puppy to do a lot of pulling against the leash, it's better to start with an agitation harness, because this is even milder than a collar and can help keep your young dog from getting injured. Every dog is different and you should evaluate yours individually, but with most puppies, nothing more is required for daily wear than a regular buckle collar. Save agitation collars for training (or photos) only.