Collars for the Ring
The most recent revision of the Obedience Regulations completely liberalized our choice of collars, with a few exceptions.
The collars specifically prohibited are pinch collars, electronic collars and, through a later communication from the AKC, head halters. This means that you can choose a buckle collar, a cloth collar with a plastic snap or a choke collar of any color or material. The restrictions still imposed are that the collar be "properly fitted" and that there be nothing hanging from it. The Regulations also state that "No visible means of identification...may be worn or displayed by anyone..." The reason for this restriction is that the whole process of judging is supposed to be objective, so the judge is not supposed to know the identity of any dog or handler. This is laughable, as anyone who shows long enough to meet the requirements to become a judge is going to know the top handlers and dogs in their area, but I guess the concept of objectivity is worthwhile. My point in mentioning this is to tell you that it's not a good idea to use a collar with your dog's name either printed on it or displayed on an attached brass plate. These types of identification are not specifically prohibited, but may cause the judge to think - something many of us are not very good at, or so I've been told.
So what kind of collar should you choose? The collar you choose to use in the ring may not be the same as the one you use for training. Lots of folks train with pinch collars, then switch to choke or buckle collars for the ring. Some trainers use very tight collars that stay high on the dog's neck for training, but many judges don't consider such collars "properly fitted". If you use a pinch collar, a head halter or a tight collar, remember you must practice with an acceptable collar well before you take Rover into the obedience ring.
COLLARS FOR TRAINING
As my regular readers know, I'm not a fan of training with pain and therefore prefer to train with a buckle collar or no collar. Howevah....I have trained with pain collars in the past and occasionally recommend a pinch collar for a student. Lets look at some of the options. If you are going to use a collar to compel your dog to do something, the collar - be it buckle, choke or pinch - should ideally fit snugly at the top of the dog's neck, right behind the ears. By keeping the collar in this position, I believe you get the best leverage to move the dog - clearly an advantage with a big, strong dog. But it is hard to find a choke collar that is big enough to fit over a dog's head and still stay high on the neck without constant adjustment. There are two solutions to this problem: a nylon choke that will stretch a bit or a snap choke that can be fastened around the neck and still used as a choke. A properly fitted pinch collar will automatically stay in place. If you use a pinch on a dog the size of a Terv, I recommend the one with the smallest links you can find. Petsmart and the other stores will try to sell you one of the big heavy pinch collars, but they are not nearly as effective as the small ones. And yes, you will have to buy extra links. If you don't necessarily want to hurt the dog but want a collar with a little more bite than a buckle collar, you can turn a few of the prongs on the pinch inward and leave the rest facing out, so they don't hurt the dog.
One of the few things I don't like about showing Tervs is that they are so hairy (most of them, anyway) that you can't show off a fancy collar. There are some gorgeous collars available from vendors at dog shows, but they're pretty much wasted on a hairy dog. So, if you want to show off a bit, you can buy a really nice leash. The only thing that the Regulations say about leashes is that they must be long enough to provide for slack during the Heel on Leash in Novice, and must be made of fabric or leather. In some of the more rural areas, I've seen handlers show up in the ring with a piece of rope tied to the dog's collar! I prefer the lightest weight leash that will hold the dog, as I don't make lots of corrections and find small leashes easier to handle. I also prefer a small snap that doesn't weigh half a pound, but that's just my preference.