The Whole Dog Journal

Volume 2
Number 5

May 1999

By Pat Miller

Although we usually review several similar products each month, new products regularly come on the market in one or more categories that we have already reviewed. This month we have collected several such products and decided it was time to play catch up.

The perfect training collar is the Holy Grail of the dog training world. There is a firm belief that such a thing must exist, people will go to great effort to try to find it, and the search, for the most part, is disappointing and frustrating. It’s refreshing to find a humane training collar that delivers at least some of what it promises.

The Scruffy Guider is such a product. It’s a double collar, consisting of two nylon straps attached by two rigid pieces of nylon that hold the straps three inches apart. It comes in various sizes from Petite (10-15”) to X-Large (20-32”) in five different colors and two different styles – stationary and limited slip. Both styles are available in either buckle or quick-release snap.

According to the advertising, one benefit of the collar is that the two-strap design reduces the strain on the dogs neck by distributing the pressure across a greater area and avoiding the most sensitive part of the windpipe. The product also supposedly promotes confidence in the dog owner, provides for natural and positive communication, and offers a convenient built-in handle for off-leash training and restraint. I wasn’t impressed by looking at the pictures; the collars look like just another gimmick. Prepared to be underwhelmed, I was pleasantly surprised instead.

 I tested the products on two of my own dogs and two untrained shelter dogs. The collars were easy to put on, and adjust on my two trained dogs. Predictably, this procedure was more problematic on the shelter dogs, who wriggled as I put on the collars. Because of the two straps, the difficulties encountered in collaring an unruly dog were necessarily doubled. Once on, however, the collars fit, and rode well, with one strap high on the neck, and the other resting at the base, and did seem to move more widely distribute any pressure caused by the dogs, pulling, as promised. After a few days, I adjusted to the odd look of the double collar, and even started to like it, especially on my Katie, my long necked, short coated, Australian kelpie.

I also found that I prefer the limited-slip action model over the stationary collar. Despite my skepticism, I discovered that the handle,  offered only on the slip collar, did come in handy on several occasions. It was easier to attach the leash (very helpful on those energetic shelter dogs), and provided the promised “convenient handle” when I wanted to restrain Katie from harassing my cats (her lifetime vocation). The modified slip is also useful for dogs who have learned the trick of backing out of their collars.

As a training tool, the Scruffy Guider is somewhat, but not universally, effective. This was difficult to determine on my already been trained dogs, but it did seem to provide effective guidance and control on one of the shelter dogs, end a sweet, excited, but attentive spaniel mix. The product’s advertising claims that the product works, in part, by imitating the sensation of a mother dog picking up her puppy by the scruff of the neck, which causes a puppy to instinctively relax. It did seem to calm the spaniel mix to some degree, and worked almost like a modified head halter, in that the strap that sits high on the neck and gives the handler more leverage. The obstreperous lab mix I tried it on either didn’t notice, or just didn’t care.

While the product overall seems sturdy and well-made, we were disappointed that, after only a few days of use, the nylon on one of the collar showed evidence of fraying. This is a fairly pricey collar, and we would suggest that Misty Pines invest in a better quality of nylon so the consumer gets full value for the dollars spent.

No training tool is a panacea for every behavior challenge for every dog. The Scruffy Guider is worth investigating as an option for the dog who won’t tolerate a head halter, for the owner who is trying to wean her dog off a head halter, or for someone who is looking for a gentler alternative to the choke chain or a slightly stronger tool than a flat buckle collar.