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  • Prong collars are still extremely popular with many dog owners. They are generally made of metal chain with prongs which tightens around a dog’s neck when the handler pulls or jerks back on the leash. Aversive trainers will often use prong collars to perform ‘corrections’, essentially causing the dog pain any time he pulls on the leash or misbehaves.
    While this type of training may stop the pulling or suppress a certain behavior at that particular moment, it does nothing to address the root of the dog’s issue. Leash corrections that are given on these collars exacerbate behavioral issues such as fear and aggression.

    Just reading that makes me sad. Yet this is what some dogs are put through every day. They have no choice, they have to keep the collar on. For me, this is not a relationship I want to forge with my canine companions. Preferably, teaching a dog what to do instead of the reactive behavior and reinforcing it highly just makes better sense.


    It is like listening to one of those medication commercials where the risk list is longer than the help provided. It is simply a trade-off. It is a choice, a decision. Some are willing, ready and able to make that trade-off. I look at my dogs, and my client’s dogs some of who are challenging canines and for me, I’m not willing to make that choice or recommend it to anyone.
    Prong collars function similarly to choke collars, except they contain metal spikes on the inside that dig into and ‘pinch’ a dog’s neck if he pulls on the leash. Prong collar advocates believe that the ‘pinch’ action mimics the teeth of a mother dog grabbing a puppy’s neck during a correction. There is no scientific evidence to back up this claim however, and it’s unlikely that dogs make a connection between the pinch of a collar and a correction given by a mother’s mouth, especially as no canine ‘mother’ is physically present.

    I don’t care if a dog is 150 pounds or 10 pounds, and whether the issue is leash manners or biting visitors. There are no dogs who need a heavier hand, there are only trainers who need more knowledge and a lighter touch. Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not pull on the leash while being walked because they want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha or dominant over their human. There is a much simpler explanation that does not give credence to the myth that dogs are on a quest for world domination!

    Dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong. Humans do not make ideal walking partners since a dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours. Having to walk calmly by a person’s side when the only thing a dog really wants to do is run and investigate his environment requires a degree of impulse control that can be very difficult for some dogs to utilize. That being said, all dogs need to be taught how to walk on a leash in a positive way without pain or discomfort so that a walk becomes enjoyable for everyone.

    Being a pet care provider and a dog trainer means I’m in an ideal setting to survey my clients’ slant on managing their dogs’ behavior. And nowhere does a dog owner’s approach to training seem more readily on display than when his dog is decked out in a prong collar.

    What type of dog do you want? For me, a thinking dog, a happy participant who finds me worth listening to even if wearing no collar, or off lead running freely in the woods or on a beach is a true companion. Using force free training philosophies and science makes use of a prong collar a non-issue.

    Aggression issues can be created or exacerbated by a prong collar use and there are better alternatives on the market now. There is a “trainer’s war” going on between new, modern science-based training and traditional training. It used to be allowed that teachers could rap a child’s knuckles with a ruler and think that was okay too until we learned there were better, more effective ways to correct a child.

    Today there are just too many alternatives that give results to continue to use archaic tools fit for the time capsule. The prong collar has some safety faults as well. It unhooks at times and simply falls off. It uses pain. People are looking for a training tool and most simply don’t know better. There are tools far superior in this day and age.

    I have found two general types of dogs who are walked in prong collars: Pit Bulls and hyper out of control dogs. These are also the two groups that should not be subjected to these collars. Most of these dogs have already been abused, in a shelter, fostered, or re-homed. Typically, these owners believe they are doing the right thing by using an aversive collar to control a big or strong dog, especially one who pulls on the leash. Alternatively, there are other owners who just seem to like the testosterone-infused “bad boy factor” that prong collars and spiked collars tend to evoke. In either case, prong collars are usually completely unnecessary. A front attachment harness, head collar or martingale collar is more effective and a humane alternative. For hyper out-of-control dogs, it’s about calmly refocusing and redirecting them. The dog needs you to be calm so that they can focus otherwise it’s just too much to process and they inadvertently increase the dog’s frenetic behavior.

    There’s also health risk from using prong collars. If you feel your dog’s neck with your hands followed by your own neck, you will see how similar they are. The trachea, esophagus, thyroid gland, lymph nodes, jugular vein, muscles and spinal column are all located in similar places. The only difference between a dog and a human neck is that under the fur, a dog’s skin layer is only 3-5 cells thick, while the top layer of human skin is denser, 10-15 cells thick.

    The thyroid gland lies at the base of the neck just below the larynx close to where any collar sits. Just one yank can cause injury to a gland that controls many of the body’s vital functions. Studies show that the gland gets severely traumatized whenever a dog pulls on the leash and becomes inflamed. When this happens, it is destroyed by the body’s own immune system which tries to remove the inflamed thyroid cells. The destruction of these cells leads to hypothyroidism, which causes loss of energy, weight gain, skin problems, hair loss, ear infections and organ failure.

    Depending on what your personal definition of humane is, it is hard to argue that if something has the potential to cause such damage it should not be considered humane or safe. Any device that constricts around a neck, be it the neck of a human or canine, is dangerous and has the potential to do real harm. Try applying a small amount of pressure to your neck and experience what a dog goes through when force is applied to any collar. Dogs cannot tell us when they are in pain. Even though it is proven that prong collars contribute to neck, back, and spinal injuries as well as other issues in dogs, there are many who still believe that if used correctly, these collars are humane and effective tools that cause no pain or harm.

    There are more effective and humane alternatives to using a prong collar on your dog. Find a great positive trainer to help you teach your dog to walk on a loose leash. Even large, strong dogs can be walked without the use of a prong collar.

    The idea of letting the dog decide whether to relax the leash or not may seem novel to many dog owners, but it is essential if your dog is going to learn to voluntarily walk nicely on a leash, practicing and perfecting loose leash walking. Dogs learn faster and better if they are given a choice.

    I recommend the following training philosophies: 

    Books: For The Love Of A Dog and The Other End Of The Leash by Patricia McConnell
    Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas

    Don’t believe those that say “some dogs need a heavier hand” or “you can’t train an aggressive dog without force” and on and on. These phrases are becoming cliché and untrue. What it does take is knowledge and not falling for claims of “quick fixes”.

    A dog is a living, breathing being with brains and they require solid learning theories.

    This post was submitted by Kimberly’s Pet Care.

    I provide personalized professional dog boarding, pet sitting and dog walking services to my clients and their pets in Waterford Lakes, Avalon Park, Stoneybrook, Eastwood, Avalon Lakes, Timber Springs, Spring Isle, Cypress Springs, Andover, Cypress Lakes and other communities in East Orlando. Call 321-428-0281 today to schedule a free consultation.