*The thoughts and opinions in each post on this blog are those solely of the attributed author and do not necessarily extend to all program collaborators or to Ethics in Animal Care itself.*
If you follow the DogBoy’s blog, you know that we’re passionate about using positive training instead of aversive methods. We want to address a common question in this post: is there an exception to the rule?
The short answer is a BIG FAT NO. Allow me to hop on my soapbox and explain why there is never a situation that calls for using prong collars on any dog.
There’s No Such Thing As A “Balanced Approach” Or A “Humane” Prong Collar
Some trainers believe there are situations that warrant the use of aversive tools like prong collars and shock collars, such as:
- Dogs pulling vigorously
- Particularly large or strong dogs
- Leash reactive dogs
However, prong collars are never the right choice for any trainer or dog owner because they are inhumane. I had a conversation at Dogtoberfest this year with a gentleman who claimed that his prong collar was a German-style “humane” version.
He said that the rounded tips would not cause any pain, they would just give a correction. We challenge anyone who makes this argument to place one of these “humane” tools around their own necks to test that hypothesis. Personally, I’d like to give it a good hard JERK.
At DogBoy’s we have the “Four Finger Test” to judge whether an instrument will cause a dog pain. The Four Finger Test is quite simple:
- Press four fingers into your neck
- Remove a finger from your neck
- Repeat until one finger is left
People notice that four fingers feels fine since the pressure is evenly distributed. But, as you use fewer fingers, the pressure becomes concentrated on a smaller point. Most people can’t take more than a few seconds of pressure from one finger.
Now imagine something 1/64th the size of your finger both encircling and pressing into your neck: that’s a prong collar. Dogs on prong collars respond because they’re being hurt. Trainers call this applying positive punishment.
Prong Collars Are Not Only Painful, They’re Also Dangerous
Using a prong collar on your dog, especially a reactive dog, is putting them at risk for serious, sometimes irreparable injury. If a prong collar is yanked by dog or owner, risks include:
- Punctured skin
- A collapsed trachea
When a dog lunges, or an owner pulls just hard enough, prong collars can easily cause serious trauma to the neck.
There Are Safer, More Effective Alternatives To Prong Collars
Some people argue that they need a prong collar to safely walk their dog, but there are much safer alternatives that are far more effective.
We recommend using front-connecting (aka front clip) harnesses to redirect your dog’s pulling. Since the leash is attached at the chest, pulling will only redirect the dog forward and to the side, turning them slightly towards you. Gravity does all the work, spares your dog’s neck from trauma, and keeps them walking right on track.
Obviously, big dogs wearing normal collars are capable of pulling their owners. But lucky for us – front clip harnesses use that forward motion to correctly influence the dog’s direction. This allows us puny humans to walk giant dogs with ease.
Prong Collars Have A Social Stigma You Want To Avoid
Positive reinforcement training is the most humane and well-respected standard in dog training across the world. There is definitely a social repercussion for using prong or shock collars. Owners who use them may not be aware of the dangers these collars pose, but most people in the business or with an interest in dogs are.
Prong collars project an image of ignorance or malice to other dog owners. As a caring and loving pet owner, you want to present an accurate picture of yourself. Prong collars are a surefire way to signal the opposite of who you are.
We don’t want owners who use prong collars to feel attacked or shamed. The truth is, most people are misinformed by a trainer about the nature of these collars. Instead, we want every owner to be informed, and know that there are better choices out there.
What Are Prong Collars Actually Good For?
There are plenty of reasons never to use prong collars, but we can’t name a single reason to put one on your dog. However, if you find yourself in possession of any of these collars, here’s a list of alternative uses:
- Use them to aerate your plants
- Fashion them into a decorative curtain
- Throw them in the trash
- Take them to the metal dump!
At DogBoy’s, Bart once operated a choke-chain buyback program. We used the collected chains as a curtain for our backyard fence’s window. We encourage other owners to do something similar and finally put these cruel tools to a good use.
If you have any questions about positive alternatives to prong collars, including leash-reactivity training, please contact us today.