Don't Use Prong Collars

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Prong CollarBefore a dog's training has set in, it can be a chore to do simple things like taking him/her for a walk.  This is exacerbated with pit bulls, as they tend to be strong and can resist you pull more easily, leading to frustration, injury, and a loose dog.  It's important not to go forward if the dog is pulling.  It just reinforces the behavior, and they will be more likely to do it again.

But asking, for example, a 150 pound woman to stand her ground against the excited determination of a 70 pound bundle of energy that we call the pit bull can be unrealistic.  And so some people recommend the prong collar.  A quick pop and the prongs pinch the dogs skin hard, which leads to instant negative reinforcement for the behavior.  Or so the reasoning goes.

That seems like a quick fix. But is it the best? After a brief email conversation with the Pit Bull Guru, I'm inclined to think: probably not.

Pressure applied with any collar can lead to neck, back, trachea, and esophogus problems.  And as this study shows, a dog's eyes are particularly susceptible.  The risk is increased with prong and choke collars.  Parts of a dog's optical nerves travel down the neck, and so constant pressure applied there can directly damange nerves, potentially leading to blindness.

But that's not all.  There are unintended behavior consequences with using prong collars as well.  Increased aggression and anxiety has been observed.  Whatever a dog is looking at or going after when they are "popped", its possible the dog will make a negative association with that object.  What if the object is a child playing across the street? Similar negative associations have been observed with shock collars.

These are important things to think about that can affect both the health and behavior of your dog.

So what's the solution?

First, it's important to train your dog properly to walk on a leash, starting indoors or in other controlled areas with minimum distrations before trying your hands in the wild.

Second, invest in a good walking harness. This distributes the weight evenly so when you pull back it will not cause any physical harm.

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19 comments

Comments

skreidle's picture
skreidle
Tue, 02/01/2011 - 10:56am

One quibble: A properly-fitted prong collar doesn't pinch--it applies even pressure around the entire neck, across all 20 of the tips (in the example photo), which can be plastic-capped as well, vs. a choke collar which can potentially damage the trachea. (Note that I'm not saying I'd recommend a prong collar over other/better options, just that it's not nearly as bad as many people make it out to be.)

matt's picture
matt
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 9:45am

"properly-fitted" being the keywords there.  How many people who use them atually have them properly fitted?

Yaminpix's picture
Yaminpix
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 1:28am

Read what cesar milan says about these kinds of collars.

Yaminpix's picture
Yaminpix
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 1:34am

I use a choke collar for Riley and it is great. He learned after a few walks that pulling was uncomfortable. Now, the collar hangs loosely around his neck when we walk. If he sees a squirell or something and bolts, I dont get yanked off my feet, or lose hold of his leash, which would be very bad where I live, on a busy street in Detroit. I would much rather him have a little discomfirt every once in a while than get hit by a car, or run away and get picked up by the wrong people. When used properly, these tools can be very helpful.

matt's picture
matt
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 9:47am

There are other ways to train them that don't put them at risk of throat or eye damage.

Would you use a shock collar?

Yaminpix's picture
Yaminpix
Fri, 02/04/2011 - 7:36pm

No, no, like I said the collar hangs loosely around his neck most of the time (no pressure). It just helps if he sees a squirell or something. He might jump forward for half a second and as soon as he feels the pressure from the collar he relaxes. He is getting better and better about it. He only jumped once this week (: It provides maybe 2 seconds of pressure before everything's back to normal. I'm not constantly yanking on the chain or anything, and he doesn't pull during walks, so there isn't really any risk of physical damage to him. I weigh 115 lbs. and he is very strong, I absolutely can't risk losing hold of him on the streets of Detroit where I live. It would be horrible if something happened to him, like if he got hit be a car or stolen. (The people who steal pets around here will either use them for pit bull bait, or fighting. It's horrible.)

I think your point is well applied to the subject of properly using training tools, though. Theres definitely a risk applied when incorrectly using a training tool, especially one like a prong or choke collar. I could definitely see how the dog could be harmed by excessive pressure to the neck for extended periods of time. There is a woman with an American Bulldog at my local dog park who ust yanks her dog around and pulls her constantly with a prong collar. Poor dog! That's not the right way to train a dog. I'm glad I read this article because maybe I can let her know that using the collar like that could really damage her dog.

About shock collars, I don't use them, but I know someone who had one. I tested the shock on my hand (silly curiosity) and truly it was like getting shocked by static electricity or something. It was like nothing. I was really suprised by that! I expected the electric chair or something. I don't use shock collars for my dog, but suprisingly they are not as bad as you would think. My friend said that the purpose of the collar was just to get the dogs attention, not to hurt them, which is good. She had a crazy lab mix who would just go bonkers and it was impossible to get her attention. The collar (used properly) was just a little reminder to get her attention. The shock was so miniscule that at times she didn't even notice it, which is why my friend later switched to the vibrating kind, which was more effective because you could adjust the intensity of the vibration.

Anyways, I think this is a good article to read weather you choose to use choke or prong collars or not. It's always important to be informed, especially if you ARE using one of those tools. It's important to understand the risks associated with using them improperly. The key is proper use, and like you said above, collars need to be properly fitted. We need to treat our dogs well and keep them safe! Thank you for the info :)

Des Moines Dame's picture
Des Moines Dame
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 2:09am

I have used pinch collars for over 20 years and never had a problem.  I would get dragged from here to kingdom come if I didn't.  Although, all it seems to do is slow down my dog; if he's really excited about something or someone, he's still going to try and drag me.

Vanilla's_Daddy's picture
Vanilla's_Daddy
Fri, 02/04/2011 - 4:35pm

Thanks for the link, I posted it to my Facebook. It makes a lot of sense.

Regarding the shock collars, don't they now make "e-collars" that vibrate instead of shock? They seem to work just as well.

I don't know about the dog but I'd be hard pressed to want to be around anyone who was shocking of choking me on a regular basis.

Food for thought...

 

pocahontas's picture
pocahontas
Sat, 02/05/2011 - 5:31pm

I have to admit that I have used a prong collar on both of my dogs to train them not to pull. Granted, this is not their everyday collars! I only used them in the very beginning, and both dogs learned very quickly that by pulling they weren't getting anywhere any faster, so they stopped! I have tried the harness leads, and they were way too complicated for me to put on a dog who can jump over a 5 foot fence! He automatically hits hyper mode when you grab the leash! The prong effect of pulling slightly on the dog's neck is no more dangerous than a dog choking itself with a regular collar and leash, the prong collar seems to be more humane in this comparison!

Yaminpix's picture
Yaminpix
Sun, 02/06/2011 - 6:09pm

About how long did it take for your dogs to no longer need the prong collar? I am training Riley with a choke coller and he is doing very well, he hardly ever pulls now. Mostly it just hangs around his neck but occasionally he gets excited and jumps forward. What was your experience?

Thanks!

pocahontas's picture
pocahontas
Sun, 02/06/2011 - 7:50pm

It honestly only took Brooklyn (my male) about 2 weeks.... he doesn't pull now unless something really excites him~ like a cat! Brooklyn was originally trained off leash as a puppy, so he will sit, and I can walk 2 blocks and around the corner and he won't move until I call for him. Although, where I live now strictly enforces BSl, so I can no longer do that!

Jazzmin, I am still working with her! we have only had her about 4 months, but her walks have been limited because of the awful snow storms we keep getting! She had no formal training when I rescued her, so she is a little behind ~ but catching on to Brooklyn's behavior very quickly!

I do recommend moving to a harness (if possible) after Riley has learned not to pull on his leash or You! The harness gives you better control of his body with the leash. I cannot get Brooklyn calm enough to place a harness on him! I have tried classes and all... he is just a very hyper dog! He loves his walks, and loves attention. He knows what is going to happen as soon as I grab the leash!

mciaccia's picture
mciaccia
Thu, 02/10/2011 - 8:26pm

I can't get my dogs to stop pulling at all.  I've tried easy walk harnesses, the easy walk lead (waste of money...they all refuse to wear it, even when I try introducing it to them), prong and choke collars.  The only thing that stops them from pulling enough for me to walk them is a prong collar.  It's really hard to be consistent and give them each enough training time because I go to school and work full time.  Does anyone have any tips?  I probably sound like a bad owner now =(

Des Moines Dame's picture
Des Moines Dame
Fri, 02/11/2011 - 1:09am

Years back, when I was training my lab/pit puppy, I had problems with him pulling, even with the pronged collar.  The trainer strongly recommended that I walk my dogs seperately so I could concentrate on him.  That helped because I was better able to control him.  Eventually, he got the idea.  The pit I have now will still pull when he sees something he really wants or some place he really wants to sniff.  It's all about keeping control with the leash and voice.  Sometimes stepping in front of them and making them look at you to get their attention helps.  Also, make sure the pronged collars are correctly fitted and in the correct position.  They should be snug, but not tight, and up behind the ears.  For me, pulling straight up on the leash works better than pulling straight back.  Also, have you tried going to obedience classes?  Difficult with your schedule, but worth the time.  The last trainer we went to recommended at least 20 minutes a day dedicated to working on commands and walking on a leash  (can be broken into 2 sessions).  Start with sit, move to sit/stay/come, then leash work/healing.  Good luck!

Vanilla's_Daddy's picture
Vanilla's_Daddy
Sat, 02/12/2011 - 7:06pm

"I probably sound like a bad owner now =("

Not at all and I apologize if anything I said made you feel that way.
I think the problem would be someone who was pulling on the collar for all they were worth while the dog was doing the same.

I walk dogs at our local shelter and the Pits I've encountered learn after a few leash corrections (a.k.a. tugs) that they shouldn't pull.
Some dogs may not respond to that so you have to do what you have to in order to keep both of you safe!

RachelAltner's picture
RachelAltner
Sat, 02/12/2011 - 11:40am

There will always be advantages and disadvantages of using both a prong collar AND a harness.  It really depends on the kind of research one reads and one's own experience with using either one.

The study that is posted NEEDS further research on IOP when using a prong or choke collar.  Page 208 (2nd paragraph) of the study notes that neither prong, choke, or collars that vary in diameter when pressure was applied were not used. Another thing to note here is that the pressure was applied for 10 seconds!  Think about it, for all those that use the prong collar properly, there is a difference between a quick pop of the prong collar vs. applying pressure to the neck for 10 seconds.  

An inference that this article does not document, but can be made is the importance properly training your dog to walk.  I see so many people in my neighborhood that walk their dogs with either a harness or a collar and the dog is constantly pulling, jumping, or trying to run ahead of them.  This type of outlet for the dog is unsafe for the dog's short-term (i.e., the dog is anxious, exercise deprived, etc.) and long-term health and general well being.

lfrench2010's picture
lfrench2010
Thu, 02/17/2011 - 10:14pm

I personally have found that if it is used properly a prong collar is a very useful tool in training a pitbull. They can b very stubborn and high strung. I had serious issues getting my pitbull Duke to 'walk' with me, instead of dragging me down the road. He walks very nice on the leash after the prong collar training. Instead of pulling back or jerking on the leash, like I have witnessed several people doing, hold the loop (handle) in one hand with a firm grip on the leash about 2 feet down and don't let it slip. When the dog pulls the collar will pinch a lil bit but it shows the dog u are in charge and it will not be able to pull u around everywhere. My pitbull is the best dog I have ever had and it's because I spent the time and put in the effort to train him right and show him that I'm in charge, not him. I love my dog and wouldn't trade him for the world!!

Phenix16's picture
Phenix16
Fri, 03/04/2011 - 10:18am

I do use a prong collar but not when i take them for a walk. Then i use a harness. But the prong collar is for for our puppy, for keeping him in line sorta. The collars never actually pinch the dogs.

 

kycritter's picture
kycritter
Wed, 03/09/2011 - 2:33pm

well I use a leather Harley Davidson collar, or a harness. She does very good on both, but we had to work with her.I think as long as you work with them they will do fine, she also gets a treat if she does good.

kendseycollins's picture
kendseycollins
Thu, 04/21/2011 - 10:09pm

 I just have to put my two cents in, as usual.  I use a prong collar and I love it.  We trained my dog off-leash when he was a puppy.  We did this so that, should he ever get loose while the kids were walking him, we knew we could control him.  We also worked with him on the leash, but he still developed a pulling habit.  My husband was dead set against the prong collars.  We have tried harnesses and because they spread the pressure out, Kaos was litterally able to yank me down the street without even pausing.  We tried a choke collar and Kaos would take a deep breath and lean into it. I truly was afraid for his well being.  I finally talked my hubby into letting me use a prong collar becuase I am 5'1" and weigh about 120 lbs.  I am no match for Kaos when he bolts in one direction or the other and he was just learning to pull harder because he could pull me off balance.  I am aware that constant pressure on the optic nerve can cause damage, but the whole point of a prong collar is to teach a dog to walk WITHOUT pressure.  Plus, the idea is not pain.  The prongs are not spiked, some are even rubber tipped.  The idea is to be a more accute reminder that the dog is out of line.  I have now used them on two very active dogs with beautiful results.  The idea is to use them as a training tool, not as an end result.  Once a dog is trained to walk well by your side, you can walk them with a harness so that there is no pressure at all on that optic nerve, but, until then, I am going to use a prong collar to keep my dog from putting unnecessary pressure on that nerve during training.  Bottom line though, is that, if it's a harness, choke or prong collar, as long as they are used as a training aid only for as long as necessary, they will protect your dog from long term effects of pulling by teaching them.  The most important thing is to find what works well for your dog!  If your dog becomes anxious because of a prong collar, it's not a good choice for you.  If your dog yanks you all over the block wearing a harness, it's not a good choice for you!