The Falacy that Prong Collars are Humane


This is the  4th or 5th time I am updating this. Please read carefully.  I think  I’ve clarified my own thinking on this. However…I have not changed my mind!

They are legal, and  probably the top selling style of dog collar in the USA:  the ‘prong’ , ‘spike’ , or ‘pinch’ collar.  You know what I am talking about:  the  martingale collar of links that can be removed or added,  where the  spikes  poke into the dog’s neck if he pulls.

In 40 years of dog training (admittedly, I have only put obedience titles on 2 dogs), I’ve only seen the collar used properly once:  on an out of control Malamute—& even then, it was not effective.  The dog had been  behavior shaped to pull his owner around, and she could not control the dog—& even the prongs poking into his neck  did not slow him down.  There is a reason  this did not work, and I will explain.

Think about it & look at the collar:  it is designed to PINCH the dog all around his neck. Why would you do this to your dog?  & then, why would you deny it hurts?  Yet people do deny it hurts.  IT WAS DESIGNED TO HURT.  That’s the only reason to use it:  to hurt the dog enough that if he  tries to pull you,  the pain will slow him down.  I’ve even had people defend this, saying—-veterinarians have said it does not harm the dog.  So—what’s the pount of doing it if you don’t want to hurt your dog into submission?

Yet—we’ve all seen those dogs wearing the prong collars who still pull their owners in spite of the pain.  The reasons are probably two:    1: According to Temple Grandin, in her book, Animals in Translation, it hurts, but not enough to bother the dog.  2: The dog might be trying to get away from the ‘pain’, so he pulls harder.

So—- people retort that the dog is NOT being hurt. Well, not enough to slow him down!  So, what’s the point?  Why not  just  put a buckle collar on the dog  and get his attention to follow a treat he likes, and TRAIN HIM TO NOT PULL BY USING THE CLICKER /TREAT METHOD?  What are we missing here?

Prong collars are not only illogical—they send   a message to anyone that sees you walking a dog with such a collar that you can’t control the dog.  Worse, you are too stupid or lazy to train the dog to not pull you!

I work in boarding kennels where lot of  out of control dogs are boarded.  I have been injured.  However, because we don’t have time to fit a  prong collar to each & every dog, we just use  slips or choke chains.  I would prefer Martingale style combos—but these places are owned by NON-DOG business people!    I am not defending the use of chokes as regular day-to-day collars, but  we can’t risk a dog slipping out & running. I have trained dogs using properly fitting choke chains—and if you  think they are not humane…here’s the deal:  you can train a dog quickly not to pull. I have ‘trained’ dogs in less than 2 minutes to NOT pull me using a choke or slip. They ‘get it’.   You just stand still.   I don’t like using a  choke or slip, but  free spirit dog  owners who  give their dogs over  for care to someone  the dog does not know, and has no  idea of what is expected of him leave us no choice. A slip is  “1 size fits all’.  BUT THERE IS A MORE HUMANE METHOD!   I have recently used this method to  train a dog with a martingale. The  trainers I work with suggested moving backwards, and the dog will learn to not forge ahead. You just have to be the boss of the dog.  I have to do this, or I am going to be injured.   What this means to me is  being in control.  I wouldn’t have to  do this if so many idiots  didn’t walk their dogs on either prong collars or harnesses.   These days, however, on my own dogs,  I use  nylon Martingale collars.  I am also walking backwards a lot.

What bugs me more than the prong collar on an untrained dog, is the prong collar with a flexi!  Totally incomprehensible.

I am not fond of harnesses, either. I would use a  Halti or ‘head harness’ before I’d put a harness on any of my dogs. Harnesses were designed to  allow dogs to pull you without pain—which is why sled dogs  & guide dogs wear harnesses. Why would you want to  train any dog that it is ok to lead you around?   Yeah, I’ve heard it:  the collapsed trachea.   so, TRAIN THE DOG to follow a cookie, use a wide greyhound type flat buckle collar or head harness, and  don’t allow the dog to pull.  Not only  this, but  putting a dog in a position of leading an owner may make a dog even more insecure , or more aggressive than he would be otherwise .

For some reason, most American dog owners still think they are buying Lassie, or have some sort of  idea in their heads that training a dog requires magic.  It just requires patience and persistence….and the idea in your own mind that you are a leader.

Because Americans don’t take   responsibility for controlling their dogs, there are breed bans and dog restrictions all over. Out of control dogs are dangerous.  No doubt.  But hurting your dog is not the solution.

For all of you who don’t want to be swayed by the facts:http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201404/the-effect-training-method-stress-levels-in-dogs, abd you might want to check this out as well: http://thelifeofroyal.blogspot.com/2011/11/prong-collars-are-pain-in-neck.html

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23 Responses to “The Falacy that Prong Collars are Humane”

  1. Nicki Says:

    Choke chains are more dangerous than the prong collar. Most anything is dangerous if not used properly.

  2. Jordan Says:

    I agree with Nicki, I’m currently in the process of training my boxer and watching my dog on a choke chain made me feel extremely uncomfortable.  30 odd kilos of weight pulling against a chain which will only get tighter is quite distressing to watch. 

    I have a private trainer who spends time with my dog and I, one on one, and with his guidance we have tried a number of techniques to help control his walking behaviour. There are a number of years worth of destructive behaviour which needs to be undone and while he is doing unbelievably well he is also very easily distracted when it comes to the excitement of an outside adventure. Initially I was very much against the prong collar as I didn’t want to hurt my dog however, after a definite decrease in dominant, excitable behaviour through the other methods we’ve implemented, I’ve found it to work extremely well without actually harming my dog.

    I understand it is not a magic bullet which is why we’ve focused on other training methods to use in conjunction with the prong collar but I think this is a commonly made mistake amongst desperate dog owners.

    In my mind, having my dog bolt out onto a road because he sees another dog on the other side and getting hit by a car is more inhumane than using this collar. Knowing I can take my dog to a beach and not be concerned he is going to run off and play with anything that moves means I’ll be able to take him more often so essentially, thanks to this collar he will have a better quality of life.

    • disparateinterests Says:

      There are exceptions to every rule. and something tells me that this dog will NEVER be trained to control himself, not pulkl, or be calm. But I am not defending choke chains, either. How many dogs under 30 lb. do YOU see on spoke/prong collars?

      • Jordan Says:

        I can have my dog comfortably walk alongside me on a slack lead which is something he would never have done in the past. I don’t agree that he will NEVER be trained to control himself as I’ve proved that he can but what concerns me is that at this stage it doesn’t take much for him to revert back to his excitable nature if he loses focus (I’m working on that with other methods) so in the meantime I am going to try reinforcing his boundaries with a prong collar as it’s my last option.

        Also, it’s kilos not pounds that I was referring to.

  3. Mike Says:

    That is a pretty ignorant thing to say. To detest a prong collar, yet support the use of a choke chain, shows how under educated on them you are. There was a study done including 100 dogs, fifty who used prong collars, and fifty who use the choke chain. Ninety six percent of dogs who wore choke chains had neck or trachea damage. As oppose to the prong collar, where none had damage related to the collar (the two who did were from genetics). Any collar can hurt a dog if misused, and when use right the prong collar is humane and doesnt hurt. I know this as I properly fitted it around my own neck and gave it a good tug. Dogs have much thicker skin, so how would it hurt them if it didnt hurt me? Very few can administer a correction properly on a choke chain. It is extremely difficult to do right, and more then 95% of people cant do it, or know how. My dog wore one for two weeks then graduated to a martingale, and soon enough will be on a nice buckle collar. They are TRAINING collars and shouldnt be worn all the time. If your dog still needs one after a few months to a year you are not using them right. Think they abuse dogs, you should meet mine. You wont find a happier/friendlier dog then him.

    • disparateinterests Says:

      I don’t think Mike read the blog…carefully…& that’s why he thinks using negative methods are ok, and thinks I think a choke is ‘better’. I do not. But because he either doesn’t comprehend what I said, or didn’t read it carefully….he…and many others….are choosing prong collars over positive re-enforcement behavior shaping.

  4. Mike Says:

    You clearly state:
    I have trained dogs using choke chains—and if you think they are not humane…here’s the deal: when used effectively and properly, you can train a dog quickly not to pull.

    They aren’t humane, at all. I read the blog very carefully. It may also suprise you to learn that you can apply positive reinforcement while using the prong. I use 75% positive reinforcement and 25% negative (leash corrections). My training styles are different then yours, and believe me extremely effective. My dog has no fears, or anxiety. As I said when prong collars are used correctly they are okay. The only abuse with these collars is there misuse. In that aspect i’ll agree they shouldn’t be used..by those who dont know how to use them properly. While I respect your opinion I disagree. Too many people attack these collars without fully understanding them. I would bet you know very little about them, or have done very minimal research about them, and instead choose too slander something you know very little about, as many people who dont like them do. Try one on yourself then complain they hurt. Mine around my own neck didnt hurt me.

    I would like to finish by saying that my post’s in no way are written to offend, or upset anyone. Im just sharing my view on the topic. Im willing to discuss the matter, but if name calling or verbal attacks come into play, I will not participate.

  5. me Says:

    What you wrote about prong collars is true, yet it makes no sense for you to turn around and advocate choke collars and slip leads. They choke the dog. There is NO right way to choke a dog.

    If you have to resort to pain and discomfort to train a dog then you don’t know what you’re doing and you should just leave training up to someone who does know what they’re doing because they don’t need to use a crutch that causes pain or discomfort.

    • disparateinterests Says:

      Yes, you are write—but people are not generally using the chokes these days as they are using prongs & not training the dogs.

  6. Doug Says:

    It seems to me a quick negative correction used occasionally with a pinch collar combined with lots of love and praise is an excellent means of training a very strong willed dominant dog. 100% positive did not work for either of my dogs. Tried two different trainers with moderate success, quick relapse. Dogs are animals as are humans, we both can occasionally use corrective training. Not all of us dog owners can be like the dog whisperer. I also agree about the choke collar, unless you are a professional dog trainer, don’t use it.

    • disparateinterests Says:

      The problem is…people ar not using the collars to train the dogs—they th8ink the collar trains the dog. the problem is the many pet store employees who sell the collars. the pet industry is really a pretty unethical industry. There is no reason to NOT use a martingale collar if you are not training the dog.

  7. Alex Says:

    This is ridiculous, and shows a lack of understanding of how prong collars actually work. The prongs are bent so that they don’t poke into a dog’s neck, but instead slide on it and apply even pressure. I used one on both my dog and my brother’s dog to train them, and before doing so, I tried it on myself. It’s not painful, it’s uncomfortable in that there’s some pressure being applies all the way around. My brother’s dog was highly temperamental, and very sensitive to any form of pain, however slight, and he NEVER had a problem with the prong collar. He did, however, have a problem with every single other form of training collar or harness. The problem is when they’re used improperly, whether it’s improper sizing, on puppies, or kept on for extremely extended periods of time (like, months) and used as a regular collar. When used as a training collar, and properly sized, it doesn’t hurt, it is uncomfortable, but not what I’d (or, apparently, my dog, or my brother’s dog) would consider painful.

    • disparateinterests Says:

      Read the whole post….carefully.
      Alex—you did not read the whole post carefully & are trying to defend an inept trainer—as well as using discomfort to train a dog.
      First of all—if they worked, why are so many out of control dogs still wearing prong collars? Because retailers sell them, and lead people to believe the collar trains the dog.
      2nd, why would a dog under 10 lb need a prong collar?Good for your brother, 1 in a million.
      The fact of the matter is they are used WRONG far more often then they are used ‘right’. Shock collars can also be used correctly—but are not. Food thing they are too expensive for the average dog owner.
      this post has gotten an average of 10 hits a day over 4 years. Why? Dog trainers using positive methods have forwarded it on.
      Meanwhile, I, again, had an out of control Bouvier come in for grooming 3 days ago. dog was on a prong collar with a Flexi leash,
      the owner probably weighed 50 lb more than me & didn’t have a clue that he could get better control of hi9s dog by actually behavior shaping rather than attempting to slow it down via pain.

      • Alex Says:

        Any collar can be used wrongly, including a regular collar. If they’re too small for the dog, or never adjusted for a growing dog, then ANY collar will do massive amounts of damage to a dog, and many people misuse any form of collar, so unless you want to argue that since there are idiots out there who will abuse or neglect their dogs, we should ban all collars, this argument doesn’t work. Prong collars allow for owners (like me, when I was training my dog) to work with untrained dogs who weigh significantly more than they do, who are exceptionally hyper, or who are much stronger than they are without having to worry that they’re going to get injured doing so. My dog, before I trained him using the prong collar, broke my mother’s finger chasing a frog, dragged her twenty yards across gravel, and also dragged me halfway down a hill chasing after a squirrel.

        Before I used the prong collar on him, I tried it on myself, to make absolutely sure that it wasn’t painful, that it wouldn’t hurt him, because I’ve read the negative articles on them, but I’ve also read numerous articles on humane usage of them. They’re NOT painful. I was able to have one fully tightened on my neck for almost half an hour, without feeling any form of pain.Was it the most comfortable thing in the world? No, but it’s akin to sitting on your own leg for a while. It feels awkward,not painful, when it’s properly sized and used. When improperly sized and used, just like any collar, it will hurt, and it will do damage, but that’s the fault of the owner, not the collar’s design.

        Also, no, I’m not trying to use discomfort to train my dog. I used the collar for a practical safety reason: my dog, at the time, weighed close to half again my weight, and was in his prime. There was no way that I could have trained him safely given the fact that I had no access to any dog park, large, indoor area, or any other place that was closed off, where I could work with him, and not wanting to either get dragged along for another squirrel-chase, or lose him, the prong collar was a better solution than anything else, and didn’t hurt him. How do I know it didn’t hurt him? At the time, he was not a particularly patient dog, and would make it quite clear if something was bothering him. The same goes for my brother’s dog, who would howl incessantly if someone so much as accidentally stepped on the tip of his tail. If the prongs caused the pain described by those who oppose the usage of such collars, neither dog would have stood for it. As it was, by the third day of using it, if anyone so much as touched it in my dog’s presence, his ears would perk up,, his tail would wag, and he’d practically bound over to that person, because he associated it with a pleasant experience: namely, going for a walk. If it were causing him pain, or startled him, or anything of the sort, his reaction would not be one of eagerness, as according to past experience with said dog, and with animals in general.

      • Alex Says:

        Also, lest you argue that I couldn’t possibly know because I’m only referring to two dogs here, I checked with four different vets before using it on my dog, and before my brother used it on his. Two of the four graduated from Cornell in NY, the top Veterinary school in the country, and they specifically said that it was not harmful and would not cause the dogs pain, when properly fitted, and took the time to show me how to properly fit it. Pretty sure that vets know what they’re talking about when it comes to the health and safety of the animals that they regularly treat.

  8. disparateinterests Says:

    Nice try. Veterinarians aren’t dog trainers &, in fact, often know very little about dog behavior. & most veterinarians defend the rights of commercial puppy mills to breed & sell dogs. Yes, the conditions are bad, but the dogs don’t mind, they don’t commit suicide…..they LOVE the bracheocephalics—Bulldogs, Frenchies, Pugs—big money makers.Real animal lovers—most vets ( I am, being facetious).
    Not harmful? Fine— I believe Temple Grandin knows more about how animals perceive pain than most veterinarians.
    Properly fitted? go back & read the entire blog—-slowly, carefully. The fact of the matter is—they are sold by retailers who give a rat’s ass about proper fit or use.
    My dear—if the prong collar actually worked in training the dog—you’d be able to take the collar off after a few sessions and have a trained dog, Try it.

    • Alex Says:

      While they may know little about animal behavior, it is their job to know about the physical characteristics, and what can harm them physically, whether it’s dietary or otherwise. The pain and damage that prong collars supposedly do is physical, which you claim causes psychological damage.

      Also, none of the vets that I have met or worked with support puppy mills, at all, because they recognize that it can cause severe psychological damage to dogs, as well as affecting their health, so either I know some really awesome, abnormal vets, or you only know a bunch of really crappy ones.

      The retailers’ job is not to make sure that it is properly fitted, that is the job of the owner, just as it is with any other collar. So, no, they probably generally won’t give a rat’s ass about fitting it, because it’s not their responsibility. Further, owners have the resources available to them to properly fit them; extra links are sold, and it is simple to remove extra links.

      I no longer use the prong collar on my dog because 1) he’s fully trained, and 2) because I now weigh more than him so that on the off-chance that he did forget his manners and try chasing after a squirrel, he’d have a much more difficult time doing so. I used it for as long as I did solely because my family members were worried that he’d try pulling the same stunt without the collar: a worry which I didn’t share because I’d already trained him.

      On the Temple Grandin note, I checked up on the good doctor’s thoughts on the matter. Dr. Grandin is against the use of shock collars, and also doesn’t speak too fondly of choke collars, but hasn’t yet said anything on prong collars. If they were as inhumane as you claim, odds are that Dr. Grandin would have already said something on the matter, because she tends toward having made it her habit to stand against inhumane practices.

      Oh, and simply because I vehemently disagree with you does not mean I did not read the article carefully several times through. It just means that I don’t think you’re right, and have no problem arguing over the matter until or unless someone can actually show me proof that the collars themselves are inhumane. Considering the fact that I’ve used one on myself before, and the dogs who I’ve seen it used on have never shown any sign of being in pain, you’ll have rather a hard time doing so, since the blog post above is merely based on past experience as well.

  9. lisa Says:

    Every dog needs a specific way of training. I do not like choke chains as they literally do just that. They choke and crush the windpipe causing damage. It would be great if all of our dogs learned to be perfect in under 5 minutes but its just not possible. I myself use a prong collar on my 150lb bullmastiff. Not because he is a terrible dog but because he has a short attention span and I’d rather have the choice of immediate control if he sees a squirrel and decides to run in a cars path to get at it. It is for his safety. Used correctly he never pulls while wearing it aside from the odd distraction.

    • disparateinterests Says:

      You see, Lis a is using the pain to control the dog. It hasn’t trained the dog. people using them ahve to admit they are using pain to redirect the dog. This , agian, like I say in the blog, shows that they don’t have control of the dog.

  10. Tali Says:

    Slip collars, or chain collars are not one size fits all. They must be sized correctly to work. That being said, they help the oblivious dog to realize that you are trying to communicate with him via the leash, which prong collars do not do. The one thing you forgot to mention is how often prong collars fail. They pop open and the out of control dog is now running loose. I hate prong collars, and fortunately I am seeing almost none in use. Replaced by what? Harnesses! When will people get it?

    • Bruce L Nordhausen Says:

      “However, because we don’t have time to fit a prong collar to each & every dog, we just use slips or choke chains.” Take the time twit. Use prong collar on my Goldie for years. Used it on a untrained friends dog who wanted to drag me everywhere. Prong collar quieted him right down and I walked him through a street fair that very day. Your argument is riddled with falsies and you might want to check out Jeff Gellmen. PS, use the German collar, the Chinese are junk and potentially dangerous.

      • disparateinterests Says:

        Less than 1% of people who buy these collars use them correctly, Just last week I had to send a large dog for veterinary treatment of puncture wounds to the neck—the owners never noticed—even the smell of infection. Shame on you.

  11. Robyn Michaels Says:

    I totally agree—which is why I generally suggest martingales.

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