The “Prong Collar” Debate

About a week ago I got an email from my friend Sara, asking me to recommend a collar for her pit-bull puppy who was slipping out of slip chain chokers and chewing on the nylon ones.

To her, and anyone else asking this same question, here is my answer.

I own a Great Dane, Aslan, who at just about 11 months weighs in at 120lbs.

On Aslan, I use the prong collar.

Looks evil doesn't it?

When we purchased Aslan we had all intentions of using a regular nylon collar, and a slip-chain (choker) for training and walking purposes. Well that went out the window once we realized how quickly he was going to grow.

As the main caregiver for the dogs in our house, something needed to be done. I was becoming frustrated with his pulling, which was often do to his early fear of cars, trucks, bicycles… everything with wheels basically. It was a danger to myself and to anyone else I was walking with ie: my children or other dogs.

Kevin and I took a trip to Pet Smart with the intentions of buying a harness for Aslan. We were told that using the harness would distribute his weight and make it easier for the handler, me, to correct him if he began to pull. So there we were, standing in the leash isle debating over which one to buy, when another shopper overheard our conversation. She introduced herself as a dog owner of 2 pit-bulls. She then brought us over to the section where the prong collars were and told us that this was all she used. She was a small woman and knew about the need for control over a dog with more strength than she had.

We decided to purchase one and go home to do some research on it. This is what we found: 

1. A prong collar has a limited slip – this means that it can only tighten so far. This feature prevents the dog from having the breath choked out of him. It also prevents neck injuries that can be caused by choke chains, such as a collapsing trachea, soft tissue damage, and damage to the spine. Radiographs (X-rays) of dogs that have been trained with choke chains have shown misalignment of the cervical vertebrae, and choke chains have also resulted in injured ocular blood vessels, severely sprained necks, fainting, transient foreleg paralysis, laryngeal nerve paralysis, and hind leg ataxia.

2. A prong collar cannot be put on backwards like a choke chain can. When a choke chain is put on backwards, once it is tightened, it does not release. This means that the user is continually ‘correcting’ the dog even after the correction has already been given. This is not only confusing and frustrating to the dog, but it can also be very harmful. Since the collar isn’t releasing, the dog has trouble getting enough oxygen and may start to cough and hack, or even pass out.

3. A prong collar does not require NEAR the amount of force during a correction in order to be effective. With a choke chain, the user has to make a very precise movement, and jerk the leash to administer a correction. With a prong, all the user has to do is usually just a flick of the wrist for training in basic obedience or for teaching good leash manners.

4. A prong collar distributes a correction evenly all the way around the dog’s neck, simulating the way one dog would correct another by biting the other’s neck. A choke chain has only one correction point – the ring. That’s why so much force is needed for a correction with a choke chain to be effective.

Then it was time to try it for ourselves. 

Before the prong collar, teaching Aslan to walk properly on the leash was a time consuming process. I would take him out, alone, and for every miss-step he made, every time he walked in front of me, every time he changed direction and every time he pulled- I would stop completely. Never continuing to walk until he had become submissive at my side. It was working but our afternoon walks were more of a chore than anything.

The first time I used the prong collar and ever since then, he has been perfect on the leash. So much so that 6months later, I am only using it when we are in unfamiliar territory or around large groups of people and dogs. He is not aggressive but his size tends to frighten most non-dog owners so I feel more at ease having total control over him.

Note* – As a dog handler, I only use what my clients give me to use on their dogs. I never employ my own means of training, unless asked.

So my recomendation to Sara was to try the Prong collar. As long as you are educated on how to use it correctly. directions can be found here

I will state however that you are bound to get some negative comments and feedback from other dog owners. Most of them will tell you that you are hurting your animal. (that statement ranks #1 on my most hated list of dog comments. Along with, “Is that a horse?” (in regards to my Dane)). In that case, do what I do: smile politely and ask them to educate themselves : )

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