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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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A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than you love yourself.

Estimated number of cats and dogs entering shelters each year:

6-8 million (HSUS estimate)

Estimated number of cats and dogs euthanized by shelters each year:

3-4 million (HSUS estimate)

Estimated number of cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year:

3-4 million (HSUS estimate)

Estimated number of cats and dogs reclaimed by owners from shelters each year:

30 percent of dogs and 2-5 percent of cats entering shelters (HSUS estimate)

Estimated number of animal shelters in the United States:

3,500 (HSUS estimate)

Estimated percent of dogs in shelters who are purebred:

25 percent (HSUS estimate)

statistics provided by The National Council on Pet Population, Study and Policy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awful isn’t it.

Do you want to help?

It’s easier than you think.

If you have a couple of free hours a week or even month, you can volunteer at an area shelter. They have all kinds of odd jobs that they need help with.

Most of them have a list of volunteer opportunities on their websites.

Click here for a list of all Massachusetts Animal Shelters

A few ideas –

  • send in donations, most websites have a link for this
  • pick up a bag of dog/cat food on  your next trip through the grocery store and drop it off at the shelter. Call beforehand because most shelters use a specific brand. (its not good to change an animals food)
  • foster an animal. Sadly a lot of shelters are overpopulated, which leads to animals being  euthanized : (
  • Spread the word. Facebook is a powerful tool. Most shelters and animal organizations have a page. Follow them, share their links.
  • and if you are thinking of getting a pet, consider adoption first.

I believe in animal rights, and high among them is the right to the gentle stroke of a human hand.  ~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

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Where to today?

Today the dogs and I are headed to nearby Luddam’s Ford Park in Hanover. This beautiful park is  part of the Town’s Open Space Preserve .

Herring Run at Luddam's Ford Park

There are 4 miles of cleared trail, open areas, a canoe launch and plenty of areas for fishing & picnics ! The park also allows for horseback riding along the trails. Hanover is FULL of horse farms. Wish I had a horse : (

Get your paws out here before the winter comes!

 

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