It's NOT OK to walk or train your dog with a prong collar. There, we've said it.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about the ‘safety’ of a prong collar.
Before we go on... go check out this article by Dr. Peter Dobias. It's just one of thousands and thousands that are out there that say...just about the same thing. Prong collars suck. For many reasons.
Yes. Prong collars work, yet they are totally medieval and Draconian. It is not just because of the prongs themselves (though they do look scary), it is also because they function as a reminder of pain that can be inflicted versus a positive reinforcement approach. Positive reinforcement is what real, foundational training provides.
That is why most every police and military dog is trained with rewards, and not this kind of punishment. For a quick thought…how does a dog ‘know’ what is the ‘cause’ of the pain. Often a dog says ‘oh, when I see another dog I get pain… so I am going to hate other dogs’. That is, they learn a different lesson than is assumed.
Yes, some dogs do ‘listen’ with prong collars, yet these are a fast fix. It's a trick. And that is why some trainers use prongs, versus a longer cycle of positive reinforcement training. Both can get the same results, yet we like the positive path – both as a recipient of training and as trainer. We don’t want to be trained to avoid things, nor to live in fear of pain being inflicted on me. I guess it is all about how we look at life. The name of our company is Walk Your Dog With Love, not Train Your Dog With Pain.
Also, it is not just the prongs. The real issue is the dangers of being walked by the neck by any device - a flat collar, choker or prong. See why vet's around the world hate it when a dog is walked by it's neck here http://WalkYourDogWithLove.com/10reasons.
Many people aren’t even aware or haven’t thought about these anatomical, neurological, respiratory, glandular, etc. problems - though their vets and veterinary surgeons have thought a lot about them. The great news is that 97% of people who learn about these issues instantly ‘understand’, and never walk their dogs from the neck again.
Large animals like horses and elephants don’t get walked with prong collars, ever. Yet many people are willing to walk dogs of all sizes with prong collars. Once again, we understand what leads a person to use such a device, “We Want A Solution”, and often “We Want It Now”. Most dog owners just want their dogs to “Listen”.
Selling A Prong Collar
As with most items, people who want to ‘sell’ us always have ways to help us rationalize its use. Prong advocates often demonstrate how “gentle” the prongs are against your arm. This is a very misleading demonstration. We don’t think that the demonstrators (trainers, pet store employees, and other dog professionals) intend on being misleading – that’s how they have been shown to demonstrate a prong collar. The big issue is that they have no idea what is really at stake when using a prong collar, as the illustration of your dog’s neck clearly shows: everything is at stake, including your dog’s health and life.
The reality of the arm demo is that your arm is not your neck. Your arm has thicker skin than your neck, and it also is less sensitive because it has less nerves. Also, your arm is not pulling or pushing into the collar. Yet, most importantly, your arm does not have sensitive organs like the thyroid gland in it, nor does it transport nerve signals to and from the brain to the rest of your body. Also, your arm doesn’t transport blood, oxygen and food from the heart to the brain and to the body. When you squeeze an arm, you don’t feel it in your eyes, like you would if you squeeze your neck.
Prong advocates say that the prong emulates “the Mother’s bite”. Nonsense. Doggy Mommies do not bite around the entire dog’s neck, nor are they constantly threatening their own offspring with pain. Just the opposite: if a Doggie Mommy makes a correction it is short, sweet and more of a nip.
Another way a trainer 'sells' a prong collar is by talking about how the dog quickly relates their actions (i.e. pulling) with the pain, and then chooses not do that action. They sell the idea that Yes, maybe it is a bit painful, yet it stops the ‘bad’ behavior in its tracks. And then the dog never has that behavior again. Yet, here is a quick thought: how does a dog ‘know’ what is “Causing“ the pain. What often happens is a different result” for instance, a dog gets that pain when it sees another dog (because it is pulling) and then it becomes more violent toward other dogs. This happens all the time.
If this Big Pain idea works, then it would lead to the conclusion that there would be no need for a prong collar after that. Yet that is not the case. And worse, the pain gets caused when a dog sniffs the bushes, looks at another dog, tries to jump an person, or sees a cat. Or just because the human at the other end of the leash wants to show control, or feels out of control, or just likes to yank on the leash. Which is exactly what humans do.
How well does this 'pain technique actually work on any animal? For instance, it should work very well on humans because we are ‘smarter’ than dogs. Yet humans quite often continue to do things that cause them pain - both immediate and long term.
Sort of like when you touch the hot stove and got burned… Does that mean you will never touch it again? Of course we do touch the hot stove again. And we get burned again. Which means we don’t learn from the hot stove, nor the pain. The prong collar is the hot stove - yet unlike a hot stove – it burns for all kinds of reasons and in a variety of situations. A hot stove is only going to burn you for one reason - it is hot, and it is always located in the same exact place.
Because not many of us are well versed, nor well practiced at using a prong collar, a prong collar thus 'burns'- causes pain - at any moment, and for any reason. That's not even Adversion Training. It just makes prong collars a great tool for creating neurotic and anxious dogs that are angry at any number of things.
A final thought: despite the consequences many of us do things that cause pain, over and over. Which in one way is good – because we would never get back on a bike to learn how to ride it after our first painful scraped knee fall. And we would never ask another person out for a date after our first rejection. All which lead to the point that Pain for learning is a nice theory... yet a bad practice.
And that is the crux of the trianing issue
Let’s say we discounted the physical damage that prong collars cause dogs. Let’s also discount the psychological damage prong collars inflict on our dogs.
Why DO dog’s still pull and jump and “misbehave”, all the things we are trying to eradicate with a prong collar.
Reason number one… is that they are… dogs. This is how dogs behave. Why are we all fighting it so much? Do we really expect to extinguish the very nature of a dog. And if we do douse out their dogginess… what is left?
Yet another reason that dogs behave the way the do – and don't really benefit from a prong - is that the benefit of what they are doing outweighs the pain. Sniffing this or that, or wanting to see that other dog or jump on that person… That's what they want to do… the ‘call’ to do that is strong. That is their benefit.
Additionally, they weren’t planning on ‘the call’ any more than you plan on salivating when I bring out fresh chocolate cheesecake covered in raspberry sauce. They are already in action before the painful “correction” is administered. They are already all about that cat. That doesn’t just ‘go away’.
Also, similar to cooking… a hot stove is part of the deal. A hot stove doesn’t mean you don’t cook. So, if pain is part of the deal, so be it.
Which is why prongs are bound to fail or get so so results - because they don't offer a 'better' solution. They are the very essence of a bad deal.
A better approach, proven over millions of dogs for countless generations and hundreds and hundreds of years - is having a benefit greater than The Call. This is the technique practiced worldwide by people who actually work with their dogs everyday – on farms, in fields, in cities, in the military, the police, herders, shepherds, etc. These people rely on their dogs as partners who are doing a job. They use a much different technique than Aversion. Without writing a book about positive reinforcement (that is another article) - having a better treat than that running after that cat is the way to go. This is the techique that is proacticed It can be a stinky treat. A GOOD DOG attaboy, a scratched ear… or the opportunity to “do’ something… like “Fido Sit”. THIS is the multipronged approach you want. The prongs of benefit, of My Human Thinks I Am Great, of I just performed for my human…
And about that word ‘correction’. Pain is not a correction. Pain doesn’t get what you want. If it works, it just gets you what you don’t want …stopped. The benefit of positive reinforcement is it takes ‘negative’ behavior and transforms it into Positive Behavior. It turns the running after the cat, or jumping on a stranger into a Fido Sit. Which is better for everyone.
Some simple reasons not to use collars when walking your dog
A dog should never be walked by its neck as noted above. So, getting off your dog’s neck is about much more than money. It is about the very health and well being of your dog. The issues caused by walking our dogs by their necks can be costly. Thus a harness is inexpensive insurance against things that can and do happen to our dogs.
And those are just some of the things that happen when we are walked by the neck.
Are harnesses a solution
Harnesses are the solution so you don't 'have' to walk your dog by the neck. Yet not all harnesses are created equally. Many harnesses still pull on a dog's neck even though they also go around a dog's body. That is a function of bad design and not understanding the basic idea of a harness. Walk Your Dog With Love dog harnesses do not pull on a dog's neck nor are they on a dog's neck in any way.