I know this topic is kind of controversial among the dog training community so I want to start by saying that the majority of the views in this post are my own opinion. Although I am against prong and choke collars and believe there are better ways out there to get the same result, I admit I have never actually used a prong collar and I respect everyone’s right to their own choices as to what collars they use on their dogs. This post is meant to educate those who are trying to decide between a prong and other methods, and to give alternative methods they may want to try. In the end, it is the owners responsibility to choose what is best and safest for their dog.
Prong collars have been a hot topic in the dog training community for a while now. This amazes me, although I have never personally used one before, I have seen extreme pullers be trained without the use of one. In my opinion, if you can get the same result without causing discomfort and possibly injury to the dog, why wouldn’t you at least give force free methods a try?
For those who don’t know, prong collars are a training collar made of metal links that have points (or prongs) that lay against the dogs neck. They are used a lot to correct leash pulling and leash reactivity. Trainers who use them will tell you that when used properly (fitted high on the dogs neck and not further down like normal collars) these collars are extremely effective and humane. The prongs are used as a “correction” mimicking the way a mother dog corrects her puppies.
In my opinion the fact that these collars have to be used “properly” in order to not cause extreme damage to the dog is a huge red flag. I’d say the majority of dog owners I have seen using these collars are not using them the “correct way,” and is it really their fault? These collars are sold at almost any big pet store, as a “quick fix” to pulling. I asked a few people who have actually used these collars about their experience and I liked how one of them put it, “To be perfectly honest I don’t think they should even be sold in stores. In a perfect world you should only be able to get them through your trainer who has passed some kind of certification proving they have sufficient knowledge of the collar. I’d say at least 60% or more of dogs who come into the store I work at with prong collars don’t have the correct fit or placement, and their owners don’t understand how to use them.” I would argue that if this is the case, why are these collars even sold at all, especially when there a many alternatives out there.
Like what? Below are some methods I have personally tried and had success with, even with the most extreme pullers.
How they work- These collars fit around the dogs muzzle and then to a leash, some even connect to the dogs normal collar for added security. They are designed so that when the dog pulls, their head gets turned back towards the handler, teaching the dog to keep the leash loose.
Pros- They do work on the majority of dogs and although I don’t like “quick fixes” they work relatively fast once the dog gets used to having it on.
Cons- I personally have seen very few dogs that actually enjoy wearing this collar. There is an adjustment period for any dog with this collar before you actually use it on a walk/run. If you want tips on how to help your dog adjust to a head collar please email me and I’d be happy to give more information. Some dogs never get used to this collar and will try anything to get it off (even possibly injuring themselves in the process).
How they work- There are a lot of harnesses you can buy today that advertise as being no-pull but the kind I am talking about here are the ones where the leash attaches to the front of the dog. When the dog pulls, he/she is pulled slightly to the side, encouraging them to keep the leash loose. For best results I would combine this tool with other positive training methods (mentioned next).
Pros- This is my favorite thing to use on dogs that pull. It’s gentle on the dog and also gives the handler a lot more control compared to a flat collar, not to mention it takes the strain off the pulling dog’s neck. Most dogs will accept a harness much faster than a head collar. When combined with positive training methods, you could eventually wean the dog off of the harness if desired.
Cons- Some determined dogs will still pull with this harness. Also, if not fitted properly, it can rub on the dogs arm pits and cause a rash, but if you think the harness is fitted well and it still does this, there are strap covers you can buy that prevent rashes.
Positive Training Methods
To reduce stress on the dog and owner, I would combine these methods with one of the two tools mentioned above.
These methods take time but they work, instead of a painful “correction” every time the dog pulls, they teach the dog what you want and that obeying you means good things.
Start in an area with little to no foot traffic or distractions, a backyard or even a room inside is perfect. With your dog on leash, start walking. The minute your dog pulls, say “oops” (or another word that signals to the dog you don’t want that behavior, this is optional when teaching loose leash walking because the dog is already learning this by your actions) and turn in the other direction. Keep walking in the other direction and repeat if/when the dog pulls again. You are teaching the dog that if he/she wants to go somewhere, not pulling is the best choice. Once your dog is doing this well in the backyard, you can graduate to normal walking paths or trails. It’s important to be consistent with this training because if you sometimes allow pulling and other times don’t, you will confuse your dog. I think this method is easier to learn by watching instead of reading so the videos below demonstrate what I’m talking about as well as some other awesome positive training methods.
I love the idea of being “unpredictable” mentioned in this video. I’ve found this also really helps when you start teaching off-leash behavior because it teaches your dog to watch where you are going.
I could probably fill a book with reasons why the methods mentioned above are better than prong collars but I will just conclude this post by saying this; dogs pull because they have four legs and we have two, that is it, they are naturally faster than us and excited to go places. They are not trying to “dominate” us by walking ahead and they don’t need to be “put in their place” or “corrected” by using tools like prong collars.
If you honestly feel like you have tried all of these methods and nothing is working, enlist the help of a positive dog trainer instead of resorting to punitive methods. You will walk away with a happier dog and a much better relationship with him/her.
*Images used in this post are not mine, I’ve attached the image source underneath each picture.