Chris Shaughness

author, speaker, animal lover

Obedience,  All Articles

Why Not Prong Collars and Choke Chains?

I receive a lot of flak from people who resist my advice to stop using choke chains and prong collars on their dogs. They tell me that their trainers recommended them, either as a method for training the dog using corrections (eek, that nasty word) by doing leash pops or for a way to control a dog who pulls. If a trainer recommends it, then they must be okay, right? Wrong! Do these collars work? Sure they do — for some dogs. Can these collars really make problems worse? Sure they can – for some dogs. And that’s why I caution against them.

Some trainers still continue to recommend choke chains and prong collars. They’ve trained dogs that way for years and years, and are not about to change, or that’s the way they were taught – by a trainer who has used the collars for years and years… These trainers either don’t understand that use of these collars can worsen behavior problems, or the trainers don’t have the knowledge of other methods or equipment to train dogs. Many trainers are quite adept at convincing people that choke chains and prong collars are safe and good training tools. Yes, you can make the case that, if used properly, these collars are effective. However, the problem is twofold: 1) The everyday dog owner often has trouble mastering the proper use of these collars. I see people constantly popping leashes with choke chains with a scared dog at the end of the leash, or allowing their dogs to strain and pull as the prong collars dig into the dogs’ necks. 2) Use of the collars on dogs with problems such as aggression can make the problems worse.

Let’s take a step back and talk about dogs’ physiology. Like people, dogs have distinct personalities. Some are calm; others are more anxious. Anything that causes discomfort or pain elevates anxiety. A dog who is calm and confident generally can handle the pressure, discomfort and possible pain from the choke chain or prong collar without any heightened anxiety. The dogs who are more naturally anxious will be the ones who cannot deal with the experience of added discomfort or pain. Discomfort and pain cause anxiety to increase. The more anxiety that a dog feels, the more likely that behavior problems will manifest or become worse.

Dogs who are already excitable and reactive to stimulation from the presence of, for example, other dogs or strangers, cannot deal with the added anxiety associated with getting popped and choked with chains and prongs. Dogs learn by association, and if they are already reactive when they see strangers or other dogs, the feeling of the choke chain or prong collar tightening around their necks just reinforces the association. The anxiety and overstimulation is exacerbated and the behavior worsens.

There are so many other better choices in equipment and training methods to use instead of choke chains and prong collars. A little education goes a long way to a happier and healthier relationship with your dog!

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