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As a certified professional dog trainer I do not use this tool nor do I recommend its use. There are some common myths and misconceptions when it comes to collars like these that I will be addressing below. If you are currently using one I highly suggest you switch to another tool mentioned below.
What is a prong collar?
A prong collar is a device that has metal fang-shaped prongs on it that is worn around a dog’s neck. When it is pulled tight the prongs create a pinching effect, which causes pain or discomfort for the dog. The way a device like this works is via Positive Punishment, which is when the dog does an incorrect behavior, (pulling) the human then gives a collar correction, which causes the pain or discomfort and in theory will decrease the frequency of the pulling. It also can work via Negative Reinforcement. This is when the dog hits the end of the leash causing the prongs to tighten. The prongs stay tightened until the dog stops pulling. The dog learns that if it pulls, it gets pinched so it stops pulling.
“What do you do if you have a strong, heavy, stubborn dog?”
I recommend using a harness that the leash attaches in the front of. This will give you more strength than any type of neck collar. This works because if the dog tries to pull, where the leash is hooked causes the front end of the dog’s body to be turned back toward the human. This takes away most of the dog’s leverage. I also recommend using Positive Reinforcement to teach the dog what you would like it to do.
“This works great because it mimics the mother’s teeth grabbing her puppy’s neck.”
This is false. There is no scientific data to back this up. Nor do you need to “bite your dog’s neck” to teach it what it is supposed to do.
“They are the most humane of all the pinch collars.”
Everyone has a different definition of humane. I consider humane teaching without pain or fear. These devices work by pinching and poking the dog’s neck to get it to comply. This is what is also referred to as avoidance training. The dog does the correct thing to avoid the pain or discomfort. Positive Reinforcement will yield quicker results that will work better in the short term and the long term.
“You just need to know how to use them correctly.”
In my opinion, there is no right way to hurt a dog. Using these the “right” way consists of using either Positive Punishment or Negative Reinforcement. Both of which do not work as quickly as Positive Reinforcement and both can have negative side effects unlike Positive Reinforcement.
“They don’t hurt the dog if used properly.”
This is false. If they didn’t cause pain or discomfort they wouldn’t work. If that were the case they would work magically. The two quadrants used when training with a collar like this are Positive Punishment (the dog receiving something it dislikes after it does a behavior, and Negative Reinforcement (the pain/discomfort is removed when the dog is doing the correct thing.) These two quadrants only work because of pain or discomfort and have been proven to be less effective than Positive Reinforcement.
“My dog never yelped or was injured.”
Just because your dog isn’t showing that it is being hurt, it doesn’t mean it isn’t being hurt. Most dogs do not show that they’re in pain unless it is on the extreme side.
“My dog gets excited when the collar comes out! Would he do that if it were cruel?”
This is a common one. Your dog gets excited when he sees it because he associates it with going for a walk. He loves walks so that is why he gets excited.
“The reality is that all dogs can’t be trained the same way, sometimes these tools are needed.”
False once again. As a professional trainer I’ve worked with dogs of all breeds, sizes, temperaments etc. Myself along with thousands of other trainers all around the world do not use tools like these and get the results that people are looking for in a humane way.
If you have a strong dog, buy a harness that allows the leash to be clipped in the front, or a head halter if need be. Also, take a look at the videos below to see how to actually teach your dog to walk on a loose leash. If you base your training on communication, you will have more fun and get quicker results.
Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org) and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V, follow him on Facebook by clicking here.