When people think of a training collar, the first thing that often pops into their head is a check chain or choke collar. Whilst we have used a check collar in the past, its not something we use or recommend any longer.
Recent studies have proven that dogs trained with check chain style collars, more often than not suffer damage to their throat. The other problem with check chains are that they are sized to fit the dogs head, not the neck, when they slip down the neck, they are much less effective there.
For a long time, we have been a fan of the limited slip collar, namely the prong or pinch collar. I have always recommended them for bigger dogs to help people gain control and still do today.
Due to the “look” of a prong collar, people feel they are too harsh and hesitate to use them. We advise getting past the looks and evaluating a prong collar over a choke collar. The same study that revealed damage by a check chain promoted the prong as being harmless.
If you have a soft or low drive dog, you might also consider our limited slip or martingale collars. Whilst they struggle on a large unruly dog, they will suit the more relaxed lower drive animals.
What we don’t recommend, is people buying a training collar of any description and attempting to use it without instruction. Dog training is behaviour modification, it’s not something you figure out as you go.
We believe prong collars are the best mechanical correction collar available. They provide an effective correction without excessive effort and or frustration from the handler.
These collars cause no harm when used responsibly, we recommend getting an expert to demonstrate how to use a prong collar on your dog.
We also know that when you fit a prong collar to your dog, you will see results almost instantly! However these will be short lived if you do not add a training program to teach our dog to walk on a loose leash.
We can teach this in a single lesson, or our Distance Learning Packages also cover this for people who live too far away.
Why these collars are safe and effective tool
When many people see a prong collar, they are often put off by what appears to be a medieval tool of torture. Prong collars are far from anything like this; in fact they are one of the most miss understood tools in modern dog training.
The prong collar can be used in the same manner as a check chain, to issue a correction in the avoidance method of dog training. The benefits of using a prong collar are many; we will name a few of them here.
Area of correction
Unlike a check chain, that only applies a correction to the throat of the animal, the prong collar with its unique design applies pressure to 360 degrees of the dogs neck, meaning that it takes less effort to correct a dog with a prong than it does with a check chain, thus giving a more effective correction and more control back to the handler or trainer
The problem with the check chain is that you cannot get one to fit your dogs neck, sure you can buy them any length, but as you need to pass the chain through itself to form a loop before fitting it to the dog, the size is then determined by the head of the dog, not the neck.
Once the check chain is slipped over the head, it will slip down to the dog’s lower neck, where it has much less effect. This in turn means the trainer has to check much harder to get a response from the dog. Sometimes handlers arent strong enough to issue a correction that will make the dog mind. Also these harder corrections have been linked to damage to the dogs neck.
The prong collars are sized by adding or removing links, then fitting the collar and engaging the links into one another. This means the collar can be fitted under the chin where it has the most effect, meaning the trainer requires less effort, thus causing no damage to the neck.
Some people will tell you that under the chin is a sensitive area and that you should place the collar lower. We believe these people to be wrong as placing the collar in the most sensitive area means a lesser correction to get the message across.
The Two stages of a Pinch collar
A pinch collar is a two stage collar; the two stages are the correction stage and the pinch stage. The correction stage of the collar is when the leash is popped; the outer circumference of the collar is reduced, thus applying a correction. The pinch stage occurs when you have a dog that lunges, whether to try and pull you toward something or something else, the chain of the collar becomes tight and changes the distance between each link of the collar, this pinches the dogs skin around the neck and depending on the energy the dog has put into the lunge, will cause the dog from mild discomfort to pain. Whilst not causing any injuries this teaches the dog quick smart not to lunge.
The greatest benefit of these collars is that they give control back to the handler, this often reduces stress that the dog will pick up on and makes training go more smoothly.
We are not going to attempt to “Internet train” anyone here, but we will give a few pointers on using a prong collar. I really do recommend seeking a demonstration from a trainer who advocates these collars.
Just before we do though, I would like to touch on trainers who wont use such a collar.
These days, many trainers would be to frightened to use a pinch collar, as they want to be seen in a purely positive light. They will tell you about the other ways they have that don’t require such tools.
That’s all well and good on a low drive dog or one that isn’t a habitual puller.
We have been brought dogs with this statement as my motivation. “If I can’t see any improvement very soon, I’m having the dog put down.” When they say “soon“, they mean instantly.
Whilst purely positive methods are great for teaching dogs to do things, they are fairly ineffective at getting a dog to stop doing something.
We remember one such case in which a male Boxer was taken into a rescue situation. The rescuer, who had considerable dog experience by the way, tried flat collars, head halters; check chains etc all to absolutely no avail.
This dog would just pull like mad, as it had learned how to win on all of these collars. This dog was another one that was going to find the sharp end of the needle in a day or two due to this problem.
We fitted my 6 foot leather leash (click here to see our Leashes) and prong collar to this dog. We added our technique to get the dog used to the prong collar feel and within five minutes the rescuer was walking the dog on a loose leash. 5 MINUTES…
The dog was in no pain, didn’t even receive a leash pop at all.
Fitting a prong collar
First remove or add links to get the collar to fit around the upper section of the dog’s neck, so that it is snug. Not loose and slipping around, snug.
Next engage the joining link so that the collar is fastened on the dog’s neck, with the chain facing backwards. Collar is wrapped around the dogs neck, not ever slipped over the head.
Then attach your leash to BOTH rings of the prong collar. This will render the collar dead and no corrections, either phase of the collar can occur.
Walk your dog around a low distraction area like your back yard, allowing him to pull into the collar a little, just to get a feel for it.
Now keep this up for a few minutes until your dog is aware this is no ordinary collar.
Next disconnect the inner ring, leaving only the outer or D ring connected to the leash.
Repeat again, you’re walking around the back yard allowing the dog to feel the collar is fitted.
You will probably see a change right now, as the dog pulls into the collar, he corrects himself.
It’s at this point you should start your obedience routine that you used to use with your old check chain etc. If you don’t know the aspects of avoidance training, you should seek advice before using any collar.
When you go to apply the first corrections, make sure you go light on them, just until you get the feel of the collar, hold the leash between your thumb and index finger.
We find in checking most dogs, the prong collar amplifies my corrections by about 20% over the check chain. It’s not as much as people think but it is enough to gain confidence and control. Many call it power steering for dogs….
Often people wonder if they will need to use a prong collar for ever, or can they go back to their check chain. I always look at it this way, knowing all of the issues there are with check chains, your dog is better off on a prong than a check. The ones we sell are high quality steel collars, they won’t rust or peel, you won’t find a better quality collar.
But the real answer is this, the training method your using is called the avoidance method, the dog has to learn to avoid the correction, if your training is good, thorough and consistent, the dog will learn to never get a correction, thus not needing any correction collar….
Some people will think of a prong collar as a last resort, it’s funny how many people we get these days coming to us as a last resort. Last resort means many things but the most common are:
The dog owners are at their wits end.
The dog’s time is limited.
The owners are willing to try even a kill or cure method, as all else has failed.
Taking this line with a dog is a big mistake, your teaching the dog that he can beat you if he persists long and hard, regardless of the effort you put in or the pain he experiences. When you finally go to a prong collar, you will need to punish that dog long and hard, teach him that he won’t win this time.
This could have been avoided if the owners were active instead of reactive, in other words, they knew the dog would grow into a large dog and they don’t have the time to do a lot of formal training. They should have started with a prong collar so the problem of leash pulling would not have started at all.
If you have a large breed dog, and you are not going to do a lot of formal training, or, your size compared to the dog doesn’t give you much advantage, or your noticing this pulling is beginning to be a problem, get a prong collar now.
Finally, I’m sure some people will be directed here to read this article and feel that the things I say are fine but a dog can suffer much pain at the fate of a prong collar. My response to those people is that I have never seen a prong collar cause a dog pain with out a fool connected to it via a leash.
Over correcting the dog is not necessary with the prong collar, it’s called abuse and whilst possible, it’s not associated with the tool, but the user.
All abuse to animals has one common denominator, the handler or trainer does not have control. Abuse is in the user, not the tool.
I would strongly recommend if you have a large breed dog, to take three steps for both you and the dog.