Pinch Me A.K.A. Prong Me

During a recent Facebook discussion, it was pointed out that I had never worn a prong collar.  As such, I would  have no idea whether a prong (a.k.a. pinch collar) causes pain.  My knuckles firmly rapped, it seemed the only solution would be for me to open my mind and wear a prong collar.

prongFor those unfamiliar with the product, these come in a variety of styles.  Some look scary with spikes and “prongs” of metal.  Newer models hide the “teeth” of the prong collar under a strip of leather, plastic or fabric.  I use the word “teeth” very deliberately, because proponents of these products claim that the spikes of a prong replicate a mother dog’s teeth as she corrects a misbehaving pup.

I do know how to fit a prong collar, and I know how to use one.  I am a crossover trainer, meaning that I have used physical corrections and discipline in the past.  However, never have a put a prong collar around my neck I have not been able to claim to know how it feels.  It is about time.

While not scientific, I wanted to challenge my pre-conceived notions.  How does a prong feel?  Does it cause pain?  When products “work”, they work for a reason.  What is that reason?

I began by placing the collar on my forearm.  Surprisingly, it did not cause pain.  There was pressure.  At this point, I felt that I would be eating a good healthy dose of crow.  This gave me the confidence to move forward – to fit the prong to my neck.

Carefully, I adjusted the number of links so the collar sat high up on my neck, snug but not tight.  Gently I pulled on the ring where the leash attached.  Again, I was legitimately surprised that spikes did not dig into my neck, and there was very little pain.

My husband entered the room, rolled his eyes at yet another “experiment”.  Jokingly, he grasped the chain.  Using his fingers only he tugged.  “You’re coming with me!”

That is when the prong collar “bit” me.  As the metal of the prong pressed against the bone of my spine, it created sharp, intense pain.  I screamed – yes screamed – for him to stop.  My husband blubbered, “I didn’t pull hard.  It wasn’t hard at all.  I just used my fingers.”

One of my friends pointed out that dogs have muscular necks and walk on all fours.  I can respect that my husband’s tug on the collar does not replicate a dog walking at an owner’s side.  Head down (literally, I got down on all fours) we attached the leash to the collar.  My son “walked” me around the house.  He was applying FINGERTIP pressure.

It was here that the collar “bit” me for the second time.  It was not painful.  I think it was worse than that.  The pressure from the evenly spaced links didn’t distribute evenly, the way it had on my arm.  Walking on my hands and knees, the collar did not pinch.  It pulled up against the front of my throat, an area that has very little muscle to afford any protection.  Checking the front of my dog’s neck, it becomes quickly apparent that his muscular neck and shoulders do not offer protection to the front of his neck either.

As I crawled along the ground, and the prong dug up into my windpipe, I felt a primal urge to recoil and relieve pressure.  While not quite a choking feeling, it was a gagging, gurgling, inability to swallow.  My stomach seized and I felt panic.  In an instinctive need for self-preservation I gasped, “Drop the leash!”  Grasping at the links, my hands shaking, I immediately struggled to remove the prong collar from my neck.  Having felt both the pain of prong on bone, and the pressure of a prong on my windpipe, the pressure on my windpipe was, at least to me, far worse.

I went into this process with an open mind.  Some of my most profound life lessons have come when others have challenged my position.  I respect it when people speak up and push me.  I want to know why a product “works.”

This little experiment may have begun as a prong question; it has led me to wonder how we perceive a dog’s neck.  We see the muscle and power.  Under their chin is the soft underside, cartilage, glands, bones.

collageProng collars are not the only collars placed high upon a dog’s neck.  Owners are often told to ensure collars stay up as high as possible.  Why?  They are told this is to maximize control – and the effectiveness of the collar.  Some collars are designed so they intentionally do not slide down the dog’s neck – to the muscular part.  I can see how that “works.”  It hurts like hell when a collar presses on delicate tissue.  Research shows that pressure on a dog’s neck presses on the optic nerve, potentially causing eye problems.  This isn’t just a moral “tree hugging” concern.  Veterinary organization recommend harnesses for this reason.

I can’t ask my dog how any collar feels for them.  However, I can, for a minute, put myself in their position – look at the anatomy of their neck and look at the fit of a variety of collars and ask how it would make me feel.

No dogs were harmed, corrected or pulled using a training collar.  In other words, the photos for this blog post were staged.

Update:  May 6th, 2013.  There have been an overwhelming amount of comments.  This one stood out.  Jennifer Montgomery Kay wrote the following:

I tried this experiment myself on Saturday. There really is nothing like the horrible feeling of it merely resting on my windpipe. The moment I caused it to apply actual pressure? I thought I was near death.

135 thoughts on “Pinch Me A.K.A. Prong Me

  1. Reblogged this on Gentle Touch Dog Training on Wester Ave. and commented:
    Tonight I was at a class where the instructor indicated that the use of the prong collar produced feel good hormones … and that it didn’t cause pain… my thought was – you must be kidding! With that reasoning the dogs would want it to be tightened again and again … and well then it wouldn’t work would it. As far as dog neck anatomy, the back of their neck has thicker skin, looser skin and more fat pad than a human, but the front of it is very similar and that’s mostly where the prongs work. And no, I won’t be using one on Siggy … no way.

  2. The journal link is broken.

    This little experiment may have begun as a prong question; it has led me to wonder how we perceive a dog’s neck. We see the muscle and power. Under their chin is the soft underside, cartilage, glands, bones.

    I’ve thought of that too, and have been guilty of it myself… Not seeing how a dog is (physiologically, psychologically) but deciding how it is… based on what I’d hear and been taught.

    I was initially taught some crappy old school aversive dog training (with choker) with my first dog, and adhered to those principles for years, although they never worked very well. I just thought I didn’t apply them consistently enough, or didn’t do it right. I used choker chain on my first and second dog (although the second dog was a super-soft lab x), none of whom ever learned to walk well on a leash, and initially on my third (current) dog, which did. I now walk my third dog on a harness, and my forth other on a martingale (to be replaced with harness when we get to purchase one). They both walk well on leash generally, but can be dog aggressive to stranger dogs, and the martingale is to ensure that the dog can not wriggle out of her collar if she gets agitated, so for the protection of other dogs. The third dog also wears a martingale for the same reason when she doesn’t wear the harness – for example, when I run with her (because the harness is a bit too heavy/complicated for the dog to run in). It isn’t to correct her but to ensure she stays on leash in the case of dog aggression, for the protection of other dogs.- she has a smallish head, and has demonstrated that she can wriggle out of a flat collar if she gets highly agitated for some reason.

    In any case, I’ve seen a positive effect with the harness. She walks well (well, she mostly did before too), seems more calm and relaxed, and if she gets agitated or I get tired of waiting for her then I can physically turn her the way I want by grabbing the harness’ backstrap and lift/turn her in the desired direction, a bit like if she was a suitcase (she weights about 38 kgs but it works:-). That usually redirects her attention and does not cause any sort of pain since the harness sits well and is soft, strong and comfortable.

  3. You say you did this experiment on yourself, that’s fine but what you are forgetting is you did it on yourself and didn’t have anyone force you into wearing it for 45 mins or so a time three times a day over long periods of time (say a year).

    So in my opinion this ‘experiment’ of yours is neither here nor there and is inconclusive.

  4. it doesnt hurt them it teaches them that every time they pull it will dig into them but there is no pain with it it was the best thing i brought for my malamute and staffy and i can walk my staffy with out him pulling me over

    • How do you know your dog does not feel pain? Can you feel what he feels? Have you ever had one placed high up on your neck and walked like a dog and had pressure applied like you would for a pulling dog?

      I have and I can tell you it is not a nice feeling, it’s terrifying that people would do such a thing to an animal.
      I have a very strong willed entire male newfoundland and with correct positive training I can walk him without any problems I’ve earned his trust and respect NOT forced him to respect me, we work together as a team NOT me forcing him to work FOR me!

  5. i had 1 of these both for my malamute and staffy and it was the best collor for them i brought as they dont pull no more when taken them out oh and it is known that polise use these to train there dogs!!

      • What’s that have to do with it? Many police dogs shouldn’t even be on the street due to bad breeding or poor handling, the tool itself is not the issue. And these “innocent” attacks are rarely as innocent as they are made out to be.

        • Because the point is repeatedly made that working dogs – dogs that are required to be reliable are trained with aversives. Which would be a valid statement if they didn’t bite and attack innocent bystanders. To assume if you have been bitten you’re not really that innocent is victim blaming.

  6. Next experiment.
    Sleep where the dog sleeps and eat the dog’s food.
    Go to the toilet and get exercise in the same manner too.

    Yep, it’s not a very ‘scientific’ way to get evidence!

    (I mostly don’t use a lead when walking my dog – I’ve trained him to walk to heal appropriately without.)

    • My dogs sleep on the bed with me. They eat home cooked food. So ironically, I do sleep where the dog’s sleep. I do eat pretty much the same food they eat (with modifications.) 😉
      Nope, not scientific at all. Not claiming it is.

    • @ seegus: Trying on the prong collar is a relevant experiment in order to see whether it causes pain, even of course it isn’t the same as BEING the dog… no amount of scientific experimentation can currently bring such an insight… but it is relevant. What you’re saying here is just pulling a strawman… bringing something up that isn’t relevant to the point, in order to invalidate the point.

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  8. Being the owner of a Belgian Shepherd, I would not advocate using prong collar on one as one post above suggests (re BSD x Doberman). I know it would make these intensely sensitive breeds likely to be more reactive.

    • To clarify I do not agree with their use full stop. Training dogs is not about strength, it’s about understanding how they learn, how they make assocations and how one can encourage a much happier emotional reaction.

  9. This. Is. Stupid.

    A dogs neck is no way similar to ours,
    The fact you actually attempted to simulate it on yourself shows how much you know about dogs.

    I’m interested to see the prong collar you used as it sounds as if they were pointed up to cause you pain other then a pinch, distributed evenly around your neck.

    The reason ALL COLLARS should be high on the neck just behind the ears is to avoid windpipe and nerve damage, look at an anatomy picture book dear,at be a colour in one so you don’t loose focus.

    A prong collar, applies pressure around the neck, unlike a flat collar which places pressure directly on the windpipe which is VERY dangerous.

    Collars even when used properly;
    Flat: Higher rate of windpipe damage
    Choker: no limit to choking
    Pinch: tight pinch around circumference of neck

    I’m not suggesting to use one, it is a last resort as you need to be trained to use them (should be) have you ever tried to hold back 2 30kg very scared and anxious belgian shepherd X dobermans? Or does “please sit for this treat” work when they’re mind is set on attacking a distraction, or each other or yourself if you get in their way?

    Work with some difficult dogs and you will smarten the hell up pretty quick.

    • 230 kg dog? That’s 507 pounds. That’s more than twice as big as the world’s tallest dog ever.
      So no, I have not ever tried to hold back a 230 kg dog.
      I do work with difficult dogs, I just don’t have the need to exaggerate their size or strength.

      Dog collars are worn behind the ear because it’s more sensitive in that area. I used to use correction collars. We made no effort to hide that dogs were more sensitive in this area and you got greater effect. The prong would hurt more. As stated in the article, prong on bone hurts like heck. You’ll notice that a dog’s skill extends past its ears, especially on the top of its head.

      Collars are worn here because they hurt more. I’m not sure why in the last decade trainers are hiding this. We never used to.

      • I’m certainly not trying to defend Chris’s statement (I disagree with them).
        However, I am fairly certain that they meant “two 30kg dogs” and not “230kg dogs.”

        • Would make more sense – although training wise less sense. If it’s two dogs, then divide and train them individually. Asking a lot to get exacting timing of feedback – some auditory no doubt – which means that both dogs get feedback not even meant for them.

    • i think u are just trying to justify using them. i have a neary 30kg gsd and a 21kg cross breed and i walk them on kind, gentle front leading harnesses and yes the gsd is reactive on lead and yes i have no trouble holding them on these harnesses and yes distracting with a tasty treat does help, try it u might be surprised 🙂

    • If you can’t hold back 2 x 30kg dogs then you shouldn’t own 2 x 30kg dogs. If you can’t control a type of dog don’t buy it, simple. I own a very dog reactive dog who weighs 20+ kg so I know all about dogs throwing themselves at other dogs, I have used positive training & I can now VERY easily distract her when the ‘red mist’ descends. But I have also trained 2 x 30+ kg dogs who were also very dog reactive & I can walk both of them on loose leads with one hand when other dogs are around. You don’t have to over power a dog to control it or distract it.

  10. The most ridiculous article I’ve ever read. Veterinarians recommend harnesses? You compare your pain tolerances and nerve endings to a dogs?? No not all cases are ideal for a prong but it is a very effective tool in the hands of an “intelligent and experienced” person.

  11. I walk a chocolate lab owned by an older gentleman. When I first began walking him he had one of these collars on. We came back from a walk early so I kicked a ball to the back of the yard for him, he ran for it, stumbled and hit the ground with his neck and shoulders, then ran back with said ball in his mouth. I couldn’t see his neck behind the ball as he ran back towards me. He is a young dog and clumsy. As I realized he was running straight for me I turned so that if he ran into me he’d hit my butt instead of my knees. He ran past me at the last second, raking the inverted pronged collar through the side of my leg. It tore a chunk out just below and beside tendons, etc. I required 13 stitches to sew it back up and months of healing. I know people are told not to leave these collars on when they’re not ‘training’ the dog, but that is what I see altogether too often and when I do see it, I try to educate people about how dangerous they are. I will no longer walk a dog with one of those collars on, I keep a supply of different sized ‘ordinary’ collars to change to, if need be.

  12. Reblogged this on mishie1 and commented:
    I’ve long thought of doing this, but I am not as familiar with how to fit one of these collars as this person is. I did the exact same thing on my forearm, and thought the exact same thing, but I never made the leap to figure out how to get one of these around my head to my neck. Poor, poor dogs. Please, please…never prong or choke collar your dog.

  13. Wow – all these wonderfully trained dogs which never pull on their misc. equipment; which if that is the case how is all this “pressure” damage occurring? Its very simple folks; no pressure no damage! Trachea damage, optical nerve damage, muscle damage, spine and neck damage- Oh, and my favorite, the man who had tennis elbow and torn knee ligaments just from walking his “trained” dog. Dogs that are trained correctly, never put pressure on the collar and if they do, know how to release it when asked. I could walk my Dobie (who also heels off leash) in a prong collar, choke chain or razor blades and no damage would ever occur because she does not place any pressure on her collar. She responds to a feather light touch which is how you release pressure and avoid damage in the first place, not by arguing about equipment choices. I prefer to use a martingale collar because as a puppy mill dog she spooks and could slip a flat collar if she panics over a loud sound.

  14. im not supporting or not supporting anything concerning how to train a dog to stay with its handler as i train my dogs to stay with me without the use of leashes, tethers or collars so I really have really no opinion here in my comment to share here on any of the training discussion. my reason for adding a comment to this post is only that the testing in this situation does not, in my opinion, produce an accurate assessment of the results of this product when it is used on a dog.

    when considering the results of this testing one should take into consideration the fact that the human neck and canine neck are not equal as far as nerve response. human adults would never consider carrying a human baby around by the skin on their neck, but in canines this is common. depending on the breed of dog, the neck nerve sensitivity changes dramatically with the skin texture of each individual breed. I would think the sensitivity in a dogs neck would be much closer to that of a human palm.

    again, i am in no way contributing to the discussion of if this products good or bad qualities or what training devises are safe vs not safe. Im only commenting about the parameters of the “test” and feel comparing the sensitivity of a human neck the sensitivity of a canine neck would not be an equal measurement. if one would like to get an accurate measurement of this product on themselves to see how their dog “feels” this product, finding a body surface on a human that is equal in sensitivity to the neck of the dog would seem the most logical way to assess the product.

    again, I train my dogs to stay with me without collars or leashes so i have no opinion here about the product being “tested”, just the testing itself.

    chris ott
    http://www.speedoggie.com

  15. Thank you for publishing this article! I am an Anatomy & Physiology teacher. I volunteer training and socializing shelter dogs. I don’t use the choke chain nor the pinch collar because of my knowledge of A & P. I tried to explain this to people. Some people understand while some refuse to.

      • Some data are mentioned in the article. However, I’ll be more than happy to further explain. Note that I am not telling anyone how to train their animals. I just believe that people should be educated and make informed decisions that work for them. So, here goes….
        Dogs, cats, and humans are mammals. There are enough similarity that we use dogs and cats as learning models. Since most university (graduate schools not included) cannot afford to have human cadavers for dissection, cats are used in the labs. Dogs are too large.
        Now, let’s look at the anatomy or structure of cats and dogs. There are two major factors of why Momma dogs and cats can carry their youngs by the scruff of the neck. One, the skin here is especially thick padded underneath with subcutaneous fat. In addition, there is “excess” skin. Two, the youngs are light weight. The older and heavier they become the less safe and pain free it is to be carried by the scruff of the neck.
        As for muscles of the neck: The neck muscles on the back of the neck and the sides are more developed in animals that walk on all fours than in humans. The muscles help “cushion” the area too. However, the front of the neck where the windpipe is located have less muscular protection. In fact, the soft tissue is so thin here that you can feel the cartilage ridges of the windpipe or trachea by running the pad of your fingertip up and down the middle of the anterior neck. In addition, the skin is not as thick here (except in some breeds like shar-pei). If you have a cat or a dog, go feel for yourself.
        With the anatomy in mind, choke chains can injure the trachea. Some people can argue that the choke chain is meant to be placed high up in the neck and just below the jaw. I have not encounter a situation where the choke chain stays up there by itself. As for the pinch collar, the prongs are located in the front and side of the neck when worn. Where is there less soft tissue protection?….in the front. Just because these devices are sold everywhere online and in any pet store do not make them safe. These tools require proper training to be use safely and effectively.
        Some people may say, “Well, the pinch collar works because when my dog has it on he doesn’t pull.” However, ask yourself why? Animals are “programmed” to survive. They are conditioned to avoid pain and seek comfort e.g. food, warmth etc. Now, go back to the question. Which category do the choke chain and pinch collar fall into?
        As I stated before, I’m not telling people how to train their animals. For me, I feel satisfaction when I can accomplish the same feat using treats and affection as someone who uses punitive methods. I know that when I train a dog I want to see a wiggly body, goofy grin, and softness in its eyes. I don’t want to hear the yelp that accompanies a snap of the choke chain or pinch collar. When the shelter dogs see me, they come running to give me kisses. Yet, I play the role of their “discipliner” (if that’s a word). I’ve seen dogs pancake when approached by a harsh trainer. Instilling fear is not something I want for myself.
        Okay. I don’t want to ramble on and make this too long. Thanks for reading.

  16. Thank you for this article. It is enlightening. I have never used a prong, choke or shock collar because of the exact reasons you demonstrated. I love my dog. He is my best friend and part of my family. Why would I want to intentionally want to hurt my family and friends? I want my dog to listen to me because he loves me not because he is afraid of me. I belong to several bully breed pack walks and a majority of owners feel that they need to use prong collars to get their dog to walk nicely. I am trying very hard to educate and hopefully have them convert to the freedom harness. So far I have converted 3 over by explaining that the prong collar damages the ocular nerve and could cause glaucoma. I personally use the freedom harness with the double leash connection on my lab/pit mix and I have gotten great results in a short amount of time. We are even starting to graduate off the harness, but I still rely on it for situations when i feel my dog will become too excitable. Prior to using the harness i just used a martingale. While on a martingale without a harness my dog knocked me over and torr my ACL and had given me tendonitis in my elbow. The freedom harness has been a game changer for me. I can walk with confidence and control. Occasionally the dog will still pull, but I can confidentially control my dog and do it in a manner that does not cause discomfort to the dog. If anyone is interested I sell the harness on my site. I also DO NOT sell any shock, choke or prong collars. Nor do I purchase my places that manufacture these devices. My site is http://www.HappyTailPetSupply.com

  17. Hello! I love your article and I couldn’t agree more with your stance on this. I have found, when asking some people about it, that a good amount of people who do use these collars actually intend to cause their dogs pain. They usually have the mindset that “he is inflicting this on himself, it’s not my fault that he keeps pulling. If it hurts so bad, then it would make him stop.” I have even seen people buying them at stores with a clearly angered look on their face and have seen people go out and buy them because their dog chased a squirrel across the street and dragged them down with them. Personally, I think the WORST reason to buy one of these collars if out of anger. This almost guarantees improper training and lots of pain for the dog.

    I am not saying that all people who use these have that mentality, but some do. Some people also say, along with the muscular neck argument, that dogs have fur on their neck that people don’t and say that this protects them from any intense pain. I am skeptical about how much protection this would actually provide but I’d be interested to see what an experiment including some kind of fur would feel like.

    I really despise these tools and firmly believe there should be at least some sort of certificate to be able to purchase them as a training tool. I have just seen way too much misuse of things like choke, prong, and shock collars. (Not to say that I feel there is any “proper” use of these. I much prefer +R training and time to pain and quick fixes.)

  18. Pingback: Choke Chains, Prong Collars and E-Collars Oh My! | mymegaedog

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  21. I can’t imagine using a prong collar personally. It looks like a medeival torture device! The other day I saw a young couple bringing their (what appears to be) adolescent dog to the dog park with prong collar on. I was leaving with my dog and a lady in the parking lot who clearly is a professional stopped them and started talking to them about it – that they weren’t using it correctly. She showed them how it is supposed to sit high on the neck and then she started talking about loose leash training as an alternative and I thought wow good for her! The couple were interested in what she was saying and clearly wanted some direction but must have either overlooked +R training techniques / class, gone to somebody who recommended the prong collar or found this prong collar in the store and thought it must be ok. In my personal opinion these collars need to be banned from being sold in pet stores.

  22. Pingback: It’s Not the Tool – It’s the Fool that Misuses It…. If you just corrected your dog right. | awesomedogs

  23. I have blogged on this subject myself. I too am a crossover trainer; I do not and will not use a prong either. Many people support the use by saying they don’t hurt and my question is then, “how do they work then?” This is a wonderful post and I will share it on my FB Page Just dogs with Sherri.

    Thanks much.

    Sherri

      • the original use for a prong collar was to have it PRONGS OUT for the farm dogs as protection against wolves that go for the throat to kill……..some jackass thought it would work “prongs in” for control…….personally I would take that prong collar and place it on the “trainer” and I use that title VERY loosely and I would yank him all over the place with it. I would also take the other collar and attach it inside his shorts and neuter him with it the hard way and then let’s see him use those collars on an animal that only wants to please you this male should NEVER bet LET NEAR ANOTHER DOG AS LONG AS HE LIVES!!!!!!

        • Let me get this right.

          You object to physical punishment in training, yet rather than try and positively change the handlers method you go straight for brutality and physical punishment?

          When you can be sensible and not a complete hypocrite maybe your argument will be more convincing. Just a thought…..

          • Sorry, when did I hit anyone? When did I pinch anyone? When did I spank a child? Show me where I ever put my hands on someone to intentionally inflict pain?
            I have zero objection to people verbally standing up for what they believe in, or taking action against. It is what my grandfather did when he smuggled the allies into Nazi occupied territory and hid them. It’s when he spoke out about it. It’s what he died for.
            Nope – no problem at all with speaking up ever. I think everyone should speak up.
            If I were to ever hit you for using a prong collar, please feel free to call me out on physical abuse. I’d deserve it.

            • If you’re referencing posts that are above, then no one should be physically hurting anyone. But I understand the need for people to verbally rant when they see an animal in pain.

  24. For what it is worth, not that I agree with the use of prong collars, but the article has the collar on backwards. The teeth should be on the back of the neck to avoid the trachea and the clip to the leash is supposed to be under the chin. Use of the prong collar in corrections is a down and forward motion which is opposite from what people usually use with choke collars. In other words most people are using it wrong. Not that using it “right” is a good thing.

    • Interesting, because on a discussion of this article, I was told that I must have had the product wrong on myself because the teeth shouldn’t hit the back of my neck/spine when I wore it. That was a discussion that involved trainers that use prong collars. Just goes to show, people who use the collar can’t even agree the “right” way to use it. So average pet owner is going to have a really hard time getting it right. If they are “right” they’ll ask another person and then they’ll be wrong. Not even any standard instructions or use.

      • I just did a survey of about 20 +/- Youtube video tutorial on how to use prong collars and every single one of them (all from dog schools/trainers) show the attachment point being behind the neck, not under the chin.

        • … as did the lady in the vet’s waiting room with the Rottie, who was allowed to charge up to every dog and person in the place, towing her owner behind, because, y’know, “she’s so FRIENDLY!”

          Also, didn’t look like the prong collar was discouraging the pulling much :-/ So much for the “I have to use it because he pulls!” argument.

  25. Dr. Dodds Says:
    “… the thyroid and salivary glands are superficially located just under the skin in the upper part of the neck. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ just in front of the larynx and trachea, and the mandibular salivary glands are found on the side of the face just below the ears. Thus, they can be easily injured by trauma and sudden pressure forces (like could occur from the slip ring and chain of metal collar, and a metal prong or hard braided leather collar). A harness or “gentle leader” type collar is preferred these days, especially for strong dogs that like to pull and lunge out when on a standard collar and leash. Best wishes, W. Jean Dodds, DVM

    W. Jean Dodds, DVM
    Hemopet / NutriScan
    11561 Salinaz Avenue
    Garden Grove, CA 92843
    http://drjeandoddspethealthresource.tumblr.com/post/41645121585/dog-collars-thyroid

    http://www.hemopet.org/index.php?option=com_newsfeeds&view=newsfeed&id=1&Itemid=62

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  27. Reblogged this on The Sand County and commented:
    Yvette Van Veen is an excellent trainer who helped my wife and I learn to better understand work with our dogs (with excellent results). She has written an essay which speaks to deeply held concerns my wife and I share about training dogs and the matter of animal welfare generally.

  28. Thank you for writing this and for making these points. We (Michelle & I) despise methods and tools designed to cause pain and inflict suffering. I do not know what precisely people believe the word “control” is supposed to mean when training animals, but I have a hard time accepting that we should resort to violent methods to gain what we want.

    Besides, if there is one thing which your excellent dog training classes reinforced for me is that dogs want to engage with you -they want to be challenged and to think, act, respond and enjoy being rewarded (and why not?). All of those seem like ample reasons to use positive reinforcement.

  29. Reblogged this on the balanced pack and commented:
    I’ve never used a prong collar and never intend to. If I did I would do this experiment first. As far as I’m concerned a good slip lead is the way to go. Prevents escape, easier on the neck and makes you focus on your issues as a dog walker! It’s your calm, assertive leadership that should be creating a great walking buddy, not pain. I advocate halti’s, slip leads and harnesses based on breed. (Ex: a harness would not be a wise choice for walking your husky, as they naturally have the drive and power to pull against it.) Always check yourself and your energy before upping your training tool and ALWAYS consult a Pet Professional before experimenting with choke chains, e collars or any specialty walking/training tool. After all, there’s something you’re seriously considering a problem and your best bet is to always double check with a trusted pet care professional and maybe you’ll get some great advice or reference!

    • I have used harnesses on all my dogs. Northern breeds can learn to walk nice on it too. Avoids pressure on a dog’s neck. Pressure on a dog’s neck has been tied to eye problems. Research link to the abstract of the study is linked in the blog.

  30. Logan

    Here is what happened to one poor dog whose owner thought since he was a big shepherd and strong and powerful it would be OK to keep him chained up with a prong collar on. And for any pro-prongers out there who say “well OBVIOUSLY you should never use a prong for that” I say to you – why would you ever want to use ANYTHING that has the potential to do that to your dog under any circumstance?!

    • When I bought the prong I used for this, the sales clerk told me nothing about warnings. Didn’t ask how I planned to use it. Didn’t suggest I bring the dog in for a proper fitting. Didn’t suggest an alternate. Didn’t suggest training classes, videos or books.
      I suspect that most owners who buy these products go into a store and just buy and try. There are no warnings on the product. There are no instructions on the product.
      I don’t think you can argue that these types of injuries happen from misuse if manufacturers don’t put instructions/warnings. Or if pro-prong proponents are fighting for “balanced training” rules. The organizations I’ve looked into, that usually means, “Anything legal goes – you don’t protest anything – you are against banning of any tool.”
      Actually, I just had a chat with a person whose dog was wearing a choke collar. Wrong size. Not used properly. It’s kind of sad that I….a “tree hugger” who uses R+ is the one to know, “You’re not using that right.”

  31. Actually, when I did my shock collar test, I checked with two vets. Both said, that physiologically, the only real difference between a dog’s neck and a human’s neck is the amount of hair and that dogs skin doesn’t sweat. In terms of other things like bones, muscles, nerves and the like, they are the same. The skin and tisues under the skin are neither more nor less sensitive than with humans.

  32. Prong collar on yourself?? Not a vaild test for your skin is a lot more sensitive than that of a dog..One can make clothing from dog skin..ours is too thin and therefore more sensitive.
    There are no bad training tools..But there is misuse or misapplication of training tools by fools.

    • I thought someone might say that. My dog is the one in the picture in the blog. He’d never worn a prong. I set him up for the picture. No corrections. Just used the leash to hold the collar up in position. He would have felt the pressure, but far less pressure than what I experienced. I wondered what his reaction would be if I tried to put it on him again. So I took video. I also took video of his normal reaction to having a flat collar put on.

      He has dog skin. Obviously, not scientific. But his reaction is interesting.

  33. Thank you for your post and for your bravery! I will show to anyone, who will tell me that these collars “don’t hurt”. Or better make them wear one.

  34. Pingback: Pinch Me A.K.A. Prong Me | awesomedogs | Your Dog's Personal Trainer

  35. if you people are sooo smart why dont you call your local police departments and the military about it….you must know more than they do

    • I’m sorry, are you trying to say that military and police departments use prong collars – and as such they are by far the most superior experts on the subject?
      Or are you saying that we should look to research on military dog performance and effectiveness and ask why some police departments don’t read or use the information in those studies?
      Or are you commenting on the multiple wrongful bites and lawsuits that come up on a regular basis in the news from police service dogs?
      Or are you asking about work by people like Bob Bailey who believes in only using force when there is an imminent risk to safety to the animal or person?

      • Not only that, but since when do the police or military dedicate their lives and education to canine behavior? They wouldn’t be so behind the times in their methods if they did listen to experts – like Steve White, who is a force-free police dog trainer.

        • Of course K9 and MWD trainers devote their lives to dog training, to a far greater extent than do hobbyists and part-time “professionals”. What a silly argument.

          • They are locked into a particular TYPE of training, with a particular focus, using the same methods they’ve always used, handed down generation to generation by aversive trainers. I doubt very much that any military or police dog trainers spend much time studying actual behavior and learning theory, let alone integrating that knowledge into their daily routines.

            • The personal feedback I’ve received from police officers is that they are taught by trainers who are selected by the particular police unit. The officers I’ve spoken to have complained of dogs biting officers, injuring them to the point where they are on leave.
              In other words, the officers I’ve spoken to hate the behaviour of their own dogs/the dogs in their own precincts. They are sick of being wrongfully bitten.
              Wonder how the innocent bystander in Toronto is doing, the one that was sitting on a bench and attacked by a Toronto Police Services dog?

      • also – police dogs are rarely part of a family environment as most generally dog owning people want their dogs….they may well go home to the family but dont do what the average family dog does

  36. I have been challenging trainers to do this for years. It is frustrating when you keep telling someone something and no one believes you. There are still so many trainers that insist that a prong collar is MORE HUMANE than using a flat buckle collar or harness or even a martingale style collar like I prefer to use for training. I’m taking a CGC class right now with my newest dog and this is my second class at this particular place. I have had THREE separate instructors ask if I’ve thought about using a prong collar on my boy. The ONLY time he tries to pull is when he wants to play with another dog or is looking for treats on the floor. He has never been out of control or even particularly rambunctious. He’s a fairly laid back Rottweiler and behaves like a typical one-year-old with a teenager brain. Finally, I just told the last lady “I prefer not to use those”. Her response… “Well, then you’re going to have to make your corrections a lot STRONGER.” It’s okay though, I will continue to train with positive methods and hopefully when my pup passes his CGC I will have proved that I didn’t NEED a prong collar to train my dog. We also plan to compete in obedience and I’m looking forward to being able to say that I trained my dog without a choke chain, pinch collar or shock collar.

    • My Kaya got his CGN (Like the CGC) AND his Therapy dog papers without ever wearing a prong, choke, shock collar or even head halter.
      You absolutely can do this.
      My Kiki also got her CGN and NABR CDX. She started with corrections. But we didn’t get a dent in her social skills etc until after we got rid of the corrections.
      I stopped competing when we had our son. But will get back to it.
      You can do this!

    • “He’s a fairly laid back Rottweiler and behaves like a typical one-year-old with a teenager brain.”

      That’s not a valid excuse if he happens to lunge forward in play or while looking for a cookie and knock someone over, or injure smaller dog. Even for a young dog both of those issues are STILL things that can be easily, and positvely, trained, instead of waiting for them to ‘grow out of it’ or excusing it away. Diving for cookies should be a no no from day one, especially if you plan on competing with your dog. If you’ve had three different instructors ask about it then evidently it must be a big enough issue to warrant some attention. And though I adore Rotties, it’s important to teach them early on, while they are small(ish) that that behaviour is not acceptable.

      • I didn’t think the Rotti owner thought it was acceptable, I took it as “second class in and the trainers are jumping at prong use,” combined with, “No worries, we’re working on it and will get there.”
        Or that’s how I read it.

      • Actually, I’ve been working with dogs for almost 20 years. I have owned Rotts before. I do not allow my dog to “lunge forward in play or while looking for a cookie and knock someone over”. He is on a short lead (especially in class). He doesn’t pull hard (trust me, he’s over 100lbs, if he wanted to pull me over he could). I recognize that problems aren’t fixed instantly. We are working on the issues that he has. I also recognize that dogs are dogs and they sometimes behave like dogs. That doesn’t mean that I don’t redirect him when he does those things. My point was that his issues are relatively minor and their solution was to apply harsh aversive corrections to fix relatively minor issues. There are four other dogs in that class wearing prong collars and mine is better behaved than all of them.

  37. Just one more thing on a head halter – it should be seen ass “training wheels” to start the dog and owner on their way to building a relationship where voice can be replaced as influencing behavior. It is rare to need to use a head harness for long. And “useage” as in meaning NO PULLING, no tightness, and for gently asking dog – direcctionals, right or left. The harness is used for teaching let’s go and stay loose, walk with me and stop.

  38. I am so glad that you did this. I have personally decided to no longer use pinch/prong collars. I have just a regular choke collar and a regular collar on her. If I foresee a problem I will change the choke collar but I very rarely use it. We do a lot of hiking in parks and we ironically very rarely are around other dogs. Even though we have a leash law here in New York there are still those who let their dogs roam free and that’s the only problem I ever run into.

    Thank again for your research. As a responsible owner I like to learn as much as I can about better training tips and helping my dog become happier.

    • Actually, a prong collar is probably better to use than a choke chain. The choke chain does damage to the dog’s trachea, while the prong collar just really hurts. You should buy your dog a harness, preferably a front clip harness, it won’t hurt your dog at all. 🙂

  39. I help teach my local dog club’s obedience classes (I stick to puppy class). I cringe when I see instructors fitting the supposedly “uncontrollable” young dogs in beginner class with prong collars. These are usually dogs still less than a year old – they’re STILL PUPPIES!! And this is often in the first days of class! The owners often don’t know any better – they’re as untrained as the dogs, looking to the instructors as all-knowing, providing them the expert advice that will give them a well-behaved, well-trained dog who passes the testt and graduates at the end of class. I view their recommendations to use the prong collar as a panacea to hide their training shortcomings. Rather than teaching the owners the correct way to train their dogs, they’re giving them a crutch. Once that crutch is removed, the owners will generally find dogs that aren’t really trained. I should know – I was once one of those untrained owners who was told a prong collar was the only way to get my rambunctious young dog to settle down and learn. Fortunately, my dog forgot and forgave. (And she never did really learn to walk that well on a leash – she walks better off leash than on.) And I’ve resented that advice ever since. (Sadly, I’m considered too inexperienced to be able to voice my concerns on the over-use of the prong collar – no one would take my comments seriously.)

  40. I have had a remote collar on my neck and have been shaped to do a behavior with it on. I did not find it painful, frightening, but rather very informative. Layered with positive feedback for the right response it was awesome, better than I felt doing the “clicker shaping game” that many do. I do not reach for a metal prong first, second, or even third, I may use it to help a dog and work to fade it quickly. What about a technical break down on the front clip harness and head collar? Think would be interesting to breakdown the torques that it places on the shoulders/elbows and head/neck, respectively. Perhaps another experiment is in order….

    • Emily, there is a HUGE difference between a human wearing a shock collar (let’s call it what it is) and a dog wearing one.

      The human is fully aware of what’s happening, why it’s happening, AND has the power to stop it at any time. The dog has NO idea why or how it’s receiving the electric shock, and has no choice in the matter. This is how electric shock can be used to produce psychosis in lab animals.

      Also, the level of shock used on dogs is often far greater than what would be used on a human. I’m sure that if the “shocker” had decided to “go to 11,” you’d have a very different take on the experiment.

      • Not true, that humans are aware of what’s happening and why. When you start training with +P, and -R using shock, the humans do NOT understand why the shock is coming. I did an experiment with human subjects being trained in a language they didn’t understand and I used +R (praise), +P (to stop unwanted behavior or “wrong” behavior) and -R (to decrease latency and increase speed of peformance). I filmed these trials and also the interviews with the subjects later and this was not only obvious in the films but the people also answered so in the interview.

        As to the levels used, we have no way of knowing what trainers use. We have to ask them, for each dog will react differently to shock. Some are stoic and others not. Some will also be able to tolerate more than others. This is why the user instructions are so dangerous – if you get a stoic dog or one who shuts down right away as opposed to a vocal or demonstrative dog, you could very well end up shocking that dog horribly.

    • If I could figure out how to get a head halter on my face, or body harness on…I would! It’s a fair request.
      Same with the shock collar. I’d do that.
      I am on a TENS machine at least once a week. I have been told they have a similar feel. I’ve grilled the chiro on how they cause pain. What’s interesting is that a high level for one person can be comfortable. Low level for another is through the roof painful.
      Another thing to remember is habituation. These products, the level is gradually brought up to the “right pain level.” If you take a break, the body is no longer habituated and what used to feel pretty good can put you through the roof.
      That’s why new models of TENS machines have an automatic safety feature where it re-zeros after every use.
      Valid questions. Another day. Another blog.

      • I’m going to post something I posted on facebook a couple days ah O” Well I actually had a similar debate with someone Youtube recently about what an e-collar would feel like. He had gotten into a car crash and as part of his physical therapy they used a Tens unit as part of his physical therapy and when I was in physical therapy they used an e-stim machine thing on me. Let me explain the difference “T.E.N.S. stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. The key here is the NERVE part. TENS is a “pain blocker.” The buzzing sensation is thought to block the pain signal from the nerve to where it is perceived in the brain as pain. T.E.N.S. units are also thought to aid in the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain fighting mechanism.” “E-Stim or Muscle Stim stands for Electrical Muscle Stimulation muscle stim targets muscle to prevent retardation of muscular disuse atrophy, relaxation of muscle spasm, muscle reeducation, increasing range of motion, increasing local blood circulation, and as an immediate post surgical stimulation to prevent venous thrombosis. In addition to having a different waveform, it also has what is called “Timing Options” including Ramp ON/OFF times, “ON/OFF” times and sometimes a “Delay.”

      • (Response continued) e collar are basically equivalent to e-stim. He loved his tens unit which was to block pain in nerve ending. I used e-stim and I almost cried when it was on a very very low level. I was not crying only for my sheer will so that I didn’t cry in the physical therapy gym. E-collar like e-stim affect muscles and even when used effectively it can hurt like hell. It’s not made to block pain, it is meant to affect the muscles. It effected MINE and even when they tried to get me to use in the future I REFUSED BECAUSE IT HURT LIKE A &*%#$. AND that was just on my BACK. Some people LOVE IT. I HATE IT,” I also siad they they shouldn’t “foolishly assume it doesn’t bother your dog. The TENS unit doesn’t have a timer, that in itself should tell you something. The timer is there so it can work your muscles but not overdo it. A TENS unit doesn’t need a timer since it should never cause pain it is supposed to GET RID OF PAIN. . . . “I didn’t mean the suggest the TENS unit is in no way an aversive. My basic point was people perceive things differently, dogs perceive things in ways we can’t ever understand unless we ourselves become dogs. The basic principle on the TENS unit is to block pain BUT it can still obviously be painful. E-stim is basically exactly an e-collar but not a collar. People even call the shocks stims. both are methods of electrical stimulation, I am saying it is wrong for people to assume they know what their dog feels or find aversive. I understood that the e-stim machine would be sending electric stimulation through me, that in no way lessened how much it pained me. It just stopped me from crying since I didn’t want to look pathetic. Imagine being a dog, as a dog they will never understand e-collars to the full extent that a human will, it it may very well be an entirely different felling based on that matter alone.” ** I AM SORRY MY COMMENT IS SO LONG*

        • Good comment. If the shock collars didn’t hurt at all and merely blocked feeling and released endorphins, what exactly makes them work? And what causes the stressed body language in the dogs wearing them? The shock collars are MADE to set off nociceptors. They work as a consequence, or else you’d be rewarding disobedience and they’d have the opposite effect.

      • Daniela: Perfect explanation. I’m probably not calling the machines correctly. There are two machines that I use on a regular basis. One has electrical pads, and I’m calling that TENS, but perhaps it’s the other machine you referenced.
        My chiro says he’s treated a big, muscular guy that can’t go up past level 2 without screaming (I’m usually at 11). Have no idea what it goes to, but suspect at least 50. If the pads sit right on a nerve OMG it hurts.
        So yeah – you can’t assume pain level. It can vary even different locations on the same person.

      • As far as I know they both have pads? That being the case it may very well bu a TENS unit (sorry if my response isn’t posted after yours I’m not really sure how to use this comment system)

  41. I did this myself, not with a prong collar but with a choke chain, during my early crossover. I had been told so many times that choke chains didn’t hurt the dog, blah blah. So I was using a choke chain on my GSD (who was my first dog). We had a positive reinforcement trainer come to our home when our dog was having aggression issues and she immediately threw the choke chain out. After she left, I retrieved it. When she came back because we said we weren’t seeing any progress with our dog’s dog-dog aggression on the leash, she noticed the choke chain still hanging on the hook by the door with his leash and asked us if we had still been using it. When I said, well yes, of course, she kinda rolled her eyes and told me that it does hurt. After she left, I did this exact experiment, putting his chain around my neck, getting down on all fours and allowing my fiance to “walk” me exactly how he would walk Smokey. I took maybe 4 crawls forward before I started to cry. I threw the chain out and never looked back. It’s one thing when it’s around your neck and you get to control the pressure, it’s another thing when the leash is in someone else’s hand and you can’t. The other interesting thing with that experiment is that I was so afraid, I felt so panicked, similar to what you described, I wonder if I could have “learned” anything in that state. At seminars, for example, a lot of trainer will try to get you to “shape” something, one of you being the learner, one the teacher. I wonder what the same experiment would be like only with a choke chain or shock collar around your neck. How far into it would you get before completely shutting down? It’s scary to think about, actually. It’s amazing what our dogs will do and how they can still function in certain situations…

    • I did the same thing with a prong. I put it on and had my partner give me a ‘proper’ correction. I didn’t get down on all fours, though. I wish I had, after reading this. But even so, I felt panicked. It didn’t hurt in the least, but I felt like my air was going to be cut off at any second. It was a terrifying experience… And I only had it on for maybe two seconds before I had to take it off.

      But, I am a very touch-sensitive person. Taps on the shoulder are highly aversive to me. I have lashed out violently at someone who came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. When my partner ‘teases’ me by poking me, I get extremely angry, to the point where I have to leave or else I’ll react with violence. (He doesn’t do this anymore; he still pokes my nose, but that’s acceptable because I can see it and I know he’s going to do it, and I know it’s out of affection. It isn’t ‘rewarding’ to me, but it’s something I can deal with.)

      Anyways, I wish I still had my prong so I could test it. I might go to a pet store and try it in the store and video tape it, though. I’ve been thinking about it.

  42. Awesome article. I also hear people tell me that the prong mimics a dam “correcting” a puppy, I have a couple of problems with that view. Dams rarely correct a puppy with their teeth, they actually do air snaps as warnings, but they don’t bite their puppies, and even more important if they were to bite the puppies it would not be AROUND the entire neck thus not doing what a prong collar does. I have raised 20 plus litters of puppies, and helped friends raising untold 100’s of puppies and I have never seen a bitch bite a puppy as a discipline.

  43. I enrolled my long-haired dachsund in an obedience course a number of years ago and we were required to use a “prong” collar. Anyone that has ever owned a dachsund knows how stubborn they can be. Doc was a very stubborn little guy and once he had felt the bite of the prong collar he would NOT move. We completed one class and he had little “bite” marks all around his neck and we never went back. I have NEVER used a prong collar since that time and will NEVER use one. They should be outlawed.

  44. Good lord why are we still talking about prong collars? Do you know how easy it is to train loose leash walking or use positive interrupters to redirect a reactive dog and simultaneously classically condition him to accept and in some cases enjoy what has been pushing him over threshold. Let’s share information and videos on what is current, reliable, ethical and so simple.

      • Absolutely correct! A lot of people are looking for a quick fix and do not want to put in the time that they need to work with their dog. The prong gives them the immediate response they are looking for, despite the fact that it is actually causing more damage (in many ways) than it is helping. I agree with Laurie Luck, it is some clients and that education is key. However, we can’t force anyone to see it our way, it doesn’t work that way. We need to be examples of the more beneficial and humane way.

    • There’s even a Facebook page called (I think) “Pro-Prong” :-/ As long as there are trainers/owners insisting that “It works great, and it doesn’t hurt!” … then we need to be talking about it.

    • This piece originated from a FB post I shared. A trainer in Toronto started a petition to ban prong collars in dog parks. And think, even trainers that use prong collars tend to agree with that.
      When I shared the petition, some people stated that they felt the prong was a good tool. That’s where the “Have you ever worn one” came from. So….I wore it.
      And, I’m finding increased marketing campaigns by trainers seem to be making it a took that at least to me seems to be making a comeback. Just what I’ve noticed.

      • Prongs are not allowed on CKC show grounds. Just a factoid for your files.

        Why do I see dogs actually pulling while wearing prongs? It’s true they are not high on the neck usually, they are low but have they built up calluses or are they just dogs with incredibly muscular necks?

        I’ve never used one and only used a chain for a short while then ditched it. Not a dog trainer, as you know.

      • Selma: I think there are a lot of ideas on why. From when I wore it, I can say that if the prong sat on muscle it really didn’t have much effect. So I’m not sure what use they’d be in that circumstance.
        I do know that you can train a dog to cause themselves pain intentionally. Like old school (badly done) training where a dog got a leash correction and then a cookie for returning. The dog runs – yanks and comes back for a treat. You can absolutely condition a dog to that. I think it would be rather … cruel to do that…why would you? Bad form at the very least.
        Some people think it’s that the dog becomes used to the pain and needs greater and great levels. So, maybe a bad example, but I used to think jalapenos were hot. Now I eat habaneros. You build a tolerance. That can happen with pain too. You can habituation to some forms of pain very quickly. But your body can also return to former levels after a period with no pain.
        I suspect some dogs feel the reward of getting to where they want to go overrides the pain of the prong. “I want that squirrel more.”
        Loads of reasons and very plausible explanations. The act of pulling doesn’t always mean there is no pain.

  45. Isn’t it best to train your dog to not pull on the leash? I have a 130lbs Rottweiler and if she were not trained to walk calmly beside me I would surely be pulled into traffic by her.

    We no longer use any sort of training collars but in the past we used pronged/choke collar. I’m not disagreeing with you but could you also explain an alternative? It’s no fun having you’re arm pulled all day by an unleash trained dog either.

    • There are many anti-pull harnesses on the market that work to give you the “power steering” you need for a big, powerful dog who is in training without causing pain or discomfort. If none of those work well enough, or you need additional control, a head harness is the next alternative. Though it doesn’t cause pain, it is uncomfortable for most dogs to have something fitted around their faces, so must be conditioned first – therefore the head harness is a last resort for me. The point is to use the least aversive management tool possible while the dog is in training, and eventually phase out all management tools.

      The prong collar is designed specifically to cause pain and discomfort, so it is not a recommended alternative in any case.

      • Very true Leah. A while ago, many didn’t have these choices and may have had to use punitive collars to get some kind of control of their large/powerful dogs for safety’s sake but now we’re lucky not to have any use for them. There are many of these harnesses and head halters to choose from.

      • Those head halters are even worse! Most people don’t know how to use them(even the photo on the box shows it wrong!)and most dogs hate them. They can cause serious damage on neck and eyes and it masks the problem instead of training the dog. All the dogs I saw with a head halter looked sad and often had red eyes.

        • Blart wrote: “Those head halters … can cause serious damage on neck and eyes and it masks the problem instead of training the dog. All the dogs I saw with a head halter looked sad and often had red eyes.”

          If you’ve seen a head halter cause damage to a dog’s eyes — or even red eyes — then it was definitely being used improperly; used correctly, a head halter isn’t anywhere near a dog’s eyes!

          I have seen concerns raised about the potential for neck injuries when using head halters, and it’s true that (with most dogs) you can’t just slap ’em on and go — they have to gradually introduced, in short sessions, using lots of rewards. But I can’t say I’ve ever seen a dog look “sad” when wearing one.

          Personally, I’m a fan of the (relatively) new Freedom harness: http://wiggleswagswhiskers.com/ I used to recommend the Easy-Walk front-clip harness, back when it was pretty much the only game in town, but now that the Premier company is selling shock collars, they won’t be getting any more referrals from me :-/

          • Head halters most definitely can be used wrong and should NEVER be used on one-point of contact. Two-points of contact with no head harness is really successful – and if using a head harness (it is NEVER pulled) – it is f or guiding the head with proper methodology. I like Halti because it is loose and lies midnose. And proper CC&DS should be done so the dog doesn’t stress out with it on. Lots to consider. Most dogs don’t need it, very rare, and I never use it with puppies. The commercial packaging and instructions is what is problematic to the average consumer who attaches it, uses one-point and jerks it – and has a big, clunky clasp on it. It should be used with a “cat clasp”, very light weight – and two-points (one point on the harness, the other on the head harness). There is a learning curve. It is when people read the erroneous instructionals that harm can be imminent.

    • The thing with training with really good technique, is that you set the dog up to succeed. I find, as I work through more and more dogs…I tend to get another one that kicks me in the ego. They decide to show me a technical flaw, which makes me stronger. (Kipper the ex-crotch ripper is my current dog that did that … again.)
      I personally walk my dogs on plain body harnesses. I know, people say the dog will pull like a sled dog. It’s not true IF the training is done correctly.
      The problem is that dogs need to get out for a walk in the meantime. If I feel that a dog is at risk of pulling someone over, I might suggest a no pull harness or head halter. But, I also tell people to bring the head halter in to me for fitting and conditioning. I HATE it when people go into a store and the thing gets slapped on the dog’s head with one or two cookies. That’s bad form.
      If it’s done right, the dog learns to walk nicely with training. Gradually, you get rid of the no-pulling aide. Have done the same thing for dogs on prong collars. The owner is scared to get rid of it. So we do homework on a harness and as the dog gets better, we get rid of the crutch.
      It does help to work with a really good trainer that can pick apart your technique. Even trainers go to other trainers to get feedback. So hard to “see” yourself.
      But I do have training videos on my youtube page. Feel free to use it as a starting point. My Kiki was a very nasty puller. We worked through it. Kip (in the video) would jump up in a rage and bite and rip at my clothes.
      By the way, Leonard mentioned the Leerburg videos. A lot of prong people recommend putting on a second collar because they show video of the prong breaking off. So I’m not convinced they are a great option by themselves in high traffic areas either.

      • My mother had problems with the head halter and her dogs eyes, so she just switched to a different brand. Then no more problem. However I would say that if a dog really lunges a no-pull harness can pinch it painfully too; my dog became very frightened of his no-pull harness (so I stopped using it.

  46. Using these devices in the way a human would use it with a dog is how to test it and that is what you have done. I saw a client (one session we’d had) with a prong on her puppy – a Rhodesian Ridgeback – downtown. She said she felt safe with the prong. I asked her who was going to keep the pup safe from her. At that moment there was a person with a dog coming – I saw it – the lady turned her eyes away from me and I inserted my whole hand into the prong up to my wrist – she was involved in “feeling safe” and as the owner and dog passed by (although the dog was only looking at – she gave that prong a heft pull. I yelped – it hurt – and that was only my wrist with a real life jerk on the lead – the only reason to use these is to “inflict pain” and manipulate – to punish what the dog is supposedly doing wrong. All very, very unncecessary. Nice article!! Sharing it.

  47. Great article! Thank you for undertaking the experiment and sharing the results. One aspect of the “I tried it myself and it doesn’t hurt” argument that bothers me is that it’s a contrived trial. You know what’s happening, why it’s happening, and that it will stop. I’ve seen many folks use shock, prong, and choke collars as first-line training tools, so the dog has no idea why s/he’s suddenly experiencing something unpleasant or painful. Even when used “properly” as proofing tools after behavior has been taught, there is still the possibility that a dog has legitimate reasons for not performing a behavior and correction is misguided at best, cruel at worst.

  48. When you do these experiments, it might be good to also have a collar with the smaller, not so scary looking links. I’m told that those hurt even more. I have to say that I have done this experiment, although I was not fortunate enough to have a second human handy to tug the leash at the time. But, I will tell you that I had to stop tugging against my own neck because it did hurt. These devices work on a single principle, which is that when the collar tightens, the dog feels pain and stops pulling against it. The problem is that so many people think it’s OK to cause a little pain to get an obedient dog. I’ll never understand how, when shown a better way involving no pain, they continue to clutch the old method as if it were a life jacket on the Titanic.

    • I actually have a client today that is convinced the only way to train her lovely little terrier to stop pulling is to use a choke chain……..and cannot recognise the mixed signals she is giving the dog with the use of the extendalead!

  49. Thanks for the tip. While I’ve done similar tests with shock collars using human volunteers as subjects, I’m planning a lecture at the University and was planning on bringing my shock collar, pronger (Herm Sprenger Quick Release) and choke collar and asking for volunteers. Good idea to have them do it out of the dog’s perspective.

    Excellent article and I also share your skeptical point of view. If I’m wrong, SHOW me why and how – which is also helped me crossover to progressive reinforcement training from so-called “balanced” training.

    • Yes, have seen your shock collar experiments. Found the expressions on people’s faces to be particularly interesting.

      Be careful with the prong. I found that it was easy to be lulled into a sense of “it’s not that bad.” Then it hits a certain way and….not so good. I found it to be rather unpredictable.

      • I have a huge one, the biggest I could find and will of course first show it on my leg. But then will ask for volunteers – I don’t anticipate getting any. I do anticipate a response, that it wouldn’t take much force to convince a dog not to pull against it. Then I will show the Leerburg video of them saying one should always have a second collar on, like their “Dominant Dog” collar or a choke collar, because if the dog is “distracted”, it could come right off. THEN they show Frawley give the dog such a “leash correction” that the collar explodes off the dog. Of course he did a round-house jerk that turned his body 180 degrees around. THEN one can imagine what forces were being exerted on the prong under that and similar circumstance when the dog DOES actually climb into the collar/leash to get to another dog.

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