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Choke Collars, Prong Collars and Electric Collars

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Are chains, choke collars and e-collars good tools? I don’t recommend using any of these tools. They may provide short-term solutions to a situation, but they do more harm than good and do not solve the underlying issues with your dog. In fact, they can increase unwanted behaviors such as aggression or leash reactivity and may make your dog more fearful. They are very dangerous. They can cause a lot of damage to your dog’s throat. There are other tools that you can use that are much safer.

Join The Fight!

Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM MS has an amazing article about choke chains and pinch collars. She strongly cautions against using chokers and pinch collars because of the harm that they can cause to your dog and their inability to properly fix unwanted behaviors.

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM article attributes hypothyroidism, ear and eye issues, foreleg lameness and neck injuries to the use of choke and prong collars.

The APDT (UK) has a code of conduct which states that “coercive or punitive techniques and/or equipment should not be used, recommended, advertised or sold by members” and this includes the shock collar which they describe as an “abusive device”.

These tools can affect your dog’s ability to recall tasks in training exercises.

Another article from Companion Animal Psychology found that most owners did not read instructions before using a shock collar on their dog, dogs showed high levels of cortisol when just seeing the shock collar – which means that they were stressed out.  The biggest find was that dogs who were “trained” using shock collars did worse at recall exercises (come, don’t chase etc) than dogs who were trained with positive reinforcement.

Read Why These Tools Are Dangerous

Our friend Drayton Michaels, CTC is the owner of Urban Dawgs Dog Training in Red Banks, NJ holds a Certification in Dog Training and Behavior Counseling from the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers (known as “the Harvard for dog trainers”). He wrote an amazing article about the dangers of shock and prong collars. Here are some highlights from that article.

Physical damage from prong collars include:

  • Trachea and windpipe damage
  • Neck alignment and back alignment can be compromised
  • Eyesight damage
  • Lymph node damage
  • Possible choking to death due to prong/choke collar getting caught on something

Behavioral implications of choke and prong collars:

  • Can cause fear of collars in general
  • Apprehantion to human hands reaching toward the dog (from having the prong or choke collar put on)
  • Cause negative association to you the handler, the leash, the walk, other dogs, people and kids
  • Cause general fear of the environment

Social Implications of Prong and Choke collars

  • With prong collars your dog looks scary, mean, threatening and or dangerous. You play into the stereotype if you have a dog that may be looked upon intrinsically as “big” “scary” etc…
  • Choke and Prong collars sends the message that the dog is “different” and needs to be treated with force.
  • It creates an image that will lead some to think the dog’s handler is possibly a harsh person with the dog.

Prong Collar Myths and Facts

The amazing folks at the San Francisco ASPCA put together a list of common myths about the use of prong collars. Here are some of our favorites:

Myth: Dogs’ skin is so thick they can’t feel the pain. Fact: Skin on a human’s neck is actually thicker (10-15 cells) than the skin on a dog’s neck (3-5 cells). So if you think wearing a prong collar would hurt, imagine how your dog feels.

Myth: This breed is too tenacious/stubborn/strong to use anything gentler. Fact: All dogs are different, and breed only plays a small role in each individual dog’s personality and behavior. Socialization and training have more of an influence than breed on behavior. Try positive training!

Myth: My dog doesn’t mind it. Fact: How do you know? Does your dog speak English? Are you skilled in reading dog body language? Do you know the difference between a dog who is suppressing normal behaviors, avoiding pain, and shut down, versus one who is happy, engaged, and confident? There’s a good chance that your dog does mind it, but has learned to live with it to avoid more punishment.

Myth: I felt the shock/pinch and it’s not that bad. Fact: Did you feel it over and over and over again, for hours on end? Did you feel it on your neck? Did you feel it when you weren’t expecting it? How about when you were already scared or stressed? And even if it’s not that bad to you, how can you know how it feels to him?