Why Prong Is Wrong – Physically and Psychologically


A man’s best friend deserves better

Prong collars are used to decrease behavior and involve waiting for the dog to do something wrong, like pulling, and then jerking the dog. Used “correctly” they ride high up on the neck. Starting with a play on words, replace the P in Prong with a W and, well you get the picture.  The PPG BARKS from the Guild Editor has asked me to write a blog on prong collars and I graciously accepted.  Apparently people want to know why prong collars are harmful (physically and psychologically). I’d like to be flip and say, well just look at them. It is so against my nature to cavort with metal, but for the sake of this blog let’s dance. For the most part, it is preaching to the choir, but let’s take a serious look at the prong collar aka pinch collar or to me a circle of blunt edged nails. Possibly, conversing to clients about these punishment tools will be easier. If you can take away any wisdom, that is the goal of this blog.


This is the very first reason, irreversible damage. Why prong collars are harmful is best left to the experts, like the veterinarians.  Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM says prong collars can cause irreversible damage.  Irreversible, meaning not able to be undone or altered. Placing metal spikes to sensitive neck tissue has always baffled me, but there is more to the story.

Dr. Dobias challenges us to a little exercise.

” I invite you to do a little test. Open your hands with your thumbs touching each other. Place the thumbs at the base of the throat and with the fingers pointing back and surrounding the neck.

Now, take a deep breath, squeeze and pull back with all your force keeping your thumbs connected.

This is how many dogs feel when they are on the leash and they are pulling.” 1

Just reading that makes me panic.  Yet this is what dogs are put through everyday. They have no choice, they have to keep the collar on.

This brought memories of a past client walking her six-month-old puppy with a prong collar. This pup was a rescue, reactive to other dogs.  After the shock of it, “Why?”, I asked? “It makes me feel safe”, said the client. Then as a dog came into view. I slipped my hand under the prong collar sneakily and sure enough there came the forceful jerk and an “OUCH” from me. It really hurt.  I wondered, but not out loud, who would be keeping the pup safe.  A hand is one thing, losing a vital life force like breathing is quite another.

253873_217066804980974_157100_nimages (2)

Wait, is that marks on skin?

Still, I didn’t blame the client, I blame commercialism, those who recommend the devices to make a quick buck or well-meaning relatives and friends because of something they saw advertised or a technique seen on a popular TV show. A magical ride to the land of fear and survival is the result for the dog. I wonder had they known what happens internally would there be reconsideration? I wondered do they know they are replacing a behavior with fear or that the behavior is still there, but the dog is too afraid of the person to follow through on the reaction. For me, this is not a relationship I want to forge with my canine companions. Preferably, teaching a dog what to do instead of the reactive behavior and reinforcing it highly just makes better sense.

The neck and cervical spine are one of the most important “energy channels” in the body. It contains the spinal cord for supply to the whole body, is where the front leg nerves originate from and it is the energy channel where the nerves controlling the internal organ function pass through. The thyroid gland that regulates the whole body metabolism is also located in the neck. If the flow of energy in the neck is interrupted or restricted, a whole array of problems may arise including lameness, skin issues, allergies, lung and heart problems, digestive issues, ear and eye conditions, thyroid gland dysfunctions and even higher cancer rates, says Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM, who apparently sees a lot of this in his clinic.2 

It is like listening to one of those medication commercials where the risk list is longer than the help provided.  It is simply a trade-off. It is a choice, a decision. Some are willing, ready and able to make that trade-off.  I look at my dogs, my client dogs who are all challenging canines and for me, I am not willing to make that choice, or recommend it to anyone.

I keep hearing my Tellington Touch practitioner training advice, “Get the pressure off the neck.”

I don’t care if a dog is 150 pounds or 10 pounds, and whether the issue is leash manners or biting visitors. There are no dogs who need a heavier hand—there are only trainers who need more knowledge and a lighter touch. Nicole Wilde 3


The psychological affects of prong collars (and other pain devices) are witnessed in submissive (subordinate) posturing and/or fear responses.4

Submissive posturing would look like this:

  • Ears flat against head
  • Eyes narrowed to slits or wide open with white showing (whale eye)
  • Lips pulled back in what looks like a grin

Behavior witnessed would be nuzzling or licking a person or another animal. Body position is very disturbing to me and looks like this:

  • A lowered to the ground posture
  • Front paw raised
  • Lying on back, belly up
  • Possible urine leaking/dribbling and even
  • Possible emptying of anal scent glands

I challenge anyone to tell me this looks like a dog who is leading a happy, fulfilled life and who wants to work (without fear) or trusts, and feels safe. Does this sound or look like a happy dog?  This is not the type of dog I want to see as a trainer or as dog owner.

Further, one might see a tail tight at the base or between the legs, and vocalizations will be minimal, low, or whining and whimpering.  I don’t think anyone reading is visualizing a well-adjusted dog.

Fearful body postures would look like this: (very similar to submissive postures)

  • Ears laid flat back against head
  • Eyes narrowed, averted and possibly rolled back into head showing whites
  • Mouth, lips drawn back to expose teeth
  • Tense
  • Crouched low
  • Shivering or trembling
  • Possible secretion of anal scent glands
  • Tail between legs
  • Vocalizations low, whining, whimpering or growling

All similar and all pathetic.  Why do people want a pathetic dog.  What type of dog do you want? For me, a thinking dog, a happy participant who finds me worth listening to even if wearing no collar, or off lead running freely in the woods or on a beach is a true companion.  I couldn’t imagine any of my dogs having the psychologic discord the above postures denot nor any of the challenging dogs who are my clients. Using force free training philosophies and science makes use of a prong collar a non-issue.


Today prong collars take on many faces.  Hiding them inside a flat collar is one of those faces.

images (1)   IMAG06681   pinch-collar-nylon-protector

What do you say to a client on the verge of using a prong collar – “because they feel safe”? Better yet, how have you gotten a client NOT to use a prong collar when what they’ve heard is that they should be using one?

What to say to a client

In memory of Dog Trainer Leah Roberts, she used to say:

“Explain how aggression issues can be created or exacerbated by its use and talk about alternatives. If they need more convincing, talk about the “war” going on between new, modern science-based training and traditional training, and use the comparison of how it used to be allowed that teachers rap kids’ knuckles with a ruler and think that was okay until we learned there were better, more effective ways.”

Today there are just too many alternatives that give results to continue to use archaic tools fit for the time capsule. The prong collar has some safety faults as well. It falls off, it unhooks at times and simply falls off.  It uses pain. People are looking for a tool and most simply don’t know better.  There are tools far superior in this day and age.

Here is a perspective from cross-over trainer Joana Watsky, Dog Trainer, Behavior Counselor NJ

When I used to use the prong I found that dogs that had reactivity prior to the prong became more reactive.” Joana Watsky

Another quote:

Have found 2 general types of dogs who are walked in prong collars: Pit Bulls and hyper out-of-control dogs. Have found people to be exasperated with the dog and aren’t really concerned about the whole pain factor. For Pit owners, discuss the general Terrier temperament being one of tenacity and grit despite pain. So using a tool that inflicts pain to manage is ineffective because they can tolerate it especially if they can persist and get what they want. Once they try the front attachment harnesses they never go back. For the hyper out-of-control dogs, talk about comparing that dog to an ADHD child. Only so much stimulus can be applied before the dog’s head explodes. Ask them to imagine being overwhelmed at a party and in an argument with someone and then I pinch their arm (not hard) saying that adding a physical stimulus just piles more papers on the pile. For a hyper dog…it’s about calmly refocusing and redirecting them. The dog needs you to be calm so that they can focus otherwise it’s just too much to process and they inadvertently increase the dog’s frenetic behavior. I have had the most success with the ‘it’s not as effective as this because’ approach. Leanne Hugg, CPDT-KA

It isn’t the prong that “causes reactivity”, it is the “use of it = pain which creates a trigger”. I recently worked with Standard Poodle where a prong definitely caused and then increased reactivity toward other dogs. Here comes dog = pain = leash reactivity.

Another dog a German Shepherd mix came to me in a prong collar. The woman was told by her husband and an aversion academy that was necessary. The woman hadn’t touched her dog in 2 years because she was afraid. The prong usage had caused redirected/respondent aggression. The dog was so anxious he started redirecting bites on the woman. This was a case where also the husband hovered over the dog, stared, alpha rolled and on and on. One session in my studio, and not only was I touching this dog, so was the woman and the tears flowed. Today the prong is off and harness, flat collar and two points of contact are on and no one is looking back.

The wielding of the instrument is for the specific purpose of implementing force. The aversiveness of the tool, not the instrument itself, as hideous looking as it is, for instance, pens are for writing, not for poking eyes out, although they can do both. Choosing not to use pain devices allows the human to change their thinking. The nature of pain devices on dogs is not for jewelry, it is for inflicting pain when the dog does something wrong or you wouldn’t need it in the first place. The only reason to use one is because knowledge has ended and that is where aversion always begins.

Training challenging dogs on a daily basis, not once have I had to resort to or recommend a prong collar. There are so many options available today, such as harnesses, flat collars, clicker training and more.  Science-based training techniques don’t require that pain be used to work through any behavior.  Don’t believe those that say “some dogs need a heavier hand” or “you can’t train an aggressive dog without force” and on and on.  These phrases are becoming cliche and untrue.  What it does take is knowledge and not falling for deceit and claims of “quick fixes”.  A dog is not a car or pipe or board, they have brains and require solid learning theory.

Watch for embellished article on prong collars in BARKS from the Guild.


1, 2 – Choke, Prong, and Shock Collars can irreversibly damage your dog, by Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM http://peterdobias.com/community/2011/07/dog-collars-can-cause-disease-and-possibly-lead-to-cancer/

3 – Do some dogs need a heavier hand? by Nicole WIlde

Do Some Dogs Need a Heavier Hand?


4 – Comparison of Stress and Learning Effects of Three Different Training Methods: Electronic Training Collar, Pinch Collar and Quitting Signal Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover Institut für Tierschutz und Verhalten (Heim-, Labortiere und Pferde)http://www.retrieverpro.com/data/File/equipment/salgirliy_ws08.pdf


PPG Client handouts

http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Resources/Documents/A%20Call%20For%20Change%20US%20Letter.pdf ACTUAL flyer to hand to client an accompaniment to this article http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/callforchangetrainingequipment

No Choke, No Prong, No Pain by PPG http://dogslifetraining.net/links-resources/

A long list of resources

Hey, have you heard the one about dog training and climate change?
The Secret to Animal Training: Behavior Science, It’s Real
Dr.Sophia Yin – Philosophy
Dr. Sophia Yin – A Better Way
Dr. Sophia Yin – Dominance
FAQ Cesar Millan, The “Dog Whisperer”
Pack of Lies
Every dog is different
Do some dogs need a heavier hand?
Dog whispering in the 21st century
Confrontational vs. Non-Confrontational
Intimidation in dog training
If you’re aggressive, you dog will be too
Dog training’s latest buzzword: “balanced
A surprising look at “balanced” training
Dog training: the trouble with punishment
AVSAB Position Statement The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals
Are you willing to be wrong about that?
Talk Softly and Carry a Carrot or a Big Stick?
Confrontational Training Techniques Elicit Aggression
The Dog Whisperer Controversy
Review of Dog Whisperer by Veterinary Behaviorist
Beyond Cesar Millan
Punishment affects both the dog and the owner
Welfare in Dog Training
“My way is not the only way.”
Busting the “dogs just want to please” myth



  1. Comment from author, Diane Garrod:

    Mark thanks for your comments. LLW is definitely the way to go – teaching, not manipulating.

    There is a difference between a human applying pressure and the dog applying pressure.A prong is used to manipulate, to forcefully stop pulling and the human applies the pressure. A harness should NOT be used by the guardian to reflexively pull (this is a human reflex and yes, is R- when used in that context). Walking with a harness is much better than with a prong – bottom line it teaches. The front attachment harnesses can move a dog out of alignment to the side, which discourages lunging – also R-. Highly preferable is working with two-points of contact so gentle guidance can teach the dog how to move – gently influencng their behavior through leading cues before the dog pulls, or the human feels a need to pull, so instilling teamwork, learning – far superior. Two-points of contact leading is a Tellington Touch exercise and found at http://www.tellingtontouch.com.

    Humans allow pulling, go with the dog, become annoyed and so without realizing it are reinforcing the pulling instead of teaching what else they want – not pulling. And that can be done force free.

    I like to teach this responsiveness off lead first and then desensitize the equipment so the dog wears it comfortably and knows what it is for and how to walk with it on. Dogs are very aware of the equipment they have on – i.e. for search and rescue; for flyball; for nosework, going for a walk- it all means something to them and what is about to happen.

    The issue with prong collar is that people use it to jerk and snap – in the name of training. Getting the pressure off the neck is important for alignment, health issues and more. There are a few harnesses that I love: 1) Tellington Touch harness and two points of contact found at http://www.tellingtontouch.com 2) Balance Harness developed by Lori Stevens http://seattlettouch.com/balance-harness/ 3) Dog Reins developed by Nancy Yamin http://dogreins.com/dogreins-home.html and 4) Comfort Flex Sports Harness https://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm/product/1771/comfortflex-sport-harness.htm. There are other choices, these are the four I love and use – each should be tailored to the dog being worked with and not all are right for every dog. The Freedom Harness is also a two-points system.

    Here are some more links to further explain the process of teaching force free and how important a dog’s movement is:

    The Training Game by Val Hughes

    Canine Gait Analysis by Brittany Jean Carr, DVM, CCRT, ACVSMR Resident, and David L. Dycus, DVM, MS, CCRP, Diplomate ACVS (Small Animal), Veterinary Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Group, Annapolis Junction, Maryland

    Two points of contact leading, Tellington Touch
    http://www.tellingtontouch.com to learn more

  2. As a matter of analysis, both a prong and a no-pull harness are P+. The only possible normal reward from using either would be R-, and I hope neither are intentionally used so that R- is the primary quadrant being utilized. (Let’s leave out the remote chance of a masochistic dog, which could cause R+/P- but would be too sad for words.)

    I would recommend that anyone believing that a no-pull harness is by itself an example of R+ training re-evaluate the mechanism of these harnesses. Analytically, it is like claiming that force-fetch is a method of creating a R+ retrieve. I appreciate Ms. Garrod’s concern about my becoming better read, and it is certainly a need of mine, but I don’t need to be familiar with every last SPARCS presentation to know that having the equivalent of a half-hitch tightening around the midsection is not viewed as a primary or secondary reinforcer by many dogs. If a no-pull harness makes lunging forward a moot point (and, unlettered though I am, I believe that moot points and mute points are two separate things…just sayin’) it is because that particular dog finds that aversive-enough.

    Beyond that, scare tactics do no one any favors. Better to focus on teaching LLW as a skill, as at the end of the day that is the behavior that is desired.

  3. Think you are missing the point of the blog Mark – punishment versus reward. Prong is punishment – unless you are using it with prongs pointing out away from the dog’s body, you are creating a fear environment for the dog.

    Reward-based, results-oriented tools don’t require this. Using two points and a harness lunging forward becomes a mute point doesn’t it, as that is not what is happening with reward. You are teaching the dog that “not lunging” is rewarding. There is no jerking or being pulled involved and frankly, the clients that use this prefer it to one-point of contact.

    Might want to read the resources included as well. It is a matter of choice. I can choose to hurt a dog or to reward a dog. In my mind, and with today’s techniques and reward systems, that becomes far superior trumping the use of a prong collar.

  4. Ms. Garrod says, “Are scientific studies really needed, though, to point out the unfairness to the dog of using a punishment device made of metal and prongs?”

    I assume that if there had been scientific support for the linkage she tried to draw in her initial article between prong collars and a number of dire medical consequences, while mentioning a natural healing vet as support, Ms. Garrod would in fact have mentioned that scientific evidence. Her response seems a tacit admission that there is no “science based” issue here.

    But, hey, let’s throw science out the window for a bit. So, how does that Freedom harness work? Does it constrict around the chest to keep the dog from pulling, or does it c/t when the dog is in proper position? Yep, it causes dogs who are not dedicated pullers to not pull to avoid the discomfort that comes from pulling, while also manipulating them to make pulling straight more difficult. Now, they are in fact excellent choices for dogs who 1) accept them, 2) are not escape artists, and 3) are not dedicated pullers. In the real world, dogs who are dedicated pullers tend to need other tools, which brings us back to either a prong collar used along with that no-pull harness, or a halter. I am sure highly skilled trainers and dog walkers have fewer dogs for whom they need to resort to either a prong or halter than others might, but that is true of professionals versus the public in any field. And, in private, many force-free trainers will admit that their own dogs remain confirmed pullers, and that they simply have to manage the issue.

    1. I appreciate your honesty – and I too know of some trainers that still resort to the prong collar behind closed doors. I still believe that doing so behind closed doors and not readily admitting it certainly proves to some degree that there is a movement against it (which is actually a good thing, in my opinion) as well as there is a feeling of dismay that there seems to be little other choice about hurting our friends. I can’t deny there is a difference between what I feel is aversive and punitive – and what someone else would consider the same. Harnesses, head-halters, prongs, and chokes….they’re all up for debate these days. It’s good that we discuss them – that we don’t WANT to do anything but use leash free or loose leash walking with our pals or our clients dogs. I do think that when there is such strong evidence that prongs are the ones we need to drop first and foremost, it needs to be considered the worst of the bunch. I prefer harnesses as they aren’t on a sensitive area of the throat. That’s about the best I can do at in my heart and mind at this time. I sure hope in time – just as we’re learning more and more – developing better and safer tools – we’ll perhaps find even better ways. For now though, I can honestly say patience and management, consistency and positive reinforcement should be our goal.

      1. I am a force-free professional dog trainer, and I have a service dog. She’s never been trained with anything other than a clicker, treats, a flat collar or a traditional harness. She can heel through the busiest store with a loose leash. I’ve never had to use a prong or choke collar, and I very very rarely use a head halter or front clip harness. I get amazing results on flat collars and harnesses using clicker training.

  5. From Helen Del Bove, ABCDT, CPDT-KA
    Smarty Paws Dog Training

    “Any tool can be misused.” This is an age-old argument that is irrelevant and diversionary. It is a strawman argument.

    Of course any tool can be misused but we are not discussing other tools, we are discussing prongs. Regardless of the possible validity of the statement, it does not logically support the use of a prong collar.The intent and design of the prong collar when used properly is to inflict pain, period. THAT is how it is designed to work – to suppress behavior thru pain. Whether the prong is ‘skillfully’ used or abused and misused, it intentionally causes pain. There is no dancing around that fact.

    Claiming that more dogs will end up in shelters without prong collars or, worse yet, claiming that the alternative to removing a prong collar is death to either human, dog or both are attempts to justify the choice with fear and unsubstantiated conjecture. It is an exaggerated leap in thinking to create a false dilemma which presumes only 2 options when, in fact, there are many options.

    So, yes, let’s please be honest here. Whether or not you choose to use the tool and have that type of relationship with your dog is up to you, but please know and accept that it IS a choice, not a requirement, and there are other choices.

    For those who believe that you have no choice in stopping pulling or ‘controlling’ your dog, I ask you to consider this… How is it that humans can control horses, an animal far larger and stronger than the largest dog, everyday without using a prong collar and without being dragged into vehicular death? This alone should tell you that a prong is not your only option. There are many types of harnesses available that will be just as effective without the pain.

    I am a crossover trainer myself so no one can say I am not familiar with the tool or unable to use it. I have used chokes and prongs ‘skillfully’ and, at the time, believed I was not causing pain or fallout. Having been on both sides of the fence, I can say unequivocally that there is no turning back for me, as I suspect is true for many, if not all crossover trainers. When there are gentler, kinder, effective ways, why would I ever choose otherwise?

    1. ‘Mark’ starts by first pointing out that there are claims in this article about physiological effects ( heart problems, cancer, allergies, etc.) with no links to supportive peer reviewed large scale studies.
      He was right in pointing out that such claims without supportive studies is very unscientific and indeed appears to be deceptive. I would seriously doubt that a connection could ever be shown between any collar and such physiological ailments as allergies and cancers until there are such large scale scientific studies that corroborate such claims. Such unsubstantiated claims also seek to influence though “fear and conjecture”.

      You are correct in saying there are many alternatives in training but even sources cited here, ( Dr Sophia Yin, etc) acknowledge that PP ( corrective collars, etc) are valid tools.

      My personal practice is now limited to behavioral work ( which never uses such collars) though I used to train extensively. I was a former Police K-9 trainer and later head of a State Police k-9 training program. I also served as an adviser the the US Air Force’s training program. I will tell you that to this day corrective collars are used in all such training and these dogs are some of the most highly trained in the world (they also wear or are transitioned to various harnesses needed for their work) . Lives depend on their training. There is no “loss of trust” as trust is what the entire relationship in the field depends on. There is no ‘fear’ instilled, as these dogs must all be fearless. During my tenure I never once saw a collar related injury.
      Note the collar this Navy Seal working dog is wearing:

      I am not here to advocate for ‘prong’ collars. I am merely pointing out that such articles as this are closed minded and misleading. I only responded because a former client sent me this link.

      One last point regarding “How is it that humans can control horses, an animal far larger and stronger than the largest dog”.
      Horses are trained and controlled primarily through the use of a tool called a “bridle and bit”. It is designed to cause discomfort ( you would say “pain”) if the correct response is not achieved.

      1. Attribution of possible health issues was from Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM. There are many other DVMs of note, who strongly advocate against the use of prong collars, such as Dr. Karen Overall, and Dr. Jean Dodds. Leaving those images up to those who see the after effects, the medical professionals, veterinarian behaviorists and holistic veterinarians.

        Are scientific studies really needed, though, to point out the unfairness to the dog of using a punishment device made of metal and prongs? This should be obvious to anyone with a scientific
        understanding of how to work through a behavior modification process with a dog or other animal. There are plenty of studies on this also. All it takes is a) this is the behavior b) here is what I would do to decrease that behavior -asking, if a prong is used, simply how could you decrease that behavior by not using that device?

        There alternatives in training, and choices in how treatment of an animal in the process of that training, or teaching. Why choose to fear and pain, when you can create a dog who really WANTS to work and happily?

        Good to hear you don’t use prong collars in your practice today. There is a trainer, Steve White who also has a K9 Corps background who uses only positive methods to train those dogs. He is an international speaker on this topic. You may want to read up on his techniques and watch some of his videos http://www.proactivek9.com/. VIDEO: Dogs that WANT to work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vEqZmRHcEM and a recent bio https://www.karenpryoracademy.com/node/531

        There is a well-respected trainer, Ada Simms, of ‘Reward That Puppy’ dog training (www.rewardthatpuppy.com) who is a former policewoman, who also would not advocate the use of prong collars. She is quite active in reactivity and aggression cases.

        While the news report on Rex the Navy Seal canine is impressive, why wouldn’t this dog be able to be trained without a prong collar? Schutzhund work is even being done without the use of these types of tools and not only do I see a prong, but a choke chain, and a muzzle being used. Maybe there was a shock collar too. Seems to me the same results could be done without those tools.

        Horse training has also come miles and they can be controlled without bits and with humane bridles. Linda Tellington has been working for years herself in that enlightenment and knows many horse officionados around the world that teach horses using humane and science-based training. http://www.tellingtontouch.com

        1. I’m sorry to say but no, the horse training world is not crossing over to only R+ anytime soon. The use of a bitless bridle has been around for thousands of years and as you can see there really hasn’t been a push to convert all training to include a one. In fact if you have actually seen how it works of have personally worked with one yourself (as I have) you would know that it does the same thing as a bit (pressure to give desired outcome). Bits are not cruel, they are a communication device between the horse and rider. Yes there are “harsher” bits but those are also where debates rage on as to which route the training should go down.

          Also in response to Susan, many horses (especially young and “hot blooded” ones) are often shanked (metal chain across nose) to control them. So yes many horses ARE controlled by the use of aversive methods.

    2. Horses are controlled with metal bits in their mouths, I would far rather use a prong collar on my neck than stick metal in my mouth and have it jerked side to side. My own dog does not respond well to harnesses (very reactive) but walks nicely with a prong collar and actually doesn’t pull. When I put her in a normal semi check collar she has lines on her neck from pulling. Go figure!

  6. I am a certified professional dog trainer and I completely agree with this article. The walk is an enrichment activity owners should be using to bond with their dog, how does that happen if there is pain involved? Yes, the prong collar might give you a quicker immediate result, but I believe that instant gratification is at the cost of long term psychological damage that I am just not willing to risk. Besides why would I knowingly inflict pain on an animal I profes to care about? It just doesn’t make sense. And yes, I have worked with my share of Pits and high energy dogs with successful results.

  7. Citing a natural healing vet, who is claimed to “see a lot” of prong-collar caused heart and lung problems, eye and ear issues, “even higher cancer rates” etc. …well, really? He has tracked enough dogs with and without prongs that he can make these assertions? This in a article that claims to be promoting science-based techniques?

    I can show a picture of an obese dog, and claim it is caused by kibble. Idiots who neglect or abuse their dogs will even let flat collars grow into dogs’ necks. Putting up pictures of obvious misuse of an implement in a way that suggests the effects of that misuse are a likely consequence of appropriate use is misleading.

    Let’s be honest about the long-term goals here. Many positive trainers think that prongs should never be used, and a fair number would like them to be illegal. They assume that the many, many dogs currently humanely walked on these collars, without abuse and without fallout, will then be fine. Perhaps a new army of highly skilled positive trainers will appear, and donate their services, so that all these dogs will still get walked without anyone being dragged into the street? More likely, we will have to simply have a few elderly or slight of build owners break their hips in falls when they get pulled down by their dog, and many dogs surrendered to shelters, because sometimes you have to break eggs to make a positive training omelet. No one likes to think about the numbers of dogs we need to kill to keep any and all aversives from being used, and in a way I understand that, because it’s a large number.

  8. I used a prong collar – with rubber tips – on 2 dogs over the past 30years. With BOTH dogs I found that although they no longer pulled, I did not have the same level of trust, training, understanding and control when that collar was NOT on. I liken this to working well when your boss is in the office – but leaving early and being sloppy when the boss is gone. If you truly want a dog that is happy, trustworthy (as much as an animal can be, of course) focused and relaxed – the prong collar is NOT the way to go. With the advances in harness wear on the market, I feel there is no reason not to work WITH the dog rather than against the dog, by causing discomfort. Isn’t that a pleasant word? ‘Discomfort”. That’s the word physicians use when they prepare you for ‘pain’, isn’t it? “Now, patient, you will feel some discomfort”…we know what’s coming, don’t we? Front clip harnesses turn the dog AWAY from it’s goal and back toward the other end of the leash – why? So that you can do what you are supposed to be doing – getting eye contact so you can train. So you can reinforce to the dog that you are walking as a team. It’s really NOT that difficult to do. If you find yourself in the position of having to reassure others that what you are doing doesn’t hurt your dog – it’s time to ask yourself why you are using something that clearly has the capacity to do so.

  9. Not sure if I missed it in the article but what is the 2 points of contact alternative? I have tried many different trainers and techniques with my 80 lb pitbull and the prong is the only thing that gives me any control. He is amazing when we’re walking and no one is around but he is very leash reactive and has huge fear issues that I havent been able to overcome and have definitely gotten alot worse with “dominance” training.

    1. Jessica, thanks for asking. Two points means a lead that has two clasps, one on either end. You will find this with the Freedom Harness at http://www.dogkingdompetsupplies.com or http://www.freedomnopullharness.com/ and Tellington Touch http://www.tellingtontouch.com, which has a video channel and videos on site so you can watch what that looks like. As with everything else there is a learning curve. One clasp attaches to the harness at the top of the shoulders, the other goes through a chest loop and attaches to a side ring on the dog’s left side. The Freedom Harness attaches a bit differently, I like the Tellington Touch method best.

  10. I am a behaviorist with an MS in animal behavior who has worked with dogs for over 20 years and I disagree with the the concept of ‘never’. Even some of the resources used here such as Dr Sophia Yin whose conferences I have attended will never rule out the use of Positive Punishment as an effect tool if used correctly and balanced with a factor of 50x positive.
    I have worked closely with dozens of veterinarians over decades who have never seen an injury from a ‘prong’ collar and know a number of them who use this collar themselves for their own dog. The collar itself is designed to have the prongs close, grabbing skin and ‘pinching’–not poke into the dog’s neck. The entire mechanism is designed for the loose skin of a dog and not for the tight skin of a human thigh which is why such testing on humans is invalid.
    The collar itself is not the end all and is usually used for specific issues unrelated to fear or aggression, most commonly pulling on a leash. ( Use of such corrective PP measures for fear based issues is always wrong.) Though possible to correct such pulling without the collar in many dogs, for some it is the route that allows an owner to keep their dog, prevent injuries to the owner from getting pulled over or even preventing darting into a street which can be fatal to both dog and owner. I know of one human fatality of a harnessed dog who lunged into a street dragging the owner behind both were killed.
    When dealing with owners a professional must keep in mind that not all–and in fact too few–will have the time or skill to pursue Heeling skills, desensitization, etc, and in many cases the collar with proper owner education can be of benefit to both dog and human.

    1. Your credentials are impressive. SO you’ll appreciate my work with aggressive and extreme cases over that same period of time you are talking about. You mentioned that the prong collar is for “grabbing skin and ‘pinching’:. Why would you do that to a dog? Looking at my three Belgian Tervurens as they lay at my feet – one human aggressive (was) and one fearful of humans (was) and one dog reactive (was) and I wonder what would EVER compel me to use a pinch, a choke or a shock collar on them. So sad and not a relationship I want to have with my companions.

      I keep hearing this argument over and over “for some it is the route that allows an owner to keep their dog, prevent injuries to the owner from getting pulled over or even preventing darting into a street which can be fatal to both dog and owner. I know of one human fatality of a harnessed dog who lunged into a street dragging the owner behind both were killed.”. I see many dogs who tout prong collars, chokes and shock that just didn’t cut it and made behavior worse. In fact, why would a dog wish to stay with a person who is pinching them?

      NOT darting into a street is so easy to teach, takes very little time and effort and a solid emergency whistle recall is far superior to any metal or shock tools. If a person was pulled into traffic and killed with their dog wearing a harness, they never worked on the behavior that triggered that did they? Whose to say the same thing wouldn’t have happened with a prong, or a choke, or a shock collar – we can only guess and see that the incident was unfortunate.

      Working with a lot of clients once they learn how to use a harness and two-points of contact few want to return to one point or go back to the pinching tools in the name of training. It is a fallacy that force free training takes “a lot of time” – it takes no more time than it did to hurt an animal and frankly, marker teaching is quite a powerful tool.

      For now we’ll have to agree to disagree. For me and my clients we will continue to work force free for happy, joyful and obedient dogs.

    2. Hello Joseph, i think you will find many behaviorists that do not agree with you including Dr. Karen Overall who is considered a leading expert.
      An section of a recent article posted as direct quotes from

      Head collars, harnesses and leads and from her new text Overall KL, Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, Elsevier, St. Louis,

      Choker collars

      “Dogs are often routinely fitted with something like a choker collar as part of a training program. Choker collars are usually either made from chain, leather or a rolled, braided nylon. When used correctly, choker collars are actually one of the best examples of true

      ‘negative reinforcement’: when the dog pulls, the collar tightens and either the sound or smallest amounts of pressure indicates that dog has engaged in an undesirable behavior; when the dog stops – that pressure is released (and in the case of a chain the sound of slippage occurs) and the dog is unimpeded. It is the release from the negative stimulus (the tightening of the collar) that is the reward.

      Unfortunately, virtually no one uses choke collars in the described manner. Instead, most dogs placed on chokers, ‘choke.’ When they are allowed to pull on the collar and permitted to sustain the pull these dogs learn to override the choker. In doing so they are also at risk for laryngeal damage, esophageal damage, and ocular damage (change in the blood vessels in the eye). The dog that pulls harder has no choice: dogs will always push against pressure which means they all pull harder.

      Traditional choke collars are an idea whose time has passed. When clients can get past their own misconceptions about how they look or what they mean, they will, with ever increasing frequency, choose a head collar or a no-pull harness for their dog. Used correctly these are safer, easier to use, and help to teach the dog better behaviors. They are a winning solution that could, and perhaps should, eclipse the choker.

      For people whose dogs don’t bite but who dislike the idea of harnesses and head collars, a modified neck collar with a baffle is now available. The Scruffy Guider® has 2 neck straps that can be adjusted for a snug fit. The collar tightens down when the dog pulls in a manner similar to a fabric choke collar, but there is a baffle that prevents the collar from tightening beyond the point where it is just flush to neck. This is not the solution for an out of control dog, but it is another tool that may work for some dogs.

      Prong or pinch collars

      Prong collars are subject to all of the same criticisms as are chokers. Furthermore, they can do incredible damage to the dog’s neck since they can become imbedded in the skin if the dog learns to over-ride them. Most dogs learn to over-ride these collars and people who use them often voluntarily comment that they need to use some degree of pain to control their animals under some circumstances. These collars, if sharpened – as is often the case, are intended to employ pain to encourage the dog to attend to the person. If left unsharpened, these collars are intended to provide more uniform pressure than a choke collar. Oddly, prong collars were intended to be a safer improvement over choke collars. That’s not how it has worked. For aggressive dogs, this the uniform pressure response – especially if accompanied by pain – can worsen their aggression, and for dominantly aggressive dogs, this response can not only worsen their aggression, but endanger the client. Were people to understand more about how dogs communicate and how these collars work, they would appreciate that responses other than pain and pressure are more desirable for changing an animal’s behavior. These collars are no substitute for early intervention and the treatment of problem behaviors. For every situation which clients claim control is provided by a prong collar, a head collar is the better, safer and more humane choice, although it requires some investment of time to use correctly. Some dogs are fitted with prong or spike collars because they make the dog look ‘tough’. The problem, here, does not lie with the dog.”
      You can read the full article here on the PPG website http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/callforchangetrainingequipment

  11. Have you ever done any research into the benefits of the collar when used correctly? Any tool can be harmful, if misused. Not everyone agrees on what methods work when training dogs. With that being said, every dog is different. Every breed, every personality varies. You may not agree with it, however I don’t think bashing people who use it (correctly) is helpful either. Nor is putting up photos that are obviously gross misuses of the collar, and letting people think thats a normal occurrence.

    1. Yes Tamera I have – and I cringed at what I saw. Used correctly means have the collar high up around the neck. Even jerking once can cause damage, as that one time has to be pretty powerful to make the dog fear you. Psychologically it is not fair to subject a dog to a state of fear.

      Any tool can be harmful is a true statement – a pen can poke out eyes, but would I use it to do that on my dog, no. A gun is pretty passive until someone picks it up and points and shoots. I wouldn’t do that to my dog either. Subjecting a dog to the implications of a prong, done right or not, to me is completely inappropriate, there are better and more effective methods.

      I’m bashing the use of it and saying those who use it simply don’t know of other ways. I certainly wish, as a cross-over trainer, someone would have pointed it out to me early on. Each dog is an “individual” and yes of course, breed and personality varies, so what does that have to do with using a prong collar.

      If you have other photos that you’d like shared, please let me know. Are those portrayed NOT prong collars – yes they are. Please share what IS a normal occurrence so we can all be enlightened.

      1. “…has to be pretty powerful to make the dog fear you.” Your words demonstrate that you have not ever been shown how to properly use this tool and your use of prongs has been abusive. It’s good that you don’t use them then. But there are plenty of people who do know how to use prongs correctly and don’t cause pain or fear in the dogs. If prongs were honestly inherently dangerous then folks who are against their use wouldn’t have to resort to misleading photos and hyperbolic, untrue statements.

        1. From Jan Casey:

          From an engineer’s perspective:

          “Assume a typical big dog: 80 pounds, 20-inch neck size.
          The dog can pull with more than his own weight because his weight is low and forward compared to the distance between his front and back feet, and he won’t lift his front feet by pulling until he’s pulling a lot more than he weighs. 80-pound dog: 120 pounds of pulling force is easily possible. Much more if he gets a running start before he gets to the end of his leash.

          Newton taught us the every action (force) has an equal and opposite reaction. So take the 1 1/2″ web collar. The bottom of the collar supplies all the force to the dog’s neck. If he pulls with his own weight, the contact force is around 5 1/3 pounds per square inch. ( 80 pounds /(10″ of collar x 1.5″ wide)).

          Now consider a choke collar made of 1/4″ nylon cord. A chain choke would be similar as the links make a nearly continuous contact band. Even if it does not slide tight, in the same configuration as the web collar the contact force will be 32 pounds per square inch. 6 times as much, before one even considers the drawstring effect. This is far more likely to cause injury to the larynx or restriction of blood flow in the neck.

          A prong collar has a pair of prongs approximately every inch. The prongs are made of wire, approx 3/32″ in diameter. Still ignoring the drawstring effect – each prong contacts the neck with an area of only about 0.007 square inches. 20 prongs, 80 pounds, generate about 579 psi at each prong tip, assuming they are blunt and not pointy. If the prongs are located atop the larynx it is hard to imagine injury ( at least bruising) NOT occurring. This pressure will easily collapse any blood vessel that suffers the fate of being beneath a prong.

          So: contact force is over 6 x greater for a simple choke, and over 100 x greater for prongs FOR THE SAME PULL. “
          Still believe there is no physical damage?

        2. Thank you Rochelle,

          Just as I was thinking it, I came across your reply. The whole point of the prong collar is that it that it “is made of interlocking links, each with two blunt prongs that pinch the dog’s skin when the collar is tightened. Unlike the chain slip collar, it puts even pressure around the neck by pinching the skin in a band about a half inch wide. NO pressure is put directly on the trachea with the pinch collar.” And it often works with little to no “popping” or jerking. (http://www.canismajor.com/dog/prong.html)

          It is so incredibly important not to judge a book by it’s cover; please do your research before jumping to conclusions ladies and gentleman. There are lots of informative posts by trainers.

    2. Quite right Tamera. Some extremists do just pick the wrong use photos and highlight that as the usual outcome. They can work well if used reasonably and on the right dog! Now some so-called trainers are almost sugesting that anyone who still uses one in some cases is an out and out criminal!!

      1. But why Chris. Why use a tool that we all accept works by restricting and discomfort when you can use alternate tools that do not. For me its very simple. We can argue science and correct use but it boils down to one issue. Choice. You can choose to use tools that work by the fact that they cause pain or you can choose tools that do not. You can teach alternate and more appropriate behavior or you can correct incorrect ones. For me its a very slippery slope when we begin to justify our use of these tools when there are now so many other options readily available and affordable

      2. What photos would you choose Chris – a prong is a prong – they look the same. The intent is to jerk, cause pain and fear so the dog stops the behavior in the moment. It doesn’t change the behavior, it stops it, as punishes it. Behavior is still there because it hasn’t been modified, ready to erupt.

        Working with aggressive and highly challenging behaviors daily, and being a cross-over trainer myself, the proof is in the results and the relationship, which is far superior with force free methods. Not just with dogs but with all animals.

        “Used reasonably with the right dog” is baffling – using pain reasonably isn’t needed when using science-based techniques – where knowledge ends, aversion begins. And there are studies done that show aggression begets aggression. You can choose whatever tool you’d like, but there are far superior tools to use than a prong in the sake of training – pain in training is not needed. Dogs with behavior problems are distressed, even chronically/acutely distressed, whether from health issues or abuse or having an over-the-top genetic component. Releasing stress, helps the animal to learn better – without fear and progress quickly. It changes everything and addresses the needs of the individual. Jumping to a one-off solution like a prong collar does no one any good, it is a lose lose situation.

    3. “when used correctly”…. that is the usual argument from the prong collar advocates. The problem is the MAJORITY (yes, majority, including “professional” trainers) don’t know how to use a prong collar, for lack of better word, correctly. Gross misuse is not the minority, its also the majority. If you think the only way you can get control of a dog is by using one of these devices which by they way is designed solely to inflict pain, then you are not an experienced trainer and not very knowledgeable about behavior.

  12. You obviously didn’t go buy one of these prong collars? Because mine came with rubber protectors ! To use those pictures is a scare tactic and misleading!

    Also, if you don’t know what you are doing, then, you shouldn’t be using this.

    1. Hi Debra:
      No I don’t buy prong collars – I’m a cross-over trainer and are very aware of what is available. Yes I’ve seen the capped prongs. Rubber protector and prong to me seems an oxymoron. The protectors do not protect the other end of the leash from jerking the dog into submission – still cutting off airway and still around the neck – and just wondering why with everything out there to avoid prong collars why any type would be used anyway.

      Thanks for your reply but a harness, a two-points of contact lead is far superior as well as stress release, attentiveness to science-based desensitization and counterconditioning techniques, classical conditioning, it just isn’t necessary, capped or not.

  13. I beg to differ. I do not condone the routine use of a prong collar but in the hands of a skilled professional it is one of many tools that can be used to correct behaviour. I have only used one once, but the dog in question, a very strong adult male Rottweiler, was so out of control and dog aggressive that he was on the verge of being put down. Yes he should have been trained and socialised but unfortunately he had not been. After trying all the usual techniques without success the prong worked. It was a limited short tern use but one that was very effective.

    The dog subsequently enjoyed years more life with his very happy owners.

    1. Hi Gary:
      So glad you’ve sparingly used a prong. Have you ever tried a two-points of contact alternative. Is so effective and no jerking is needed to change behavior in strong adult males. Even giant breeds. That would be one alternative when thinking about whether the use of a prong is even needed and of course, as you can see by the article I don’t think it ever is and I work with plenty of strong adult males and females.

      Further if a dog is so out of control and dog aggressive then there is the issue of stress (distress, chronic/actute stress) and relieving that through a stress release protocol. No one ever tries “everything” – there is always a force free technique that hasn’t been tried largely due to lack of knowledge. Where knowledge ends, aversion begins – a play on words taken from Ben Franklin.

      I am happy that the dog you are talking about was able to enjoy life with his owners. That is always the goal – and results-oriented is always the outcome. The question is, would the same outcome may have transpired without the use of a prong collar? Especially knowing what we know today?

    1. I only use a prong collar when walking my rottweiler because she pulls terribly. she still pulls with the prong collar but a lot less and it doesn’t seem to hurt her. I have tried training and other types of harnesses to no avail. I need some ideas.

      1. Have you tried the harnesses suggested in the article?

        I never used the front attachment harnesses with my dog (border collie) because they were too easy to escape from*, but if your dog isn’t a houdini apparently these type of harnesses are very good and have a lot of happy customers.

        Alternatively try a halter attached to a collar or harness with an extra loop of leash / webbing (for safety reasons – the halters are the easiest to escape from of all**). Whenever your dog pulls, the halter forces his head around towards you. I didn’t like this, and my dog hated it, I felt it was a bit cruel so I stopped using it after a week but the fear of having his head wrenched around DID fix his pulling for a while.***

        *I never actually found a harness that he couldn’t escape from – I used to joke that what he needed was a canine straight jacket.

        ** my border collie used to take them off with his front paws, one swipe – he’d hook the strap with a dew claw – and it was off.

        *** he started pulling a few weeks later again but by that point I’d started a training regime and we eventually got rid of his habit of pulling using a very simple training exercise.

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