When you set out on a walk with your four-legged companion, there are many choices available for walking equipment, just as there are many dog-training philosophies. At the Richmond SPCA, we deliver reward-based training that is based on the science of learning theory. If your goal is a happy dog who walks well with you on leash, and you’ve tried a prong collar (aka pinch collar) or choke chain to make your dog comply, we would like to encourage you to give a Martingale collar, Gentle Leader, Easy Walk or Sensible No-Pull brand harnesses a try. Visit our Lora Robins Gift Shop from today until Nov. 29, and trade in your prong or choke collar for a 40 percent discount on PetSafe or Softouch Concepts brand walking equipment including collars, Gentle Leaders and harnesses.
Prong collars, also known as pinch collars, are metal collars that have a series of fang-shaped metal links with blunt points. If sitting high on the neck, properly fitted, behind the ears, in theory it will distribute the pressure evenly along the dog’s neck to not cause any pressure points or damage to a dog’s trachea. Rather than receiving correction verbally from a guardian when not in the correct position, the pressure points from the prong collar are designed to deliver correction, communicating to the dog which behaviors are undesirable to the guardian. However, if the pet guardian is not trained to use the prong collar correctly and hasn’t had the collar properly fitted to the dog, it is not effective as a training tool and can instead cause walks to become uncomfortable or painful exercises for the dog.
One of the arguments some trainers make in favor of using prong collars is that the pinching the dog experiences mimics the correction that one dog would give another through mouthing behavior. However, dogs are capable of distinguishing that the pinching or discomfort coming from the collar isn’t from another canine. Instead, the dog may form a negative association to what they are experiencing at that time, whether it be walking, interacting with other dogs or a variety of other things. This negative association, over time, can create aggression towards or fear of other dogs, strangers or children.
Unlike properly-fitted prong collars, which will only tighten until they are snug around a dog’s neck, choke collars or slip leads continue to tighten indefinitely, which can cause extreme discomfort to a dog, cutting off his or her ability to breathe and potentially causing tracheal injuries. While a dog’s behavior may be momentarily inhibited by using tools like prong collars or choke collars, their effectiveness for even that tends to wear off over time, and the pet guardian ends up pulling harder and harder to get the dog’s attention or compliance. Furthermore, simply “correcting” unwanted behavior is never the right solution, as the dog can easily become confused if he does not know what behavior he should be doing in a given situation.
Fortunately, walking equipment for dogs has come a long way in the past decade! Martingale (limited-slip) collars, front-clip harnesses and head halters can help you modify your dog’s behavior and do so without causing pain or risk of injury. This means that walking can be a pleasant and safe experience for both humans and canines. If you are working with your dog to improve his or her behavior on leashed walks, a front-clip harness can be a wonderful and easy-to-use training tool that helps prevent pulling on leash almost immediately. Is your dog a pro at slipping out of a collar? When properly fitted, martingale collars are designed to prevent escape without the “choking” effects of a choke collar. Head halters (Gentle Leader, Halti, etc) provide maximum control and can help redirect your dog’s head and regain his or her focus on you in almost every situation.
It is important to remember that each training tool can only be successful when used correctly and properly fitted to your dog, but we are committed to help with that piece of the puzzle, so please ask us for help if you need it. Fortunately, the manufacturers of these products provide a great set of instructions, and our helpful staff in the Lora Robins Gift Shop are glad to help you with a fitting. Following all fitting and use guidelines is very important, so that each tool can be effective as possible. Consistent training using positive reinforcement will help strengthen the bond between you and your pet and create positive experiences for you both.
We encourage pet guardians using prong collars or choke collars to consider switching to a martingale collar, front-clip harness or head halter. When you visit our Lora Robins Gift Shop starting today through Nov. 29 and trade in your prong or choke collar, you will receive 40 percent off PetSafe brand collars, front clip harnesses and Gentle Leader head halters as well as Sensible No-Pull Harnesses by Softouch Concepts.
Caroline Radom is the manager of communications for the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name