What are the dangers of using choke and prong collars?

Recently, a friend posted a link to a PETA article of the same title, quoting the dangers of using a prong collar. Well, as a balanced trainer that uses all four quadrants and frequently uses both prong collars and e-collars on my own dogs and in training, I of course have an opinion.

 

Really, the only thing that needs to be said to rebut this, is that these are training tools and you should learn how to properly use them from an experienced professional. I personally offer one time courses and lessons just on the proper usage of a prong or e-collar. That being said, let us continue.

 

First, to clarify, choke collars (aka slip collars, choke chains, chain collars) look like this:

Choke CollarA prong collar (aka pinch collar) looks like this:

dog-pinch-collar-hs-swivel-quick-release_LRGAn e-collar (electric collar, shock collar, remote collar) come in many brands and include some form of hand held remote and a receiver box on a collar, worn on the dog and looks something like this:

Remote Dog Training Shock Collars with LCD Display

Now, let’s dissect the article itself a bit.

The use of choke collars has been associated with whiplash, fainting, spinal cord injuries leading to paralysis, crushing of the trachea with partial or complete asphyxiation, crushing and/or fracture of the bones in the larynx, dislocated neck bones, bruising of the esophagus, bruising and damage to the skin and tissues in the neck, brain damage and prolapsed eyes caused by sharp increases in pressure in the head, and other injuries.

While it is certainly possible to cause all of those things to a dog with a choke collar, it is ALSO possible to cause all of those things with a flat collar, a slip leash, a martingale collar, even a harness, should I choose to use it as a sling device to helicopter my dog around my head and slam him into a brick wall. Not funny, I know. But my point is, the choke collar itself is not going to instantly choke or asphyxiate your dog. YOU will, if you are so moronic that you can’t recognize that the collar (whether it’s a choke chain, a slip leash, a flat collar) is so tight that your dog can’t breathe and it’s eye balls are bulging out and you do nothing to remedy this.

The metal spikes of prong collars pinch the skin around dogs’ necks when they pull and can scratch or puncture them. 

 

The reason a prong collar works so well in communicating to your dog is because it mimics the instinctive communication tool between dogs. Teeth to the neck. Mom dogs put their mouth on her puppies frequently. They don’t magically wrap their lips all around their teeth so that they’re gumming them only. Teeth are involved. Or have you ever watched dogs really play with each other? Ever see the dogs bite each others ears, guide them to and fro by each others neck skin? No blood, no fight, no puncture holes afterwards. Because even though these instances involved teeth to the skin, they communicate something (come this way, don’t do that, pay attention to me) and were not meant to injure or cause harm. A prong collar, is like that. There are varying degrees of ‘bites’ from a dog, and with proper usage of a prong collar, there are varying degrees of corrections to convey that we just want his attention, or that something is absolutely unacceptable.

In case you don’t believe me, here’s an adorable video of a golden retriever and her puppies. Note her mouth is wide open and all up on that little black pup.

And here’s another really, way too adorable video of two buddies play mouthing around. Teeth are involved here too.

Over time, this can cause dogs to develop scar tissue (which has no feeling) and/or build up a tolerance to the painful pinching sensation and thus continue to pull, making walks even more difficult.

IF these things should happen from the use of a prong collar, it’s because you did not seek out professional, experienced advice and instruction and you’re doing it wrong. Prong collars are considered self correcting, which when the dog hits the end of the leash (from pulling), the prong collar should tighten and the dog should receive a correction. If your dog is wearing one but still pulls, it is likely because you have an improper fitting prong collar, you are holding your leash far too tight already, or you need to manually create a better correction (which is hard to describe with words, please consult a trainer to demo and show you this part). The key to using a prong collar is NO constant tension. Your leash should be loose. If it is not loose, then you need to correct your dog back some to create slack again.

Dogs may interpret the tightening of a choke or prong collar around their neck as a stranglehold (which it is, after all!) and become fearful or even aggressive.

This statement is just asinine. If I constantly whipped stale cupcakes at my dog’s face, he can become fearful or aggressive about cupcakes. A dog can interpret the sight of a cupcake for a murder weapon if you create that meaning and make it a murder weapon to them. They’re dogs. They don’t speak our language and they don’t understand our social rules. It is up to us as dog owners and handlers, to convey and communicate the rules clearly and precisely to them. The same way clicker trainers can positively associate anything scary to a dog, we can positively associate the choke or prong collar to fun, great things too.

cupcakeSo bottom line, if anyone truly wanted to do that kind of harm to a dog, any tool can be a dangerous weapon. It isn’t the tool itself that causes damage, it’s in the use. If you have questions about proper usage, please consult an experienced, professional dog trainer.