The Prong Collar: Is It Really THAT Bad?

Great post. I use a prong collar and often feel intimidated by other peoples opinions. There are many different training tools and you find what is best for you and your dog.

10 thoughts on “The Prong Collar: Is It Really THAT Bad?

  1. Hi Dear… Yes, they are fine – but depending on the dog. Some dogs absolutely need one if you are ever to get control over them. I’ve used one, for one pup, the other didn’t need it. It does’t take long before he or she will get it. Just don’t pull too tightly when you feel him slipping away; you’ll be a good judge of what it takes in no time at all. I think overall if one is needed, it’s needed. The last thing you want is an uncontrollable full-size GS!

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  2. So is it really that good? Hm. Nice use of storytelling in the re-posted blog and redefining behavioral terms, makes it seem like a ‘you can just decide yourself – there’s no scientific data to worry about’, good buddy ‘positive outcome’ piece of equipment. And it’s true anything can be used in a bad way or maybe in a good way, implementation is key.

    However some things are more set up as aversives, i.e. whips, choker chains, shock collars, prong collars … because when they are activated are not ever pleasant, they are defined as negative reinforcement (increasing a behavior by removing them – stop activating) or positive punishment (decreasing pulling or whatever behavior by adding them) depending on the purpose of activating them. What it is you’re trying to achieve changes the behavioral definition. What you’re trying to achieve also changes how you treat your dog (and this is important to know, remember and evaluate).

    Confused about what’s Positive reinforcement after reading this article? So if your dog is heeling and the prong collar is tightening, will he heel more or would he try to do something else? If adding the action of the prongs increases the behavior (so prongs on = yay) then it would be positive reinforcement and the dog would try to get more of it, ie food, praise, toys are usually positive reinforcement because the dog will increase a behavior to get more of these – prong collars are not, because dog will not increase behavior to get more prongs.

    Quick fix? 5 minutes to a perfectly heeling dog, really? If so then the tool could be removed and left off. More like fast understanding by the dog that pulling with this on hurts and is scarey, which is typical of what happens during punishment – a behavior is suppressed, but the desired behavior is not actually taught.

    Oddly enough I’m not against the use of punishment or negative reinforcement, but I don’t think it should be used as a first line of training. I don’t think we should pretend it is something else. And I think our values and our relationship with the dog is more important than any promise of a quick fix. The other piece that was missing and should be a liability issue for any trainer recommending and not disclosing, was the potential side-effects of using aversive training methods: increasing/creating – fear, aggression, apathy, increase in the unwanted behavior, injury and slower learning. These always need to be considered when tools that offer (+)punishment or (-)reinforcement are used and as, with most things that cause side-effects, these can occur immediately or sometime after the application of the aversive(s), because once is never enough.

    Since you started using the prong collar is your dog as quick and happy to learn new things from you as she was when she was younger? or does she seem less bright? Have you seen an increase in aggression towards other dogs or people? Are there some new fears and anxieties? Have you had to keep using it? Now that you know about the side-effects of using aversive techniques can you evaluate better?

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    • Thank you so much for your comment. Topics like these are tough and I am always re-evaluating my thoughts and actions.
      For Kinley and I the first line of training was clicker training. I put a prong on her at 8 months on a long hike with a friend who had an older shepherd. We switch collars and I was grateful because Kinley was pulling and 6 miles of pulling would have probably caused some injuries.
      Kinley does not mind her prong collar, she doesn’t show any aversion to it probably because it means we are heading out for an activity or training. Truth be told the only time she shows fearful behavior is when I raise my voice (which I am working on not doing)
      I only use her prong when she does not follow a command, which is rare and I usually give her multiple chances. When working on heel and recall I use treats.

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  3. So I’m an ardent follower of your blog, as well as a follower of “1 in I can only say that I believe your statement to be right on target and correct. I too have used a prong collar and later thought that it was a mistake. I believe that it has limited use, and reliance on it can damage the relationship between canine and human. Thank you for saying it so eloquently.

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  4. Training using physical means is clearly controversial however, I think the following points are worth pondering:

    Would you like your dog to cooperate because he simply wants to please you, or because he does not want the consequences?

    Given that a dog mentally replicates a young child – If you wouldn’t do it to a young child, should you be doing it to a dog?

    Our local Humane Society apparently have a significant number of dogs turned over to them because the owners no longer have any control over them. A very high percentage of those dogs were trained using physical deterrent methods. The analogy they gave us is physical punishment to our teenagers! Many will handle it (albeit displaying emotional issues later in life) but some will simply rebel at some point.

    Our Ray had many issues such as fear aggression, startle response, totally unsocialized etc. We have used 100% positive training methods and after 18 months he still has a way to go. We only have to ask ourselves “Are we patient enough to continue with positive training knowing that he is slowly progressing, or do we rush things along with physical/negative training?”

    From our perspective, it really is a no brainer ……………… but needs loads of patience.

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  5. I’m not an expert by any means but there are far more humane (loving) ways of training your dog regardless of the breed. My Kali is a rescue and has leash aggression with other dogs. With a lot of work, positive reinforcement (high value treats and lots of praise), and patience (on both our parts) I can control her behavior under these circumstances by having her focus on me versus the distraction. And that’s the key – you want your dog to have a good reason to focus on you. Eventually it becomes muscle memory and not so much about the treats. It takes time. Inherently dogs want to please. You’re the alpha and Kinley will learn to look to you for permission and direction even with distraction. I highly recommend taking a look Zak George’s YouTube channel, Zak George’s Dog Training rEvolution:

    You obviously love your Kinley very much and I’m sure you will do all the right things for his well being.

    Best,

    Michael

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  6. I realize this is much less dramatic, but I rely on Martingale collars now. I got one because my dog’s head is proportionately small for her neck, so she would slip out of it entirely if I left the collar loose enough so, you know, she could breathe comfortably. I personally didn’t use the Martingale collar for training- just for the convenience of having a collar whose size would adjust in the right circumstances (tighten before she slipped out of the collar, then loosen as soon as she was not at risk of getting out f it anymore)- however, I believe that some people do use them as a gentler training tool.

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