Not all that long ago, dogs were almost always trained using chain slip collars, known more commonly as choke collars. Now, there are any number of collars in use. Many dog owners favor the nylon slip collar, which applies a gentler, steadier correction.
Regardless of the material used to make the slip collar, they should fit properly, just below the dog’s ears. They should also be used for light correction, since a harsh yank could harm the dog’s trachea. Slip collars may not be effective on dogs with thick coats or heavy necks.
Other Types of Collars
Another popular type of choke collar is the humane choker. It is made of chain rather than interlocking links, and has two loops. One loop fits around the dog’s neck, and the other is attached to it, and used to tighten the chain.
A head collar works by exerting pressure on the dog’s head, and some trainers insist that this is one of only two really good devices for training dogs. However, a head collar could hurt a thin-necked dog, and is not a good choice for nervous dogs.
Although not a collar, the no-pull halter is the second device recommended by some trainers as being truly humane. Certainly it is humane, but is not likely to be effective on stubborn dogs.
Intro to the Prong Collar
Now, about the prong collar. What exactly is it? It is a collar that is made from interlocking chain links, each of which has two blunt prongs. When the collar is tightened, the dog’s skin is pinched. The prongs do not cut into the dog’s neck. The prong collar is fitted the same way as a slip collar, but it places no pressure on the trachea.
You may have heard that it’s only slightly better (or maybe even worse) than a medieval torture device, but that’s not entirely true. As a training collar, it’s not appropriate for dogs that are easily frightened, and it could also be dangerous when used on aggressive dogs. But to say that it should never be used in any circumstances is wrong. A prong collar in and of itself is not harmful – it’s only harmful in the wrong hands. Some trainers insist on using a prong collar on every dog, and this is simply lazy training. By the same token, trainers who refuse to use a prong collar under any circumstances are equally misguided.
Training Using a Prong Collar
A prong collar should not be used for young puppies, but experienced trainers do find them useful in some circumstances for older puppies. For that matter, as a side note, you should not yank a puppy around using any kind of collar. Most of the time, for a young puppy, a buckle collar is all you need, because it is very easy to pull a puppy gently in the direction you want him to go.
Problems typically occur when a puppy has been given his own way and has decided that perhaps his owner does not really need to be the alpha in their relationship. Other problems can take root and develop when a puppy of a large breed has been handled by someone who lacks the strength needed to handle the dog. Some trainers suggest that a nylon slip collar or humane choker should be sufficient to handle such dogs. Others advise the short-term use of a prong collar as a way of reminding the dog to pay attention and stop pulling. Usually, just a week or two is all it takes, and then the dog is fine with another collar. More stubborn dogs may need a little longer.
So, Prong Collar or Not?
In more ways than one, dog collars are not “one size fits all.” The type of collar your dog requires will depend a great deal on the personality of the dog. Even an adult dog, if sufficiently docile, may need only a buckle collar for training.
Some trainers insist on using prong collars on certain breeds, or automatically use them when dealing with aggressive dogs. If you’re looking for help training your dog, you might be better off to find another trainer if yours insists on just one type of collar, or just one method of training. Instruction should always be geared to the dog, not to a preconceived notion of what constitutes the best method and the best type of collar.
If your trainer does recommend a prong collar for your dog, one of the best is the HermSprenger® Ultra-Plus Prong Training Collar, 2.25 mm. It is made in Germany,and is safe and easy to use. It is also adjustable – all you have to do is either add or take out individual links to suit your dog’s neck size. With the center plate, and the even prong placement, this prong collar gets your dog’s attention gently, yet very effectively. It’s also very easy to fasten. The list price on this collar is $29.99, but right now, Amazon has it for just $15.24.
The Final Word
A prong collar is a tool like any other tool, and it is only a bad training aid in the hands of a bad trainer.If you, or your trainer, are having difficulty handling a very strong or stubborn dog, then a prong collar could be the perfect short-term solution. Prong collars are not meant for long-term use, but to address issues early on, or as they occur.
As a footnote, let me also say that the worst possible reason for getting a prong collar for your dog is that you think it’s a fashion statement – in other words, “Look at big, tough me with my big, tough dog.” Its purpose is to motivate your dog to behave in ways that will prevent the collar from tightening, and that is its only purpose. It is not meant for daily wear, and making your dog wear it all the time does not make you look cool.