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Reasons NOT to use Choke, Prong or Shock Collars

Stated quite simply, prong collars are an aversive device that will cause pain to your dog. Sure, they can be a quick fix, but:

  • Your dog is only walking nicely to avoid punishment.
  • Your dog is not being taught WHAT to do, in that the old behavior will return when the prong collar is removed.
  • Anything present in the environment when your dog experiences pain can take on a negative association, including other dogs, children and strangers.
  • In NO WAY, does a prong collar emulate the correction of a mothers teeth to a puppy. This is a MYTH plain and simple, and is unproven in any scientific study.

Regarding the quick fix, why not invest in a little time and extra effort in positive reinforcement training, so you will not have to hurt your dog? Clicker training is remarkably effective and trainers look for and record quantifiable results. Granted, some dogs come with pulling behaviors already well installed, such as that adopted 3 year old Chessie, but less aversive equipment is readily available, such as Premiere Easy Walk Harness (very effective) and Gentle Leader Head Collar. These both work, they won`t hurt your dog, and coupled with positive reinforcement training, your problem should be should be solved. Best of all they won`t damage your relationship with your dog, because pain is being inflicted. According to Pat Miller on her list of 12 Pitfalls to Positive Punishment, damaging a relationship is possible.

We owe it to our dogs to communicate clearly to them WHAT we would like them to do, instead of automatically punishing undesired behaviors. In operant conditioning, it is a given that a behavior that is reinforced is a behavior that will be repeated. If your dog is reinforced for a loose leash, they understand that. They don`t understand pain, only that something hurt them. They quit offering any behaviors because they are afraid to. This is not much of a life for a dog.

You can bet your last dollar that when the prong collar is removed, the pulling will return, so you are looking at a dog wearing a prong collar for life. Reinforced behavior becomes automatic behavior to your dog, and when a behavior is learned, requires only occasional reinforcement to remind your dog that he is doing what you want.

When your dog feels pain and sees children, other dogs, and strangers on a consistent basis, he could make a connection that children, other dogs, and strangers might not be so great, because he feels pain when he sees them. The same thing is true of electric fences: when a dog repeatedly runs at the fence and gets too close to passersby at the boundary, he gets shocked and makes that negative association. Pat Miller writes of this in a Whole Dog Journal article.

Finally, bitches (mother dogs) DO NOT use their teeth to inflict pain on their youngsters. They may lift an unruly youngster by the scruff, or nudge an overly enthusiastic feeder off a teat, but in no way does that replicate the myth of a pinch collar being like the correction of a mothers teeth. The bitch does not apply pressure to the skin on both sides of the neck with strong powerful pressure. Period. The former is how the pinch collar works. In the hands of the uninitiated and the overly enthusiastic, (those who enjoy the power) the pinch collar is an aversive piece of dog training equipment whose use is unnecessary. Be kind to your dogs and investigate positive reinforcement training and equipment that is not aversive.

In doing some further research, I came up with useful statements from well-respected dog trainers and behaviorists in support of positive reinforcement, statements also detailing the dangers and side effects of using prong collars. As well, I think it no coincidence that some dogs I have trained, those with some of the most severe behavioral problems, have had a history of aversive equipment and training methods being used.

From Pam Dennison, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, author of many books, including: How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong, comes the following statement. The Merck Veterinary Manual, in Behavioral Problems Associated with Canine Aggression, states: "Almost without exception, physical punishment, including the use of prong collars and electric shock collars, alpha rolls, and dominance downs can make an already aggressive dog worse. Owners should be discouraged from using these techniques." That sounds like a pretty powerful statement right there.

Famed Applied Behavior Analysts, Marion and Bob Bailey, in the APDT Dog Trainers Resource article, the ABC`s of Behavior,make the following assertion: "Aversives in general, and punishment in particular, may have bad consequences for the dog and trainer. They can produce uncontrollable fear, not only of the trainer, but the entire training situation. Aversives can suppress virtually all behavior. They may also encourage aggressive responses. More acceptable alternatives, such as reinforcement, should always be considered before using aversives." Marion Bailey was one of B.F. Skinners (Operant Conditioning) early undergraduate and graduate students. She and her husband trained over 15,000 animals over 50 years. These wonderfully educated people were not just training dogs, they were analyzing behavior as it applied to training methods.

Finally, Pat Miller, CPDT, CDBC, owner of Peaceable Paws, respected seminar speaker, author of multiple books and Training Editor for Whole Dog Journal, gives the following perspective in her widely acclaimed book Positive Perspectives:

"Choke chains, prong collars and shock collars utilize mild to severe punishment, called ‘corrections’ by trainers who use them, to let the dog know when she has done something wrong. I don`t recommend their use. Punishment can be difficult to administer effectively- timing and severity of the correction are critical to effective punishment training - and even when done properly there is a high risk of unintended and undesirable side effects, including aggression. ...Make no mistake however, those prongs do cause pain-that`s why they work. If you doubt that, slip one over your wrist and give it a solid yank. Then think about doing that to your neck."
Leslie Fisher Pat Miller
Certified Trainer Affiliate
Peaceable Paws.

Do NOT use a pinch collar or any other pain-to-neck device (including especially a bark-corrector or remote shock collar) on any dog with an aggression problem. Pain tends to in crease aggression. For dog-aggressive dogs, any pain in the neck can trigger the same fight response as would be triggered by being bitten in the neck by the other dog. So use of neck pain to a dog who is dog aggressive is likely to cause the dog to start a fight as a pre-emptive strike under less and less provocation from the other dog. Additionally, if a pinch collar or chain collar is on a dog who is grabbed by the neck by another dog, the grabbing dog may catch and break a tooth on it, which causes great suffering to that dog and great expense to whoever has to pay for a root-canal procedure.