Choke and Prong Collars

PINCH_COLLAR_FeaturedChoke and prong collars are still extremely popular with many dog owners. They are generally made of metal chain material which tightens around a dog’s neck when the handler pulls or jerks back on the leash. Aversive trainers will often use choke and prong collars to perform 'corrections', essentially causing the dog pain any time he pulls on the leash or misbehaves.

While this type of training may stop the pulling or suppress a certain behavior at that particular moment, it does nothing to address the root of the dog’s issue. Leash corrections that are given on these collars exacerbate behavioral issues such as fear and aggression.


Bottom Line
Choke, pinch and prong collars should be avoided in all cases.


Choke and Prong Collar FAQ's:

Are choke collars safe?
Even if used without corrections, choke collars can still cause pain, discomfort, and injury to a dog’s neck, head and spinal cord.

  • If you feel your dog’s neck with your hands followed by your own neck, you will see how similar they are.
  • The trachea, esophagus, thyroid gland, lymph nodes, jugular vein, muscles and spinal column are all located in similar places.
  • The only difference between a dog and a human neck is that under the fur, a dog’s skin layer is only 3-5 cells thick, while the top layer of human skin is denser, 10-15 cells thick. 

What kind of injuries do choke collars cause?
The thyroid gland lies at the base of the neck just below the larynx close to where any collar sits. Just one yank can cause injury to a gland that controls many of the body’s vital functions.

  • Studies show that the gland gets severely traumatized whenever a dog pulls on the leash and becomes inflamed.
  • When this happens it is 'destroyed' by the body’s own immune system which tries to remove the inflamed thyroid cells.
  • The destruction of these cells leads to hypothyroidism, which causes loss of energy, weight gain, skin problems, hair loss, ear infections and organ failure.

Choke collars also affect other areas of the body including the eyes.

  • Another study reveals that when force is applied to the neck via a leash and a choke collar, pressure in the eyes is significantly increased.
  • This type of pressure can cause serious injury to dogs already suffering thin corneas, glaucoma, or eye injuries.
  • The same study was done with dogs that were wearing harnesses, which had no impact on eye pressure when force was applied. 

How do prong collars work?
Prong collars function similarly to choke collars, except they contain metal spikes on the inside that dig into and ‘pinch’ a dog’s neck if he pulls on the leash. Prong collar advocates believe that the ‘pinch’ action mimics the teeth of a mother dog grabbing a puppy’s neck during a correction.

There is no scientific evidence to back up this claim however, and it's unlikely that dogs make a connection between the pinch of a collar and a correction given by a mother’s mouth, especially as no canine ‘mother’ is physically present. 

Why should prong collars be avoided?
Dogs walked on prongs are also constantly subjected to pain and discomfort, which creates fear, anxiety and aggression on walks. Dogs that are already reactive on leash can become even more reactive due to frustration from collar discomfort.

  • A 1992 study of 400 dogs concluded that pulling and jerking on the leash (with any collar) is harmful to a dog’s neck and throat.1
  • One of the clearest correlations was between cervical (neck) damages and 'jerk and pull'.
  • 91% of the dogs who had neck injuries had also been exposed to jerking on the lead by the owner or been allowed to pull hard on the lead for long periods of time. 

If these collars cause pain, why does my dog still pull?
Dogs cannot tell us when they are in pain. They put up with near strangulation because the drive to pull forward overrides the pain at that moment, but the after effects are serious and long lasting. 

Are choke and prong collars humane if used properly?
Even though it is proven that choke and prong collars contribute to neck, back, and spinal injuries as well as other issues in dogs, there are many who still believe that if used correctly, these collars are humane and effective tools that cause no pain or harm.

  • Depending on what your personal definition of humane is, it is hard to argue that if something has the potential to cause such damage it should not be considered humane or safe.
  • Any device that constricts around a neck, be it the neck of a human or canine, is dangerous and has the potential to do real harm.
  • Try applying a small amount of pressure to your neck and experience what a dog goes through when force is applied to any collar. 

What other options do I have to stop my dog pulling?
There are more effective and humane alternatives to using a choke or prong collar on your dog.

  • Find a great positive trainer to help you teach your dog to walk on a loose leash.
  • Even large, strong dogs can be walked without the use of a choke or prong collar.
  • Consider a regular harness or a chest-led, no-pull harness such as the Positively No-Pull Harness to stop pulling without causing your dog pain or fear.


Related Reading:


Resources

1            Hallgren, Animal Behavior Consultants Newsletter July, 1992, V.9

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  • Total Dog

    As per normal, your ignorance is unsurpassed.

  • Chris Graffagnino

    If you're seeking an alternative to these type of dog collars, try houndgear.net. By far, THE BEST!

    http://houndgear.net/cart_product.cfm/prod_id/57501/bk/1/cat/12153

  • riverdivine

    Sensation Harness by Softouch Concepts. Works wonderfully. 🙂 http://www.softouchconcepts.com/

  • SurfDogLA

    Thank you for writing such an informative piece on the the choke collar. I think it is way to common and dangerous. At http://www.surfdogla.com we prefer harnesses or gentle leaders. Keep up the great work.

  • Liberal in CA

    Whose ignorance?

  • Thank you for this analysis. Out of curiosity, is there a reason you did not include a Gentle Leader in your list of alternatives?

  • Principal Pets

    I've just had a trainer in my shop pushing the use of check and half check collars. She states the Kennel club doesn't accept dog on harnesses on their good citizen scheme whilst they do accept check and half check collars. I told her I disagree with the potential damage to the dog caused by these collars. She stated that as long as they are adjusted and used correctly they are fine and accepted by the kennel club. I would much rather use a front attached lead on a non-pull harness and teach the dog not to pull than use these corrective methods, but she is a kennel club approved trainer and as she stated, she's the trainer, not I. Any thoughts very much appreciated!

  • Paisley’s Mom

    As of Nov 4, 2010, body harness can be used for CGC testing.
    http://www.akc.org/dog-owners/training/canine-good-citizen/training-testing/

  • Samantha Lennartz

    The benefits of having a trained dog are endless..A few months ago I started to train mine with some videos I found online. They teach you step by step! Aggression, anxiety, biting, barking and disasters in the house have disappeared. My dog behaves excellent. And I have taught many tricks! Here is the address: theonlinedogtrainers.com

  • orfan

    It says, "dogs can't tell us when they're in pain" which is not quite the same thing. I believe they can tell when they're in pain and, sometimes, can tell us. Part of the issue is that the use of these collars causes pain, which is ignored.

  • orfan

    It's my understanding that both top-clip and front-clip harnesses can be used on the CGC test. The leash must remain loose; the handler can't be guiding or stopping the dog with the leash no matter what the dog is wearing. Martingale collars, whether all nylon or part chain, are, in the words of my trainer: "allowed but not preferred." Head collars are not allowed.

  • alisyn

    As a certified CGC tester myself, I can tell you check and half check collars are not allowed to be used on the CGC tests.

  • I'm a 35 year-old female pit bull owner. I weigh 128 lbs and I own 60 lb pit bull. She recently pulled me down some concrete steps, causing me to break my elbow and require surgery. I work full-time as a self-employed guitar teacher, so this was very scary. Here's what happened: She usually always walks on a loose leash, so one day I stopped using the prong collar and switched to martingale. I realize now I should have used my easy-walk harness. In the dark one night, my dog pulled me down some wet concrete stairs to go say hello to an 8 lb puppy she had been dying to meet for the past hour (my friend had been holding her in her arms), so when we took both dogs out to do their business, my dog suddenly pulled me, I fell on the stairs, broke my elbow and required surgery ($5,000.00 surgery) to repair my elbow. Currently it has been just over 3 months since surgery and now BOTH of my elbows are weak/sore because I overused my good elbow. I'm back on the prong collar and have NO apologies about it. I know how to use it properly. I don't have to tug on the collar very often, but it's there for MY OWN protection and it is a god-send. I've also tried every harness under the sun including Easy Walk which I still use for short trips to the pet store and dog park etc. My dog doesn't have any aggression I've ever seen - only love for cats, dogs, even chickens - and ALWAYS backs down from an aggressive dog coming at her. Sometimes she just pulls to go play with other animals when she sees them (*she does know the "leave it" command, but that requires that I see the stimulus before she's triggered and pulls me down). I worry she might dislocate my shoulder or elbow or pull me down again if she's triggered to run toward a cat or squirrel when I'm not paying attention. For those who want to put a prong collar on me for using it on my dog, that's fine! I will still be able to use my arms and legs and be able to work to make an income to pay my $5,000.00 medical bills on top of my regular expenses + my $20,000.00 student loans. I will be contacting a local trainer soon to discuss the use of the prong, but honestly I rarely have to tug on it. But when I do, it's very helpful and I don't have to pull the leash anywhere near as hard with the prong compared to when she wears the harness.

  • localdog

    Could have saved yourself some time and a lot of typing by simply saying "I have no idea how to properly train a dog".

  • Hi Isis,

    Science has consistently shown that these types of training methods cause dogs serious stress and anxiety. This is not an opinion; it is the result of years of research by scientists all over the world. Prong and shock collars are actually banned in many countries, and any trainer that is up to date on modern behavioral science will not use these types of collars on any dog. These trainers also will not cost $3,000. We at Positively hope you will do some research on why these methods are dangerous and can ultimately cause other unwanted behavioral issues in your dog. Quick fixes like shock and prong collars may stop the unwanted behavior in the moment, but they do some very real damage long-term. Keep in mind that while the shock collar may just be uncomfortable to you, imagine how stressful it would be to wear it around your neck and have another person unpredictably press the button, with you having no control over when it starts or stops. This is another article worth checking out: https://positively.com/dog-training/methods-equipment/training-equipment/shock-collars/.

    Best,

    The Positively Team

  • Matt Gilbert

    Can you please tell me why you have deleted my post? I read through your forum rules and I cannot find any that I was in violation of. I realize that prong collars are considered an aversive technique and I hope you did not confuse my corrections to your article as a promotion to these techniques.

    I am not a trainer. I am a desperate dog parent in need of information. In my search for contrary evidence to those who advocate prong collars I am honestly a little shocked that the reaction I received was a complete refusal of acknowledgement instead of an attempt to help me understand. Please tell me how I may voice my experience and concerns in a way more appropriate to your site so that I can get the feedback that my pet and I need.

  • Hi Matt,

    Your comment was not deleted. In an effort to weed out spam and offensive comments, we have to manually approve each comment on the site. It can take a day or two for a comment to be approved, especially over the weekends.

    If you don't mind sharing what area you live in, we would be happy to get a trainer recommendation for you in your area. We can also provide you with additional information about the dangers of prong collars.
    Here are a few links for you:
    http://www.goodpetparent.com/2015/07/17/choke-prong-shock-collars/
    http://zoephee.blogspot.com/2015/01/clever-alternatives-to-using-aversive.html
    http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/cryptozoology-101-hunt-elusive-prong-collar-loving-dog
    http://myrubicondays.blogspot.com/2014/04/be-change-for-animals-making-decision.html

    Please let us know what we can do to help, and we're so glad that you're open to learning about force-free dog training.

    Best,

    The Positively Team

  • donp

    I had to make a comment here because it seems many people are either mislead, don't have the correct information or just do not want to take the time to properly train their dog. Prong collars are not needed at all. Period!!!

    I volunteer at a dog rescue and they are 100% against prong collars. Why? because there is no need in the least for them. We get in every type of dog with every type of behavior issue. We use nothing but flat collars and if there is throat sensitivity we use a harness with the clip in front instead of the back. Keep in mind that the dogs that come in are dogs that people have given up on. Most have no leash training at all. They constantly pull, jump etc...

    Our whole goal is to train these dogs to walk on a leash properly and behave so they can get adopted. It takes alot of time and patience but we are able to train these dogs without using these what I think are barbaric techniques that many times only makes the situation worse. I mean you could beat the crap out of a dog and they will listen but is this an acceptable practice?

    People are looking for a magical pill and there is none. You need to put in the time and effort and you have the responsibility to educate yourselves if you decide to bring a dog into your home. Learn more about animal behavior instead of using tools that inflict pain. Again, there is absolutely no reason at all to use prong collars. This is an old school way of doing it and all it does it cause your dog pain along with damaging your relationship with your animal. Take the time to learn how to properly train your dog instead of using these kinds of horrible outdated training techniques.

    Also keep in mind that, as with many other professions, there are bad dog trainers out there that have no business training dogs at all. Not saying the every trainer that suggests this way of training is a bad trainer but instead misinformed. They have been trained by an old school teacher or research old school practices. Either way, if they are either simply a bad teacher or misinformed it does not change the fact that using prong collars or any other kind of method that inflicts pain is not at all needed. Stop looking for the easy way out, think about your dogs well being and take the time to learn how to train your dog properly!

  • vivo95

    This article is very misleading...Handler "pulls, jerks"?! That's the absolute wrong way of using them! People misuse them, yes. I rather my dog be corrected right away vs continually and having the chance of being endangered.

  • catherine frend

    I so disagree with your thought on prong collars.
    All my puppies start training at 5 months on them.
    I have never had any issues of fear or aggression.
    And I have had fosters start at various ages and again never had a problem.

  • Nenya13

    Hey!
    I am using half check collar though I train my dog with positive training methods. The reason why I chose half check collar is that as a puppy my samoyed learned how to escape from normal collars, I just could not get it tight enough and I could not prevent the escape. She escaped usually when she did not want to come inside and she ran away. I tried and tried to teach her (in vain) how to behave on a leash (not to escape). Every time I went outside I started to be scared if she escaped from the collar and I could not train her because I was constantly unsure whether she can escape or not. Her life is my responsibility but how can I train her if I'm afraid all the time that she will be hit By a car. First thing was that I had to make sure that whenever she is on a leash she cannot escape. Every normal collar was not an option since she had learned how to free herself of them. The shape of her head and her thick fur made it possible. Once she almost was hit by a car and that was when I decided thatI have to find a collar which I can tighten up when she tries to escape. So I bought a half check collar (as it is called in Finland) . I bought a size which could not harm my dog when it is as tight as it can be. When it tightens it does not choke her instead it just makes the collar little bit smaller but not too small; I can still get my fingers under the collar when it is as tight as it can be. First few times she tried so hard to get herself out of the collar. That was the point when I was able for the first time to change the behaviour and it worked! Ever since I have been able to train her to that point where nowadays she can run free and she comes back when I ask her to. She walks beside me, she walks free, she does not run away. I don't care if people think that I am a bad person because I use half check collar. I think it means more why you use it, to solve what, to help what problem. Well, a professional trainer would have solved my problem maybe without a half check collar but I am not a professional trainer. I would not use choke collars to stop pulling, I would never use pinch or prong collars or shock collars. I don't feel bad that I'm using it (half check collar), I feel that I'm using it right. I could never use bare chain choke collar, that was also why I chose broad leather collar with that little tightening part. Am I bad person? I don't care if someone thinks that. But look at the picture of Nenya, my dog. Does she look like suffering?

  • Nenya13

    For example in Finland

  • El Ninja

    Agreed, this is a horribly misleading article. A couple of quick points:

    1) a prong collar is the the same as a choke collar. the mechanism of action isn't even close

    2) yes, dogs can do serious damage 'pulling on a leash". THAT'S ONE OF THE MAIN BENEFITS OF A PRONG COLLAR

    3) training your dog in a positive fashion and using a prong collar are hardly mutually exclusive.

    My own dog, a 45 pound pit bull (who is elderly but strong!), rarely pulls. We could be walked in city without a leash about 99% of the time. I still walk him with a prong collar 99% of the time. The only time he's ever done any short-term damage (hacking/coughing) has been without the prong collar.

    He's also deathly afraid of fireworks, as are many dogs. No amount of training, positive reinforcements or thundershirts is going to change this fact... Sure, I avoid walking him around times when people are known to blow things up--but living in the city, the stray firework can go off days later (or earlier), and despite his advanced years he can here them from about 30 blocks away. If he were walking on a leash, I guarantee he'd be doing some serious damage in an effort to pull me home (I know, because on one occasion this did happen without a prong collar. It wasn't pretty.

    Even a very well-trained dog has instincts. Occasionally, some/many dogs occasionally want to chase, and sometimes even a normally reserved, well-trained dog will pull on a leash. This believe that "man can overcome instinct" is the height of narcissism. Sometimes a dog is going to be a dog, no matter what you do--even if it's rare. Having gentle pressure, but around the neck vs. having the dog strangling itself against its own collar? It's not even close as to what is better, and
    this advice, while certainly well-intentioned, is frankly doing more harm than good.

  • Sammy Z

    I want to use positive reinforcement training only but owners need solutions. If you don't approve of: Choke/prong collars, then give us the tools to educate our dogs the right way.

    I didn't approve of the use of a prong collar on my GSD but I was absolutely floored how quickly the trainer had him under control. Literally, it was less than 5 minutes.

    I'm open minded but you have to be able to give me a better alternative. Just saying, "Use X instead" is not a valid alternative unless you educate us on their proper use.

  • 20xroughy.

    So just choke the living shit out of your poor dog, pinch collars are more humane than a choke chain! The dog learns faster and they are the one's pinching themselves by the trainer keeping still is not pulling as soon as the dog realizes oh I can't go that way because he's learning what the Alfa wants and mind they are not being wrong this way! Now all those heavy handed men & women can ruin an animal with a pinch collar or choke chain or whatever they find to beat an animal and yes those people need to be the focus not everyone who use' it correctly! Its really easy to see what the animal thinks of a bad owner focus on those abusers!

  • Eddie Cintron

    Prong and chose collars are not advised by the Americans Veterinarian Association. It's all in the training by vocal cues and teaching your dog to walk on a leash. When the dog pulls one turns the opposite direction have the dog heel and move the other direction as the dog walks along side you one gives a treat I never used physical force walking my dog and he learned by getting rewarded for walking along side Me.

  • tigergel

    You have many issues, not the least of which is your spelling - which shows us that, despite your claims, you are not as educated as you think. How would a mother dog nip her baby? Would it be on the back of it's neck or around it's throat (where the prong collar pinches)? I think it may be on the puppy's neck back or it's hide, so for that reason alone the prong collar does not mimic nature. Furthermore, if someone tells you that you may be causing unnecessary pain to your beloved friend, wouldn't you at least consider something else!? Ignorance and arrogance don't make someone an expert. Have a think...

  • Half-check (martingale) collars don't choke if they sit right, they just tighten somewhat around the neck if the dog pulls, so the dog can't eel itself out of the collar. I use them for a similar reason as you - to prevent my dogs from escaping if they get agitated. My dogs are large and quite leash reactive to stranger dogs (especially if these bark and behave aggressively, and quite many dogs around here do... albeit we mostly don't meet other dogs on walk). Both my dogs have proven themselves capable of escaping out of fixed collars and harness if they get very agitated, which is precisely the worst possible situation for them to get loose, and it is my responsibility to ensure that does not happen. That said, I do not use the collars to "correct" the dogs. I use positive methods to teach & maintain loose leash walking, and they both walk well with loose leashes, except in (fairly rare) situations where they get very provoked - in those situations I just have to risk my dogs' neck health to ensure the safety of other dogs, which has to be the top priority. That's the only situation where it actually matters what kind of collars it is, because the rest of the time they just hang loose around the necks anyway.

    PS. Even if they couldn't slip out of a harness, I wouldn't be able to hold 2 agitated dogs this size on harnesses, and a halti can break a lunging dog's neck, so that is not a good idea either... a halti is good to stop general pulling, but they don't pull otherwise, so there is no point in that

  • Hendrik Widjaja

    Using prong collar is plainly wrong. Try to put on your own neck, then you can comment back if you feel any issue or not.

  • Alex

    This is one of the most ignorant and inaccurate stories i have ever heard. It is full of lies and outdated info, resources from the early 90's. Might as well have gotten your resources from ancient Egyptian tablets and cavemen.

  • Alethea Butler

    If a dog can pull hard enough on a prong to cause themselves eye damage imagine what kind of pressure they can initiate on a standard flat collar and think twice about using it if your dog is a heavy puller. much of what is written here makes very little sense in the real world. The prongs evenly space pressure and provide just enough surface discomfort that pulling is uncomfortable; it has nothing to do with mimicking a mother's or any other dog's bite around the neck.

  • Sic

    "Would it be on the back of it's neck", that should be its
    "around it's throat", that should be its
    "on the puppy's neck back or it's hide", that should be its

    If you're going to be a spelling Nazi at least get your own right first.

  • Anastasia71

    I actually did put it on when I bought it. Wore it for an hour. With a lead that I occasionally stumbled over. It's NOT painful, only *noticeable*....which is the whole point.

  • The Brekkes

    I could really use some help. I have 2 Samoyeds; both wearing White Pine collars (they are same as Martingale but soft fabric so they don't damage the fur). One of my dogs will walk just fine, no choking from the collar even if she pulls, but the other is another story. She chokes herself with the collar constantly and we use an Easy Walk Harness (front clip) so that we avoid that with her, however, she still pulls and we need her to be able to work w/o a harness for rally, conformation, etc. The rally trainer suggested a Halti head harness or prong collar for her, however, with a strong dog that pulls, I don't want to injure her neck or give her whiplash! Sled dogs pull naturally so training it out of her is the best option but if she wants to get to another dog (or squirrel etc) she will pull. What do you suggest so that we don't harm her trachea, etc, even while training??? Thanks!!

  • TRACY JOSEPH

    YOU may not have a problem as you aren't the animal wearing the bloody torture device!!!!!!! However, as dogs have pain receptors I'm sure you have subjected the poor creatures to endless pain. Well done lady, just proving how cruelty through ignorance works!!

  • TRACY JOSEPH

    Wow...How about not using ANY collar that causes pain...Choke, pinch or other...Or is that too much to hope for!

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