It is all about SAFETY.
A study on prong collars was done in Germany with 100 dogs. Half used choke and half used prong collars. The dogs were studied for their entire lives and when they died, autopsies were performed. Of the 50 who had chokes, 48 had injuries to the neck, trachea or back. Two of those were determined to be genetic. The other 46 were caused by trauma. Of the 50 who had prongs, two had injuries in the neck area; one was determined to be genetic and one was caused by trauma.
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1) They look like a medieval torture device!
Prong collars do look scary but don’t judge a book by its cover (or in this case, a tool by its appearance!). The prongs are completely blunt and if you put one on yourself, you’ll soon discover they are no where near as “barbaric” as you may first assume.
2) They only work because they cause pain
Actually, the reality is quite the opposite – prong collars provide an effective correction without excessive effort or frustration from the handler. The prongs are spaced evenly around the dog’s neck, which means they cause no damage and are more effective than check chains because they apply pressure points to the skin, not muscle. This means that it takes far less force or pressure to apply an effective correction than it does with any other corrective tool.
3) The prongs are sharp and puncture/pierce the dog’s skin
One thing you’ll notice straight away when you handle a prong collar is that the prongs are completely blunt and most definitely do not puncture or pierce the dog’s skin! Some anti-prong collar advocates show pictures of marks around the dog’s neck that look like puncture wounds, this occurs if a collar is left on the dog and never taken off as it could eventually cause irritation that in turn causes infection, this is caused pressure necrosis and can happen even with flat collars or check chains that are left on for a long period of time (which is neglect!) allowing the collar to imbed in the dog’s skin.
4) People sharpen the prongs!
This is common propaganda often bought up when people are told or shown how blunt the prongs on the collar actually are. We’ve never seen any evidence that people sharpen the prongs, but if they did so, it would be clear abuse and nothing to do with the tool itself, but the person using it as a tool for abuse. Even if it were true, do you think banning prong collars would stop the people that would sharpen them from using and abusing them?
5) The dogs aren’t learning anything and it shuts them down
Prongs very commonly used in training for high end sports, such as Schutzhund, IPO, Mondio ring, KNPV etc. To compete in such sports you need loads of drive, shut down dogs would not even make the start peg. Prongs do not take drive out of a dog.
6) Science proves that dogs learn better with positive reinforcement, tools like prong collars are unnecessary!
Dogs do learn better with positive reinforcement, prongs are a tool to help add consequence to already learned but undesirable habits. When a dog would escalate to a high state of arousal, offering food, toys and praise is most times completely ineffective, so it becomes impossible to get them into the learning zone. Prong collars can help the handler control the dog’s level of arousal so the dog can stay in the learning zone and reward their dog.
7) There are kinder tools like head collars
We don’t want to focus on comparing prongs to other tools, but as this is a tool that is often given as a ‘gentler’ and ‘kinder’ alternative to prong collars we wanted to address some myths that are commonly put forward about head collars in comparison to prongs.
This is a common argument put forward by anti-prong collar advocates, which we always find quite hypocritical. Head collars are an aversive tool just like any other correctional aid, the plain and simple fact is that if they weren’t aversive they wouldn’t work. Head collars were designed based off the head halters used to lead horses, despite the fact that the placement of nerves in a dog’s face differs hugely to horses. The pressure applied to the face of a dog wearing a head collar can be quite painful and stressful to the dog, this is why you often see dogs have an extreme reaction when a head collar is fitted – clawing at their face, rolling on the ground, trying anything to get the head collar off.
Head collar advocates will tell you that dogs need to be desensitized to the head collar – this can take weeks to achieve this and have a dog who will happily have the head collar put on, and even then some dogs still hate wearing them.
There is no doubt that head collars ARE an aversive tool. Head collars work when the dog pulls out, the pressure on the face plus the strain on the dogs neck muscles trying to keep its head facing forward all add up to pain, stress and loss of drive, therefore giving you a dog that doesn't pull. It’s quite ironic, then, that the people who oppose the use of prong collars quite often recommend head collars instead.
It’s important to note that we are not interested in banning head collars or any other training tool, we think that banning any tool is a slippery slope and does not address the important issues – banning a tool is not the answer, proper education on how, why and when to use them is!
8) Prong collars don’t train or teach dogs anything, and they go back to pulling or displaying bad behavior as soon as you take them off.
First let me say that prong collars don’t teach dogs to do anything, neither does food nor any reward or aversive. The handler / trainer teaches the dog and uses re enforcers to steer the dog away from undesirable traits and toward desirable ones.
Even if it was the case that dogs went back to pulling, it wouldn’t be a flaw in the tool but a flaw in the training, but let’s say for a moment that is true, some people have all but given up on their dogs, believing the dog cannot just be trained or stopped, if a prong collar gives that person even a 1% glimmer of hope, that dog can live on.
9) People who use prong collars can abuse their dogs
If you replace “prong collar” in the above sentence with “check chain, halter, flat collar, clicker” the same can apply.
People who use prong collars properly do not cause pain to their dogs and most importantly, do not abuse their dogs. Any tool can be use to abuse a dog, including flat collars and leashes! We’ve never seen a prong collar abuse a dog or cause it pain without there being an idiot on the end of the leash willing and ready to abuse their dogs.
Abuse is the user, not the tool!
10) They should only be used as a last resort
The problem with this approach is that you should be using a tool that is most appropriate for the dog and handler rather than going through a variety of tools and methods that don’t work, only for the dog to learn that if he persists, he can win. Every time you apply a different tool or method without success the dog becomes that much more resistant to training. It is by far better to address the problem quickly, with whatever tool will be the most effective and appropriate for the dog and handler using it.
11) Prong collars are just to give harder more painful corrections.
They can be used this way for sure, again so can any tool, but they have a greater power. When Steve from K9 Pro works with a client who has an out of control dog and it is deemed in that circumstance that a correction collar is needed, many times a prong is chosen over a check chain or martingale collar simply because it allows the user to deliver an emotionless correction from a less frustrated handler that is no longer struggling with their dog.
12) Prong collars cause harm!
Quite simply, prove it! There is no evidence anywhere to say that they cause harm at all. Hearsay, pictures of complacent people who leave collars on their dogs indefinitely and rumors of people sharpening prongs isn’t proof.
Written by K9 Pro, the K9 Professionals
Links are sized to the dog’s hair length not the dog’s weight - you can buy extra links or a second collar to get enough links to fit your dogs neck size.