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I’m shocked how people use prong collars (pinch collar) and choke chains. Every day I stumble upon dog owners handling their dogs with prong collars. I talk to them and try to educate them and while some do listen, some just ignore my suggestions. Some owners are seeking for solutions without consulting professional help from a trainer. They walk into pet stores and buy the wrong size and the wrong collar that should be used solely for correction during training and not in any other way. The prong collar itself is not a cruel device to use on any dog, as long as it is used properly during training.

Choke chains used on heavy pulling dogs can cause severe damage.

When we adopted Red a year ago, the adoption coordinator was holding Red with a choke chain and a prong collar. Even though I didn’t know much about then, I hated prong collars already. I had this idea in my head that a dog with a prong collar is a dog with issues. I was wrong and I learned a lot about prong collars. I didn’t want to use the collar and it took a while for me to really understand how important and how useful this training tool can be. I had to overcome my fears and misconceptions about the prong collar use.

A prong collar (also called a pinch collar) is a collar with a series of chain links with open ends turned towards the dog’s neck. When the collar is tightened it pinches the loose skin around the dog’s neck. Pressure on the dog’s neck is spread out over a larger area than with choke chains and with most buckle collars. When properly adjusted and used, it startles the dog to give a sharp correction. However, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to actually puncture the skin. Even though it looks painful, it’s actually less harmful to the dog than a slip or choke collar. A prong collar allows you discipline your dog. Some people use an additional slip or buckle collar on the dog and thread the leash through the rings of the prong and the second collar. This way, if the prong collar comes loose for any reason, they still have control of the dog with a backup collar.

Red's Prong Collar is size small. I asked the trainer why he is not using large and he said it has the same effect.

Please use your prong collar correctly: First of all, the right size is very important! The prong collar shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. Removing or adding links to the collar lets you adjust a pronk collar easily. A snug fit is mandatory. Petco and other pet stores sell prong collars with sharp edges, consider buying your prong collar from a certified trainer or online. I would always recommend ‘Sprenger’ (made in Germany). The Herm Sprenger prong collar is one of the most recognizable and popular names in obedience training tools. The ends of the prongs are rounded, not sharp to avoid cuts to your dog’s neck (Important). Red is 75 lbs and I personally use the smallest collar size in training sessions. Also the more individual prongs, the better it works (that’s what the trainer said). Dogs with a long coat or thick fur might need bigger sizes.

Sprenger Prong Collar

Secondly, position the collar correctly. The collar should sit right behind the left or right ear and under the jaw. The area high up just under the back of the jaws works because this is where the voice box, or larynx, is located on the dog. If your collar is at the shoulders of your dog, you are using it wrong. A prong collar shouldn’t be used as the only collar and taken off after daily training sessions. Attach the leash to the correct ring on the collar. When the collar lays around your dog’s neck, you will see 2 rings on top: the “dead ring” and the “live ring.” The dead ring has a heavyweight ring with a swivel device attaching it to the collar, which enables it to stand upright, away from your dog’s neck. The live ring lacks the swivel device and lays flat on top of your dog’s neck between small chain links.

I would prefer the Martingale collar instead of a Choke Chain. Always!

Remove the collar from your dog immediately if you are not going to be supervising him. The prongs can catch on objects and choke your dog. Let’s get to slip/choke/check collars (no prong collar). Choke, check chains, slip collars and backup collars shouldn’t be used as a single method on your dog. Why? I see dogs pulling heavy on choke chains and jerking their last breath out of their bodies, snapping for air and dragging their handlers through the city block after block. Once I saw a dog fainted lying on the concrete (tracheal collapse) because the owner compressed the animal’s throat. Many dogs suffer from injuries to the neck, trachea or back caused by trauma. This happens more to specifically big, heavy and powerful dogs that are controlled incorrectly by their handlers. Misusing these collars is dangerous and painful for the dogs if they pull on choke chains and this mainly happens because they haven’t been trained not to pull.

Some dogs stop pulling because it hurts other dogs and does not correct your dog’s behavior? I know that once used properly, the slip collar/prong collar is a wonderful training tool and perfectly safe for the dog. When correcting your dog with the slip collar, use short tugs or snaps to bring the dog’s attention back into focus. DO NOT use the collar to choke the dog into submission. There are no real limits on how much you can constrict your dog with a choke collar. This is what makes it dangerous. It is designed to choke your dog. Your dog should wear a collar and tags for his own safety. Use a choke chain as a back up collar along with your dog’s normal collar. If you are not training your dog, your dog shouldn’t wear a choke chain on daily walks. A very good alternative is a martingale collar.

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2 Responses to How to use a prong collar and choke chain

  1. Tyler Muto says:

    The only thing I would add, is that for me, a prong is not primarily a tool for correction, it is primarily a tool for communication. The majority of the information I gove a dog with a prong is very subtle, and is intended to help instruct. Correction happens only after I am confident that the dog understands the behavior and the consequences (both positive and negative) of that behavior.

  2. Christina says:

    I own a Cane Corso and he weighs 130, more than me. He went to k9 training with calik9.com and the prong collar was the best tool for my breed. I have total control, and let’s be honest with a big breed I need to make sure I have control over him, although voice controlled anything is possible that can trigger his instincts to either chase something, or protect. By far the best tool for that. Especially on my Oakland! cA neighborhood.

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