Articles

Prong Collar Alternatives
by Mary Lynne Doleys


“I don’t want to hurt my dog,” I said, feeling the metal prongs with my fingers.

“She won’t even feel it. Retrievers have all that loose skin and fur around their necks – they’re built to go into brambles and retrieve birds,” the instructor replied.

I allowed her to fit the collar to my dog’s neck, and gave her a “leash correction” as instructed when she pulled ahead. She yelped, but I continued to do as I was told. Why? I believed what the “expert” told me, not knowing that these devices were completely unnecessary.

There are many training methods available, from those which use force and “training equipment” to control dogs’ behavior, to those with no painful devices, force or intimidation. While it may appear that the former gets rapid results, the effects often do not last. If prong collars worked, we wouldn’t see so many people being hauled down the street by dogs wearing them.

What many owners don’t realize is that the use of force is not only unnecessary, it is counterproductive and damaging to the relationship. Pain and fear simply are not conducive to learning.

Most dog owners I consult with believe there is no other way to control their dog, or a trainer has told them that the dog doesn’t feel pain when wearing one. This is simply not the case. Any adult using such equipment on a child would be promptly taken to jail, so why do we find it acceptable when used on our “best friends?”  Let’s examine some alternatives.

Equipment

Collars: Leather or woven fabric collars can be found at any pet shop. Because certain breeds can slip out of these, especially when fitted too loosely, some owners prefer Martingale-style collars, which have an additional loop that tightens only if the dog pulls. Properly fitted, a Martingale is comfortably loose when the dog isn’t pulling.

Harnesses: Of the several types of harnesses, I prefer the front-clip harness; the leash attaches in front, rather than behind the dog’s shoulders. If the dog pulls, the tension at the front of his chest helps to re-orient him toward the handler. This may be an ideal option for a dog that has suffered trauma to the neck area or is fearful of a collar and leash.

Slip leads: Made of strong nylon rope or webbing, these slip on over the dog’s head in place of the collar and leash combination and remain loose unless the dog pulls.

Head collars: Similar to a halter on a horse, these fit over the dog’s muzzle and fasten high behind the ears. The leash clips on under the chin so when the dog pulls, the handler can re-direct the dog to face him. These are best used in addition to a regular leash and collar, each controlled by a separate hand.

Training

There’s no place like home: One of the most effective ways to teach a dog to walk nicely at your side is to show him at home, off leash, using treats. If the dog cannot heel properly indoors with food incentive, it will not do well where there are distractions.

Be a tree: Once the dog is walking nicely at your side and you feel comfortable venturing away from home, any time the dog does pull, simply stop and wait until the leash slackens or the dog looks to you, then start off in another direction.

Stop, start, change direction: This technique, developed by Jan Fennell, the Dog Listener, involves stopping momentarily each time the dog pulls, then starting off in a new direction, without speaking to the dog, until it allows you to lead.

Leadership

A dog who regularly pulls on the leash or behaves aggressively toward other dogs or people believes that he is in charge and may feel responsible for protecting the person he is with. The best way to stop these unwanted behaviors is to show the dog that he can trust you to lead and take care of him. There are ways to accomplish this kindly – without the use of force, intimidation, or painful equipment.  Doing so is certain to enhance your relationship. For more information on how to turn leadership around, I highly recommend the book, The Dog Listener, by Jan Fennell.

 

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