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Are Prong Collars Humane?

As a reward based dog trainer, I do my best to ascribe to the most humane and up to date training philosophies and techniques. I believe that it is more effective and humane to reward behavior that you DO want instead of punishing behaviors that you don’t want.

So where do prong collars fall on the humane hierarchy?

If you are unsure of what a prong collar is (also known as a pinch collar or simply just “training collar”), it is a metal collar that has teeth or “prongs” that face inward towards the dog’s neck. When the dog pulls, the collar tightens and the prongs pinch and dig into the dog’s neck, to prevent the dog from pulling on the leash.

Chances are you have seen a dog owner walking their dog on a prong. Many dog owners, trainers, veterinarians, etc. will defend the use of prong collars, claiming that they are more humane than regular collars. They also claim that they apply even pressure around the dog’s neck; that it mimics a mother dog correcting her offspring; etc.

Can prong collars work to prevent pulling? Of course; are they as humane as many claim? Absolutely not!

A prong collar works by using positive punishment. “Positive” in this context is a mathematical term; it means you are adding something. What you are adding is a punishment. Reward based trainers do use punishment, be we try our best to make sure those punishments are not scary or painful. Prong collars work by creating a dog that stops pulling to avoid pain — therefore, they are not humane.

You might be asking yourself “why it is such a big deal that a dog is punished using positive punishment?” The answer is fallout — this means that using punishment can create negative associations which can cause additional issues like fear, anxiety and aggression — all of which are much harder to treat than pulling.

Pulling prevention can be easily taught by a skilled reward based dog trainer. “Reward based trainers” are dog trainers who avoid the use of positive punishment and instead use rewards (aka positive reinforcement) to train behaviors.

Additionally, there are humane training tools which can help to prevent pulling. Front clip harnesses, which work to redirect a dog’s forward momentum, is worn around the chest and ribcage — no pressure is placed on the neck.

There are also Gentle Leaders aka “head collars” or “halters” which go over a dog’s muzzle, similar to a halter used on a horse. But be aware that they must be properly conditioned before use. Dog trainer Jean Donaldson has an excellent video on conditioning head collars here: https://youtu.be/1wakterNyUg

Properly conditioned, a dog should LOVE wearing their head collar.

In conclusion, prong collars are not humane, can cause negative side effects, and should never be used. Our Bons Chiens dog trainers can assist you with pulling prevention. Or you can reference the following websites:
petprofessionalguild.com
apdt.com