As you already know, I am a Positive Reinforcement (Force-Free) Dog Trainer. Something I see ALL of the time is people using abrasive collars on their dogs such as pinch, choke, or shock collars. As a PRDT, I do not use, nor train people to use, these methods as it is scientifically proven to be detrimental to your dog’s training success. It may seem like your dog is walking nicely, but he is only doing it to avoid punishment. Once you put on a regular harness, or collar, you will be right back where you started. This is also associating events that happen on your walk with a negative experience, such as other dogs walking by, children playing, or whatever it may be. You can see how this can have a negative effect on your dog’s psychological well-being.
These forms of collars can cause not only psychological damage to your dog, but also some pretty serious medical issues. Dog’s (same as people) have very sensitive necks that many medical issues, such as hypothyroidism, ear and eye issues, nerve damage, etc, can be linked. If you are interested in learning some of the more serious medical issues that these collars can cause check out this article here. I always walk my dogs on some sort of harness, whether it be no pull or regular, depending on your dogs walking style, and I always recommend my clients to do the same.
When we first got Kali, she was terrible on leash, a huge puller, very typical Malamute. I hadn’t tried any forms of “no pull” devices yet, and wasn’t very educated in the subject. Off I went to the pet store to ask some questions and see what they recommended for us to try. The FIRST item that they recommended was a pinch collar. Not only, did they not give me any other choices, they also said that this is a “humane and pain-free” option to teach your dog not to pull. Pain-free??? I would like to see her put it on her neck and give it a good yank. When there are are tons of pointy pieces of metal jutting into your neck, it is not “pain-free.” Thankfully, I questioned it, and ended up trying out an easy-walk harness instead. ALWAYS QUESTION PEOPLE IN THE PET INDUSTRY, INCLUDING TRAINERS. If you think something is off, or are not feeling comfortable with a certain technique or recommendation, ask as many questions as you need to. Also, go with your gut, it will usually guide you in the right direction.
Many people say that the prong collar “emulates the correction of a mother’s teeth.” This is A MYTH and is not correct. These collars can cause many health issues, as mentioned in the article above, and can go as far as becoming embedded in your dog’s neck. One quick jerk is all it takes. The more pressure you are putting on your dog’s neck, the more pressure they will feel emotionally. You want your dog to remain under threshold the entire time you are on your walk, this will be next to impossible with this type of tension on their neck. Dog’s have a natural instinct to pull forwards when something is pulling them back, therefore making the entire experience painful and frustrating. The behavioral issues that this can cause your dog are limitless.
If you would like to take a more in depth look on the effects of this type of collar, check out this article here.
Choke collars have basically the same negative effects on your dog’s mental and physical health as the prong collar. One of the big differences is however, that they can choke themselves to death. There is nothing stopping this type of collar from tightening to the point of actual choking on your dog’s neck. Again, the natural instinct of your dog to pull away from something putting tension on their neck comes into play, causing a negative experience on walks, as well as a negative experience relating to the surroundings. For more information about the effects of the choke collar, check out this article here.
All of these collars have similar negative effects on your dog’s well-being, however the shock collar is a whole other ball game. Some people say that the shock is just like a tap on the shoulder, while others say that it is more of a zap, similar to sticking your finger in a electrical socket. Well, which is it? It seems that only a dog can answer this question, and since they can’t tell us, it is important for us to know their body language. A dog who is being trained positively has a loose body, tail wag, open mouth, and they show a willingness to learn and please you. A dog being trained with a shock collar will have a closed mouth, possibly yawning, stiff body and tail, ears back, whale eyes, and a general nervousness about them. For more information about shock collars, check out this article here.
Notice the body language of the dogs in these pictures? Stiff postures, ears back, and on high alert. If you ever see a dog wearing one of these collars, compare their body language to that of your positively reinforced dog. There will be a huge difference between them.
Wouldn’t you rather focus your training sessions and walks on the positive, rather than on the negative? You especially do not want to use any of the aforementioned training methods with a fearful or aggressive dog. These techniques will just enhance their issues and very likely cause more harm than good.
What kind of collar does your dog wear? What worked for you when training your dog to walk on leash? Let me know in the comments below!