How to Use a Prong Collar

The behavioral progression of my neighbor’s dog has been as predictable as it is sad. A large, muscular Coonhound mix who probably tips the scales at 80 pounds, he’s a gorgeous and imposing animal. He’s also become a somewhat scary one over time.

The first time I saw this dog, I was struck by his enthusiasm. Outgoing and exuberant, he seemed to believe that every person and dog he met was his new best friend. His owner struggled to walk him, flopping along in his wake like a dingy being towed by a speedboat.

Several months after I first noticed him, I took note of a new development in the excitable hound’s life: he was walking politely by his owner’s side. Excited on her behalf, I met her eyes and smiled as I drove past. My smile faltered as I noticed a shiny circle of inward-facing prongs around her dog’s neck. Her tool of choice, and the reason for her newfound training success? A prong collar.

Photo by flickr user greenkozi

Prong collars have been around for a long time, and they can be effective devices to stop dogs from pulling. The tool works through positive punishment and negative reinforcement. When the dog pulls, the collar applies uncomfortable or painful pressure around his neck, which decreases the likelihood of him pulling on leash in the future. When he stops pulling, the pressure is released, which reinforces him for keeping a loose leash.

Many proponents of reward-based training despise the use of prong collars. They argue that tools that cause pain should never be used in the name of training, and I agree. They also warn of the risks of physical injury from the inward-facing prongs. This is true in rare cases: I have worked with dogs who had scabs on their necks from these collars. However, the risk of physical injury is quite low under the guidance of a skilled trainer, especially one who is using a well-made device. (Cheaper devices are more likely to have sharp edges that can injure a dog or unstable links that can pop open, releasing the dog at inopportune times.)

I’m not too worried about the risk of physical injuries from prong collars. However, I worry greatly about a much bigger risk that these tools present: that of psychological issues.

Remember that dogs learn by associating two things that happen closely together in time. Take my neighbor’s dog, the exuberant hound. This powerful adolescent dog adored people and dogs, and frequently lunged towards them in playful (if somewhat rude) greeting.

Once his owner switched him to a prong collar, this dog began to make some dangerous associations. Every time he met a new person or dog, he would lunge towards them and promptly feel the pressure of the prong collar around his neck. He quickly grew to associate the sight of new people and dogs with this unpleasant consequence, and I’m sure you can guess the rest of the story.

No longer is my neighbor’s hound a friendly and gregarious goofball. Instead, he lunges silently at the end of his leash when people or dogs pass by, eyes hard and tail held stiffly over his back. He is a bite waiting to happen, and he is not alone.

Every week, I work with dogs just like this hound. These dogs have made the wrong associations, deciding that people or other dogs predict awful things. Their owners are frustrated and embarrassed by their behavior, and often escalate their corrections, popping the leash, smacking their dog, or yelling loudly when the dog reacts at someone. Sadly, these escalated displays only serve to reinforce the dog’s suspicions: bad things happen when unfamiliar people or dogs are around.

Do all dogs who wear prong collars make these dangerous associations? Absolutely not! It is possible to train a dog with a prong collar and never have any problems. However, the risk is there. 

It is also possible to train a dog just as easily and effectively without the use of this tool. There are many other humane tools that can give a small person control of a large dog without the use of pain (or the resulting fallout of punishment). In fact, our training facility does not allow the use of prong collars in any of our classes, as we feel that better options exist.

So, what’s your thought on the use of prong collars in training? Are you for or against these tools? Do you have any personal experience with their use, and if so, what was it? Please share your opinions in the comments section below!

72 responses to “How to Use a Prong Collar

  1. Great post! As a ‘cross-over’ trainer, I have used a prong collar in the past but no longer use or promote their use. I have personally seen many people use a prong to successfully teach heel, walk on a loose leash or other basic manners skills. I have also seen many dogs experience the kind of learning you describe – where there is a great cost to the learning of the basic manner. Because I now know other ways – methods as effective and efficient, even with large and difficult dogs – I no longer can imagine any situation where I would put a prong on a dog. But I also understand that most owners and trainers using these tools are not evil or cruel – but they are absolutely uneducated. Any dog professional, in my opinion, should take the time to understand ALL the tools people may use on a dog – even those tools they don’t plan to use. This means force-free trainers need to understand prongs and slip/choke collars, but it also means ‘tradition’ or ‘balanced’ trainers need to do some work understanding learning theory (the hard science behind their tools, as well as positive training methods) and things like clickers.

  2. Thank you for the article. When I began reading, it appeared that you were in agreement with prong collars with “proper” use by knowledgable ppl, however it soon became apparant that you and I still managed to agree that pain is NOT the way to train. I hear everyday “you don’t work with aggressive dogs” and they are correct. My breed, thru years of poor breeding practices has become as aggressive as most breeds out there.
    I firmly believe that patience, consistency and PR will overcome pretty well all else when training.

  3. We found an old prong collar when we were cleaning our apartment and promptly threw it out. We will not be using prong collars on our current dogs or any dogs we might have in the future.

  4. Well, I DO work with aggressive dogs. My advice: NEVER use prong collars. They are likely to associate the pain with other dogs, or strangers, and become even more aggresive. Some attack their own owners from the pain and the frustration. I suppose that when well used could be a tool, but I really don’t know any owners that use them correctly. Apart from the fact that they break up in the worse moments…
    A halter is a more humane way to control a big, over energetic dog, no pain and better learning.

  5. There are no shortcuts in life, this includes dog training! Any piece of equipment that suggests it will “train” your dog, even no pull harnesses, are just incorrect. The dog learns from you and a shortcut whether it is a no pull harness, a choke chain, a prong collar or an Electric collar just add the potential for adverse side effects as you escalate of the punitive ladder. Positive reward training has been the only long term successful training solution for my all of my clients and dogs. Russell Hartstein CPDT-KA FunPawCare

  6. I also work with aggressive dogs as well as big, lovable goofballs:-). I’m also a crossover trainer, tho I never did like prongs much. I never use them now, haven’t for years and strongly advise against them for all the good reasons in the article a well as the possibility of them failing when a large, strong dog lunges. The least effect I”ve seen is a deterioration of the relationship between owner and dog and at the worst, the dog becoming increasingly anxious and aggressive. Dog become much likely to offer normal behaviors; I”ve dogs almost literally shut down with their use.
    They are unnecessary, even with large dogs (I’ve had Danes for 30 years) and do not replace knowledgable, patient teaching. Thanks for writing the article.

  7. I am sorry to say, I created a reactive dog with the use of a prong collar, he started off shy with people and things progressed as you say in your article. I have since with positive training and a clicker (and the help of some very good trainers) readdressed the issue, he is now happy and enthusiastically greeting people (even demand barks for attention). I have since thrown out all of my “training” collars (I was going to donate them but couldn’t inflict them on another dog). I use front attaching harnesses and sometimes for really exciting events a head collar. I have had many dogs and thought I had experience (I did just not the right experience) to use the prong collar with Damon correctly and efficiently, I regret that decision to this day.

  8. I have a similar issue with my current dog. I’m not experienced in training behavioral issues, and the prong collar worked very well with pulling with my last dog (she had established good behavior before I tried the prong collar), and it worked well with her, so I thought I would try it with my current dog. However, without realizing it, I ruined her great connection with people, and caused her to fear them while trying to keep her from pulling and jumping on people. Fortunately, thanks to my boss, who is also my dog’s new trainer, I have learned what I have done incorrectly, and I hope to work on the problem I have caused. She is also the one who gave me the link to this blog. I am curious however, this is to Tricia Cashin, my dog is doing the same thing as yours was doing, do you have any tips I could try with my dog to make her happy and enthusiastic about people?

    • Kelsey, did you find any solutions to your problem? Having read this article I am 90% sure I now know why my dog “suddenly” became aggresive towards people… I threw out the prong collar almost immediately (it was recommended in dog training classes we went to, but I couldn’t stand the idea), however I think tugging and pulling away created the exact same harmful associations anyway.

  9. I love my prong collar! I am actually a dog trainer and I use positive training methods. My dog is very good, walks by my side. When she sees a squirrel she prances a little but stays by my side. However, sometimes she is just as happy to pull my arm off! I am glad to have the prong so that my arm stays attached. It has not made her aggressive toward dogs or people. Before the prong she pulled completely out of my hands one time and that is a safety issue! She gave me shoulder and back pain. Used properly I see nothing wrong with a prong. I will also note they do not work well on breeds without hair like pit bulls and boxers. My dog has lots of hair. Many times I put a sleeve on them to help with that too. I find a prong much more humane than a coke collar or any other type of corrective collar. I tried a Halti on her and she completely hated it. She has no problem with the prong. Though if she had the choice she would love to fly through the air unencumbered by collar or leash, chasing squirrels and climbing trees with a very big grin. Good article.

  10. I must have missed the point. I didn’t see the prong collar as the problem. It appeared to me me the neighbor is a novice trainer who used a tool incorrectly. I was left wondering why the writer watched poor training occur for months without offering neighborly advice on positive training methods or at least warn of the consequences and adverse side effects out-dated training methods and tools can cause as others have mentioned in their comments. Help may have been offered and refused, the article never mentioned any. I am not addressing this personally at the writer or mean any ill-will toward anyone as I’ve had my own fair share of failures just as most trainers have. I believe any tool we have at our disposal if used incorrectly can be detrimental to the dog.

    • EXACTLY! It is a matter of knowledge and proper use. Of course if you use it incorrectly and to stop lunging that is just ignorance. I have used it and it is very effective and produces NO negative effects.

    • Victoria Stilwell

      Charlie, That’s because this blog is a work of fiction, i.e. it didn’t happen, i.e. the writer is telling a fat lie to sell a concept. It’s an olde sales trick to identify with the mark by telling them things they already know, getting them to empathise because you’re “one of them”, then when the mark is confidence you sell your alternative.

      Not very slick at all in this case, and the comments are making me howl with laughter, basically a bunch of semi competent dog owners admitting they can’t use a basic tool correctly and using the crutch of PR to blame their failings, I’ll bet in reallity 99% of these commentards still haven’t managed control of their dogs. Epic fails all round, but 10 out of 10 for amusement.

      • Victoria thank you for your post .
        I have been at a two day seminar with Susan Friedman ,Ph.D.
        And being a trainer myself I have heard all the excuses people have for using a aversive tool such as Prong collars.
        That’s exactly what it is an excuse for lack of training, patience and empathy for the dog.
        There’s no reason for pain in training.
        Unless it’s to kick these midevil caregivers out of my training yard.
        By the way their dogs would probably choose to stay in class, if they haven’t already learned helplessness.

      • Cathy, I hope you read a few of the posts here. Your ‘take’ is a prime example of ‘anthropomorphism’ i.e. well intentioned ignorance. If you educate yourself a bit further and learn the proper use of prong collars you may just surprise yourself.

  11. Cindy and the 'boyz'

    Now that I know how to properly use a prong collar, I think they are wonderful, useful tools. I used to think they were medieval torture devices and wouldn’t use them, but after learning proper use and combining it with attention work, leave it exercises, LLW techniques and effective use of positive reinforcement, I find them quite effective and have not had a dog develope negative associations with people or dogs in the 7 years I’ve been using them. I recommend them frequently for ‘teanage’ dogs, of course with proper training in all areas. Corrections are typically done with a flick of my fingers or slight twitch of the wrist, no pain and little discomfort to me or the dog. I know that corrections I administer are far less than anything dogs do themselves: there is no full-force body slam, I don’t grab a dog’s ear or handfull of skin and lead it around, the prong isn’t as sharp as the brambles dogs run thru, nor as annoying and painful as the berry bushes they will charge thru to get a rabbit. Those things don’t cause negative associations with dogs or rabbits, meaning the missing puzzle piece is the person/training. I’ve seen many dogs go from walking comfortable among strange dogs with a prong or other corrective collar on, to walking tall and growling warnings to other dogs when their main means of defense, their head/mouth, are taken away from them by having a head halter put on. That’s not to say I don’t use head halters, they work well with some dogs, also. Just saying, there are many tools and proper techniques to using them. There are dogs that will yelp and throw a fit and it seems there is pain inflicted when a prong collar is used…each time I’ve seen it the dog is spoiled rotten and has never had to do something it didn’t want to do, they often correctively nip the owners, jump on anything/everything, etc. and are exceedingly rude in the house or in public. After some acclimating, and proper leadership from the owners, they usually do quite well in short order.

  12. Rudy and Friends

    I have enjoyed reading others’ ideas about prong collars. I personally have had wonderful experiences with prong collars for over 20 years, and for certain dogs, prong collars are a blessing — very needed, useful and add to the quality of life for the very strong dogs and their owners (especially small older women as myself). I was introduced to my first prong collar by a long-time very experienced professional and successful dog trainer in Austin, referred to me by my long-time veterinarian. The trainer demonstrated collars first on my lower arm with a regular leather collar, followed by a choke collar, and lastly by the smallest-size-pronged prong collar (add extra links to fit the dog’s neck size). Amazing demonstration! The leather collar was most comfortable, had least control, and preferred as the first choice, PERSONALITY AND TYPE OF DOG WAS THE DETERMINING FACTOR. The choker collar was a “NEVER use for control” as it would put pressure on the dog’s trachea which could and has caused permanent /immediate or over time damage to the trachea – even to the point of shortening a dog’s life or harming a dog’s life from that point on, the damage causing breathing problems, slight to severe (especially for small dogs who owners almost hang with a choke collar). The prong collar, when used PROPERLY, puts gentle pressure around the dog’s total neck, getting immediate control with a gentle tug. NOTE: ONLY TO BE USED ON THE VERY STRONG, WALK GENTLY, THEN CHARGE TO CHASE A RABBIT, ETC DOG. The physical proof was on my lower arm. I preferred the prong! After a few weeks using the prong on my Great-Dane/Yellow Lab mix, I graduated to putting on the COMFORT TIPS – on all prongs except the two used for attaching the collar. Dogs love their walks, especially smelling and marking their outside world. I have since used the prong collar on dozens of dogs (I am a dog rescuer and foster home and believe in daily dog walks for all). I use a leather or nylon collar as my first choice, prong collar if the leather is not working well, not controlling, not safe for you or your dog. NOTE: The prong collar can come off accidentally, i.e. if the dog shakes or pulls a certain way. This can be dangerous for many reasons. I have been left holding a leash with only a prong collar on the end of it, my dog running freely away! I SOLVED this problem by going to Lowe’s and buying the smallest of rope carabean connectors: I connect carabean to leather collar (which is worn 24/7 for I.D.) and also connect carabean to metal circle on prong collar. Now if prong collar ever disconnects, I am holding a leash to the prong to the leather collar to the dog! Everyone is happy, safe, and unharmed.

    P.S. The small size prong has worked on all my dogs EXCEPT Daisy, my seven year old rescued pit bull. Because of her exceptional strength and enthusiasm to greet every living being, it was necessary to get the Titan (the brand matters too) medium-size prong, with comfort tips of course! I am no longer pulled into ditches, brambles, scraping along sidewalks or visiting my chiropractor for injuries.

  13. No one really knows when the use of collars started. Perhaps it was the way the cave people restrained their wild dogs from running away.  However, the first reference to dog collars comes from Ancient Egypt.

  14. I agree that the use of the prong collar can make for inappropriate associations in the dog. I think also that there a far gentler ways to teach a dog to heal. How about a martingale collar that tightens but does not choke or poke? That gentle reminder of the slight tightening, which they cause to themselves on a sudden pull or which you can provide by pulling back gently but quickly, along with your Uh, uh and directing the dog in the opposite direction than where they intended to go or simply stopping forward movement — should do the trick. This and a lot of work on the “leave It” command. (There are gentle leaders and harnesses that help also.) In all situations you have to do the work with your dog, just like you have to work with your children to bring them around, and help them understand. I got in a hurry once and did not want to do the work with one of my dogs and went to the store and tried a prong collar on him. He was immediately an angel — but one look at his body posture and his face and I took the collar off and did not buy it. I cared so much about this guy and the possible ramifications to the “instant success” (I have learned that “instant success” is synonymous with “high rate of damage in other areas” when it comes to dog training. I decided to do the hard work instead. I know this was one of the best decisions I ever made in regard to my own dog. I also could have grabbed my daughter by the neck with my fingernails when she started to run off as a very young child, or maybe spray her in the face with citronella, or perhaps just administer an electric shock — but I did not — I think that was a good decision too. For us anyway… my daughter trusts and respects me and so do my dogs — I am sure that I get a lot more out of all of them because of that respect and trust.

    All that being said, I will at times imitate a mother dog’s correction by using my fingers to feign a light and gentle “bite” on a dog neck just about as hard as you would poke your kid on the shoulder to get their attention, especially a pups when necessary — but I have complete control over what is happening there, my fingers are not metal, and it is released, like a mother’s correction right away, not held consistent, which I would imagine would be incredibly stressful and annoying.

    • Rudy and Friends

      What is breed of your dog, age, and weight? For the larger breed, over 60 pounds, age 2 to 4, a correctly used prong collar,w added comfort tips, the outings are worth it. Properly used, meaning a two hand grip on leash, prong collars can let up immediately; I find my dogs rarely pulled the prong collar into action. I keep watch to see what my dogs are looking at – if a rabbit or squirrel, I have them sit and wait. Works for Daisy and Rudy!

  15. Our shelter employs management in many areas, including dog walking. We use No-pull harnesses and halters on dogs that require them. Our volunteers are able to get the dogs outside for walks, while not allowing them to pull. For us it is a win-win situation.

    We also follow the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviorist guidelines for the use of punishment. They are the professional experts in the field of animal behavior and learning.

    We work with a lot of shy and fearful rescue dogs who would either shut down or panic if we employed any corrective methdos. The stress level in even the best of shelters is significanly elevated. We prefer not to add to it with our training methods. Since postive reward-based training works for our rescue dogs, we use it for all of our dogs.

    In shelters we may not be working with owned animals, but our goals are consistent with what most people want from a pet. We teach our dogs several of the basic skills for any well-behaved pet: Come when called, sit or down, stay, and wait at the door. This has helped us place many dogs otherwise considered “wild” and “undersirable” into homes where they remain valued family members to this day.

  16. This really hits home. Like Tricia above, I think I helped create a reactive dog with a prong collar. She first started lashing out at other dogs while wearing one in obedience class. Reading your explanation, of course that only made her more reactive. I wish I’d learned about the power of positive reinforcement sooner.

  17. As a dogwalker in Chicago for a premier company, I can safely say I hate prong collars. At least half of my dogs wear them on walks, and I have yet to meet a single one who has had proper education in walking nicely on a leash, & greeting people and other dogs appropriately. It’s very clear that the owners, likely with good intentions, just bought the collar, slapped it on, and assumed it would teach their dog what was expected of it on leash. (I should also note, by way of acknowledging that no tool will train a dog, that I have met two petite dogs (yorkie-poo & a shi-tzu) whose owners did the exact same thing with a vest-harness, and they are the two most frustrating dogs I interact with.)

    The two dogs who are or were on prong collars who worry me the most are both labs. They are both happy, excited, biddable dogs who are as sweet as the day is long. One, a black lab, is anxious upon sighting another dog and will whine and pull against the prong collar (to the point that it squishes her trachea and her whines sound like nasty growls). I have never attained walking on a loose leash with her. She’s an adult, but I worry about her learning more negative associations around other dogs (seeing her interact with them nose-to-butt, I think she’s just shy, and the collar use has exacerbated the issue). The other, a yellow lab, is extremely excitable and easy to over-stimulate. When I first met her, she was on a prong collar as a 10-month old pup. Even at 10 months, she was hauling me (a sturdily-built 5’9″ adult) all over the sidewalks and into intersections. Her owners switched her to a top-clip harness with a short martingale; she still pulls just the same. Frustrated and fearing for my safety as we approach winter in Chicago, I started basic positive reinforcement training using food rewards for responding to her name, and sitting at intersections. I only see this dog 20 minutes every day, and she started to offer a sit with eye contact as she approaches an intersection within three consecutive days of a new behavior protocol. She’s also much more calm (though her energy level has not changed) in meeting other dogs, and when we’re in her home pre- and post-walk. I wish her owners were aware of positive reinforcement methods.

  18. I help a friend who is a professional handler (dog shows) We used them when we had to train the Bernese Mtn Dogs…who for some odd reason ALL were head strong, willful and extremely strong. (there were 4 of them) And while good hearted dogs, they tend to ignore you and go any direction they wanted, when they wanted. You get 150+ pounds of willful dog, well, you want to get their attention. I never, ever heard a yelp out of them, but we did, eventually, get them to obey without having the collar on, because they knew we meant it. It never diminished their enthusiasm. They all stayed good hearted animals….they just had a little more respect when we said, “With me”.It is simply a tool that needs to be used properly, and yes, novice people probably should NOT use them.
    These were adult or close to adult Berners. All different owners, but all indulgent owners who let their darlings do what ever they wanted.
    Handbooks need to be handed out to new owners that cute puppies grow up into 150+ pound dogs and they need to get them trained BEFORE they are in need of a prong collar.

  19. Excellent post! As a professional dog trainer, I get calls on a weekly basis about leash reactive dogs, most are in prongs due to leash pulling and most developed aggressive responses to other dogs, people, cars, etc after the introduction of the prong. None of these owners are using the prong as intended and some even use prongs with retractable leashes. Very dangerous. My feeling is that the general public should not be using prongs, especially when reward based methods and equipment work so effectively and efficiently. I am working with other trainers in our area to get the word out about the physical and psychological dangers of prongs to dog owners, veterinarians, and rescue organizations. We’re holding No Choke Challenges, where people can exchange prongs for front clip harnesses and a lesson with a +R trainer and free workshops on +R training at local shelters. Our website is

    • Victoria Stilwell

      “My feeling is that the general public should not be using prongs, especially when reward based methods and equipment work so effectively and efficiently.”

      Jenn, I see this the other way round. People resort to prong collars because the rewards based methods are failing dismally, and in a growing number of cases people with hard to train or reactive dogs are asked not to return to classes. +R is very hit and miss, the majority of owners end up with a dog inadequately trained under a variety of distractions and +R simply isn’t capable of addressing all the issues.

      The reason people are probably using the prong collar incorrectly is because a certain fad (force free, +R, unicorns & rainbows are actively suppressing information or are purpously propogating misinformation (like this blog) for financial gain. I mean, mustn’t use a prong collar because it causes pain, yet must use a headcollar (an aversive tool well known for it’s disproportionatly high instance of causing pain and stress) because it looks far less intimidating than a prong collar.

      My preferance would be accurate and detailed information on the pro’s and con’s on both sides and let people make an educated and informed opinion that they can be supported in, unfortutanely this will never happen as +R has soooo many failings it has the most to lose, so they keep telling lies and playing the scare tactics game.

      • Yes!!

      • That’s nonsense from people who don’t know how to utilize a force free approach correctly.

        Why would it be necessary for a domesticated dog, bred to work along side us, when people are using force free (not a perfect label, of course) approach with completely undomesticated, dangerous animals?

        And why is it that Guiding Eyes For The Blind have adopted a force free approach (particularly clicker training), and their washout rate is drastically lower? And the dogs are working better, people have been thrilled with their seeing eye dogs.

        People have even been competing with force free trained dogs in obedience rallies and bite sports, and are winning.

        Don’t knock what you don’t know.

        I am an animal trainer. I’ve trained service dogs, therapy animals, and all different species of animals, force free. I can’t recall a failure where humans followed the game plan.

      • And how pathetic that you’re impersonating Victoria Stillwell. What’s wrong with you??

    • Victoria Stilwell

      Sorry, forgot to ask……

      Why would I hand in a $60 quality made HS prong collar, or a $400 Dogtra training collar for a $10 harness, $2 leash, and 5 minutes with a +R trainer who won’t be able to achieve anything even marginally as effective as either tool? Just wondering where the benefit to the customer is?

  20. Some of the comments here bring to mind something I read many years in a car magazine about the relative merits of airbags. The writer suggested that if we really wanted to prevent people from engaging in dangerous and risky driving behavior we should require manufacturers to install daggers, not airbags, in the steering column.

  21. What i think is that you mention other options but dont discuss them please expound

  22. I have used and will continue to use prong collars, IF THE SITUATION PRESENTS ITSELF. I have alot of woman, older woman and older men who can not handle the power of a large breed. If used properly I feel they are more humane then a tradiiotnal training collar, because they only close, so far, a traditional training collar(choke collar) is just that, I do not call a prong collar by it’s name, I call them the “POWER STEARING” collar. the corrections should not be only when a stranger, or another dog approaches.
    Put the dog through the paces of obedience, wearing the power stearing collar, simple walking exercises ect.
    Now this is what makes me cringe, is these halter collars that go over the dogs nose….Sorry I am old school, and that looks unnatural. Any comments on those out there.

    • I don’t like the head leaders. I have seen them ride up and saw across the eyes. It can cause neck injury if it is yanked. The only use I make of them is in conjunction with a collar or harness leash when working on launching or aggression. The collar leash controls forward motion and the head leader is used to help turn the dog.

    • Lady and the Tramp

      I totally agree with you. Prong collars are a good training aid when used correctly. Unfortunately, this is the problem, some people that are using them will ruin dogs if not used properly and need to be relatively experienced dog handlers. I hate choke collars – the clue is in the name!!! You cant beat simple plain old assertive discipline, the training will be easy. Don’t let a dog take charge of you or your house!!!!! Your dog only asks for direction in what you are asking, its up to the owner to get the message across calmly and correctly. Im proud of my dogs and love them so much.

  23. I see the debate and misinformation continue. I suggest amateurs leave the prong collars aside and leave their use in more competent hands. I have used and love using prong collars under appropriate circumstances. Ignorant people misuse and misunderstand prong collars. They see them as torture devices when the opposite is true if they are used correctly. The silly take on the hound in the article I feel sure misses the real issue…the human at the end of the leash… I suggest these people start by looking up the word ‘anthropomorphism’. Most escalation like that mentioned is caused by misinformed, ignorant amateurs reacting badly and using foolish techniques.

  24. So you saw someone using a prong collar incorrectly and thus they are a bad tool? Why not just say all black people steal because you were robbed by a black person while you’re at it?

    Terrible article created to spread disinformation to under informed people.

  25. I think there’s a definately sense of pros and cons to any and all collars/harnesses etc..but it depends upon the dog, it’s issues, and the trainer/owner. I find most people, when seeing a prong collar on a dog, assume the dog may be out of control or dangerous, and thus react in a guarded way around the animal. This effects the dog, as fear and uncertainty is something they sense. That being said, I’ve used one on a pitbull while training socialization to avoid being dragged towards a person or another dog and wouldn’t hesitate to use it again in training if I felt that it was necessary. When it becomes more about safety, that’s fine..but ONLY in training or if absolutely necessary. I now have an Airedale Terrier and would NOT use it on this particular dog as she would shut down completely due to her sweet nature. Yes, she pulls, but a gentle correction with a slipnoose collar (chain or martingale) lets her know she needs to stop and look at me or back down and that’s all she needs when confronted by a person or animal and goes into ‘GO’ mode. It all depends on your dog, the level of training YOU have (not the dog) and how collars are used. I find a head harness does little for some dogs and twisting of the neck can cause damage just as easily as a prong collar can do so. Again, dogs are as individual as humans and it’s the method and the human that needs to make the decision.

  26. Lady and the Tramp

    I got an untrained bullmastiff from a rescue centre. He was about 2 years old when I got him and after 4 months of having him my hands were ripped to shreads from his pulling. He used to charge people and be protective. He has never shown aggression. I decided to try the prong collar and after getting advice on how to use it, use it regularly. My dog has changed for the better and is so well behaved.

    • Molligobber's Mom

      Good for you. This was my experience too. I think because our Molligobber is such a smart girl, it only took a few corrections to get to acceptable behavior.

  27. Took me time to read all the comments, but I truly loved the article. It proved to be really useful to me and I am sure to all of the commenters here! It is usually good when you cannot only be informed, but additionally engaged! I am sure you had joy writing this article.

    Jeweled Dog Collars

  28. if you think a prong collar is useless and only positive reinforcement is the only way to go then you are living in dreamland.

  29. Molligobber's Mom

    Your article was interesting, but I think your premise is unsupported. Sure the dog is going to feel momentary discomfort when corrected for “over-greeting” another dog or person, but that will subside when he returns to the sit position (or other command like “down”). What he learns is “over-greeting” is unpleasant (now for him too!) and through positive associations (verbal encouragement) that greeting is fine. I think it is ill-advised to assign too much psychology to the dog. He is going to behave based on reinforcement. If “anti-prong” sites continue to bash briefly uncomfortable interventions there will be many more “unruly” dogs returned to shelters. We recently adopted a mixed breed dog from a kill shelter and using the pronged collar (after EVERY other intervention possible had already been tried!) is the only reason we can keep her. She only has had corrections a few times and her behavior has greatly improved. I think we have finally broken the communication barrier and she knows what we need from her and we can give her more of the love she needs. If you don’t like the prong collar, don’t use one.

  30. Unfortunately from the comments and even the article its been made even more obvious to me how little people know about prong collars. The writer him/herself doesnt even know how the prong is meant to be used. I cant be bothered explaining as this is an old article, but i you’re reading this please disregard most of the information you just read. Prong collars work amazingly if used right and if you create an aggressive/reactive dog with one then it is your fault, not the collars. Also, they are TRAINING collars. Not permanent ones. Many people commenting imply they walk their dog with their prong on the whole time. This is not what it is meant for; you should be trying to switch to a leather flat collar the whole time. Use the flat collar, when the dog starts pulling switch to the prong, then back when it gets the idea. Repeat if needed. God, how hard is it for you guys to receive some professional instruction if you’re going to use a collar that bites in to your dogs neck? No idea why someone would just do a bit of googling then try it..

  31. Pingback: Using A Prong Collar on Your Dog | Pet Guardian Angels of America

  32. I found some of the comments here very sad, people insisting on causing dogs pain because they won’t bother to learn how to properly utilize less invasive and aversive methods and tools.

    Just like a pinch collar may fail in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it, so too will positive reinforcement if the person doesn’t know how to implement it competently. Which is inexcusable for those who call themselves professionals in the field of animal training and behavior. In fact, dogs and horses will be all you’ll end up able to train because they’re the only species who will put up with manhandling.

    Many working dogs are trained with positive reinforcement these days, without the use of shock, pinch, or choke collars. In the UK, some places in the USA, and other parts of the world military and police dogs are being trained without aversives. More and more service dog organizations are embracing positive reinforcement because it’s producing such reliable, life saving results. Same with SAR, and other fields of real life working professional dogs.

    Board certified Veterinary Behaviorists are referred to for the most severe behavior problems, fear, aggression, CCD, self mutilation, etc. You won’t find a single VB in this day and age who will advocate punitive methods and devices for modifying even the most severe behavior problems.

    A lot of shelters and rescues have adopted positive reinforcement training for their animals with fantastic results. Likewise with zoos and animal sanctuaries.

    When the leaders in the field aren’t using aversive stimuli and punitive methods, I’m not going to either. And yes, I do train large, aggressive dogs, as well as any other species. I’m not limited to just dogs and horses that will put up with bullying.

    If positive reinforcement doesn’t work, then the quadrant isn’t faulty, it’s you. Stop trying to shift the blame and use aversives as crutches for lack of being able to train better.

  33. For those who think this type of “training” is acceptable, please be sure to use it in public on your own children first (since you say it doesn’t hurt the dog, it won’t hurt the child now will it?) Surely there is no difference between “training” a dog and a child…. Try out your method on the kiddos and try to get feedback from them. See how well they behave both now and later in life. Child having a meltdown in the store? Just tug on the collar! Kiddo running ahead at the park? Let that collar do its job!
    Painful reinforcement by humans upon other living beings, including humans, benefits no one! Just because pain brings about so-called obedience in a shorter amount of time, it does not make it more effective! Have you seen the pictures of those poor animals who have been injured in one way or another by these devices? Take the time to positively reinforce, it does work (and if you can’t, or won’t, take that time, should you really have another living soul depending on you for food, shelter, and love?)

    • charles kaufman


      I see the debate and misinformation continue. I suggest amateurs leave the prong collars aside and leave their use in more competent hands. I have used and love using prong collars under appropriate circumstances. Ignorant people misuse and misunderstand prong collars. They see them as torture devices when the opposite is true if they are used correctly. The silly take on the hound in the article I feel sure misses the real issue…the human at the end of the leash… I suggest these people start by looking up the word ‘anthropomorphism’. Most escalation like that mentioned is caused by misinformed, ignorant amateurs reacting badly and using foolish techniques.

      • There is nothing wrong with being anthropomorphic. In fact, research has found that it can be quite helpful in dog training. It allows you foresee how a dog may react to a situation or training method. Believing that dogs have emotions is not unfounded. Studies have been done regarding emotions in dogs and have concluded that dogs have the range of emotions of a 2 1/2 -year-old child. Here is an article by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., (actually, one of several informative articles by this man) that won’t cause you to change your mind, but will allow the rest of us “anthropomorphics” to be re-assured that we are not wrong in believing that dogs are capable of feelings:
        It is interesting to note that love is the last emotion dogs can learn. Distress and fear come before love. In my opinion, if you are using distress and fear to shape behavior in a dog, it is highly unlikely the dog will reach the love level of emotion under your command. You may be content with a “well-behaved” dog, but I think most pet owners feel that “love” is far more important lesson for their animal to learn.

      • charles kaufman

        What a silly reply. Why is it people with limited information are always so quick to give advice. Anthropomorphizing in the context of dog training means people ignorant of how dogs learn, using human logic and expecting human reactions. It also means someone with limited knowledge of prong collars and their proper use simply see a torture device, when in the hands of a professional it actually is safer than a simple buckle collar. It spreads out the pressure on the throat, causes the dog to quit pulling sooner when used in conjunction with the proper techniques and is much less likely to cause a collapsed trachea. Of course love is an important element and I never made a statement as to how I approach training…you simply make assumptions because I disagree with your limited views. Once again a little knowledge proves to be a dangerous thing.

      • One of the best teachers I ever had always said, “If you think something is “silly”, it’s because you don’t understand it.”

        Here is a “silly” question for you: What is the difference between having your stomach stepped on by a cat, a child, and a cat with cardboard squares stuck to its paws?

        If you don’t have a cat or a child, and physics is not your strong suit, an easy way to demonstrate that idea is to put one of your pronged collars around your neck and have someone pull on it. Then try a flat collar. In the end, I bet you end up wishing for a pair of lederhosen!

        (Should I even mention that you are the one making assumptions about my “limited” knowledge?)

        Good luck with the physics lesson and understanding. You’ll need it.

      • charles kaufman

        Again you revert to a silly metaphor and avoid the fact that you are ignorant on this issue and you continue to avoid your anthropomorphizing. It is you who are unable to grasp the physics of this collar issue… which hinges on it’s proper use. As to your repeated “silly” comments, I assume nothing…your words are right there. So exactly what sort of certification have you achieved? What groups do you train with? Someone with such strong “opinions” must indeed have a wealth of professional experience.

  34. charles kaufman

    Rather than continuing a meaningless back and forth, let me close my participation with an article I wrote in 2012. For the record I am a professional trainer, do work with several rescue groups and also train “pets for vets” and train in a Jail dog program> I use only positive methods and have trained over 1000 dogs.

    Which collar?
    November 21, 2012 at 6:16pm
    Just thought since I get asked so often about collars, I would give a quick look at options. First, if you have a puppy or small dog, you absolutely should be using a harness to protect their throat. My favorite is the sporn mesh harness. It has a bit of corrective value and the leg straps are padded to prevent chaffing. The gentle leader type harness is also a good choice…it has more of a corrective value and is a good choice for large and determined pullers. Of course training them not to pull is the best way to protect any dogs throat.

    Nylon or leather collars to a degree are simply a matter of choice… with the exception of the buckle. The best choice is a old fashioned buckle as opposed to the adjustable collars with a plastic snap together style buckle. These plastic rigs have a tendency to work loose at the adjustment and the actual plastic snap or buckle commonly breaks. Besides they really are intended only to carry I.D. and rabies tag.

    Choke chains should NEVER be used. Period.

    Gentle leader head leader. You must remember NEVER to yank or leash check a dog with this leader on. As the name suggests you gently but firmly lead them. Unfortunately while this item quickly gives you control and protects the throat, it does not really teach them much. Take it off and try hooking to their collar and chances are you are back to square one and they pull.

    Finally there is the evil looking, misunderstood “pinch collar”. Many people including some trainers think this is a horrible choice.
    I respectfully disagree on the prong collar issue, As a working trainer who works with severely stressed shelter dogs up for adoption or euthanasia, I believe that they miss a rather important part of the equation. First a conventional buckle collar still places a lot of stress on the neck and still risks tracheal/esophageal damage with the constant stress of an untrained dog and owners unaware of the opposition reflex issue who simply walk behind their pulling dog, yanking and giving harsh leash corrections. Not only is a pinch (or prong) collar not as dangerous as using a choke chain (a terrible device), but for a determined (especially a large) puller like so many I work with in rescue the prong collar if used properly will speed the process and actually place less stress on the neck area. The key here is I use the collar properly to transition the dog as quickly as possible to a buckle collar (usually I can do this in a couple sessions. I always tell people that the prong collar is a temporary training tool used under some circumstances. It must be large and the prongs rounded and for smaller ones capped with rubber tips (thankfully I have never seen anyone ignorant enough to sharpen them as some claim). It is only a temporary training device and NEVER left on unless being used for training. No harsh leash corrections or checking. By spreading the contact points and the dog giving up the pull quicker as the collar tightens I believe firmly that it is easier on the neck when used properly than either a buckle collar or a choke

    P.S. Just to avoid any misunderstanding, I teach using accepted positive reward based methods usually referred to as the “tree method” and a couple of my own elements to speed the process and It is of course completely positive. I am only concerned with the dogs well being and of course educating the owner. Just so no one makes the foolish assumption that I am a barbarian. lol!

  35. Thank you for such a well-written analysis. We need one for choke collar and head halters as well, please. Both entail the same application of positive punishment and negative reinforcement. Head halters are particularly disturbing, because many people view them as non-aversive. Yet for many dogs, they are highly aversive, and I have seen almost as many dogs develop aggression towards unfamiliar people and dogs on head halters as I have seen do so on choke or prong collars. If they weren’t aversive to the dogs, they wouldn’t work. In fact, most dogs look more inhibited when simply wearing a head collar than they do a prong collar, which raises the question of whether they are actually more frightening to the dog than prong collars are.

  36. If the day ever comes that as a trainer, I even consider using a prong collar for a client’s dog, I will know that the time has come for me to pack in my business and stop training. Because it would mean that I have given up being a positive trainer and gone over to the ‘dark side” using pain to train a dog. It would also mean that I have become lazy and that would be a dis-service to my clients.

    • charles kaufman

      If the day ever comes where I am so arrogant as to assume I have the final answer to a question like this and close my mind to any other possibilities and make ignorant statements, it would be time to pack up my preconceptions and move on to something less challenging.

  37. Pingback: The Ping-Pong Dog: Developing your Training “Chops” | Paws Abilities

  38. Thank you for your post, but I have to say that I disagree slightly with what you’re saying. I recently got a rescue dog who is about a year and a half old, her old owners allowed her to lunge and didn’t train her at all, mostly they just left her in a crate. My dog is great, she loves people and gets along with other dogs except when she’s on a leash, and then she gets very protective. I have done a lot of research trying to find ways to help my dog learn how to walk appropriately and be good on leash and what I found is that a lot of people have articles like this one saying how awful certain things like a prong collar are, but also aren’t able to offer up any viable alternatives. I can accept that you as a dog trainer may have better methods, but most people aren’t dog trainers and still have to figure out how to handle their dogs effectively. After months of trying many different methods and avoiding the use of a prong collar, I finally broke down when the 3rd trainer I’d taken her to suggested it. After 2 weeks my dog was able to walk on a leash and now can go do things like take long walks and go to the store with me – she is much happier and so am I. While I don’t think that any solution is the right fit for every dog, I think training tailored to the dog is important, my dog is able to be happier now because I was able to find a tool that helped her learn and understand the correct behaviors vs the incorrect behaviors.

  39. Pingback: Electric Dog Collar How Does It Work | Technology Nowadays

  40. I think most negative effects associated with a prong collar are user error /poor timing of corrections. You should correct the dog before they actually would lunge at a person or dog. This is just letting them know…hey I’m here pay attention to me let me worry about that distraction. If you wait till the dog is already yanking and dragging you to the person or dog then yea you are creating a situation where a dog is going to be in a constant state of tension and get aggressive on leash. We want to use the collar to prevent the dog from getting out of control. as soon as you sense the dog is about to put tension on the leash … Then give a correction. Or you can use food to redirect whichever seems to work better with your dog.

  41. Great article and comments. Last night I worked with a trainer who said “let’s try this” and pulled out a prong collar. My first thought was “We are done, I’m going home.” But, I was there for a reason. My 120 pound male shepherd who can sit, stay, down, recall, walk politely on a leash, track, herd, and is my constant and loving companion looses it completely at the sight of another dog. He is dog reactive. While putting that on him felt heat breaking, seeing him after 3 corrections be able to walk past a dog, show polite body language, polite eye contact, and GREET a dog, well, that was a very positive experience for both of us.

  42. I completely disagree with this article. For people saying pain is not to be used in training, please think back to earliest stages of a dog’s life. How does a mother correct her pup? A quick bite to the neck. It’s how nature corrects itself. Do you think a mom cares about giving her pup a nip to ‘cut it out?’ Are you going to shame her for doing so? No because that’s what’s in her nature. Yes, if used improperly the prong collar can be ineffective, but I’ve found it quite useful with my over-excited lab. It sounds like your ‘neighbor’ did not use the collar properly. The prong collar by itself is NOT a training tool. I see people training their dog with only corrections and of course it doesn’t work! Because like you said, it does not teach what proper behavior is. If the dog starts to pull, the dog gets a pop from the collar, then when the proper behavior is exhibited, a reward comes. You can’t start training your dog with nothing but a prong collar. You have to start training with a prong collar AND hot dogs, or treats, or a ball, whatever positive reinforcement you are giving to reward your dog for good behavior. If not, when you take your dog on a walk they come to expect a walk full of yanks to the neck. If they expect a walk full of treats, they’re more likely to be on their best behavior. Some dogs are more difficult of course, I can’t comment on special situations and already agressive dogs. When it comes to walking on a leash, without the correction from a prong collar, the decision for the dog is, do whatever I want, or get a treat when I walk calmly. Depending on the dog, they may prefer doing what they want instead of a treat. But when you put a deterrent in the equation, such as the pop from a collar, the treat starts to look far more enticing. The dog isn’t behaving ‘badly’ either way. The dog is acting like a dog! They don’t know pulling is ‘wrong’ unless we tell them. The prong collar is just a quicker way of them learning pull = pop, calm = treat!
    Just saying…

    • Well Katie – If you are going to spout off about a subject, then I suggest that you make sure you absolutely know what you are talking about. Sadly, it is clear from your post that you do not. To equate using pain to train a dog to what the mother dog does to her pups is absolutely ridiculous and is not even a viable comparison. This sad old argument has been used by people like you more times than I care to remember to somehow justify the use of pain and make it sound as if it’s OK. This has been dismissed by scientists who understand what they are talking about. It is clear from your post that unfortunately you have little understanding of how positive training works. I am a positive trainer. I can train a giant breed dog that weighs more than the owner to walk nicely on a loose leash in about two 30 minute sessions. (I have a lot of experience with giant breed dogs). After that the dog is walking on a loose leash and a variable schedule of reinforcement is used until the dog no longer needs to be rewarded for walking nicely. I suggest that you get yourself a proper education on the scientific principles of operant and classic conditioning. Learning theory applies to all animals, including human beings and is used equally by dog trainers, zoo keepers and human psychologists. You cannot train a wild and dangerous animal to submit to being examined using force or pain. Positive reinforcement is used and it works always. There is never ANY reason to use pain or violence to train a dog or an animal. It is completely unnecessary and in truth, using pain says more about the person training the dog than the “problem” dog itself. Dr. Ian Dunbar has a statement that he uses. His statement is referring to shock collars, but you can substitute the words “prong” or “choke” because the principle is the same.
      “To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:
      A thorough understand of canine behaviour
      A thorough understanding of learning theory
      Impeccable timing
      If you have these three things – you don’t need to use a shock collar..”

      Therefore if a trainer needs to use shock, prong or choke collars, they really aren’t educated in how to train a dog.

    • Oh, and to help you Katie here’s a good article about prong collars and why they are unnecessary. It even has some science in it.

  43. I once had an out of control Doberman pincher mix with who know what male and a top dog of the top dogs club my trainer encouraged us to use one on him and he changed but for a variety of reasons boredom, no manners, spoiled and then there were the 8 other neighbors owners poor dodger back to the spca with him that’s my thought on pinch collars wish I had someone to work with me on a solution since pit bulls are becoming the norm sweet dogs they are most of them now but arron contact me

  44. The same people that demonize prong collars, are also the type that will medicate and euthanize a dog they can’t successfully rehabilitate with their supposed purely positive training methods.

    Actions have consequences, the sooner your dog understands this, the better for both of you. Don’t waste endless hours trying to work around the use of a simple tool – if you actually need it.

    Positive only trainers promise you the world, but give them a challenge and most will yield good results, not perfect and certainly not bomb-proof. I’ve had an exceptional trainer that understands how dogs work help me train my young, high-drive GSD with whatever the occasion required, and he is indeed bomb-proof.

    I’ve had a prong collar and I still fit an e-collar for off leash play as a fail safe in the event of something unforeseen. My recall is 100% reliable, but all the same I love my dog too much for anything to be left to chance.

    Some would think the methods employed in the training of my dog were barbaric… but the proof is in the pudding.

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