Perceived as the paw-fect solution to control pulling or lunging in untrained dogs, prong collars are, on the contrary, painful, cruel and an ineffective method of training.
Whenever a dog pulls on his lead, the metal spikes of the prong collar close, clamping tightly around his neck’s highly sensitive skin, scratching and/or puncturing the skin and creating small skin lesions. The unhappy and inevitable results of repeated pressure from these collars include skin and muscle inflammation, coughing, severe infection from pus-filled ulcers, potential collapse of his windpipe, injury to his thyroid gland and, in extreme cases, cervical spine injuries.
Over time, a dog can develop scar tissue in the affected areas of his skin, rendering those areas numb. This allows him to build up a tolerance to the collar’s painful pinches, causing him to continue pulling, thereby making every walk more of a challenge. On the other hand, being in pain while he’s walking creates fear, distress and anxiety in him, and those negative feelings can elicit such negative behaviors as arousal and aggression.
As research has shown, this “aversive training technique” not only inflicts physical pain in a dog, it has long term negative psychological effects on his mental health, compromising his sense of wellbeing and undermining his much-deserved right to happiness. Consider this example: If a dog is being pinched by the prongs of his collar as another dog approaches, he may associate that dog with the pain he feels, causing him to view other dogs as something to fear, leading to a behavioral issue that never existed before.
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The safest and most humane option for walking a dog who tends to pull is a front-leash attachment harness. When your dog either pulls or lunges while wearing one, the front leash attachment redirects him back toward you. But then, loose lead walking is, itself, a skill that requires time, patience and consistency on your part. When you devote yourself to training your dog, using high-value treats and praise as rewards, making learning fun for you both, it not only helps teach him one more essential life skill, it builds up trust and strengthens the bond between the two of you.
Imagine the sheer pleasure of taking enjoyable walks – worry-free and pain-free — with your dog. If, however, you find that you’re struggling, speak with your vet or contact a reputable, recommended dog trainer for assistance.
By Nomi Berger