Do you have a dog that loves to drag you around?
Then you might have considered using something called a prong collar to train your puppy not to pull the leash.
While some trainers swear by this type of collar, it can really hurt your dog if it’s not fitted properly.
Today, we’ll talk about whether prong collars are safe for dogs.
Then, we’ll discuss how to find the right fit if you do decide to use them.
Are Prong Collars Safe for Dogs?
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Prong collars are quite controversial in the dog training world, and for good reason! At first glance, they look more like a medieval torture device than a humane dog collar.
When used correctly, prong collars can be safe for dogs, but they should only be used after more humane methods have failed. They’re what’s known as “averse collars” because they rely on pain and discomfort to teach a dog acceptable behavior.
You’ll note a few key phrases in that statement above: “when used correctly” and “after more humane methods have failed.” Let’s talk a bit more about those caveats.
1. Prong Collars are only safe when used correctly
Prong collars get their names from the metal prongs that form a semi-circle around your dog’s head. When your dog pulls against them, they pinch the skin on your dog’s neck. However, if they fall down too low, those prongs can actually damage your dog’s trachea.
Seattle Times did a great Q&A with two veterinarians who have opposing viewpoints on whether prong collars are safe for dogs. You’ll note that even the vet who agreed that prong collars can be safe explained that you should never leave a prong collar on an unsupervised dog.
FYI, if you’re looking for a prong collar that isn’t quite so medieval, the Starmark collar is an alternative. It operates on the same concept but uses plastic prongs instead of metal.
2. Use only after more humane methods have failed
While there are trainers out there who jump right into the prong collar training method, most veterinarians and responsible trainers will tell you that it should only be used after other methods have failed.
See, the prong collar, like a shock collar, tells your dog that they’re doing something wrong, but doesn’t really teach them what they should be doing instead. It’s a form of punishment training. Dog pulls on the leash, dog experiences pain.
While they may not be experiencing as much pain as they would with a shock collar, they’re still learning to associate pulling with punishment.
If all other methods of training your dog to walk nice on a leash have failed, I can understand why someone would consider them. You need to be able to safely walk your dog without risk of getting dragged around…or having your pup get loose and run into traffic.
I have a friend with a “difficult” dog. He started using these collars after much consideration. But he ran into an unexpected problem. “I have fitted the prong collar properly, but it still slides down,” he complained to me.
Read on for the tips I gave him on how to fit a prong collar.
How to Fit a Prong Collar
#1 Check the position of the collar
The thing is you might think that you’ve fitted the collar correctly, but inexperienced owners often make mistakes. So, if the collar is sliding my first thought is that either you’ve placed it incorrectly or you’ve left it too loose.
A prong collar should be placed at the highest point on the neck just behind the ear and under the jawline. If you put it too low, it won’t be effective because you’ll have to tug hard to make the necessary corrections.
In simple words, you might accidentally damage your dog’s throat if the collar is not where it should be.
The other important thing is how you clip the collar. Do you slip it over the dog’s head and then lock it on? If that’s the case, you’re doing it wrong. You shouldn’t be able to slip the collar over the head if it’s the proper fit.
So, you must remove some of the links and then put the collar high on the neck and lock it one.
Here’s a video that illustrates the process.
After you’ve made sure that you know where to put the collar, you have to ensure that it fits snuggly and that it doesn’t move around. Also, the hooks for the leash should be facing upward, and it’s incorrect to clip the leash under the chin or on the side.
Leaving it loose might seem more humane to you, but it’s more dangerous and won’t have the desired effect.
#2 Try another link size
How did you choose the size of the prong collar?
Most manufacturers recommend that you measure the neck of your dog and add an inch or two for slack. Of course, the length is not a big problem because you can always buy addition links if the one you’ve bought turns to be too small or remove links if it’s too slack.
However, although the length can be shortened or lengthened easily, the size of the prongs is also of importance. At first glance, one might think that there is not so big a difference between the 2.25 mm one and the 3.25 mm, but choosing the wrong link size might be why the collar is slipping in the first place.
Usually, the prong size depends on the weight of your dog. The bigger the dog, the bigger the prongs. However, I would also take into account the type of coat. Dogs with thick fur might need a bigger size, while a thin-coated dog might do better with a small one.
So, you might change the size if the collar is fitted properly but still slips.
# 3 Use an additional collar
One of the biggest disadvantages of prong collars is that they will eventually come apart.
As experts say, it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. The reason is quite simple – the links are made to snap so that you can lengthen or shorten it. That’s why some recommended that you use a dominant collar to keep your dog in check should the pinch collar fail.
That’s not such a bad idea, especially if the prong collar slips an inch or two. The other collar will keep the prongs from getting too low on the neck and damaging the skin. If you are not comfortable with a dominant collar, you might go with a thick, regular one and see how it’s working
A couple of things I want to mentions before we wrap things up. Prong collars are not meant to be worn all day. They are not ordinary collars, so they should be put on at the beginning of the training and removed at the end.
What’s more, you shouldn’t use it indefinitely – just as long as your dog needs to learn proper leash manners.
If you don’t have experience with prong collars, I recommend that you talk with a professional trainer of fellow dog owners to help you during the first few days. You might also look at other options.