PRONG TRAINING COLLARS: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD
No doubt about it, prong collars are ugly! It is undeniably obvious!!! The hideous appearance is the only agreed upon feature of this controversial dog training collar. In this article, we examine the pros (good), cons (bad) and glaring obvious (ugly) of prong collars so you hear multiple sides of the controversy, including that of your beloved doggy friends.
The Prong Collar Controversy: Prong collars, originally designed and patented by Herm Springer in late 1800s, are made of interlinking prongs. Opinions about prong collars vary from loving to loathing. Some trainers despise prong collars and believe they are cruel, abusive and should be banned. Other trainers view prong collars as just one of many tools in their training toolbox. How prong collars are fitted and used add even more layers to the prong collar controversy.
The Ugly: Not only are prong collars visually ugly, many are improperly fitted (both in size and placement) on their dog. This creates a scary, barbaric appearance of your beloved pup! And to make matters worse, many people feel emboldened to harass people for using prong collars, regardless if used properly or not. All this makes for some serious ugliness.
The Bad: Prong collars have a super bad/negative reputation. First, prong collars are often way too big in size for the pup. In addition, if not used properly, prong collars can cause serious damage to the dog’s neck. Placement of prong collars “high and tight” on the dog’s neck places the collar directly over the dog’s most vulnerable portion of their neck (aka hypopharynx or laryngeopharynx). When this area is constricted, it impinges on the dog’s ability to breathe freely.
Hans Tossuttti, one of America’s first dog obedience trainers, not only advocated for the prong collar is his book, Companion Dog Training (1942), but proposed that prong collars should be placed low on the dog’s neck to prevent injury. Unfortunately, most people have been taught to place prong collars high and tight on the dog’s neck. When and why trainers changed the placement from low to high on the neck is unknown.
The Good: Now that we have covered the BAD and UGLY, you might be wondering what in the world could be GOOD about prong collars. The short answer is – Play Bites! Yes, play bites! Playful dogs love to chase, wrestle and bite one another a lot. In particular, dogs spend a lot of time play biting each other low on their necks, around the shoulder area. We describe this area on the lower neck/shoulders as the “play bite area”. Instead of dogs giving humans play bites (which is not recommended ever), we humans can use play bites as a way to communicate with our beloved pups.
Training From The Dog’s Perspective, we advocate using relatively small prong collars placed in the play bite area (low neck/shoulder area). We encourage fitting dogs with prong collars that are closest in size to the dog’s canine teeth. Thus, a properly fitted prong collar will represent your teeth on your dog, allowing you to communicate with dogs on the dog’s terms. When training from the dog’s point of view, you are training from The Dog’s Perspective.
From our extensive experience, dogs like training with prong collars and learn very quickly when the collar is in the play bite area. In this position, the prong collar has no negative effects on a dog’s ability to breathe. In fact, the prong collar has positive effects on the dog’s ability to learn, simulating play behavior. It is difficult to imagine anything more positive for dog training than simulating play behavior.
Play Bites are Positive Reinforcement. Play is a very positive experience for dogs and humans alike. Unlike adult humans, dogs play with their mouths and typically bite one another for fun. When a dog bites another dog high on the neck, those can be scary, potentially deadly “kill bites”. In contrast, play bites are part of play behavior, which is a positive experience for dogs. From the dog’s perspective, training with play bites when using the prong collar, combined with physical petting and verbal praise, is an example of Positive Reinforcement.
The Ugly Revisited: From The Dog’s Perspective, prong collars that are properly fitted and used are a friendly way to train your dog. Unfortunately, prong collars remain extremely ugly visually. In addition, some dogs experience skin reactions to the metal prongs and/or prongs can get tangled in furry coats. However, probably the biggest ugliness is the harassment people experience when others see prong collars on any dogs.
All these problems cause people to avoid prong collar as a training option. Well, fret no more because we have the perfect solution to these problems.
The solution: We designed (patent pending) attractive Calypso Collar Covers to fit over prong collars, turning a barbaric-looking training tool into a beautiful collar. While dogs do not seem to care about the appearance of the collars, the collar covers prevent both skin reactions and tangled fur. And, when using this collar cover, you will eliminate all those unsolicited comments/criticisms about your choice of training tools. See our ad below, and please visit our website www.TheDogsPerspective.com. to learn more about the beautiful Calypso Collar Covers. And, if you need more assistance with training, we would love to help!
Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD is an evolutionary biologist, college biology instructor, former zookeeper, author and certified professional dog trainer with Lucky Dog Training Asheville and The Dog’s Perspective. Please follow us on Instagram @LuckyDogTrainingAVL and @TheDogsPerspective. Please contact us for more information at TrainingLuckyDogs@gmail.com or call us at 828-423-9635.