Do you want to just look kind, or do you want to actually BE kind?
If you want to look kind, you can use a harness and act like it’s A-okay to be dragged around by your dog. Will people be impressed? No. They will see the complete lack of engagement and communication you have with your dog as s/he pulls like a sled dog and ignores you – which is what harnesses were designed for – pulling!
If you want to actually BE kind, your dog will be wearing a prong collar. A prong collar enables you to deliver extremely gentle communication to direct your dog to follow you, without hurting them, choking them, or doing any damage at all. If you have a problem with how it looks or what people will think, it’s easy to buy a prong cover or use a jaunty bandana.
Confession time (Full disclosure & transparency)
I must admit that I was one of those well-meaning people who actually had no clue about this tool but thought they were cruel and nasty. I associated prong collars with hoodlums and with fighting dogs. I thought they were only a tool to be used for big, aggressive dogs, or for people who didn’t take the time to train their dogs. Well, I WAS WRONG! There – I said it. I was totally and completely uneducated about this and made false assumptions. So if you thought the same thing, I get it. Live & learn. So here’s the truth about prong collars.
Clear & easy communication with power steering
No doubt you’ve heard many dogs choking and gagging while pulling on other dog collars. Prong collars allow us to gently motivate in a subtle way that dogs can relate to. It gives dog owners the ability to calmly and sensitively use gentle leverage, rather than yanking and cranking on their dog’s neck while using a regular flat buckle collar, martingale collar, gentle leader or halti. Those collars can cause trachea damage or other serious neck injuries. Instead, you can use a prong collar to guide your dog with ease and comfort for both of you. For most dogs, it is SO much kinder and easier to train them to walk politely using a prong collar! Prong collars were designed with a dog’s safety in mind. Pressure is evenly distributed around the dog’s neck, so it’s impossible to cut off a dog’s air supply. Prong collars were designed to prevent injury to the dog’s trachea and larynx.
Prong collars are also preferable to body harnesses, from a chiropractic point of view:
“Most literature suggests that this is the most effective and least dangerous of restraining collars. The prong collar distributes pressure evenly around the neck, and requires only a small amount of force…Incidence of canine upper cervical subluxations is far less with the prong collar.” – The Well Adjusted Dog, Dr. Daniel Kamen (Chiropractor)
It’s important to be kind to dog owners too
Prong collars are not only a kinder and more effective way to communicate and direct your dog, they are also kind to dog owners. When walking your dog is actually painful or dangerous, you naturally won’t be taking your dog out for a walk very often. That’s bad for both of you. Lack of exercise is not only bad physically, but it can lead to frustration and a host of behavioural problems in dogs. If your dog has a habit of lunging after squirrels, dogs or bikes, you and your dog could be seriously injured. Many people with pulling dogs have fallen down and broken their limbs or had their shoulders dislocated. As predators, dogs can also harm other dogs, wildlife, or people. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves, our dogs, and others safe out there. If you have a pulling dog, proper training with a prong collar can be life changing. Remember that the tool doesn’t train the dog. The tool is amazing, but you still need to train the dog and use the tool correctly. It’s easy.
How to use a prong collar
Ensure the collar is snug enough to remain high up on the dog’s neck, just behind the ears. Attach the leash to the swivel on the collar. As a safety measure, clip a carabiner from the O-ring on the collar to your dog’s regular collar.
Start indoors, in a quiet familiar place with no distractions. Begin by gently leading the dog back and forth, so they can feel the sensation and learn to come along with the gentle pressure, rather than going against it. Make sure you release the pressure immediately, as soon as the dog begins to move in the direction you are guiding them.
Remember: as with any collar, you must never allow tension to be maintained along the leash. Keep your leash short but not tense. There should always be a bit of slack. This is so important to stop a dog from pulling! If you allow the leash to stay taut, your dog will pull against it. Keeping tension would result in resistance. The goal is teamwork. Start slowly, with short sessions, make lots of turns and take short breaks to reset if your dog gets ahead of you.
Once you have the conditioning practice done (in a few minutes), off you go for a walk with your dog. Start by walking in a quiet place with few distractions. Cement or asphalt is best, as grass is very distracting to dogs. As you go along, remind your dog with gentle leash pops (not lifts or pulls) about the correct position you want them to maintain. Don’t wait until the dog gets out ahead of you. Be proactive and subtle about it to show your dog where the heel position is to help them to succeed. The beauty of this is that if you do it well, you should be able to stop your dog from pulling in minutes and then begin the work of perfecting the heel position.
Heel position – You drive & your dog is a passenger
When a dog is in a following or “passenger” mode, with their nose behind your heel, they worry a LOT less about what is coming up and instead can relax as passengers do in a car. You can worry about the “driving” and watch for signs, turns, your speed, decide where you want to go, direct and advocate for your dog if you see other dogs, skateboards, squirrels, people, etc.
Lead calmly, safely & effectively
Prong collars are extremely helpful tools to communicate calmly, safely and effectively with your dog. Tiny pooches can also be massive pullers and need guidance and direction that won’t hurt them like other collars can. Prong collars are a fantastic way to lead little dogs too. Always remove the collar when you’re not supervising. It is not to be left on when your dog is unattended. Remember, every tool is like a new language to communicate with your dog. Shouting in a new language doesn’t make things any more clear. Patient teaching does that. So enjoy teaching your dog this new language and have fun with it! You’ll be amazed with the results.
Herm Sprenger is the best brand of prong collar. These are high quality. The prongs are never sharp and they don’t rust. They come in a few colours and they also make a (neck tech) version that looks like a metal belt – bling!