Dog wearing prong collar
Being a veterinarian means I’m in an ideal setting to survey my clients’ slant on managing their dogs’ behavior. And nowhere does a dog owner’s approach to training seem more readily on display than when his dog is decked out in a prong collar.

Typically, these owners believe they need an aversive collar to control a big or strong dog, especially one who pulls on the leash. Alternatively, other owners just seem to like the testosterone-infused "flash factor" that prong collars and spiked collars tend to evoke. In either case, prong collars are usually completely unnecessary. I mean, why use a jackhammer when a shovel will do?

As the title clearly states, I detest these devices. Here’s why:

1. They’re inhumane. Despite what your trainer or pet store employee may say, driving metal prongs into your dog’s neck hurts. That’s exactly why they so expediently stop a dog from straining at the leash, for example. Although eliciting pain may provide a quick fix, the effects are often short-lived.

2. They’re no substitute for a positive training style.
Too many pet owners employ this tool as a substitute for a more positive type of training. Inflicting pain is an expedient, inexpensive approach, but it’s often less effective than the basic obedience training that too few dog owners are willing to undertake.

3. Few seem to know how to use them properly. Why are 90 percent of dog owners not trained to use the collars correctly? I see most people apply constant pressure when a dog lunges or pulls. A sharp tug, as with a standard choke chain, is what’s required.

4. They’re unsafe when misused. While regular choke collars can sometimes prove even more of a health risk when used inappropriately (compared to prong collars, the force of correction is over a smaller surface area with choke collars, which can place more pressure on the neck), misuse of prong collars through continual pressure or frequent pinching can lead to bruises and neck and even eye damage.

5. Some owners leave them on at all times. This is an especially uncalled-for breed of misuse. I can usually spot this particular sin when I see tags attached. All I can offer in these owners’ defense is that at least they’re using tags!

6. There are better options. It’s not just about basic obedience training and teaching dogs to mind their manners in public — it’s that better options exist to manage on-leash misbehavior. Front-clip harnesses and head halters, for example, are safer, more humane alternatives that will typically suffice for unruly dogs.

7. Their use encourages more of the same among other dog owners. If it’s what everyone else uses, it must be OK, right? Indeed, the popularity of prong collars perpetuates the misperception that “big, strong dogs require big, strong tools.”

If owners resolutely defend their use of a prong collar because getting dragged down the block is a very real risk (when a dog bolts after a cat, for example), I’d urge them to rethink their choice of dogs the next time around. Big, strong dogs are awesome, but they’re not for everyone.

In short, I absolutely loathe these collars. There’s just no reason why the average pet owner should use them, especially when so many better alternatives exist.

What do you think?

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