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THE USE OF PRONG AND OTHER COLLARS

  • Friday, July 17 2015 @ 06:04 pm UTC
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AN ARTICLE ON THE USE OF PRONG COLLARS IN OBEDIENCE TRAINING BY ERIK HOFFER WHY USE A PRONG COLLAR AND WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
BY ERIK Hoffer

Most of my students and adopters have no clue what a pinch or prong collar is nor why to use it. It always appears to be a draconian torture tool and they both fear it and hate, upon initially seeing it. Their thought process is ‘why in the world would I subject my Fluffy dog to this torture’? Sticking prongs in my dog’s neck is unacceptable to me and I WON’T USE IT!

Trying to tell Mr or Mrs X that this is a training tool while they are reeling with the thought of the pain to be inflicted on their dog usually proves fruitless.

The way to give people an understand of its benefits is to both apply the collar and explain the collar simultaneously. When the dog stops pulling for the first time, they become converts.

The dog who need this tool are typically those who pull, have no leash skills and dogs who are flailing around without any training making control almost impossible and training even less likely. The epiphany comes when the owner suddenly can walk their pet without a visit to the chiropractor.

This type of collar works because it facilitates the transfer of information in the form of a correction to the dog in a manner the dog can understand.

The way puppies are moved and taught by their mothers is by mouth. A puppy dog is lifted by his neck and moved or disciplined by his mother such that he is not harmed nor traumatized but rather calmly corrected by this action. Those nerves in the dogs neck, just behind the ears are quite sensitive and have been imprinted from birth as a communication point for the dog. Dogs love to be stroked there and love to be cuddled, but they also understand that this correction point is a means to get their attention quickly and positively.

The pinch or prong collar stimulates these nerve and produces a quick and easily interpreted understanding by the dog that you are trying to communicate something to him. The correction is done as a quick snap motion that lasts maybe ½ a second yet gets the point across instantly. It is a pull and release and never a pull and keep pulling.

The collar is to be worn just behind the ears to be used correctly, and yet most use it wrapped around the dogs neck. Both do work but the preferred method is up behind the ears.

When assembled correctly the loop of prongs comes together at a center point but cannot ever go beyond that so as to never cut or scar a dogs neck. Never assemble the collar so tightly as to allow the prongs to scrape of touch the neck but rather come just tight enough to crush the fur but not to the skin. Make sure you can get a finger below the prong when tightened.

Unlike a choke collar that remarkable ‘chokes’ your dog, this device never closes around the throat nor can cause physical damage like a choke. Never use it to pull against your dog as it renders it ineffective. Never pull against a choke because that too would do serious damage to your dog’s throat.
Corrections are done in a quick pull and release motion, just like what is supposed to happen with a choke chain but rarely does.

This quick short jerk of the collar is sufficient to convey the message to your dog which should be followed by the verbal command you wish to communicate such as heal or don’t pull.

Incorrect use of any tool can result in it not performing the task. You wouldn’t hammer a nail with a screw-driver so don’t fight your dog with a conventional collar in order to convey a command as he won’t get it at all.

Standard round neck collars are fine for trained dogs. Harnesses also have a great purpose for trained animals who understand what to do and when, without correction. Standard collars like any dog neck ware should never be tight nor left on wet, nor be sharp or have any feature that can injure your pet or another pet he comes in contact with. Spiked collars are equally insane and should never be used on your pet.

Communication from the owner to the pet happens for the most part (at least initially) through the leash and collar combination. If the dog can’t hear you because he has no clue what you are saying, the best method of conveying your dissatisfaction with a pets pulling or disobedience is the quick snap of the collar to get his attention first and then get him under control. Many dogs yelp when they first get corrected. This is partially because they have no clue what it is, but it can also mean they are brats and have never been properly corrected so they are simply stating their dislike for the correction and the collar.

Some dogs are far more sensitive than others so be aware that some may not respond well to tis tool because they have far too much sensitivity in that area of their neck or they are just afraid. Be aware of your dog’s feelings and sensitivity when offering his first correction and confer with your trainer for his or her opinion of the proper correction methodology. If the stimulus is too low or too high you will know it quickly and the technique can then be modified so as not to traumatize the dog and still get the desired result.

Another similar collar is the martingale. This configuration is identical to the prong without the prong. It provides the basis for a low level correction (best for dogs who already understand corrections) and does not allow for tugging or damage to the neck while still allowing communication through the lead. The martingale is also fine around the house and can replace a standard neck collar in almost every situation. The martingale has a cloth facia and chain interface that when pulled only allows the collar coming together to the point around the neck without ever squeezing the neck. No collar should ever be used against the dog’s weight or as a tugging or pulling method, as that will hurt the dog regardless of the collar used. Any correction with any tool should be done as a quick snap and release in order to be useful.
A great percentage of training instructors will require a pinch collar initially with large or small but unruly dogs. You have to understand that getting the dog under control and into the green zone of training can only be effective with the ability to communicate your desire to your pet. Failure to get him under control precludes learning and creates an impossible situation for the trainer and class members. Whether you use a baby prong on your rambunctious puppy or a big honking prong on your large dog, this methodology enables the needed communication between you and your pet and establishes a means to get your point across from that day forward.

Every dog must succeed to learn. If you don’t reward positive behavior and teach avoidance of bad behavior you have not done your job as a trainer and mentor to your pet. When correcting him with a snap of the collar you must also communicate verbally so that he can associate your feelings and correction with words.

This works because your pet is smart enough to know that he doesn’t want to get yanked again so he will typically cease the behavior such as pulling. Your dog will become an instant convert to your desires once he knows that failure to comply instigates another correction. When he does what you asked for, reward his good behavior with a ‘Good Boy” Good heal, so he knows what he is supposed to do verbally after the correction physically. Both verbal communication (which is used more frequently in later training), and physical correction form a blended technique that will achieve the desire result more effectively that if used to the exclusion of one or the other. By combining the actions with words you effectively teach. By the use of your voice in concert with some correction your pet understands your voice, your words, your tone and inflection and better understands the result or action you desire. At such that at times further physical correction becomes unnecessary make sure he knows why by only correcting bad behaviors instantly such that the association between the behavior and correction are seamless. Remember just by saying “stop’ your dogs has no clue what you mean, nor what to do or that he is doing anything wrong. Corrections need to be done humanely and with teaching and positive reinforcement in mind in order to be effective. If you can’t communicate they he can’t learn. Contrary to the belief of most people, yelling a command at your dog is ineffective in communicating with him.

A popular misconception is that your dog somehow has a sim card or pre-program in his head that means he is already skilled in the art of doing what’s right without your guidance or assistance. That is total crap because your pet has no clue what you want him to do, how you want him to do it, what is acceptable or not and what is expected of him and what’s not. It is only through repetitive positively reinforced training can behaviors be modified to align with your desired results. No dog can be expected to ‘already know’ anything and your frustration with his lack of skill needs to be eliminated before training starts in order for your training to achieve the desired result. The use of the right tools and methods combined with the right trainers and environment can make training quick, easy and painless or ineffective, frustrating and even dangerous. The love you convey to your pet through training and the bond strength that training achieves, are paramount to achieving a perfect relationship with your pet.

There are dogs who will never need a prong collar and dogs who are just so soft and attuned to you, that they respond to your rules without intervention. Most however are the opposite and most rescue dogs need dominance, communication and guidance in order to achieve greatness within their new home and family. Choose the method that fits the dog.