Written By Tameesha VanEtten

A study on prong collars was done in Germany with 100 dogs. Half used choke and half used prong collars. The dogs were studied for their entire lives and when they died, autopsies were performed. Of the 50 who had chokes, 48 had injuries to the neck, trachea or back. Two of those were determined to be genetic. The other 46 were caused by trauma. Of the 50 who had prongs, two had injuries in the neck area; one was determined to be genetic and one was caused by trauma.

Flat Collar – Uneven Pressure

Prong Collar – Even Pressure

Prong collars are designed to correct with even pressure all the way around the dog’s neck to protect the trachea and other sensitive areas.

If you are in a hurry please scroll down to “Quick Release and Backup Collars”.

A chrome prong collar that can be widely purchased.

German-made Herm Sprenger prong collar.

History – Prong collars were created by a veterinarian whose goal was to create a training collar that is safer to use then a choke / slip chain. In 1942, Hans Tossutti wrote his book Companion Dog Training where he advocates for the prong collar when he writes the following about prong collars – “a well-thought-out, cruelty-preventing device which at the same time assists in systematic training,” but felt that the choke collar, “though quite innocuous in appearance, is an instrument of torture in the hands of the beginner because of its unlimited choke.”

Legality – Prong collars are legal in the United States, however, it is illegal in some states to use the prong collar to tether a dog. You should NEVER tether a dog or leave a dog unattended with a prong collar on.

Myths – There are many myths surrounding prong collars and an article written by K9 Pro, the K9 Professionals covers many of the myths.

Bust the Myths About Prong Collars!

1)      They look like a medieval torture device!
Prong collars do look scary but don’t judge a book by its cover (or in this case, a tool by its appearance!). The prongs are completely blunt and if you put one on yourself, you’ll soon discover they are no where near as “barbaric” as you may first assume.2)      They only work because they cause pain
Actually, the reality is quite the opposite – prong collars provide an effective correction without excessive effort or frustration from the handler. The prongs are spaced evenly around the dog’s neck, which means they cause no damage and are more effective than check chains because they apply pressure points to the skin, not muscle. This means that it takes far less force or pressure to apply an effective correction than it does with any other corrective tool.

3)      The prongs are sharp and puncture/pierce the dog’s skin
One thing you’ll notice straight away when you handle a prong collar is that the prongs are completely blunt and most definitely do not puncture or pierce the dog’s skin! Some anti-prong collar advocates show pictures of marks around the dog’s neck that look like puncture wounds, this occurs if a collar is left on the dog and never taken off as it could eventually cause irritation that in turn causes infection, this is caused pressure necrosis and can happen even with flat collars or check chains that are left on for a long period of time (which is neglect!) allowing the collar to imbed in the dog’s skin.

4)      People sharpen the prongs!
This is common propaganda often bought up when people are told or shown how blunt the prongs on the collar actually are. We’ve never seen any evidence that people sharpen the prongs, but if they did so, it would be clear abuse and nothing to do with the tool itself, but the person using it as a tool for abuse. Even if it were true, do you think banning prong collars would stop the people that would sharpen them from using and abusing them?

5)      The dogs aren’t learning anything and it shuts them down
Prongs very commonly used in training for high end sports, such as Schutzhund, IPO, Mondio ring, KNPV etc. To compete in such sports you need loads of drive, shut down dogs would not even make the start peg. Prongs do not take drive out of a dog.

6)      Science proves that dogs learn better with positive reinforcement, tools like prong collars are unnecessary!
Dogs do learn better with positive reinforcement, prongs are a tool to help add consequence to already learned but undesirable habits. When a dog would escalate to a high state of arousal, offering food, toys and praise is most times completely ineffective, so it becomes impossible to get them into the learning zone. Prong collars can help the handler control the dog’s level of arousal so the dog can stay in the learning zone and reward their dog.

7)      There are kinder tools like head collars
We don’t want to focus on comparing prongs to other tools, but as this is a tool that is often given as a ‘gentler’ and ‘kinder’ alternative to prong collars we wanted to address some myths that are commonly put forward about head collars in comparison to prongs.

This is a common argument put forward by anti-prong collar advocates, which we always find quite hypocritical. Head collars are an aversive tool just like any other correctional aid, the plain and simple fact is that if they weren’t aversive they wouldn’t work. Head collars were designed based off the head halters used to lead horses, despite the fact that the placement of nerves in a dog’s face differs hugely to horses. The pressure applied to the face of a dog wearing a head collar can be quite painful and stressful to the dog, this is why you often see dogs have an extreme reaction when a head collar is fitted – clawing at their face, rolling on the ground, trying anything to get the head collar off.

Head collar advocates will tell you that dogs need to be desensitized to the head collar – this can take weeks to achieve this and have a dog who will happily have the head collar put on, and even then some dogs still hate wearing them.

There is no doubt that head collars ARE an aversive tool. Head collars work when the dog pulls out, the pressure on the face plus the strain on the dogs neck muscles trying to keep its head facing forward all add up to pain, stress and loss of drive, therefore giving you a dog that doesn’t pull. It’s quite ironic, then, that the people who oppose the use of prong collars quite often recommend head collars instead.

It’s important to note that we are not interested in banning head collars or any other training tool, we think that banning any tool is a slippery slope and does not address the important issues – banning a tool is not the answer, proper education on how, why and when to use them is!

8)      Prong collars don’t train or teach dogs anything, and they go back to pulling or displaying bad behavior as soon as you take them off.
First let me say that prong collars don’t teach dogs to do anything, neither does food nor any reward or aversive. The handler / trainer teaches the dog and uses re enforcers to steer the dog away from undesirable traits and toward desirable ones.

Even if it was the case that dogs went back to pulling, it wouldn’t be a flaw in the tool but a flaw in the training, but let’s say for a moment that is true, some people have all but given up on their dogs, believing the dog cannot just be trained or stopped, if a prong collar gives that person even a 1% glimmer of hope, that dog can live on.

9)      People who use prong collars can abuse their dogs
If you replace “prong collar” in the above sentence with “check chain, halter, flat collar, clicker” the same can apply.

People who use prong collars properly do not cause pain to their dogs and most importantly, do not abuse their dogs. Any tool can be use to abuse a dog, including flat collars and leashes! We’ve never seen a prong collar abuse a dog or cause it pain without there being an idiot on the end of the leash willing and ready to abuse their dogs.

Abuse is the user, not the tool!

10)    They should only be used as a last resort
The problem with this approach is that you should be using a tool that is most appropriate for the dog and handler rather than going through a variety of tools and methods that don’t work, only for the dog to learn that if he persists, he can win. Every time you apply a different tool or method without success the dog becomes that much more resistant to training. It is by far better to address the problem quickly, with whatever tool will be the most effective and appropriate for the dog and handler using it.

11)   Prong collars are just to give harder more painful corrections.
They can be used this way for sure, again so can any tool, but they have a greater power. When Steve from K9 Pro works with a client who has an out of control dog and it is deemed in that circumstance that a correction collar is needed, many times a prong is chosen over a check chain or martingale collar simply because it allows the user to deliver an emotionless correction from a less frustrated handler that is no longer struggling with their dog.

12)   Prong collars cause harm!
Quite simply, prove it! There is no evidence anywhere to say that they cause harm at all. Hearsay, pictures of complacent people who leave collars on their dogs indefinitely and rumors of people sharpening prongs isn’t proof.

Written by K9 Pro, the K9 Professionals

With ANY prong collar it is always a good idea to have a backup system to a flat collar in place either with a “Prong-Collar Leash” or a carabiner setup.

Sizing The Links – Now that we have covered the legalities, myths, and the dangers of quick release collars – if you are going to use a prong collar here is what you need to know.

Links are sized to the dog’s hair length not the dog’s weight – you can buy extra links or a second collar to get enough links to fit your dogs neck size

Micro (1.6mm links) – these are special-order prong collars that are for dogs under 15 pounds with short to medium hair. If the dog has long or thick fluffy hair a small may fit better.

Small (2.25mm links) – These will work for most dogs 10-90 pounds with a typical coat of hair. If the dog has a large amount of thick fluffy hair such as – Old English Sheepdog, Collie, Long Coat Malamute, Poodle / “doodles” who are not trimmed, corded breeds, etc. – look into medium or large links

Medium (3.0mm links) / Large (3.4mm links) – These are for dogs with large amounts of thick fluffy hair such as – Old English Sheepdog, Collie, Long Coat Malamute, Poodle / “doodles” who are not trimmed, corded breeds, etc. If your dog is over 80 pounds and is a mastiff or bully breed who is exceptionally strong a Medium may be for you but save the Large for those dogs with the long thick and fluffy coats.

X-Large (3.9mm and larger links) – These are excessive status symbols – I have never seen a need for a collar so large.

Fitting The Collar – The collar should fit high under the ears and snuggly under the jaw. If the collar is too loose or the links are an incorrect size this is when damage can be caused. If you have any questions – ASK before using.

Pop & Release – A collar correction should never last longer than a split second. “Pop” the collar is tight for a split second then the leash immediately goes slack for the “Release.” Do not allow the leash to go tight for more than a second.

Written By Tameesha VanEtten On Saturday, October 3, 2015.