Why I Don't Use Prong, Choke or Shock Collars

©Scott Sheaffer, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior

As a professional dog behavior specialist, I long ago made the decision not to use prong, choke or shock collars. Let me tell you how I reached that decision.

1) Used long enough, dogs will habituate (i.e., get accustomed) to these collars. I frequently see dogs who have worn prong collars for years in order to keep them from pulling on the leash - yet they're still pulling. Their skin desensitizes to these collars and they learn to ignore the pain. Used long enough and/or harshly enough, they can even cause trachea damage.
2) Frequently these types of collars are used to control dogs that overreact to other dogs or humans (i.e., triggers) because of excitement or aggression. The problem is that dogs don't always make the correct connection; by association, they think the dog or human they are reacting to is the cause of the pain. In short, these collars can make things even worse.

3) Anything that causes pain to a dog is unlikely to enhance the owner/dog relationship. Building trust with a dog is immensely important. I like to say that a dog that trusts his owner will do just about anything for his or her guardian.

4) The promise of these kinds of collars is that they will provide quick results. The problem is that while they may decrease undesirable behaviors temporarily, they almost never address the root cause. This is called "masking". For example, if a prong collar is used to suppress the growling and barking of an aggressive dog, the only thing accomplished is to temporarily suppress the behavior, but not the motivation for the behavior. Oftentimes this ultimately results in the dog "biting out of nowhere" when the dog is no longer able to suppress his aggression.

5) There is a predictable sequence when attempting to treat problematic behaviors with these kinds of collars.

> Dog has a behavior issue and a choke/prong/shock collar is introduced
> Short-term behavior improvements are observed as dog is temporarily suppressing behaviors
> Behavior problems soon return back to prior levels as dog habituates to collar
> Harshness of collar use is increased in a renewed attempt to control behavior
> Behavior becomes worse than before collar was introduced as dog increasingly associates collar induced pain with the trigger
> Behavior issues increase and frequently new ones are added

There are training collars that I can recommend when dealing with behavior issues. These are collars that don't cause damage to a dog's mental or physical well-being and can help in the training process when used properly. Two of my favorites are head collars and martingale collars. Please see 9 Types of Dog Collars, Worst to Best for more information. These collars combined with solid science-based training methods can be humane and effective.