Saturday, July 12, 2014

Using a Prong Collar

A friend recently contacted me because she has decided to get prong collars for her dogs, it got my gears turning because there are a lot of people out there who use this training tool improperly. There is no point in using a prong collar if you are not going to use it correctly.

A few things about the prong:
  • The prong collar comes in five sizes; micro, small, medium, large, and x-large.
  • A prong collar is meant to be taken apart to put around the dog's neck, unlike a choke chain that goes over the dog's head. If you can put it over your dog's head without taking it apart, the collar is too big!
  • A prong collar is less severe than a choke chain because it cannot be pulled tighter than the length of the chain/collar, and it is less damaging to the windpipe than the common choke chain.
  • If used properly you should be able to give your dog a light correction and they should respond immediately. Depending on collar size and the dog, you could essentially give a correction with only one finger.
  • When not training your dog should not be wearing this collar. This collar is not meant to be worn as an everyday collar.
  • Do not tether your dog with a prong collar on.

 Traditionally the prong collar should sit high up on the neck, just behind the dog's jaw:

The above picture is how the prong was intended to be used. It is tight enough that it will not slip down my dog's neck, and is in the correct position for the best contact. However, I typically do not have my dog's collar on this tight - I add another link and his collar sits like this:

As you can see, in the above picture the collar is looser and it sits lower on his neck. Most of the people I have trained with that use prongs allow them to sit a bit lower on the neck. As I mentioned, the first picture is how the collar was intended to be worn and will be the most effective when you give a correction. It is meant to be up high, behind the jaw because that is the most sensitive place on the dog's neck, as you move down there is more tissue and your dog will likely respond less to a correction, thus you will need to use more force - which pretty much negates the point of this collar.

This is an improperly fitted prong collar:

A google search brought up the picture above. This collar is entirely too large. Note, if the person were to pull all of the slack out of this collar, the collar would still be too large and it would be impossible to give any kind of a meaningful correction. This is ridiculous - and the dog should not even be wearing this collar! It serves no purpose if it is not fitted properly.

I was introduced to the prong collar in 2010 when I first started looking into Schutzhund training. At that point I was only used to using regular choke chains and the trainer brought up a really good point. That a choke chain is much more dangerous and damaging if used harshly as compared to a prong collar because a prong collar will not collapse the trachea - even if pulled completely tight. Because of the links there is a stopping point - whereas the choke chain has no end and can be pulled too tight if you want to.

My dog Seppel generally only wears the prong collar in bitework training, he is very amped up and motivated and does not respond to flat collar corrections. In every day life like training at home or at the pet store, I just use a flat collar. He is fully leash trained these days and behaves most of the time when we are out and about.

If I had to choose between a prong and a choke chain now I would move more towards the prong collar. I feel like they are far more effective in teaching your dog to stop pulling than the choke chain is, and I like that fact that I do not have to reef on my dog to get a response.

There are two rings on the prong collar. The live ring and the dead ring.

Pictured above I am holding the live ring. Note: I did not give my dog a correction here, just showing the ring!

Generally speaking I have my leash on the live ring. The live ring gives a deeper correction than having the leash attached to the dead ring. Again, I use it when my dog is in a high state of arousal, so I feel that he needs more of a correction.

You can hook your leash to both the live and dead ring, so instead of the collar tightening - when you pull the correction is much lighter, and is just you pulling on the collar.

As far as sizing goes, you really need to know your dog. If your dog is very sensitive you could use the micro size, here are pictures of pit bulls in a small and a micro:
Pictures courtesy of

Smaller/more links make for more effective corrections. The idea being you will give less corrections. The dog wearing the micro-prong has had a lot of obedience training and respects the collar, he could easily bend the collar if he really wanted to.

The prong collar I use on Seppel is the medium. To be honest it was given to me by a friend and it is just what I have stuck with but at this point I think he could wear a small and respect it.

Overall I like prong collars because I feel like you are more effective when you give your dog a correction and you can use less of them. Using a prong collar or any training collar for that matter is to use it to teach your dog the things you want to teach them, the idea being you will eventually phase out the training collar and your dog will do as you ask in a flat collar or without a leash at all.

I hope this was somewhat informative and helpful, I wish more people would reasearch before putting these kinds of things on their dogs!

EDIT: Just wanted to add, when in use - if your dog walks on the left side of you, the collar should be rotated so the rings are on the right side of the dog's neck, if they walk on your right side, the rings should be off to the left side.

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