We all know that dogs are cute and adorable. They provide stress relief to anyone who is feeling down and overwhelmed with problems. They sense our feelings even better than humans and they have always been loyal to their owners.
But while dogs are great companions, they can also add to the stress we have to deal with especially if they are just puppies or if we did not give them any proper training.
Training a dog is not a walk in the park. Some dogs are more hyperactive than the others and this can pose a problem when you want them to behave. At the same time, potty-training them can be such a hassle especially when you have a lot of mats in your home.
Why You Need to Train Your Dog
Before you go looking for dog collars and leashes, you should first understand that every dog should be taught how to behave. No, you don’t have to enroll them in a dog training school and they don’t have to learn a lot of tricks. They aren’t part of the circus so you shouldn’t give them that kind of pressure.
But training your dog is important. When you teach your dog where to poop and where to eat, that’s already training. Disciplining them while walking in the park is considered training, too. Any form of teaching you do with your dog is already training. But talking to them and giving hand signals won’t make you succeed. That’s why dog trainers and owners alike shift to using pinch collars or sticks to teach their dogs through positive punishment.
What is Positive Punishment?
Positive punishment is a technique used by dog trainers and owners when altering the behavior of their dog. Similar to humans, dogs get discouraged when a negative consequence follows a certain action. This is what positive punishment does. In psychology, when a negative consequence follows a certain behavior, the person or in this case, the dog, avoids the said behavior just to avoid the negative consequence. This technique simply discourages your dog from doing anything that is out of line.
On the other hand, there is another operant conditioning that trainers and owners do. It’s called positive reinforcement wherein they reinforce a dog’s behavior by giving them a reward after the right behavior is done. You can see this when owners give their dogs treats as a reward for doing a trick, peeing in the right place, etc. These two kinds of behavioral conditioning are the most common ways on how trainers and owners teach their dogs how to behave.
One of the ways by which positive punishment is enforced is putting a pinch collar.
What is a Pinch Collar?
A pinch collar, also called a prong collar, is a type of metal chain placed around your dog’s neck. It’s composed of small metal rings linked together and each has a set of prongs that tighten and pinch your dog’s neck when it is being pulled. Similar to a chain bracelet, it is adjusted by removing or adding the links.
A lot of contention happens when dog owners talk about using a pinch collar. Because of its looks and its feel on the dog’s neck, a lot of dog owners feel that it isn’t right to use it. However, dog trainers claim that when it is done and applied right, the pinch collar can be a very effective tool in training your dog and getting the desired behavior.
How Does It Work?
Once you adjust the links to fit your dog’s neck, you can already put them on like you would a normal collar. It has a small ring at the back of the collar where you can attach the leash when you walk your dog. The leash is important because it serves as your “remote” when you want to pull on the collar.
Because the prong collar has prongs in every link that surrounds your dog’s neck, the pain is felt equally all over your dog’s neck. This is unlike the slip collar where only one side of the neck has prongs.
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Some Misconceptions Corrected
A lot of debate about the use of pinch collars show that there are people who have formed misconceptions about it. I, for one, was opposed to using pinch collars because they simply didn’t look good nor do they look comfortable for my dog. However, my own experience and some talks with trainers show that pinch collars are just misunderstood by a lot of people.
- “They bite into your dog’s trachea”
If you aren’t familiar, the trachea is also called the windpipe because it is the passageway of the air from the dog’s nose to his lungs. It’s made up of cartilage rings that form a pipe.
A common misconception about the pinch collar is that it hurts the dog’s trachea. However, this isn’t true because the pinches only affect the skin of the dog. No pressure reaches the trachea especially directly.
I think for most collars, not a single one actually puts pressure to the trachea unless it already strangles the dog that they have a hard time breathing. But even then, as a professional dog trainer or a dog owner, you wouldn’t strangle your dog just to train him. It’s almost unethical and very ineffective to do so.
- “They can be used on every dog”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Pinch collars are not for every dog. For one thing, it’s going to hurt a lot to puppies and to small dogs that have thin necks like the dachshund. Using a pinch collar on them will definitely hurt because their skin is thin and the prongs might bite into them. This might cause bleeding or intense pain on your dog so you might as well look for another collar that will be appropriate for your dog.
However, what you can use on every dog is the kind of discipline a pinch collar does. You can always use positive punishment on pooches because it is known to be one of the best ways to train them. But what’s crucial with this is that you are aware of the signs your dog shows when they are in pain. You might never know their threshold for pain, but at least be aware if the way you train them is already starting to hurt.
- “They don’t hurt your dog that much”
Just because your dog isn’t reacting doesn’t mean that they don’t get hurt. Some dogs don’t react as much because they learn to get used to it. However, as a dog lover, would you want your dog to get used to constantly being in pain?
As a dog owner and lover myself, I wouldn’t want to hurt them unless it is to correct their behavior. Also, if you signal for them that you are going out and they seem to still be jumpy about it, don’t mistake it for the excitement they feel to wearing the pinch collar. They are just excited to go out with you and to walk around, but no dog would ever be excited about a collar that hurts them.
- “Pinch collars are not for every dog”
Now you might be wondering, “the tip above says that pinch collars are not for every dog but here you’re also saying that it’s a misconception that pinch collars are not for every dog too?”
Well, let me explain. What I’m talking about is that if you are using the pinch collar as a way to train your dog, then it is definitely not for every dog. However, adding punishment to dogs to correct their behavior is for every dog.
I’ve talked to several professional trainers and they claim that there are different tools you can use for dogs. For pinch collars, they are better suited for those dogs that have fatty and furry necks because the prongs won’t bite easily to their skin. But when it comes to smaller dogs with thinner necks, you can buy a different collar. However, the kind of training remains the same.
- “My dog doesn’t mind the collar”
Like what I said earlier, your dog might not be minding the collar because they are used to it. If they have and you know that you’ve used the pinch collar for far too long, then it might be the right time to switch to a new collar.
Also, they might not mind the collar because it could be too loose for them to notice. If this is the case, adjust the collar so that it fits well with your dog. Otherwise, it won’t be as effective for training them if they barely feel the pinch of the metal rings. You can adjust the pinch collar by adding or removing the metal rings in the same way that you would adjust a bracelet.
Pros and Cons of Using a Pinch Collar
So now let’s talk about the pros and cons of a pinch collar.
- It’s effective. A lot of dog trainers already attested to this and that’s a sure sign for you not to hesitate when using a pinch collar.
- It’s convenient. The fact that you have a leash that adjusts the pressure on your dog’s neck makes it convenient especially if you are walking in the park. Just a slight pull from you and your dog will already understand that it shouldn’t rush, should stop sniffing, should stop barking, etc.
- The pressure is equal around the neck. Because the prongs are around the dog’s neck, the pressure when you pull back is felt all over and not focused on one spot. For most dogs, this is preferable because it won’t hurt so much since the pressure is spread out.
- It’s painful. It will hurt your dog because that is how you’ll get them to learn from their mistakes. There are dogs who have a low threshold when it comes to pain so it isn’t advisable that you use a pinch collar on them.
- You need an expert to teach your dog. Yes, this can be a disadvantage especially when you don’t have the budget to hire someone. A trainer is a must in using a pinch collar because using new users are prone to make mistakes.
My Experience in Using a Pinch Collar on my Dog
So I did try the pinch collar for my dog. My dog is a golden retriever, so his neck isn’t thin and they aren’t miniature dogs so it’s appropriate to use a pinch collar on them.
I wanted to train my dog how to walk beside me and not pull on the leash every single time we walk in the park. My dog’s very hyper and he tends to run the moment we’re out the front gate and this gives me such a hard time catching up (not to mention looking very silly in front of a lot of people).
I saw the pinch collar in one pet store and I inquired the saleslady about it. She just said that it was for training dogs and that the rings have prongs in them that tighten towards the neck of the dog when you pull the leash attached to it. Needless to say, my reaction was terrible. I didn’t like the thought of hurting dogs and I was worried that it will leave bruises.
The most sensible thing I did was consult it with a dog trainer. I wasn’t going to train my dog myself because I didn’t know how to so I hired a professional dog trainer and asked about the pinch collar.
According to the trainer, a pinch collar is relatively safe if it’s mounted properly and if it’s used correctly. What he means is that for a pinch collar to be effective and not hurtful for your dog, you shouldn’t always pull the leash because that will continuously add pressure to your dog’s neck. There should be ample space where your dog can move his neck freely.
What’s important about training your dogs is that you are familiar with their gestures. If you don’t know yet, then you can learn this in the process while you walk them with the pinch collar. When I noticed that my dog was starting to walk faster than me, I slowly pulled the leash and tugged it towards me. I heard a soft yelp because the pain was foreign to my dog. That made me see the signs my dog shows when he’s in pain.
My dog trainer says that for the pinch collar to be effective, only apply soft tugs on the leash whenever you notice your dog to be doing something wrong. Don’t ever yank them nor tighten it that they get hurt or angry. That simply isn’t the reason why pinch collars were built in the first place.
After a few weeks of using the pinch collar, I saw a lot of improvement with my dog. For one, he no longer pulls on the leash whenever we go out. He knows that doing so would only make the collar pinch his skin. Now, he walks beside me and he rarely gets distracted by other dogs or other things.
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Pieces of Advice
I am no dog expert, but I have consulted with a number of trainers to know that positive punishment and positive reinforcement is a good combination when you train your dog. If you want to teach your dog new tricks or if you want to reinforce a good behavior, use positive reinforcement wherein you give treats or give time for them as a reward. This will train them to keep on doing the right things they do.
On the other hand, you have the positive punishment that will train them to not do anything that you don’t want it to. It sounds harsh, but that’s how dog trainers teach dogs to be disciplined.
With these two kinds of behavioral correction, you should remember that it only works if your dog knows exactly what you are correcting. Give credit to your dogs because they can understand you, too. So, as an example, imagine that your dog pooped in the wrong place. For them to know that that particular action is wrong, you have to bring them to the place where they pooped and punish them. In this way, it becomes clear to them that they shouldn’t poop in that area.
When it comes to walking your dog, a pinch collar will be highly effective if it’s done right. I recommend you having a professional with you to show how it’s done. Don’t jump into buying one and trying it on your dog. A dog trainer should be the one to show you how it’s done so you understand the right way of doing it.
Personally, I no longer have hesitations on pinch collars. But if you still do, there’s no forcing you to use them on your dog since there are other ways to train them. You can search for the different types of dog training collars so you can see which one best fits your dog.
- Roxanne Turner, Prong Collars: Are They Useful or Do They Pose a Danger?, Michigan State University Extension
- Prong Collar Myths and Facts, SF SPCA
- What Are The Dangers of Using Choke and Prong Collars?, PETA