October 14, 2009

Prong Collars

I had a training table at an event last weekend for a local animal shelter. I was one of three dog trainers with tables, however I was the only positive trainer. I was truely horrified at the number of dogs including the dogs owned by the two other trainers that were wearing prong collars. I'm not just talking about the big, powerful Rottweilers & Shepherds, but the Standard Poodles, Australian Shepherds, Collies, and smaller breed & mixed breed dogs. One couple paraded their three German Shepherds around the "circle" of vendors and attendees for hours constantly jerking on the prong collars to keep the dogs within inches of them. The poor dogs could not look at another dog let alone interact. What is the point of bringing your dog to a "dog-friendly" event if you don't plan to let your dogs partake in the fun? These dogs were shutting down right in front of me. Their body language was screaming for help. I wanted nothing more than to say something to these people and I should have...but I didn't want to make a scene.
Prong collars are proven to cause and increase aggression in dogs. Before I knew any better I used a prong collar on my Rottweiler per the advice of multiple dog trainers beginning when she was 6 months old. I hated to do it, but the "professionals" were telling me I needed to in order to have control over my dog. From a very young age she learned that when other dogs would approach and pass her on the street, she would get a yank of the collar around her neck to prevent her from going to greet these dogs. It didn't take long for her to learn that dogs approaching meant she would feel pain and naturally the dog caused the pain in her mind. She became extremely reactive to all dogs outside the house. Even if we were in the car and she saw another dog walking down the street she would go crazy. I was able to help her through Counter Conditioning & Desensitization, but I was always on guard and managing her. I totally blame myself for allowing this and even causing this to happen to her and would never want to be responsible for that again.
Prong collars may be an easy, inexpensive way to get your dogs "under control" and may assist in walking dogs more easily, but at what price to the dog? I highly recommend using harnesses in place of prong or choke collars. If you dog is alreay reactive to other dogs/people seek the advice of a positive reinforcement trainer...don't add pain to the dog's existing fears & anxieties.

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I train dogs using positive reinforcement training to modify unwanted behaviors.  I step outside the traditional training box and use therapeutic-grade essential oils to assist in my behavior modification regime when it comes to dogs plagued with fear and anxiety as well as aggression.  My philosophy is to heal the dog's mind, body and spirit, not just to rid the dog of unacceptable behaviors.  I specialize in shelter dog rehab, reactive rover, and fearful fidos.