A prong collar is also known as either a pinch collar or a poke collar.
Prong collars come in different forms. You’ll find some collars with plastic prongs and some collars with metal-tipped prongs. These prongs or spikes run along one side of the collar.
You put a prong collar on your dog just like a normal collar. The only difference is that the prongs will sit directly against your furball’s neck.
These prongs will only tighten when your dog pulls against you. This causes your dog to feel pressure on his neck as the prongs dig into his skin. The discomfort caused by prong collar training should be enough to stop the unwanted behavior almost immediately.
Much like shock collars polarize opinion, some dog owners feel there is no place for prong collars in the training arsenal, period. If you are in any way uncomfortable with the idea of using one of these training devices, we would suggest you don’t use one.
Are collars with prongs cruel, though? We’ll be looking into this issue today, glimpsing at some hard data and exploring both sides of the issue.
Before that, some basics on fitting a pinch collar correctly – the success or failure of your training with this device rests on proper placement.
If you are looking to purchase, see our related article on the 10 Best Chain & Prong Collars with full rankings and reviews. See which one is the safest fit for your dog.
In This Article:
How Should You Place a Prong Collar on Your Dog?
Fitting a prong collar correctly will not only ensure it works effectively, but will also protect your dog from harm.
Put the prong collar high on your pup’s neck right behind his ears. It should sit snug to his neck without drooping. A drooping collar can cause the prongs to pinch and hurt your dog instead of delivering a simple prod. If the collar droops, your dog may also slip out of it, hurting his head in the process.
As with all dog collars, you should find you can slide two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck, assuming you have fitted it correctly. To get the right fit with a prong collar, you may need to remove some links.
Ensure your dog is never left unattended while wearing a prong collar. Don’t tie him up when he’s wearing one either.
Before you start a training session with a prong collar, pop it onto your dog 15 minutes before you start.
If you find you have a timid dog, or if your dog responds well to a simple choke collar, you should avoid using a prong collar.
What is the Practical Purpose of a Prong Collar
Poke collars are widely misunderstood, so it bears underlining the only reason for using one.
These collars are training tools, plain and simple. You should not leave the collar on your dog outside of dedicated training sessions, and you should never use these devices to nag or pull your dog.
Instead, use just a brief snap to communicate what you want from Fido.
Prong collars are not intended for discipline and should only be used when you’re training your dog, correcting behaviors, or taking a walk.
Should I Use a Prong Collar on My Dog?
Maybe you’ve seen someone walking a dog in the park and they have on a scary contraption that you now know to be a prong collar.
For those who are anti-aversive and in favor of positive reinforcement in training, it can be easy to judge.
Instead, consider that for some dog owners, using a prong collar might be the least bad option. For dog owners with strong and energetic but anxious dogs, they may feel the safest strategy for all concerned is to walk that dog using a prong collar rather than risking losing control of the dog.
Imagine that dog owner either not taking the dog for a walk out of fear, or ending up with the dog attacking someone and being euthanized. In circumstances like this, there is a valid argument for using a prong collar.
In the case of an inexperienced handler, prong collars can safeguard dogs against damage to the trachea. This is achieved as the collar evenly distributes tension all around the neck instead of right on the throat.
Ultimately, using a prong collar, like many aspects of dog training and ownership, comes down to personal preference.
And, even if you object to the idea of aversive training methods in general, you may concede that some situations call for the use of a prong collar.
Are Prong Collars Bad?
Whether or not prong collars are bad should be considered in two different senses:
- Is a prong collar physically safe for a dog?
- Is a prong collar emotionally safe for a dog?
A study into aversive training methods in dogs  showed that using prong collars, choke chains, and shock collars are physically and emotionally harmful.
A prong collar places pressure on a dog’s throat. This can cause serious injuries to the trachea and to the thyroid gland, triggering adverse health outcomes such as:
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
- Skin issues
- Weight gain
- Organ failure
Prong collars have also caused problems like eye injuries and glaucoma due to the pressure placed on a dog’s eyes as a prong collar or choke collar goes to work.
Some research also suggests that using prong collars is emotionally damaging to dogs, and in turn a danger to owners as well as dogs.
Dogs with leash anxiety who are already pretty reactive on walks can become even more agitated and anxious if you use a prong or choke collar on them. Instead of making your walk safer for all concerned, you could heighten the chance of aggressive behavior in your dog.
The same study referenced above shows that choke chains and prong collars are often effective off the bat, but then become ineffective over time.
This is not surprising really. A prong collar delivers a short sensation of pain to stop unwanted behavior rather than teaching your dog what good behavior is preferred.
When Should I Start Using a Prong Collar?
If you find yourself in a position where you don’t walk your dog because you don’t feel in control, it may be time to consider using an aversive, even if only in the short term.
Ultimately, we believe there are other methods out there that you should consider using for a longer term solution, including training!
Let’s face it, when you don’t give your dog enough exercise, the problem often dominoes into other issues like barking, chewing, or jumping up on furniture.