Are Prong Collars Abusive? (Solved & Explained!)

When used correctly, prong collars are a safe and effective short-term training tool for medium to large dogs who have a problem pulling on their leashes when out for walks. You may use the prong collar to teach compliance if they’ve been unsuccessful with other non-aversive training techniques. The prong collar isn’t designed to cause harm or injury to your dog when fitted and used correctly. Despite the negative reputation surrounding prong collars, any harm resulting from them is the result of irresponsible and negligent dog owners and not the prong collars themselves.

The rest of the article will outline the arguments surrounding the use of prong collars, the potential damage caused by prong collars, their proper use, and alternative training methods to avoid using prong collars.

What are Prong Collars?

Prong collars consist of 9 – 12 interlocking links (the specific number depending on your dog’s size), with two blunted prongs on each link. On either side of the connected links is a chain that connects both sides of the collar, allowing you to adjust the collar to your dog’s individual size.

How do Prong Collars Work?

When the prong collar is fit correctly around the dog’s neck, the interlocking links tighten and deliver firm but gentle pressure around the dog’s entire neck when you exert pressure on the leash. The pressure distributed by the links simulates the pressure a mother dog puts on her puppies’ necks when carrying them around.

When you are walking your dog on a leash, the blunt prongs merely sit against the dog’s skin, and may feel just like any regular flat collar. However, if your dog starts to tug or pull on the leash, the collar tightens slightly, and the interlocking prongs pinch against your dog’s neck. The collar should sit behind the dog’s ears and under the jawline rather than around the throat.

Why do Some Dog Owners Use Prong Collars?

According to TherapyPet.org, a leading resource for Emotional Support Animal licensing, prong collars can be a useful and effective training tool when used correctly. You only have to exert minimal pressure on the leash for the prongs to constrict, causing the dog’s immediate compliance.

This is ideal in situations where a dog could run after a moving car, potentially dragging you and your furry companion into traffic.

Do Prong Collars Cause Pain?

The prong collar is designed to cause discomfort, but not injury when the dog pulls on its leash. The prongs facing inward are blunt and not designed to break skin. When dealing with a dog who has particularly sensitive skin, rubber tips for the prongs are available wherever prong collars are sold.

Pain can occur when the collar isn’t properly secured around your dog’s neck, if the collar is in the wrong place, or if it’s left on your dog for long periods of time. When your dog wears a prong collar during activities other than walking on a leash, too much exertion can occur and cause pain or injury.

Why Should I Avoid a Prong Collar for my Dog?

According to the San Francisco Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), prong collars can have harmful and long-lasting psychological effects on your dog, such as depression, redirected aggression, and can even damage the bond you two share. The SPCA argues that any dog training that uses pain or fear (also known as aversive training) damages dogs’ psychological and emotional health and well-being.

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), dogs can develop scar tissue from the prongs and become tolerant of the sensation, causing the owner to exert more pressure and potentially cause harm.

Unlike positive reinforcement, which corrects bad behavior by rewarding good behavior, prong collars are an incomplete training tool. Prong collars only tell the dog that it is wrong, without using correction and rewards, and it can take a while for the dog to associate the feeling of discomfort from the collar with the action of pulling on the leash.

What’s more likely, according to SPCA, is for your dog to associate you with the feeling of discomfort, damaging your owner-pet bond in the process.

What are the Benefits of Using Prong Collars?

Prong collars are considered one of the best training tools for large, adult dogs who pull on their leashes during walks. When such behavior goes unchecked, it can lead to a variety of dangerous incidents, such as running into traffic, getting aggressive with strangers, or falling into a ditch. The prong collar is a tool that causes compliance with the least amount of effort.

Prong collars are also easy to use, with very little setup or maintenance required. All you have to do is adjust the collar for your dog’s size, attach the leash, and begin training.

How Do I Properly Use a Prong Collar?

  • Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so the fit of the prong collar is not universal. Make sure the collar is snug, but not tight. Add or remove links to adjust the fit.
  • Collar should sit behind ears and under jawline, not around throat.
  • Only use for a maximum of an hour at a time during active training sessions
  • Not intended for long term use
  • Not safe for puppies or small dogs

What does the Law Say About Prong Collars?

While prong collars are legal in the US and the UK as training aids, several countries have outlawed their use altogether. According to the SPCA, these countries include New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Switzerland, and the Canadian Province of Quebec.

What is the Best Alternative to Prong Collars?

Expert dog trainer Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, famous for training President Obama’s border collie Bo, hails positive reinforcement as the best way to train a dog.

Positive reinforcement includes trainers using verbal cues, clickers, treats, games, and toys to help modify behavior. A dog is rewarded for good behavior, and rewards are taken away when the dog practices bad behavior such as excessive barking, chewing on furniture, or urinating in the house.