Dog Training: Yes, I use shock and prong collars

If you work around dogs long enough you’ll get the question.

Do you use shock and prong collars? (Or choke collars or slip collars.)

You’ll get this question if you’re a trainer. You’ll get it if you’re a dog walker. You’ll get it if you’re a pet sitter or a rescue volunteer.

My answer to this question is yes.

Yes, I use prong and shock collars

I have used or at least recommended almost every single training collar available – prong collars, shock collars, Gentle Leaders, anti-pull harnesses. They all work well for the right dog/owner pairs at some point or another.

And every time I mention the use of any tool, someone gets upset. One woman said she could no longer read my blog because she noticed a comment where I’d recommended a prong collar for a dog that was pulling. Yes, if you are offended by that I agree this is not the blog for you.

I am not here to tell anyone else what to do. I just write about what works for me. I try not to give specific training advice unless asked.

I met a trainer recently who says she only uses positive reinforcement training techniques. Good for her. I’ve seen her working with dogs and she is an excellent, patient trainer.

Shock collars for golden retriever and springer spaniel

Of course, she asked me the question, and was bothered by the fact that I have used shock collars. She didn’t think we would ever be able to work together.

I told her that being open to all training options allows me to help more dogs. It allows me to meet the owners where they’re at and go from there. This is very important to me.

I also have more flexibility because I do not make my living training dogs. Wouldn’t want to. I have taught obedience classes, but I make my living writing about dogs and walking them.

It’s too bad that trainers feel they have to define themselves as “all positive” or not. Maybe they feel they have no choice. Dog walkers don’t seem to have that problem.

Being open to all training options allows me to help more dogs.

I try very hard to avoid these labels for myself and others. Of course, no trainer is really “all positive,” not if she has any clients or any dogs of her own. It’s not possible. At least, I’ve never seen it.

And what if you’re not “all positive?” What are you then? I don’t want to know.

I guess in the training world, there will always be people ready to ask the question. If you work with dogs, you better have an answer.

Are you ‘all positive?’ Do you use choke or prong collars?

My blogging friend Mahogany wrote a thoughtful post on why she used a prong collar. Check it out.

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  1. Cathy on February 20, 2014

    I don’t use prong or choke collars because I don’t think they’re necessary for a 10-poung dog. Yeah, she’s high energy and we’ve had to work hard on loose leash walking but, if she pulls now, 90% of the time she’ll respond to verbal redirection, physical redirection (penalty yards) 9% of the time, and in the most rare of circumstances I pick her up and physically remove her.

    The only time I judge dog trainers solely on the basis of being pro-prong or pro-choke is when I’m looking for group dog training classes and they state all dogs must be on prong/choke before even meeting the dog and handler. I automatically skip those trainers.

    And there was that one time I received unsolicited advice from a dog trainer who, after seeing me training my 6-month-old, 8-pound PUPPY for all of 45 seconds, said I should be using a prong collar.

  2. Sylv on February 20, 2014

    We use prong collars. Our girls are both 75 lbs, and sometimes need a little reminder to mind their manners.

  3. Elizabeth on February 20, 2014

    My first dog was of course going to walk perfectly on a leash, go everywhere with me, be quiet, be GREAT at the barn, perfect obediance in class and at home and the list is long….

    And then we got Belle…. And while I don’t think I will ever use a prong collar (I’m not consitant enough) I have totally thought of using an electronic collar. One that starts at a vibrate and maybe noise level and levels up. And its mainly to do with recalls. Because sometimes she doesn’t listen. She decides its ok to ignore me and look right at me. The cost of one of these contraptions has stopped me on numerous times. Also, not having a trainer to work with us because she is my first dog and she is totally spoiled. And she’s made great strides even without one.

    I must say that the two classes we have gone to they haven’t required certain collars. One of my trainers said that if the flat collar loose leash walking wasn’t working to talk to her about different methods (collars, leaders, harnesses) to try.

    I agree that all positive is great if you are the type of person that can be but sometimes it doesn’t work and a raised voice gets you more attention. Everyone has their own way of training and if you pick and choose the stuff that works for you then you are a better dog owner than the person who goes all one way and gets frustrated and gives up the dog because they feel like they are getting no where.

    Its funny the paralells between the dog and horse community. For everyone there is a different way to take care of and train a horse or dog…. The problem comes in is when we as owners don’t agree and cannot agree to disagree. And then instead of moving on with our lives, we harbor resentment because we feel sorry for the animal. Well the animal is fed and happy right? Taken to the vet? These should be the things we worry about and not what training style is used. There are plenty of animls out there that don’t have homes, aren’t fed or taken to the vet. Those are the things we should concentrate on.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 21, 2014

      Good comparison with the horses.

      I feel like people are too quick to view animals as “abused” or at least too quick to feel sorry for them. This is a disservice to the animals out there that truly are being abused.

  4. Chris Fowler on February 20, 2014

    Hi Lindsay
    Like you, I don’t train dogs, I care for dogs. I bring dogs onto my property, introduce them
    to the dogs already here, then let them all run the property together. When I first started this
    little service, I felt like the hapless ringleader of a 3 ring circus, chaos was the rule!

    Since then I have spent the last 7 years studying as many theories on dog behavior and dog training as I can find. What I have discovered is, there are more experts, whisperers, and
    know-it-alls out there, than there are well trained dogs. I have also found truth in the old
    saying, “The only thing 2 dog trainers will agree on is that the 3rd dog trainer is all wrong”.
    I have been told by ‘expert’ dog people that allowing dogs to run together on my property is
    a recipe for disaster, yet in 7 years I have only had a few minor scrapes. People have lived
    with dogs for tens of thousands of years, they seem to understand us far better than we understand them. I think we spend too much time assigning our own thought to dogs, and
    too little time observing.
    In those 7 years of researching, I have amassed quite a library, of positive, and clicker type
    operant conditioning , it is all the rage. Unfortunately, it all falls short when it comes to
    explaining the dogs that don’t respond. Or it all works, until it doesn’t.

    So to answer your question, I don’t use any collars, and I remove collars from the dogs who
    stay with us. I don’t micro manage my dogs, or the dogs who stay. I watch them, I observe
    them, I let them be dogs, and if I see them headed for trouble, I head them off at the pass.
    It’s not always calm, it’s not always quiet, and its rarely orchestrated, but it makes sense now.

    Sorry for the rambling comment, I think you are very brave to put your ideas about training
    methods out onto the blogosphere, there isn’t much tolerance for anything outside of the
    ‘all positive, all the time’ realm. I think the puzzle of dog behavior is a great big one with
    only a few pieces firmly in place. Thanks for your post, thanks for your time.

  5. Apryl on February 20, 2014

    We’ve gone through a number of collars and harnesses for our big, 100lb bloodhound pup (now two years old). She basically scoffed at all of them. The shock collar worked great the first month but then she was used to it. When we walk her now she gets a prong collar and a harness. People wonder why the gorgeous bloodhound is in such a setup with two leashes but totally get it once she catches a scent of something or sees another dog that tickles her fancy. She’s a big, strong girl that has plenty of energy!

  6. jan on February 20, 2014

    I wrote a post about a one day training session in Socal to keep dogs away from snakes and I had many nasty comments about the cruelty of using shock collars.

    I did try to find out how positive reinforcement could train dogs to leave snakes alone and they were written either by people who did not live in snake country or had dead dogs.

  7. Tam on February 20, 2014

    I use a prong collar to walk my 100+ and growing dog and although I had the “guilt” initially, I am so happy to report that our walks are wonderful and the smallest bit of pressure keeps him from pulling me like a rag doll. Walking him was a misery even for my trainer. I feel safer for me and my pet. I did try everything so I’m comfortable with my choice.

  8. Karen on February 20, 2014

    I use a prong collar with my American Staffordshire Terrier/Boxer for runs and long walks. When I walk him before school and before I go to sleep I use the choke collar. We started using a prong collar on my poodle/bichon frise.

  9. Rebekah on February 20, 2014

    I use prong collars on occasion, particularly with big Bruce. I swear his personality changes when it goes on, in a good way. I do not believe in one size fits all training.

  10. Jana Rade on February 20, 2014

    I certainly made some “threats” to JD that he was going to end up with a prong collar but I’m yet to follow through with any of my threats. Not that they work either, just makes me feel better I guess 😉

    So no, I never used any of these things. We tried the Thunder Leash with JD, works kind of; he doesn’t seem to like it. We used one that goes over the nose (don’t know the name but when dog pulls, it pulls their head to their chest). Works really well to prevent pulling but when he’s not pulling it keeps slipping off his nose.

    We’re using Easy Walk with Cookie; it’s not perfect. We of course try to instill the rule “when the leash is tight, nobody is going anywhere”. I think that’s an awesome idea but one cannot always do this, particularly in the winter because we’d freeze to the ground …

    Either way, for now I stick with threats and “humane” attempts.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 21, 2014

      Interesting to hear your point of view on this. I agree you can’t always stop when the leash is tight. That’s when a training tool comes in handy. Sometimes you just need to walk the dog.

  11. Jo on February 21, 2014

    I don’t use aversives, and I’m troubled by the current fashion to characterise trainers/handlers who do as ‘balanced’, as ‘using all the tools’, as ‘doing whatever works’.

    I am intimately familiar with aversive methods, and used them in the faraway past. At the time, that was how one trained dogs. It used to be that you couldn’t start a dog in a training class until the dog was at least 6 months old, because the methods used risked physical injury to a younger pup. Imagine BEGINNING your dog’s training at 6 months! Take a bouncy adolescent and expect him to instantly acquire manners and skills. Not. Going. To. Happen. Which meant that painful methods were used A LOT. I mean, how else can one be expected to get the attention of an untrained hooligan of a dog, hmmm?

    R+ methods take skill, timing, and patience. Does everyone have those? Definitely not. But, getting it wrong doesn’t damage the dog. And getting it right results in a dog that responds with joy and verve, which I find beautiful to see. My dog, trained without aversives, will recall off of a squirrel chase from 100 yards away, racing back to me at full speed with a big goofy dog grin on his face. Did I get that in two days or two weeks or two months? No, I certainly did not! I have invested thousands of hours in building a rock solid recall. When I didn’t have a solid recall, I managed the distractions and criteria.

    Aversive methods take skill, timing, and attention. Again, does everyone have those? Definitely not. In this case, though, getting it wrong can and does damage the dog. It’s dishonest for trainers/handlers to frame their use of aversives as the last resort, or the only method that worked for this breed, or whatever the excuse may be. R+ methods work, that’s proven. It would be more honest to say “I didn’t want to take the time, or I don’t have the skill, to teach this behaviour without using pain/fear.” But no one wants to say that. So we blame the dog. “That dog is too hardheaded, or has too high a prey drive, or is too big, or is a hound and driven by his nose, or or or …. so I HAVE to use a shock collar.” Humans are supposed to have the bigger brains; we should be using our brains in training rather than resorting to harsh physical methods.

    The fact that SOME dogs don’t suffer long term ill effects from aversive methods is not endorsement for the methods, it’s a tribute to the resilience of dogs.

    And some tools are just bad tools; we should be getting them out of the toolbox. Doctors used to use bloodletting to treat illness, but no one advocates that this should be in our medical toolbox. Psychiatrists used to lobotomise patients with psychoses, but no one advocates that this should be in our toolbox. Governments used to put people in prison for debts, but we don’t do that anymore. Some tools are bad tools; science helps us move on in our thinking.

    Aversive training methods need to be left behind.

    Karen Pryor has the pithiest way to say it … “If I can train a whale to pee in cup on cue with positive methods, you can train your dog to walk on a loosh leash”.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 21, 2014

      Lots of interesting points here, and I’m always open to discussing this topic. I think we are all in agreement more than we realize. I think most of us use positive reinforcement techniques 90 percent of the time or more. I do.

      None of us are trying to hurt our dogs. My own dog is so sensitive, for example. I could never use a harsh correction with him. Is a light tug on the prong collar hurting him? Of course not. It’s more the sound of the chain that gets his attention similar to clicking my tongue, like “let’s go!”

  12. jackie on February 21, 2014

    I have had one or more dogs all my life. After my Schnauzer mix passed, I adopted a terrier from the local shelter. My Schnauzer was an absolute dream. She or none of my dogs ever were trained, they just lived with us and we all got along well. This terrier was different. She was between 3 and 5 years old. She had been adopted once and returned because they couldn’t handle her. She was so cute, I thought she couldn’t be that bad. Until I got her home! Fast forward 8 months later, she is really a good pet and has come a long way with no training tools. Her original owner gave her and her brother up to the shelter for unknown reasons. They both were malnourished. with dull eyes. She was highly nervous. She would go ballistic if another dog was in sight or even if she heard another dog. It was impossible to walk her or anything. She marked everything in sight. I started her on the raw diet recommended by Michele Whelton from her book. As she started filling out, her behavior improved. I never yell or slap her, just show extreme patience and gentleness. I’m home all the time so I can watch what she’s doing. If she starts chewing something she’s not supposed to, I jut gently take her away and say no no and give her one of her chew toys. I don’t think she was ever shown love. With love she has learned to like herself and has better self esteem and with that she is calmer and able to relax. It took me a couple of weeks after getting her that I came to this conclusion. I tried an online dog training course which recommended the prong collar and to leave it on all the time. What happened she was being corrected too much, because she was always into something. Then she got a sore on her neck, so I took it off and just went with my gut feelings on how to handle her. The aggression to other dogs was fear, because now she will let other dogs in the yard and lets them come in and she plays with them. In hindsight I think if adopting an older dog from the shelter one has to consider the experiences especially negative ones they might have had in their first home. before resorting to prong collars and the like. I would say give them about a year in their new forever home to settle in. She walks pretty good using the Horgan harness which you can check out online. It goes around the back legs.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 21, 2014

      That’s so interesting! Sounds like you are a very patient and kind owner/trainer and it has really paid off with all your dogs. Really good to hear!

  13. Chris on February 22, 2014

    Amen to this post! I’m so sick of the anti-shock, choke and prong collar people….I rescued a very large breed with two abusive males owners in his past and he is now an example for his rumbunctious little brothers but he never would have gotten there or enjoyed the pampered and healthy life he’s had w/regular off-leash jaunts in the woods without the aforementioned methods. His littlest brother is now experiencing the shock collar because he wants to enjoy the off-leash freedom of the pack with the safety of being brought back home with them…I tell people you get a good brand where you tone them to get their attention, you use the sound to break their focus, and if you ever even use the shock setting it’s an emergency where they’re in a dead heat chase after a herd or a buck or a skunk etc….. GET OVER IT, I say, and get hiking in those woods:)

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 22, 2014

      Exactly! 🙂

      • Deb Cheplic on February 23, 2014

        I read the article with great interest. Our Dobes are a HUGE part of our lives. I don’t profess to be any kind of a dog trainer at all … I just try to do what works best for the Dobesx3, to get their attention when I need to, to maintain a relative “comfort zone” for all four of us when out on walks, to be sure that they don’t invade the “comfort zone” of people and dogs we run into on our hikes in the Park. I don’t want to put my dogs in obedience, agility, or any other kind of shows. I don’t care if I have to ask them to sit twice before they respond. They come when I call them, they do sit when asked (even if I have to ask twice), they’ll go on down/stay when asked to do so, and just love to be where I am.

        Yes, I do use prong and shock collars. They aren’t bothered by wearing them – when I pick them up, they fly to me to have them put on … they know it means we’re going on an adventure.

        Two years ago, I broke my ankle in a major way in the mud in the Park. Surgery, screws and plates, plus 2.5 months of down time, got me back on my feet. The first few trips to the Park, I watched where I put my feet with every step. I was pretty much sure that if I fell on that ankle again, it wasn’t going to be pretty. I was coming out of the off leash area one day, and a man was coming up the blacktop trail with a big old not neutered brindle Mastiff of some sort, who issued a verbal and posture challenge to Cooper, who never ever looks for trouble, but isn’t going to back down if he senses danger from another dog. They were wearing chain collars, and he almost pulled me off my feet coming down from the gate in the mud and stones, choking himself in the process. I know that I don’t have good leash walking skills with these guys – they’re so used to running free down there that they’re “up” on the leashes on their way to be turned loose. It’s OK with me – they make me walk a little faster that way … They may be “forward” there on leash, but I can take them in Petsmart in a group, and they’re gentlemen with the people and dogs in the store.

        When I got home, I decided I needed a little better control over them with situations like we just dealt with … so, yes, I ordered Herme Sprenger good quality prong collars for them. I don’t abuse them, I don’t jerk on their necks because I’m cranky or having a bad day. They know that when they back off the pressure’s off their neck, and it’s a uniform pressure around their neck, not on their windpipe like a choke collar. If you examine their necks, you won’t find holes or bumps from the prongs. Capo walks rather well on a leash, but he also wears a prong collar out in public on walks. I’m walking around 300 or so pounds of dog with me – I want to be in control of the situation if it comes up. They don’t pull and choke themselves with these collars. They’re never tied up to anything for any reason, even when not wearing the prong collars. I got so tired of people chipping on my ear about using them that I bought cutesy little cloth covers for them, and I wear them behind their regular collars so that they’re not so visible. Now I’m not so much the bad guy …

        When they’re off leash out of the fence in our yard, they wear e collars. I don’t call them training collars – I call them my emergency brakes. They are brilliant dogs, and know the sequence. I call them – if they don’t respond on the first call, I call again, and give a “tone” on the collar. They know that if they blow me off on that call, I call again and give them a nick with the collar. It’s a rare day now that they aren’t turned my way on the second call, no matter what agenda they were following on their own. Before Capo, I was in the Park with my friend and her dogs – my two ran up the road, up the trail on the left, and came back down a minute later, with a spotted fawn running in between them. Not sure why, whether she got spooked and just jumped up when they found her and ran because they ran, or what. They all crossed the road, I called, then called and toned, and they came back. We finished the walk up the hill, and on the way back, they got on the trail, and prey drive was kicking in. Took a shock to get them off her trail, but they came back. I used the collars before we had fence, being a responsible Doberman owner, and keeping them where they belonged, even when kids and other dogs were on our property. I’ve seen too many “trained” dogs get lost in the Park because they spook out deer and won’t come back to the call or whistle. Sometimes their blood gets up, and they just don’t care about training.

        A friend of mine who is a positive reinforcement trainer summed it up for me one day … she said my dogs are trained well enough to do well in our world, and I use “maintenance tools” like the collars to keep us all happy. Anyone who knows these dogs knows I would never do anything to hurt them, and use these tools to keep us all safe.

        They are friendly, well balanced, well socialized and cared for dogs. And yes, I do use shock and prong collars. Thanks to this dog walker/trainer for this article.

        • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 23, 2014

          I’ve really enjoyed hearing from different dog owners on this topic. Seems like the majority of dog owners are reasonable and use tons of positive reinforcement along with a few “corrections” as needed to keep the dog’s safe.

  14. Dawn on February 22, 2014

    I did use a prong collar for Maya in the very beginning when I first got her and I think it was a huge mistake. Firstly, I don’t think I was experienced enough with this kind of collar to use it properly. Secondly, it didn’t seem to affect her much. She’d walk well for a moment, then forget it was there and rush ahead. In her excitement to rush ahead, she never seemed to notice the collar and the collar did nothing to deter her from doing it again and again. Lab enthusiasm combined with thick skin combined with my inexperience made me discard the prong collar and opt to never use it again. Maya has responded much better to positive reinforcement, although she still has those moments of excitement where she tries to rush ahead without thinking.

    I broke down with Pierson’s barking and bought him a bark collar. It shocks. I still don’t like the idea of shocking him, but it has worked wonders in curbing his barking.

    In my personal view, I feel like I should try every other method before I use a method that uses force or causes discomfort. So with Maya, I made the mistake of starting it backwards only to find later that a milder method worked better. For Pierson, I tried other methods to no avail and the shock bark collar was a last resort. Therefore, I feel better about the decision I made for him.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 23, 2014

      Makes a whole lot of sense to me! I trust that dog owners will make the best choices for their own dogs as you have done.

  15. Jo on February 24, 2014

    One more thing to consider ….

    We normally just talk about the effects of harsh methods on dogs and their mental states, but what about us, the handlers? What effect does using harsh methods have on us?

    There is an emotional phenomenon called The Ben Franklin effect, for short. In essence, people feel more positive towards people they treat well. (Google it if interested; it is quite fascinating.) Study reference here: Shopler J, Compere J. Effects of being kind or harsh to another on liking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1971; 20:155-159.

    In dog training, we find that people who train with reward-based methods LIKE their dogs more, attribute positive traits to their dogs (“he’s smart”, “he’s trying”, etc.), and actually themselves get more value from training and interacting with their dogs. People who punish their dogs end up with a nasty (if unconscious) psychological dilemma: no one particularly likes dishing out punishment, or at least not non-sociopaths, therefore the recipient must deserve it (“he’s a bad dog; he deserves to be shocked.”).

    Aside from the lucky few who need dogs to perform specific jobs for us, we have dogs to bring ourselves pleasure. Why use training methods that make both us and the dog unhappy? Seems like a contradiction.

  16. Deb Cheplic on February 24, 2014

    Jo and I, I guess, will agree to disagree on the use of these collars. I don’t consider them “harsh” tools at all. I use them right – I don’t punish my dogs with them – no, I’m not a dog trainer of ANY kind, positive reinforcement, aversion training, or anything else. I don’t punish my dogs with these collars. The nice owner of the feed store will tell you I buy and pass out plenty of good, high quality treats on a regular basis throughout the day. They have to earn them, by following basic commands when asked – I don’t just dump treats at them. They’re willing to attempt anything I ask them to try. No one in my world – the dogs or myself – are suffering any psychological ill effects from them wearing their collars – as I said, they can’t wait to get them put on – they’re sitting on a stand inside the door, and Cubbee periodically goes over and rattles them with his nose, trying to encourage more outings for the day.

    I stand firm in saying that my dogs are NOT unhappy, and neither am I. When we bring our next Dobe(s) into our world down the line, they’ll be raised with the same tools, respect, and unconditional love as the Dobes in our world now experience.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 24, 2014

      I don’t consider e-collars harsh either, and I try really hard to avoid all the dog training labels people like to use.

      I like to use a Gentle Leader for my dog Ace, and he actually cowers when he sees it coming. Tail and head down. When I grab the prong collar, he comes running with a happy tail!

      • Deb Cheplic on February 24, 2014

        You and I would get along quite well .. :). Our last Dobe, Barron, always pulled a little on the leash .. Not hard, just constant pressure. I tried the Gentle Leader on him, and he’d rear like a horse nd flip over backwards to get away from it. After we lost him when he just turned 7 to the horror of bone cancer, it made me wonder why that little bit of pulling ever mattered …

        • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 24, 2014

          Aww, so sorry to hear of your loss.

          • Deb Cheplic on February 24, 2014

            Thanks .. it’s been years now, and we’ve got three Dobes now … maybe he’s the reason I’m happy letting them just be dogs as much as they are, while staying within the lines that keep them safe. It’s good talking to you on here .. 🙂

  17. Kimberly Gauthier on February 24, 2014

    I don’t use prong or shock collars although I have been tempted. I don’t feel comfortable with these tools, because I don’t know how to use them properly and I don’t know of a trainer who could show me how to use them. My reaction to learning that people use or promote these tools is to the people who jump to using these types of collars without working with a professional dog trainer who can make sure that their dog doesn’t get hurt.

    I try not to judge what others do simply because I don’t know their story.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 25, 2014

      I think you are really good at not judging dog owners. I try so hard not to judge as well.

  18. B on February 25, 2014

    Absolutely. I have just about every type of collar in my ‘toolbox’ and a variety of harnesses etc. Including the ‘dreaded’ ecollar. I always try to use positive methods to teach behaviors. For instance, I’d never slap an ecollar on a dog to try and teach them to come. IMO, you teach with games, treats etc. Then proofing must come. In my case, I mostly use an ecollar on my dogs for off leash walks in the woods. 95% of the time, my dogs come back the first time I call regardless of the distraction. But I use an ecollar as ‘insurance’ for that 5% of the time. I dont want my dog to have the opportunity to run up to an unknown (and potentially aggressive dog) or up to a coyote or raccoon. But I do want them to be able to enjoy the thrill of running through the woods more than 6ft away from me.

    Likewise, sometimes, you have a 40lb rescue that needs some exercise. If a prong collar can help prevent me from being dragged and potentially getting injured, then on it goes. I can still use my clicker to shape behaviors while the dog is getting some critical exercise and socialization.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 25, 2014

      I’m with you and have used just about every tool at some point. I prefer the Gentle Leader with my dog, but he has a prong collar and a choke collar. At my parents’ house he wears an e-collar and gets to be off leash on their property.

      When I’m walking a new foster dog, I almost always use either the prong or the Gentle Leader, depending on the dog. Some freak out when they have something over their nose so the prong often works better at first.

  19. Laura on March 2, 2014

    I use the prong only when we are on walks as my girl has a fatter neck then head and has gotten out of her collar a few times. Being very people shy this is not a good combination when walking on the sidewalk down a major road passing bus stops, so we use a prong to ensure someone doesn’t run out into traffic as she would rather do that than pass a bus stop with people…but we are working on our fears! 🙂

  20. Laura on March 2, 2014

    Oh and we are working on using a holt harness as I feel bad about the prong, but at least my pup comes home alive with me and not hit by a car since she would rather run into traffic vs pass people. But hoe, I ask HOW do you get the dogs used to the holt/halti/gentle leaders? We can’t even get out the door and to the sidewalk before I go back to the prong! Patience patience patience my pup likes to test her human! 😉 Love your blog BTW!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 3, 2014

      Hi Laura! I have dealt with lots of dogs who don’t like having the Halti over their nose. My dog is one of them, but he doesn’t “buck” or fight it like some. He just hangs his head really low. Then once we get outside, he’s his usual, happy self.

      How does your dog respond to the Halti? Does she try to pull out of it? Does she get up on her hind legs and fight it? Does she paw at it?

      When dogs do those types of behaviors, I find it works best to just completely ignore it, keep the dog on a short leash and keep on moving forward. They stop within a minute or less. Tough love, I guess.

  21. Barbara Rivers on July 26, 2014

    We were introduced to the training collar in our Basic Obedience Class we took with our then 2 year old Boxer mixes Missy & Buzz. My husband & I both weren’t very familiar with it, but received a first class introduction by our trainer Rhonda. As long as you make sure that they sit as high up on the head as possible and NOT ROUND THE NECK, your dogs will be just fine – always assuming you’re not applying constant tension on the leash, using it humanely, and removing the collar when not on a walk or training.

    Our dogs’ prey drive is fairly strong, especially Missy’s, so in order to avoid them chasing after a fast moving squirrel or rabbit, we give a quick tuck on the leash, and the distraction is dealt with!

    We have successfully incorporated positive reinforcement (verbal & with treats or a favorite toy) along with the (prong) training collar! Thank you for your wonderful article!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 27, 2014

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I love hearing from others who take a commonsense approach to training.

  22. Leslie on November 16, 2014

    I’ve used slip chain collars for lead training, and shock collars for off-leash training. Both have their place and when used properly are perfectly acceptable and safe tools. They are not for people who are trying to find shortcuts or ways to alleviate their own frustrations, and they are not for people who have not learned how to use them properly. That is when it becomes potentially abusive.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 17, 2014

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. I think that’s how any rational person would view them.

  23. Karen on December 31, 2014

    I taught my 2 yr old 71# pound am staff/boxer on a harness when he was only a wee pup. As he got bigger he got more excited around other dogs so he would get excited and pull. I knew a harness wouldnt hold him anymore. I got a prong collar to remind him about his pulling. He is great. We run 3-5 miles a day with it. Hes gotten better and knowing when he is allowed to run ahead of me. Usually when we are on a busy street and i need him to run on the right side of the light post. I started using this on my 8 yr old 20# bichon/poodle about a year ago. He is currently on probation for biting a runner. He wasnt socialized while under the care of my stepfather. He never really went out for long walks. When we all moved to a house together. I started to take him for longer walks by the dog park and by a rec park and by places that have a lot of people. Hes gotten better at not lunging at others. I am grateful for the prong collar and it has changed my perspective on prong collars and they are useful when used correctly.

  24. Roisin on January 9, 2015

    hey 🙂 i have a small breed mutt ….. I adopted him from my aunt who seen him wondering in her area for many months. I have had contact with previous ‘owners’ and discovered he was always a stray. I know for a fact that his previous owners abused him and he can get very nervous. He is such a sweet heart and i have a fully enclosed small yard that he is allowed out for around an hour a day the rest of the time he is inside. I live in an estate in a small town and have many green spaces I could let him run in but Im too scared to let him off ! I have let him off in the country and he will stay around 20m away! this is too far outside my comfort zone in the town as he sometimes takes off running for no reason! Of course he gets very deaf when he runs !!! it very distressing as I know he need my exercise then I can give him walking on the lead ! I have been thinking about using a shock collar when he is loose … would this help ?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 9, 2015

      I wouldn’t really be comfortable using the shock collar in this situation, personally.

      I would have the dog on a long rope and work on teaching him to come when called using highly valued treats like ham or meatballs. Then, slowly progress to off-leash time in areas with few distractions and slowly allow the dog more and more freedom.

      That’s just what I would do. Sure, you could use a shock collar, but I personally wouldn’t in this situation.

  25. steve on June 15, 2015

    I have a Japanese Chin. Very good dog. At 1 year started to show seperation anxiety when I went anywhere. She has been well socialized and gets along with people and dogs. Problem was she often would not come and on leash a total wanderer. I had a trainer that was expensive and when she was in the real world seemed to have learned nothing. In despair I went to my vet. Her best advice was to properly train her, desensitize her and spend time and patience on basic training. I watched a lot of video and came across a trainer who recommends a prong caller. I order a Herm Sprenger and my results with my dog are unbelievable. Once she got used to it, 5 minutes, she was a new dog in 2 days. The smallest twitch of my wrist connects me to her. She sits at the curb,she waits for the elevator to open she walks at my heel and sits when I stop. For the first time in 1 year she is not hacking away because I am pulling on her old collar. My leash is loose and I have never once had to exert more than the slightest touch. She is now after 2 months a far better dog. She comes when called, i can walk her in front of busy stores and she just sits beside me I can walk her by noisy equipment and not a flinch. It has strengthened her confidance and mine. Seperation anxiety is far less. This collar is humane as there is nearly zero yanking at it you need only the slightest wrist action. My poor dog used to hack so much from her regular collar and I have not seen her do that once with her prong collar. It worked for her and I.

  26. Alicia on November 2, 2015

    Why, just why do people feel the need to use shock collars, prongs etc. in these days… Honestly, I just don’t get it. It may work, but why would you want to cause pain to a dog just because it does something wrong. We don’t give people electric shocks, why on earth would we do it to dogs then. I do think, that it is a horrible thing to use shock collars, prongs and punishment based methods, especially when it has been scientifically proven, that there are much better methods. That there are more efficient methods. That POSITIVE reinforcement works.

    I have a dog, which is very reactive. She jumps, lunges and barks, when she sees another dog coming near, and she is very strong. Because of her reactivity, treats do not work with her. She is too hyped up to eat anything. Still, I will not resort to punishment. I simply ignore the behaviour, walk past the other dog with her being on a short leash. After we’ve walked past the dog, and she has calmed down, I will praise her, and possibly give her treats. This has worked. She only needs a few sessions like that, and she is already calmer the next time. When we keep working on this, she will relax more over time during these situations. She is also a dog, that “won’t do anything”. Well, she used to be. After we got the clicker, and had regular training sessions with it, she would get all excited, when she saw it. She will offer tricks, she will offer things she has learned. She was five, when we got it, and her recall improved quickly. And no, she is not obsessed with only the treats. When I got to a field, where she gets to run off leash, she will stop to wait for me, when I’m a bit behind. She will come to me, when I call even if I don’t have treats. And she isn’t a velcro dog. Positive training has definitely worked with her, it has worked with Jet, it has worked with Patches, and I will be staying POSITIVE with my future dogs.

    I understand, why the lady lady got upset about you recommending a prong collar, and that she couldn’t read your blog anymore. It upsets me too, because I cannot help to think, how using punishment based methods affect the dogs. It hurts them either mentally or physically. It can affect the dog and owner’s relationship very badly. I think that it is terrible, that the dogs have to work for people, because they fear them. Would you like going to work, if you feared you employer (yes, I know that you have your own business, but if you worked for someone else)? I don’t think so.

    I tend to vote with my feet, and this is a reason, why I will not subscribe to your blog. I do not want to show support to a website, which promotes punishment based methods. I think, that it is the wrong way to train dogs, because they do have feelings, and are living creatures. I do hope, that you would stop using punishment in your training. I do hope, that you would stop using prongs and shock collars, because they are stupid things. They are terrible things. But I am happy to hear, that at least sometimes you use positive reinforcement. Maybe you could do some research, and notice that positive training is actually much better than punishment based methods in many ways. We all can learn from our mistakes after all.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 2, 2015

      Hey Alicia. I won’t defend myself on my own blog, but I’ve written plenty of posts on different types of collars if you care to read more. They all work well in different situations for different dog/owner pairs. I’ll always be open to all options because it allows me to help more dogs.

  27. Lindsay Pevny on November 12, 2015

    I’m always hearing from all-positive trainers that shock and prong collars cause mental problems, aggression, reactivity – and if that were undoubtedly true, people would never use these tools.

    I think the most important part about LLW/heeling, or, actually, training in general, is rewarding the dog when she does right. But if she’s so resistant to walking properly, without these tools, there’s going to be few times that she gets it right.

    I also realize that, while my dogs aren’t so big, people with larger dogs would probably rather shock or prong their dog to the point of slight discomfort, than end up with a broken wrist!

  28. Lauren C on July 14, 2016

    Thanks for posting this article again as it is very timely to our current situation. We adopted our rescue pup who was thought to be around 18mos with known leash aggression issues. We knew we’d have to invest in training her and first worked with a “only” positive click trainer. Our trainer was wonderful, but our training was not going anywhere and we pretty much had succumbed to exercising our pup in our fenced in yard and avoiding all walks. I know it takes time and some people adjust to this idea, but when you have a high energy dog – exercise is key to her mental stimulation and behavior in our home. More recently we connected with another trainer highly recommend from our rescue orgz who uses embraces working with you and your dog with the use of prong collars, E collars and the Halti which we are currently using. Our dog (thought to be a springer beagle mix throw in sine ponter and terrier perhaps) is highly prey driven – and we are open and committed to being open what works best for her. Very soon we are about to vacation without our pup who will stay with our trainer. She will work with us to figure out the best solution whether it be a prong, E collar or continued use of the Halti. It’s not a quick fix, but I have recognized I have to be more open to different training methods. Every dog is different –

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 14, 2016

      Such a perfect example, Lauren! Your dog is so lucky to have so many people dedicated to helping her. I’m sure you’ve made more progress than you realize already.

  29. jude on July 14, 2016

    After 2 broken gentle harnesses three snapped collors and TWO BROKEN BONES..MINE in less than SIX MONTHS, we brought a *shock collor* for our 90lb shepard mix Sade-Mae. Only using the VIBRATE MODE feels like your cell phone when it vibrates and I can now SAFELY walk our girl! I was VERY hesitant to even try one of these collors but when I found out I had the option NOT to shock our dog but correct her w/a simple vibration it has change both our lifes for the better!! We did try a prong one but I was not comfortable w/that and it really didn’t help (I tried it w/the trainor so I knew I was using it correctly) so..yes, a *shock collor* has finally helped our gal and me enjoy our special time together instead of me having another broken bone, her always being tugged and told no!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 14, 2016

      I’m so sorry to hear you were injured. Sounds like things are going so much better now. That’s good to hear.

  30. Trish on July 14, 2016

    I adopted a 3-4 yr old pointer mix recently. She was abandoned and probably had some abuse. She’s a sweet but walking her has been and continues to be a challenge. I’ve tried three different harnesses, snout about, gentle leader and prong and am considering a shock collar. She is in obedience classes and the trainer is the one who suggested the prong. She behaves beautifully during training for the most part but loose leash walking and/or heel are an ongoing challenge. Even worse, she’s now developed the habit of stopping dead in her tracks when she doesn’t want to walk. Forget if there are squirrels or birds around. Her hunting instinct takes over. I have been dragged down the street (during the instances when she actually wants to walk). The prong works to some extent but we had a mishap one morning while we were running together around the neighborhood. She had the prong on, I turned the corner, she went the other way then circled back, we got a bit tangled and I almost fell down. In doing so, I inadvertently yanked on the leash when I lost my balance. She yelped and laid on the ground. I cried my eyes out. Since then, our walking has been dismal. I have resorted to just taking her to the ball fields or park, regular collar and leash and running full bore with her. Oh and forget about recall…..she rarely listens when off leash. I have only had her for about 4 months so I cannot expect miracles in such a short time, especially since she had a sad life before I adopted her. I am open to any suggestions. I have looked at the shock collar and have spoken to a couple of people who use them with much success.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 14, 2016

      I assume you’ve tried various no-pull harnesses like the EasyWalk harness that clips to the chest? Which tools have shown the most “success” or help out of all of them? I’m wondering if you could use some sort of combo.

      • Trish on July 14, 2016

        I’ve tried various combos. I’ll keep trying…

  31. Carol on July 14, 2016

    All studies show prong collars raise anxiety and aggression. Sad that they are still used.