Gentle Leader vs. Prong Collar

Gentle Leader vs. prong or pinch collar

*Note: That Mutt is supportive of a variety of dog training methods. This is not about “one vs. the other” but instead focuses on some of the pros & cons of different types of collars.

There is no dog training collar that is right for every dog.

I have recommend every type of dog training collar to someone at some point. Every dog is different, and every owner is different. What works for my dog is not necessarily going to work for your dog. I don’t admire dog trainers who try to push a single tool on everyone.

Every type of dog training collar has it’s place for the right dog in the right situation. This does not mean it’s right for YOUR dog or my dog.

Some of those tools include:

Most dogs are going to respond well to a strong, fun leader who uses positive reinforcement along with mild “corrections.”

Gentle Leader vs. prong collar, which is better?

The two collars I want to focus on for this post are the Gentle Leader and the pinch (prong) collar. They are very different tools but are some of the most common tools recommend for strong pullers.

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This post contains affiliate links. I may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post.

Gentle Leader vs. pinch collar

The Gentle Leader is marketed as a gentle option to be worn over a dog’s muzzle, similar to a horse halter.

The Gentle Leader is designed to prevent pulling because if the dog handler controls the dog’s head, he controls the dog. Most dogs are also quite a bit calmer while wearing a Gentle Leader.

A pinch (prong) collar is usually made out of metal and has flat prongs distributed evenly around the collar. It should be worn high on the dog’s neck, right under his chin and behind his ears.

When the dog pulls, the owner gives a slight “correction” by pulling up or to the side. This correction is not designed to cause pain. It is intended to re-direct a dog’s attention.

Let me explain what I like and don’t like about each of these collars. I hope to disprove some of the assumptions about each. I’ve also included some Amazon affiliate links to the products.

Gentle Leader for dog training

Gentle Leader on Amazon

When I was teaching my mutt Ace to walk nicely on a leash, I used the Gentle Leader in some situations and a pinch collar in others. Now that I have another maniac on a leash (A.K.A. Remy), I am once again using both tools – separately, of course. (2019 update: Ace has passed away.)

What I like about the Gentle Leader

Reason #1: The Gentle Leader helps a dog remain calm

I use a Gentle Leader when I want to help the dog calm down. It’s a good tool to use when I want to bring my dog along but might be preoccupied.

For example, if I’m walking my dog downtown while talking with a friend and holding a coffee in one hand, the Gentle Leader comes in handy. It allows me to “check out” a bit from dog training.

The Gentle Leader allows me to relax and just enjoy spending time with my dog and a friend in busy situations.

Black lab mix wearing a Gentle Leader
Ace with the Gentle Leader

Ace experiences some anxiety in the car, and the Gentle Leader has always worked to help him chill out a bit. The fabric around his muzzle calms him and puts him in a less excited state of mind.

As another example, my former foster dog was feeling stressed out at a dog show event we attended. He was barking at me and having difficulty settling down. When I put his Gentle Leader on him, he was able to lie down next to me and relax.

Reason #2: The Gentle Leader stops a dog from making those “choking” sounds

The Gentle Leader is also a good tool to keep my dog from pulling and making those “choking” noises.

Remy is a good example of a dog who practically strangles himself on a regular, nylon collar. He gets so excited, panting, pulling and “choking” that he causes other dogs to get very agitated as well.

When Remy wears a Gentle Leader, it eliminates his panting and choking noises by about 90 percent. When he’s quiet, other dogs are less likely to react. Since Remy is still learning how to ignore other dogs during walks, anything that helps him give off a calmer energy is a good thing.

If Remy is calm and quiet on walks, then walks are much, much more enjoyable! That means he gets to go along on more walks!

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What I don’t like about the Gentle Leader

Reason #1: The Gentle Leader puts too much pressure on a dog’s nose and eyes

Any collar can be dangerous if the dog pulls for an extended period of time.

The Gentle Leader is not a safe tool for some extreme pullers.

Although the Gentle Leader is marketed as a humane option, it’s not always humane. When a dog pulls very hard for an extended period of time, the thin piece of nylon over his nose begins to put way too much pressure on him. When a dog pulls very hard, the Gentle Leader will slip to the side and put pressure on the dog’s face and under his eyes.

Dogs that are so focused on moving forward do not have enough sense to stop pulling, even if they are in pain. The pain might even cause them to pull harder, as they are trying to escape the pain. Excited dogs do not always know how to calm down and rationalize what is happening.

Example with my foster dog wearing the Gentle Leader

For example, one time I took foster dog Cosmo for a longer walk than usual. He wore his Gentle Leader. When we came back, he was squinting his eyes for the rest of the night because of the pressure the Gentle Leader had caused.

I was really worried I had permanently damaged his eyes! I was mad at myself for not stopping during the walk and switching to his regular collar.

Thankfully, bug-eyed Cosmo was just fine the next morning. Still, the incident was enough for me to re-think the Gentle Leader. Now I rotate which collar I use when I’m walking certain dogs.

For shorter walks, a Gentle Leader might be fine. For longer walks, the pinch collar might be better.

And just for the record, the Halti is a similar tool to the Gentle Leader, but it’s designed better and typically doesn’t put too much pressure on a dog’s nose or eyes. It also has a safety strap that connects to the dog’s normal collar just in case he slips out of the Halti. For more info, check out my post comparing the Halti vs. Gentle Leader.

Reason #2: The Gentle Leader does not teach a dog to stop pulling

My other issue with the Gentle Leader is that it’s a Band Aid. It really is. Dogs learn not to pull as long as they are wearing the tool. But as soon as you remove the Gentle Leader, they generally go right back to pulling unless you’re working very hard to teach “heel” or loose-leash walking.

Cosmo was getting pretty good at heeling as long as he had the Gentle Leader on. Without it, he was a maniac. This defeats the purpose of a dog training tool.

I know some dog owners are successful weaning their dogs off the Gentle Leader, but most people don’t bother to try. This is OK for a lot of people, but I expect more from my dogs.

This is why I use the Gentle Leader in some situations and the pinch collar in other situations. My goal is always to get to the point where no training collar is needed at all.

Dog wearing a Gentle Leader on a walk

From there, my goal is to achieve reliable obedience with no leash. Still, no dog is going to be perfect in every situation.

See my post: How to stop my dog from pulling.

Reason #3: Some dogs hate wearing a Gentle Leader

Most dogs do not have any issues with a pinch collar, but a lot of dogs do not like having something over their nose. My mutt Ace pretty much shut down at the sight of his Gentle Leader. His tail went between his legs, and he looked away. Once he had the Gentle Leader on and we went for a walk, he was fine, but he still avoided me every time I got it out.

Now, if I had Ace’s pinch collar in my hand, he came running! I’ve noticed this with other dogs as well. And some dogs really put up a protest, pawing at their nose and rubbing their face on the ground in an attempt to get the Gentle Leader off. The best thing to do is just ignore this behavior. Continue on with the walk, but it’s not always easy to deal with a bucking, rearing, 80-pound dog.

Reason #4: You can’t give a dog a leash correction while she’s wearing a Gentle Leader

There are situations where I prefer to give a dog a mild leash “correction” (tug on the lash) for training purposes. The Gentle Leader is not designed for corrections.

Pinch collar for dog training (also called a prong collar)

What I like about the pinch collar

Reason #1: The pinch collar allows you to give the dog a gentle correction

Pinch collar on Amazon

If my dog is focused on a smell or another dog during a walk, all he needs is gentle tug on the leash and prong collar to re-direct his attention. This is not meant to scare him or cause him pain. It’s just a reminder to get him to focus on the task at hand – walking.

Usually Ace’s response to one of these tugs looks something like, “Ha, sorry. I got distracted!” I tug on his leash so gently that I believe it is actually the slight sound of the chain moving that gets his attention, not the sensation of the prongs on his neck.

Reason #2: The prong collar will help teach a dog not to pull

The pinch collar fits around a dog’s neck like a normal, nylon collar. This makes it easy to eventually transition the dog from the pinch collar to a nylon collar.

My dog Ace

When I was teaching Ace to heel, I would have him wear his nylon collar and his prong collar at the same time. That way I could switch his leash to one collar or the other as appropriate. For example, if Ace was walking nicely, I’d clip his leash to his nylon collar. If we saw another dog approaching, I would clip his leash to the pinch collar.

What I don’t like about the pinch collar

Reason #1: Sometimes the links on the pinch collar break apart

I’ve seen a few pinch collars come apart because one of the prongs was bent. This has happened to me and my dog. Luckily, Ace has no interest in running away. When his pinch collar fell off, he just stood there looking at me. “Well, aren’t you gonna pick that up?”

I am a bit nervous using the pinch collar with Remy because he does not always come when I call him.

Reason #2: The pinch collar gets caught in long hair

Another reason I didn’t like the prong collar for my foster dog was because it didn’t seem to work with his thick fur. It works better on my dog Remy, who has very short fur. I’d like to hear some other opinions on this.

Reason #3: The pinch collar can hurt a dog if it is not used properly

I don’t use a pinch collar on a dog unless I am calm and collected. If I am frustrated with a dog, I might be too tempted to give the dog a harsher tug on the leash. This is not what the pinch collar is for.

I also see too many dog owners who do not use the pinch collar as a training tool. They just place it around the lower part of a dog’s neck and hope for the best. But the pinch collar is designed to be worn high on the dog’s neck, right behind her ears and under her chin. If the pinch collar is worn on the thickest part of the dog’s neck, it will be too easy for her to pull.

The pinch collar should be used as a tool to prevent pulling, not to just make the pulling more tolerable for the person.

Reason #4: Sensitive dogs might overreact to a pinch collar

Cosmo yelped the first couple of times I corrected him with the pinch collar even though I was careful not to be too harsh. He was so sensitive that any correction at all scared him.

He also reacted aggressively a few times by biting the leash. This is why some people say a prong collar can make a dog’s aggression worse. This is not the case with normal, stable dogs but can trigger a reaction from sensitive dogs like Cosmo. He would sometimes react on his regular nylon collar as well. I believe his “temper tantrums” were due to a low-frustration tolerance.

Anyway, this is why I started using the Gentle Leader with Cosmo. But after the incident with his swollen eyes caused by the Gentle Leader, I started using the pinch collar again on longer walks. He did much better after he was used to it.

Do you see how it gets complicated finding the right collar?

Other training collars for dog training

Obviously there are dozens of different dog training collars. I only focused on two in this post. I’d love to hear your opinion on the option that works better for your dog – the Gentle Leader or the pinch collar. I’d also love to hear about any other collar or harness you use for your dog.

Which dog training collar is best for your dog?

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Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.


  1. Gentle Leader.
    A Gentle Leader fits around the dog’s muzzle for a gentle way to encourage the dog not to pull.
  2. Prong collar.
    Prong collars are helpful training tools for strong pullers that makes it easier to transition to a regular, flat collar.
  3. No-pull harness.
    An EasyWalk no-pull harness is helpful if you prefer a harness for training. The leash clips to the chest, encouraging the dog not to pull.

Related articles:

Get all of our training tips HERE

Gentle Leader vs. pinch collar

This post was last updated in November 2020

105 thoughts on “Gentle Leader vs. Prong Collar”

  1. Regarding your comment that you do not like the pinch collar on Cosmo, a better option would be a “thin” choker. With this collar you are able to put it on and place it under the thick fur, making corrections more effective.

    When working my first guide dog Luther, I needed to break out the gentle leader quite often as he would get very distracted around food, and it worked very well with him.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      What do you mean by “thin” choker? Do you mean a higher-quality choke chain? I like using those for Ace, but Cosmo is good at slipping out of them. Again, it’s because of his thick fur.

  2. Great information as always, very thorough. You should write a book.

    And please include that you’re sick of the “positive only” approach. I’ve talked to a lot of trainers of police dogs and while they use mainly positive methods, they don’t always work with all dogs all the time. These trainers don’t have world enough and time and need to employ what works. The world isn’t always “positive” for dogs or any of the rest of us.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks, Jan! I can’t believe there are any dog owners out there who haven’t, at least once, screamed “No! Bad dog!”

      1. I agree about the positive only approach. There is no need for punishment, but sometimes negative “reward” needs to be used.
        Love your blog and agree with your thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

  3. I’ve only used the gentle leader with Charlie, he does shut down when I bring it out and he tries to get out of it but as long as we keep on moving there are no problems. I like to use the gentle leader with Charlie especially when I bring him to PetSmart or Petco because I like to be able to pull his head quickly away from any strangers who come a little too close. It makes me feel a little bit safer having control of his head.

    Charlie used to pull until he choked himself but he actually completely stopped a week after using the gentle leader. I just took it off in the middle of the walk and he continued to walk right beside me without pulling, and I tried it on the next walk and he still didn’t pull, but that is probably not very common.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That’s why I like the Gentle Leader with Cosmo, too. I can pull his head away quickly if someone gets too close at the wrong time. That’s awesome that Charlie learned to walk nicely with and without the Gentle Leader. He’s a smart dog.

  4. Lindsay:
    Chokers, AKA choke chains come in various sizes as well as various degrees of thickness. The thicker the collar the less effective they are because the links that make up the collar are bigger, thus are unable to tighten as easily as links used to make thinner collars. The “zing” sound that comes from flicking the leash on a choker is usually enough to discourage unwanted behavior and this is much easier to get out of a choker that is thinner than it is thicker.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      OK. That’s what I thought you meant, but just wanted to make sure we were on the same page. You’re right, there is a huge difference between a thicker choke chain and a thin choke chain. That “zing” sound you describe is exactly what discourages Ace’s unwanted behavior vs. the actual tightening of the collar.


  5. We’ve tried everything from anti pull harnesses (worked for a while until I got used to it and started pulling again) to a sort of semi-check collar (nylon type collar with one part chain to allow corrections). The semi check collar ruined my short coat (its still not quite grown out) so now we’re back to the harness and my human trying to get me to turn around every time I pull. We’re not really making any real progress 🙂

    I think my human is keen on trying the gentle leader as our local dog trainer also recommended it if all lead work training fails.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      The Gentle Leader head collar usually works better for “extra strong pullers” compared to the anti-pull harness from the same company. So I hope it helps keep you in line, Alfie! 🙂

  6. Well, as you know, we use a Gentle Leader for our golden on walks because it certainly calms her, which is important when we meet other dogs. She actually heels beautifully no matter what type of collar she wears, until we meet another dog. Hence the GL works out perfectly for us. She doesn’t care much for it, but hey, she gets more walks in with it!

    Our springer on the other hand, is way more challenging on a walk and we do use a prong collar with her. I think maybe we’ve been using it too far down on her neck… will have to check this out further. She is not phased at all when we correct with it. The GL was not as effective with her, but I should probably try it again. I think mixing things up like you do/did with Ace might be wise.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Poor Ace never knows what collar I’m going to use – pinch collar, gentle leader, regular nylon collar, choke collar, no leash …

      Yeah, definitely put that prong collar higher on Sophie’s neck. It has to be as high as it can go, where the neck is more sensitive. The correction does not need to be hard at all. A regular choke collar even works well as long as it’s very high on the neck. When I use a choke or prong collar, I stop and adjust it very often if the dog pulls.

  7. The best collar we have ever used is the martingale collar that is half nylon half chain, you can’t choke a dog on these collars if fitted correctly, nor can they slip out of the collar. They also give the noise of correction when snapped out to the side correctly!

  8. Belle doesn’t like the Gentle Leader, she paws at her face and it seemed that no matter how short or long the walk was she was always squinting.

    So I got a harness and its been working great! I’ve switched it up so she’s not wearing it all the time and she seems to be getting the idea that she doesn’t have to pull! It’s been wonderful!!!

    Thanks for the post!! I don’t like the pinch collar because I see too many dogs just pulling against it.

  9. Having used the prong collar on a dog that used to react strongly towards any moving animal (dog, squirrel, rabbit whatever) I found that it was not effective for her and actually increased the intensity of her reactions, steering her towards aggressive behaviour that she had not previously shown. If you’re thinking that I was probably using the collar wrong and hurting her, please don’t worry, as I was always as diligent as I could be about keeping the collar at the highest point on her neck and making quick, precise corrections. That being said, this dog had very sleek short fur and even the lightest correction of the prong collar would cause it to slip down her neck. I had a couple different trainers give me opinions on whether I had it too loose but all agreed it was as tight as it should be and it wouldn’t make a difference.

    As for the gentle leader – it will only work on certain breeds of dogs because of their face structure. I currently have a boxer and there isn’t a Gentle Leader, Halti or any other similar model that I’ve found which will stay fitted to her face. This just isn’t an option with us.
    We currently use the martingale collar (which someone else referred to, the nylon w/partial chain option) and have found that it is most effective. It still slips down on her fur but otherwise does the trick and prevents the need to switch back and forth between collars as it automatically loosens after corrections.

  10. My last dog had a will of steel. After a full year of intensive, daily training she could still not walk loosely on a leash. She understood exactly what she was supposed to do but just refused to do it. She also had a barking problem that could become scary to strangers. After a lot of thinking we decided to get a shock collar. I never thought I would use something like that- I have always used as much positive reinforcement as possible. But this is what THIS dog needed. After only two shocks she learned to associate the “beep” with the shock and I never had to shock her again. I could just beep her (tone only- no shock) and she listened like a charm. Within a few days something in her brain changed. She become a much happier, more relaxed dog and started respecting the rules of the household. It was amazing to watch our stressed out dog who would pull so hard that she would choke herself or bark so hard that people would be scared become a happy relaxed wiggling puppy again.

    I do not think shock collars are for all dogs. I would never use one on my current dogs. They are both a lot softer and would be traumatized. But for a smart alpha dog who is dully trained but refuses to respect her humans and their rules- it did work.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Shock collars are definitely the right choice for some dogs in some situations when used properly, just like any collar. Thanks for sharing! I’ve seen shock collars help dogs relax and become happier, more balanced dogs as you’ve described.

  11. I just bought a gentle leader for a dog in the rescue in boarding. I haven’t used one before, but Eli got to test it out. He wasn’t a fan of it the first couple times, but he got used to it 🙂 The dog I’m hoping to use it for is a lab mix who is basically a 60 lb puppy. She hates having things tight around her neck and will jump constantly and then alligator roll on the ground while kicking her legs in an attempt to get the tightness away. It’s a slippery slope. I made the mistake of trying a choke collar on her for more control…choke collars and alligator rolls don’t mix! If she was exercised daily I’m sure she would get more used to the leash and kicking and jumping at it wouldn’t be a way of getting her energy out. I’m excited to use it, I’m hoping it will give me more control and allow her more exercise time! I’m going to bring lots of treats to get her mind off of the collar. Wish me luck! 🙂

  12. Yes, that would be Tizzy! I see you’ve heard about her. It did NOT go well at all. I ended up just taking the gentle leader off because she still pulled like crazy and did more alligator rolling than she did with her leash/collar. I might try a pinch collar next time I walk her because she is practically impossible to walk the way she is now. It seems that every time I see her she does better with fighting the leash, so I think the pinch collar might actually work now. She’s a very sweet girl, she just needs some better leash manners 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Maybe one of those harnesses that stop the pulling? I had a feeling the Gentle Leader was not going to go well 🙂 Worth a try, though. I’m sure she just needs some time to adjust and also to burn off all that energy!

  13. Loved your article! Finally a sensible write up about the prong vs a head halter. What I have found however is the opposite in one respect. I found the prong often calms a nervy dog, while a halti gives them that much more to spazz and be frantic about. One example that always comes to my mind in these comparisons is a client who’s dogs I trained a few years ago. They were two mutts, one of them a crazy spinny JRT mix the other a big lab mix that pretty much took his cues from the little guy. Based on the advice of a trainer, their owner always walked them using haltis as they both pulled, and both were very reactive and would have aggressive reactions to things like loud buses or other dogs walking by them. Anyways, long story short.. I put prongs on both and we went for a test walk, within 5 minutes both began to settle down and enjoy the walk and for the first time actually were able to pay some attention to their ower, she was amazed. Bottom line, they were both hyper reactive and defensive when wearing their haltis, their haltis caused them such serious anxiety (they were both anxious to begin with but just over loaded when wearing head halters) although this came about gradually enough that the owner never thought to blame the purely positive highly recommended tools, she just thought her dogs were getting worse on their own. They both did the crazy head rubbing, stop drop and roll mid walk, spin in circles and chase the bus, any tension on their face made them freak out even more. They were food motivated, but we couldn’t even get them interested in treats while they had their haltis on. They wore the prong, experienced a couple mild corrections, and that was about it. They started to take treats, they started relaxing for the most part as soon as the JRT mix began to relax, so did the big guy, and subsequently the owner, and of course the only got more relaxed as they realized the others were relaxed as well

  14. I get what you are saying, and I’ve also experienced the same.

    Cosmo has too much freedom to pull and freak out with the Gentle Leader on. I can’t calm him unless we just walk away, and then he’ll still try to pull and turn. With the prong, I can correct him and then he is able to relax on his own.

    I haven’t noticed the Gentle Leader actually making Cosmo more hyperactive/nervous/aggressive, but that is something I will pay attention to. He’s a tough case for me, because sometimes he reacts aggressively to the prong by snapping at his leash after a correction, and I definitely want to avoid that.

    I should find a regular choke/slip collar that fits Cosmo correctly. That’s probably they way to go for him.

    Thanks for the info! Gives me something to think about!

  15. Both of these collars can cause injury to dogs. (check out this informative site for more information on the dangers of collars: According to that site, there are safer alternatives to both collars. Also it suggests training the dog to walk off leash so the collar doesn’t become the “trainer”.

    1. with regard to the link..The information on prong collars and the warnings have no merit in my opinion..another site of misleading, sensationalized information..much of it untrue.
      I would caution anyone to refer to it..your perhaps best to revisit this blog for a more rational, truthful information.
      The above link is but another rehash of biased, permissive foundation attitudes that for the average person are harder to implement..
      I enjoy the jest of statements referring to the head halters and all their wonderment and such as:
      “Surprisingly, despite posturing and nose pawing, physiological tests show that dogs are not under increased stress while wearing a head collar.”
      Yet if a dog responded as such with a prong collar (it could happen but I understand it is rare and not even close to the frequency of most dogs with halter association), well the wrath of all good compassionate folks would ‘tizzy’ themselves..but in this case ‘oh, it’s not as it seems’.
      Don’t follow foundations of subjectivity..objectivity rules the day.
      The potential to misuse, miss fit, improper association with a halter are great and can also not be as benign as implied..injuries of extreme are capable..

  16. Well I just finished reading your blog and agree that you have to use what works for you and your dog, however I completely disagree with all who are in favour of shock collars, I have witnessed a dog work through the degrees of shocks and still continue to react in a very negative way. Lets just say the handlers were in way over their heads and had no idea. It is a lazy dog owners way of actually not putting the effort into their beloved dog and actually getting some postive training! Yes I said it I am all for postive reinforced training. It works and why would we want our canines afraid of us that just opens up another type of training that needs to be done to undo the fear now we have put on our dogs. Back in the day we started using prongs on our shepards until we did more research and found that it was inhumane and not necessary. I am Pro- gentle leader!! 100% that as well as the anti-pull harness. I don’t reguire a thanks for your opinion either.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Typically, the thinner the chain, the easier it is to give a correction because the chain will be smooth. When the links are larger, they tend to catch.

  17. I recently discovered your blog and I think it’s great! Thanks for sharing your experience/expertise.

    I am also a dog walker and have been walking a dog called Charlie for about two years now. Charlie is a rescue and no one knows what his early life was like, but he has some behavior problems now. His parents have paid lots of $$ for training, dog counselors, prozac, you name it. But still he is uber-aggressive towards other animals (literally he becomes crazed at the sight of another dog, raised hackles, pacing, aggressive peeing- seriously like to mark his territory, and if he gets close enough then it’s full on lunging/attacking). He displays similar behavior with big vehicles, making walks dangerous because he will, with very little warning, suddenly dart into the street. I saw him try to tear the bumper of an idling semi-truck once. The worst part is that he is completely non-responsive. He will not look at you, he will ignore food distractions… it’s like you aren’t there and he doesn’t know you.

    This is turning into a long story, but the point is the the Gentle Leader was the only thing that made it safe to walk with Charlie. With other leashes he was able to lunge and throw himself into these flying arcs. He was hurting himself, I was always worried that he would slip out, and he would get so crazed that he would mix me up in his leash or knock me down. With the gentle leader he can’t do that. It has for the most part solved the issue with vehicles and greatly helped with keeping him under control when another dog comes into view.

    For anyone trying to control an aggressive/non-responsive dog I would recommend the gentle leader. Even if the dog hates it at first they will get used to it! Charlie used to paw at it, rub his face on the ground, etc. Now he doesn’t mind at all and sits for you to put it on because he NEVER walks without it. He knows that the gentle leader = time for a walk, and so it’s cool with him 🙂

  18. Lindsay Stordahl

    I’ve had the Gentle Leader dramatically help during walks with certain dogs as well. Some do not react well to a prong/pinch collar. They either don’t notice the corrections or the are aggressive to the corrections. The Gentle Leader or a Halti is a very valuable tool at times. I’m glad it’s helping for you and Charlie. He sounds like a handful!

  19. I’m currently fostering an American Pit Bull that we think is about 6 years old. It’s pretty obvious the only thing her past owners taught her was “sit.” She expects to do what she wants when she wants. I’ve started obedience training with her and it’s going very slowly because she is so “leash reactive.” She gets excited, whines, and pulls around people and other animals. Walking her is very difficult. At first she pulled so much my arms were sore. Then I decided to try Gentle Leader (which I’m currently using). I’ve only had her for about 3 weeks so I know it will take patience and a lot of time. She pulls less and is much easier to manage, but still leads the walk. Her neck muscles are so strong that pulling the Gentle Leader doesn’t turn her head. It eases the pulling a lot but she stills looks straight ahead. I’ve also noticed lines on her muzzle lately where the strap of the Gentle Leader crosses because of her pulling and my constant corrections. A friend recently recommended the prong collar. My fiance and I are hesitant. The obedience trainer is against it. Another reason I hesitate is because I don’t want to have to use if forever. I was told that smart dogs usually always have to have it on walks because they know when they aren’t wearing it they can still pull. And I don’t want to have to use it all the time.

    I really have to learn to keep her under control. We would love to keep her. She’s the sweetest dog I’ve ever had or seen. She has a wonderful temperment when off leash. But I own two cats and before I even start to introduce them I need to have complete control of her. Which I don’t right now. I realize I’ve just talked about several different things in my rambling but my biggest thing right now is do I go to the pinch collar?

    Though the Gentle Leader is making the walks easier – she’s still leading. Or should I just be patient and see if with proper socialization and training eventually her walks will become easier.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      There’s nothing wrong with using a prong collar. It works really well for some dogs. You do want to get one that fits properly though and adjust it so it’s always at the top of her neck under her chin and behind her ears. If it’s low on her neck she will be able to pull easier. The prong works well for some dogs and not others so I think you should just try it out and see if it works well for you or not. As far as dogs learning they can get away with pulling if the prong collar is not on, that is no different than the Gentle Leader. The goal should be to wean the dog off of whatever training collar you are using. Most dogs are able to figure out they can pull easier without a Gentle Leader on OR without a prong collar on.

      I just walked a rescue pitbull today and I used a prong collar and she pulled so bad the entire time I was thinking a Gentle Leader would be better for her. She was so strong that the prong collar did not faze her one bit. So … just see what seems best for your foster dog. Sometimes it works just fine to rotate which collar you use, too. That’s what I kept doing with my American Eskimo foster dog.

  20. Hello, we have been having a dilemma about which collar to use for Danny. He is a 1 & 1/2 to 2 year old german shepherd/collie mix rescue we adopted a few months ago & has pretty much only one issue. We have been trying to find a collar that works because his normal collar doesn’t work & the choker only kind of works. He can walk well for a few minutes but if there are any distractions (people, motorcycles, busses, other dogs) it’s back to square one & constant pulling & corrections. We live in a very busy area, so avoiding distractions isn’t an option.

    We just started using the Gentle Leader & it does work to some degree. He isn’t able to pull anywhere near as hard & will walk beside me. He is no longer reactive to vehicles or people but other dogs are still an issue. I agree with what you said about wishing you could make corrections with it. He will still focus very hard & whine if dogs get close, but generally calms down alot faster with the GL. We have one neighbor that lets his dog run headlong into mine, even when I make a point of walking in the street to avoid them (has it on an 8 foot lead). When this happens Danny starts bucking, doing flips & basically turns in 60 pound flurry of barking, growling, fur & teeth until they have passed. I can tell that the collar hurts him when this happens, but he is so determined to get to the other dog he doesn’t care.

    My father & his wife have been trying to convince us to try a prong collar for a while & this article has made me feel alot more comfortable with the idea. He does have pretty thick fur, so we’ll have to see effective it is. It’s possible that just using a better quality choker might work as well.

    I think we will continue to use the GL for regular walks most of the time, but do some training with the prong collar & other dogs.

    Other than walking he is pretty much perfect, has a very sweet temperment, is very good in the house & quite smart so we aren’t going to give up on this until we find a solution that works.

    1. I would give the prong collar a try. Sometimes it’s nice to have a few options depending on the walk you will be going on. I try to use my dog’s regular nylon collar most of the time, but I will still bring out the choke collar, Gentle Leader or prong collar at times.

  21. This is a lovely article, and it’s refreshing to find someone who encourages flexibility with regard to the types of collars used. I have a 9 month old GSD/Siberian Husky mix (we think) who is without a doubt the most headstrong and predatory animal I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying to train. She hasn’t yet progressed to barking or lunging as I managed to nip those before they became problems, however she is very apt to become overwhelmed by the smallest of stimuli. Leaves, bags, children, trash cans, you name it. Birds in particular will completely arrest her. She’s walked right into telephone poles, fences, fire hydrants, and even parked cars, all because she was too busy being utterly focused on a bird flying overhead.

    It’s recently gotten better but worse, oddly. I communicate pretty well with her, and she knows she is not supposed to “focus” on anything in particular or she gets a correction. I can see her checking herself, which is marvelous, but sometimes she’s so conflicted about wanting to focus but fearing the correction, that she pinballs back and forth: her ears go wild, her eyes start rolling, and more than once she’s lifted off her front legs to bounce against me in frustration (which is a definite NO, DOWN). During these episodes I’m either standing like a tree and letting her pitch her fit, or actively demanding a sit/down; neither seems to work in the long term, and there are times I wonder if she’d rather just bite me and make a run for it.

    We’ve been using a combination of a half chain martingale for normal walks, and a full chain slip collar for any situation that I know I’ll need the help. I don’t like the full chain as it slides down her considerably fleshy neck pretty much all the time, even properly fitted. The martingale is great until I need the force required to correct her most intense behaviors, at which point I feel like a mosquito scolding an elephant. I know that Haltis and similar designs can have a calming effect on a dog, but since a foster lab/pit broke the skin on her muzzle from lunging at a squirrel, I’m leery. Prong collars have always seemed an extreme method to me, and I can see their place, but I don’t think the extra stimulation would be the right direction for her; I could be wrong. I’d prefer to calm her down in the most direct way possible, and that might just end up being a well timed pinch from a prong.

  22. Lindsay Stordahl

    I definitely think you should try the prong collar. You may not want to use it all the time, but it’s a nice option to have.

    1. Amazing. That’s all I can say. We had an hour long walk tonight with our first prong collar, and it only took a few short moment for Dixie to chill out, walk slightly behind me (a first, since she’s usually sticking her head out and “toeing the line” of getting in front), and not want to jump on everything in sight. For the most part she corrects herself, and I only have to give the slightest little pull to bring her back in line. Still just a little twitchy, still wants to stare at things, but I have utter confidence that my days of fearing that she’ll take off are over. This article was what finally convinced me to buy a prong, so thank you. I can actually look forward to walks now!

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Oh thanks so much for letting me know how it went. I thought you would like it. Prong collars are not as bad as they look. I am so happy your walks will be much more peaceful now. Keep up the good work.

  23. i say the gentle leader stops pulling and jumping it dont hurt them i have a pitbull mix and he can pull me down the road. but when i put on the gentle leader he just stops pulling. but the pinch collar had killed a dog because the dog kept pulling and pulling so you should try the gentle leader

  24. I am a dog trainer, and there are so many tools out there, and most are ineffective, or just plain bad.

    I always elect to use a Canny Collar, and my clients with extra strong pullers agree. (I usually teach to walk straight away on a standard collar, but some benefit from gaining confidence with the Canny first.) It is different to all other headcollar types, and by far the best design. It works by pulling the nose down, not twisting the neck. It attaches at the back of the head, and sits high. It rarely rubs (only if used incorrectly). You dont have to walk on a certain side like some brands. BUT best of all, it corrects the walk. It teaches not to pull, and it actually converts into a standard collar, so when taught, no need to buy another collar!

    I do not ever suggest a harness, as they put the point of leverage over the dogs whole body, thus making them stronger.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I never use a harness either. Some people prefer those Gentle Leader EasyWalk harnesses though. They do work to stop the pulling. They are just not the tool I prefer to use. I will look into the Canny Collar you mentioned.

  25. laura mcdowell

    I cant get my 5month old husky from biting when i try to put his gentle leader on. He flumps on th floor, ears back and looks sad. But when i get it out he bolts and shows his teeth when i go anywhere near his nose with it. Please help

    1. Hi Laura,

      Sounds like you have some dominance issues with your husky boy. At 5 months he certainly shouldn’t be challenging you, but as his hormones begin to kick in, he’ll be challenging you more and more.
      He needs you to be very firm and be in the dominant role ASAP, as this will only get worse as he matures. You may find a proffessional trainer best to help you gain control again. Another measure that would be very much advised with a dominant male is to have him neutered at 6 months. There is debate about neutering as young as 6 months, and i’d advise discussing with our vet, but above the year mark and it has little effect on dominant males.

    2. Lindsay Stordahl

      Laura, your dog sounds like he is a bit fearful of the Gentle Leader and not necessarily dominant. But I assume you need it in order to control him easier on walks. You could try putting it on him once you are already outside. Just start the walk with his regular collar and then slip the Gentle Leader on outside once you are on the driveway or outside the door and he is likely in a different state of mind. Keep it positive. Give him treats when he’s relaxed and well behaved. Just keep on walking if he starts thrashing around and give a firm “NO” if needed. Mostly, just keep on moving forward so he has to follow.

      My dog hates his Gentle Leader as well. He does not show aggression, but he gets very, very submissive and shuts down like he is depressed when I get it out. You may want to think about using a prong collar instead, or at least give one a try to see if it works better. My dog doesn’t mind the prong collar at all.

  26. Noreen Farrell

    I’ve been reading your blog and appreciate the advise on the prong collars and Halti Harness…I have two rescue dogs- a Parsons Russell mini Poodle mix and a Chihuahua, Scottish Terrier mix, if you can believe it! The problem with both of them is aggressive behavior on walks to anything moving, be it human, animal, mechanical or anything with wheels. I’ve tried the halters and liked them but it doesn’t really solve the problem. I’m now using a pinch collar on Wally, the Scottyuahua, because he’s the biggest instigator. He seems fine with it but will know better when we go for our next walk into the real world. I’m just so tired of looking like, and probably am, strangling my animals all the time…otherwise, great dogs.

  27. Great points. I have also recommended pretty much every training tool out there at some point or another. As you said, each dog, person, and situation is different.

    Thanks for a well thought out post.

  28. My Shetland sheepdog mix pulls on her leash even with the prong collar. Do you know if it is because the prong collar is too tight or loose? After today’s walk, I was thinking of getting her a gentle leader. I have tried using food to get her attention but she ignores the food during walks. What training techniques would you recommend?
    Thank you

  29. Very good post! I like how you are not one of those people who think that only love affection can solve all a dogs behavioral problems. lol. I’m the owner of a 8 mos old pit bull terrier, and he is my first dog. He’s probably around 80 lbs give or take. We used to do ok on walks with just a standard harness or leash, but as he gets older the walks are getting worse which resulted in me not walking him much anymore. I was pretty intimidated by the prong collar just based on how it looks. I was like, who uses that on their dogs? lol. But after doing some research, I decided I will try the prong collar on my dog to help re-train him. I will let yall know how that goes. I hear a lot of good things about the GL, but with how my dog likes to move his head vigorously from side to side sometimes when he’s agitated with the leash, I’m afraid I might hurt his neck with that thing. Otherwise, my pitty (Biggs Norman) has been a great dog.

  30. Hi,

    Just wanted to say that it’s good to hear from other people that acknowledge what corrections and corrections collar really are, and not some kind of horror. 🙂

    I’ve been using prong for a while now (guided by a trainer), coz my dog is dog reactive. We have been trying positive methods for 2 months before that (without a trainer), and things didn’t improve at all. Probably coz I needed to learn more and needed to be more creative with my methods, as I believe that the right positive methods can work. But due to real life limitations, dog reactivity being really bad (easily goes threshold that we couldn’t even being) and not being knowledgeable enough, we’ve decided to resort to alternate methods.

    What I feel is that maybe if we research more then maybe we can find one positive method for our case that works. But then how long? On the other hand, I can use a method that although causes discomfort and stress, it does help and it’s not as bad as some might think.

    And what happens now is that my dog has met a friend or two already. We use both corrections and rewards, and he is allowed to approach other dogs as long as he remains calm. His aggression is due to being unsure of other dogs being a threat or not, but when he calmed down, he began to see that the other dog is not that bad and is calm.

    The pinch can sometimes escalate the reactivity, specially if we can’t do perfect enough to stop a higher level reactivity (my trainer can but we can’t do it well yet). So what I’ve learned is to allow some small reactivity while telling him what to do (like encouraging him to continue walking with the usual “go go go”), while not allowing too much closeness at all ’till he improves. My trainer would not agree that, but then I think that setting the expectations lower at the beginning is better than just expecting perfection. It might be too stressful for him after all.

    But well, in the end, my dog got much better. 🙂 Hopefully, he can meet more dogs and make more friends in the future, so that his reactivity will heal completely (since after repressing, he needs to have actual positive interactions to actually feel safer).

    I will still continue to learn if there are positive methods that could have worked with our case, since it might be useful in the future so that we might not need the pinch again, but ’till then, I don’t think that we should be so afraid of corrections. After all, just as you said, it’s a natural thing, and when well applied, not only it won’t traumatize, but it will give more freedom to a dog. At least my dog now can learn the joys of meeting friends again soon.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I think once you work with him more you will find you will need fewer and fewer corrections and more opportunities for rewards.

  31. Great Blog Post! As a trainer myself, I really enjoy your standing by a large toolbox for training. When I started training, I strictly worked by compulsion (positive punishment and negative reinforcement.) Over time, I have leaned much more towards positive reinforcement. For many dogs, it is quite easy to train without any collar, by simply understanding their drives and motivations. However, I cannot sign on to this whole POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT and NEGATIVE PUNISHMENT ONLY movement. I find many dogs are simply not motivated enough by rewards that can be efficiently harnessed, and will always stop short of getting the help they need. As with any dog, treating it as an individual, building a strong bond and relationship, and building useful and desirable drives are really the secret to training, but sometimes dogs and owners require a little more help. Thanks for your common sense approach to education and staying away from absolutes. The only thing I would add to this post is that no matter what approaches or methods you use, it will still require time, dedication, and a developed relationship with your dog. Quick fixes rarely last long.

  32. just discovered your site a few days ago, sad I hadn’t seen it before. We’ve got a 10mo old puppy, we’ve had her since she was 7wks
    anyway, yesterday she chewed up her nylon collar (I accidentally left it on the top of the kennel when I went to work) and since I had read on your site about the pinch collar I figured i’d try it and picked one up last night. We’ve been working on heel, but she still doesn’t get it for most of our runs/walks. I put that pinch collar on her for last night’s run and this morning’s, and she’s a whole new dog on a leash, no pulling, no darting into traffic, no taking off after other animals…it’s awesome. I’ll have to figure out some other way to work my arms everyday now.

  33. Love this article! We have three dogs… two of which are older and we had NO trouble walking with them. In comes our latest dog, a Boxer-American Bulldog mix and she’s a hot mess. Our friend’s dog had 13 puppies…and offered to give us one…so how could we say no? 🙂 We got her at six weeks, and she’s 10 months now. She’s the most excitable and STRONG dog ever. When we first took her out to walk on a Nylon leash, all she would do is attack the leash. To the point where you could carry her home by her mouth by her dangling off the leash … she was NOT going to let go. So we tried a harness, thinking that would maybe work because the leash would be attached farther down her back, not at her neck. I think we walked a block that day …and then it all started again. So frustrating…and embarrassing. 🙂

    I did a little more research and ended up buying a chain link leash. That immediately solved the leash biting problem. But now that we could actually walk her, she just pulled and choked and gagged and was insane.

    We took her to a puppy class, and after I think the third week was the “walking” class. Immediately the trainer put her in a prong collar. I was so upset on the inside….just mortified she was in this “torture device.” Anyway… we went outside to walk and he showed us how to properly use it…meaning you don’t really pull at ALL… just a little snap of the wrist to get their attention. She is the most well-behaved walker ever now. She listens to me very well, and while I haven’t tried walking her on her regular collar yet, I’m guessing it would go pretty well. I’m going to keep using this one for a while longer though.

    People judge…heck…I used to be one that did. But I’d much rather have a dog who is well-trained using a prong collar, than a 65-lb dog who doesn’t listen, is uncontrollable and could eventually hurt someone else because it has no manners and won’t listen.

    I appreciate this article! Thanks for writing it! 🙂

  34. I LOVE this post! I am constantly finding myself struggling with the repetitive “positive only” preaching I am confronted with. I have three dogs, one of whom is a diabetic alert service dog. My service dog is a husky mix and he wears a prong collar, in fact he enjoys his prong and it is the perfect tool for him. I have also worked with dogs that I would NEVER consider putting a prong on, this is where people get mixed up. Being a supporter of the prong collar doesn’t mean that I think it is the perfect tool for every dog.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post and a well written explanation of these tools!

  35. I just wanted to say thank you so much for this post. After 3 years of training I reluctantly took the advice of the rescue centre I support who deal with her breed and tried a prong collar. We had tried several different dog trainers, halti’s, gentle leaders, martingale’s to no effect! I worried not only was she choking herself but that she might damage her neck as Wobblers Disease is a danger of her breed (Dobermann by the way).

    However today I commented on a Facebook thread to say I used a prong collar and was subjected to a tirade of abuse from a woman I’ve never met or spoken to who told me I was guilty of animal abuse & basically that I should rot in hell! I didn’t respond but after 40 messages on what a terrible dog owner I was other people, who also didn’t know me, on the thread reported her for abuse.

    I believe that it is my responsibility to keep her in control, calm and safe and the prong collar helps me to achieve that. I usually find that after the initial excitement of going out has passed I can clip the lead onto her normal collar and she walks perfectly. Off lead she stays right beside me and nuzzles my hand as we walk for hours but on lead for some reason she insisted on pulling.

    1. Hey, thank you for your comment. I run with a Doberman through my dog running business. He is a powerful, high-energy dog and I love him. However, it is important for me to keep him under control. I tried a Gentle Leader with him, and he pulled like crazy with it on. Now I use a prong collar and it works much better. I get comments from people about how I’m abusive for using it. I see it as a great tool that allows me to exercise a high-energy dog. We run for about 4.5 miles each time.

      By the way, he hates wearing the Gentle Leader and tries to get away from me when he sees it. But he comes running to me when I hold the prong collar 🙂

  36. Nice article. We adopted our new furry friend n 11/2 when he was about 6 months old. After encountering pulling/tugging sessions during our twice daily walks, we bought a Gentle Leader. Jack did very little tugging/pulling on his first outing. He responds very well to the Gentle Leader. Our second and shorter walk of the day, we used his regular collar and there was no tugging/pulling. So, each collart/training method will be dependant on your dog and how willing you are to work to make sure he/she responds positively to their pet parent. As far as the Gentle Leader being called the lazy training method? I disagree. We have put a great deal of time, effort and tried different methods to get our dog to stop pulling and jumping. Using the Gentle Leader as a portion of our exercise routine appears to be a good solution for us.

  37. Hi!
    I have a female black lab, about 70 lbs. Just recently she has been reacting while on a leash, or other dogs on a leash and joggers. I can’t walk her, she is so strong. Once off of the leash (dog park) she is fine with the other dogs. How can we get her to calm down and enjoy the walk to the park? I have tried pinch collars and the halti kept coming off.

  38. Hi Lindsay, thanks for the article it was great. Just a question, I have a Jack Russel/Border Terrier cross. She pulls like mad when we are out. I bought a Mikki harness and its works wonders. The way it is made means it tightens around the top of her legs/chest when she pulls which in effect, pulls her back a bit and stops her. So it saves my arms when walking but once I put her on her normal collar , she is back to pulling again. Do you reckon a pinch collar would be ok for a dog as small as mine? Or should I look to more head collars? I used the Halti before but she has such a small nose that it just kept falling off!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You could try a pinch collar with her (in her size, of course). Some people will freak out, but it’s no different than putting a pinch collar on a large dog. You just use the correct size. I would’ve suggested a Halti, too, but it’s tough for those shorter-faced dogs! The pinch collar might help you transition to a regular collar with time. It helped for my dog, anyway.

  39. Great article, and I really agree with you that reinforcement should not always be positive but instead it should be adapted as needed.

    I used a choker when training my dog and I found that quite effective, he learned fairly quickly.

    I like the idea of the prong collar, he doesn’t need it now as he walks to heel all the time and does not get distracted.

    1. I DO NOT agree with the use of a prong collar. I agree with those above who said it can be counter productive. Giving a negative when it should be a positive/pleasant experience like with meeting other dogs. I just think for the average consumer there is not enough training for them and when used without proper instruction and inappropriately they can harm the dog. I know…I have seen pretty severe cuts on the neck causing bleeding and infection and in some cases death. I believe the prong collar gives people one more way to abuse dogs. I am not saying that you or anyone else here is doing that. I just don’t think they should be in the open market. They should be available only in very monitored/professional situations….like only trained professionals can purchase them and use them with dogs who are going through training with a dog behaviorist. The bottom line is there ARE better and safer ways that work that may take more time but they work. Found this article Lindsay…you are mentioned in it. I was a fan of your site…but after reading this post…I would like to be removed from you list. I probably won’t see this comment on your site…if I do then you haven’t lost all my respect. Finally for those who are not aware the RSPCA are against these and shock collars!

      1. My mouth dropped when I read this comment – While I do agree with you for the most part, im shocked that because you simply don’t agree with Lindsay on this point, that you have decided you do not want to read her blog again. Of course, there has been times where I disagree with Lindsay but this blog is her opinion and she is not asking anyone to agree with her!

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          Thank you, Aisling! Glad to hear you disagree with me at times. I would hope that everyone disagrees with me at one point or another. I would never learn anything otherwise.

  40. Personally I think locking your poor dog out in the freezing cold with rain pouring down is pretty cruel, it saddens me to imagine your dog out there on the hard tarmac shivering and freezing, begging to be allowed back in to escape the icy wind only to be rejected by the owner she loves so much.

    Leaving her outside all night long in the pitch black, terrified and alone, is just excessive. I can’t imagine how bad she would have to be to deserve such treatment.

    1. Oh I would never lock her outside for the night! And I wouldnt put her outside if its raining….that’s when she gets sent to her bed! Plus when I do put her outside, its for 20 mins or so. My dog is very well behaved, so its not often she gets punished anyway. You said that your dog walks on the heel and yet you want to get a prong collar and give it a few “hard snaps” just to prove your dominance. If you are the alpha in your family, you shouldnt have to prove yourself to your dog by beating it and being cruel to it!

  41. Lindsay Stordahl

    I typically just use a firm “No” with my dog if I want him to stop something such as barking or whining. Or sometimes I just ignore him or I get up and leave the room so he doesn’t get attention from me. I have given him a firm but soft tap on the nose to get him to stop barking at the door. I can’t speak for my dog, but I can guarantee it was soft enough not to hurt him. He is very sensitive.

    My “corrections” with him on a walk are gentle tugs. He typically wears a buckle collar now, but when he was younger he wore a prong or a choke collar. I still use these tools when we go to more exciting areas like state parks.

    Every dog is different. Some are very sensitive. Some do not seem to even notice a sharp tug from a prong collar. We all have to make the best decisions for our dogs. I believe it’s important to be a strong, consistent leader to my dog, and I believe it’s important that he’s able to look to me for safety, love and security as well. I would never want to scare him or hurt him.

  42. Hi Lindsay, I just found your website and I’m so relieved! I have a 5 month old Border Collie/Terrier cross and my whole family came to the point of not wanting to walk her anymore because she pulls so hard. I finally hired a trainer and within 15 minutes and a thin choke chain she was walking at his side. I thought the chains were cruel until I saw it in use. I was able to take her for a walk today and the leash was *loose* until she saw a cat and that all went out the window, lol.

    Thank you for this wonderful blog and for not making me feel like a monster.


  43. Norma Cooney aka Loopy

    I have a 5 yr old jackapoo and he is an awesome little dog…except that he hates other dogs. He doesn’t care how big or how small he just attacks. I just got him this spring from some other people who also rescued him. He loves people but not dogs. The other day he pulled the leash right out of my hand, ran up a hill and attacked a Golden. I was so upset. The owner was ok about it but I didn’t know what to do. I’ve been thinking about a prong collar but they look hurtful and I don’t want to hurt him. I use a leash and a harness but I don’t think he’s ever been taught anything and he pulls all the time. I have a trainer coming on Monday evening to see what he thinks so I’m hoping he can be of some help. It would be nice just to go for a walk without all the pulling and wanting to have every dog he meets for dinner. Not sure what to do about the prong. I’ve read both good and bad on the internet about them so I’m split down the middle. Thanks for any insight.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Prong collars are a life saver for me as a dog walker. They don’t hurt the dogs. I recommend you find one in his size and give it a shot. The only thing I worry about sometimes is that the links can pop apart (very rarely, but it can happen). So you could maybe hook him up to both his harness and a prong collar for safety.

  44. I think they are a waste of money. Flat collars have always been what I use. If I had to buy a metal collar I would not own a dog.

  45. I agree with you here Lindsay. That some times u do have to tell your dog no. I also agree about the prong collar. I have an australian cattle dog border collie mix and we used every tool. The one I liked was the easy walk harness but after 6 months of doing turn arounds and treats and watch me commands. Her pulling just kept getting worse. One day she was perfectly heeling and over the next 6 months it got worse no matter how many turn arounds I did. My dog doesn’t care for treats outside much, but when we use the prong collar, she is ten times better. She has become more patient believe it or not. She was super depressed for a long time and still is a little but I think that’s because she is actually getting the exercise she needs instead of stopping every step turning around and doing it all over again. The only tools I am against is the choke chain because it is too hard for owners to use it properly. I believe that if the prong is introduced properly, and it is made a positive thing then it’s not really an issue because its gentle pressure same as an easy walk harness would on there chest. My dog loves wearing a prong collar it gives her the exercise she needs and helps me stay calm on walks and actually enjoy them with her. Also about your question of long haired dogs. I usually only use 2 size of prong collars, if asked about them I usually don’t suggest them unless I feel it is necessary for saftey of owner and dog. I use the 2.0 or 2.25 for dogs under 50 pounds and 3.0 mm for dogs over. I feel the others are too big. And 1.75 for dogs under 20 pounds. But for long haired dogs the 2.25 seems to work well even if u have to buy other links

  46. Lindsay Stordahl

    Sounds like we agree. You’re right, that’s not the best picture of a prong collar on my dog. The leash isn’t even attached to him there. It was taken after a walk. Agreed – prongs should be worn high on the neck, just under the jaw and behind the ears.

  47. Things are the same over here, Aisling. No one would agree with what Pete McPete is saying. He is just being a jerk. He’s trying to make the point that what Lindsay suggests is cruel and wrong by exaggerating her point, suggesting something much worse, and pretending to agree with it.

  48. My favorite training collar is the custom cloth choke collar. I measure the dog around the neck just behind the ears and under the chin. These collars stay high on the dogs neck so that gentle corrections are very effective. Much more effective the the chains that slip down the neck of the dog constantly. If I am going to use a chain I get the ones that clip on, not the over the head style.

  49. I look like a marionette but I like the gentle leader and martingale. I use the lead attached to the martingale for corrections and the gentle leader for control when she becomes reactive on walks when she sees other dogs. My husband uses the prong but with her but I’m not comfortable with it.

  50. Hi there, Thanks for the article. I have a dog-agressive/reactive/phobic dog that I got as a rescue already having this condition. I have really tried everything with this dog, but NOT aversive techniques as he is already phobic of some people and I want to maintain his trust. However, if another dog comes close to him, he will pull me off my feet, so I needed a solution. I tried obedience classes, and a few trainers. Finally, I took him 2 hours drive away to a behavioural veterinarian. I asked about prong collars as I need to be able to control him around other dogs. Here is her “prescription”: No prong collars as he may associate the aversive treatment with being confronted with dogs or people that he is afraid of already. Walk him with a muzzle (mainly to calm my fear that he may hurt another dog – he does not actually bite dogs or people). When another dog comes along, put my back to the other dog and have my dog perform some tasks (sit, stand, lie down, twirl around, etc) and distract him with treats while keeping his attention on me. Putting my back to the other dog signals to my dog that the other dog is not a threat. OK, sometimes the other dog is a threat, but I should assume that the other dog is friendly. After all this, if the other dog is off lead and approaches my dog head on, and there is a fight, I should let go of my dog rather than let him pull me off my feet. After all, he is muzzled and can’t hurt anyone. Frankly, I was kind of hoping that she would have told me it was OK to use a prong collar, but according to this behavioural vet, prong collars are not OK, at least for my dog (and I suspect she would have the same advice for any dog). I had not heard the advice before to turn my back on the other dog, so I am hoping this can help someone else. It works pretty well unless the other dog is loose and comes right up to my dog.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That all sounds like helpful advice. The prong collar won’t trigger a negative reaction from most dogs, but for dogs that are already reactive or fearful you have to be more creative. Unfortunately some will also react from the pressure of a normal collar or the Gentle Leader. Some get very frustrated from whatever tool. So … just finding what your dog is most comfortable with while also giving you control … no easy task! Sounds like you’re on the right track with your dog. That’s great news!

  51. I really enjoyed this article thanks! I am currently trying to train my 55 pound (extremely strong) pit mix to be better behaved on walks. He doesn’t pull too hard when normally walking, but when we see another dog on our walk he is reactive and gets extremely excited and pulls like crazy. He is fine at dog parks and in backyards etc. once he meets a dog though. Would you suggest either of these tools for him? I am worried that if he pulls too hard while using them he could hurt himself. My other concern is that I don’t want him to be able to slip out of his collar/lead and scare someone. I really want to find a better way to manage his energy in public though so taking him out is less stressful for me. Thanks!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      What are you currently using? I would try both of these and see what seems to work best for your dog and what you are most comfortable with. That’s great that he doesn’t pull very hard normally but only when he sees other dogs. I would use the prong collar personally probably. The Gentle Leader works really well for some dogs, but some will try to paw at it and try to get it off. If you do try the Gentle Leader, you can clip the leash to that and his regular collar.

  52. Sindhoora Kadya

    I recently rescued a 5-year-old Lab- Retriever-Hound mix who weighs about 45 pounds. I was initially using a harness on him and he would basically drag me to the direction he wanted to go and even attacked people in the first couple of weeks. I then started using a gentle leader upon my vet’s suggestion. He hated it and still paws on it whenever I put it on. I recently scheduled an appointment with a trainer to understand why my dog wouldn’t stop barking to seek attention and why he pulls so much on the leash. He suggested I start using a prong collar and keep him on his leash even when at home.
    I tried the prong collar on yesterday and he seemed to be doing fine initially, following my cues and walking beside me without pulling. But then when he spotted a person walking out of the building door, he lunged to attack him. This happened this morning on his walk when he spotted a dog. He pulled so hard that he was yelping and squealing, but that didn’t stop him from pulling. When he gets distracted, the prong collar doesn’t keep him from pulling, even if it ‘ pinches ‘ or makes him yelp.
    I guess I might just go back to the gentle leader. I am in a fix and don’t know what to do.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Do you have a muzzle for him? That would at least help to keep everyone safe. Unfortunately no collar, whether it’s the Gentle Leader or the prong collar, is going to be able to stop his pulling and lunging most likely.

      When he starts to focus on someone or something, one thing that should help control him is to do a U-turn where you actually turn your body in towards him and bump him back a bit to turn around. Then try to get his attention on you as you move away. Easier said than done, I know.

      You may try holding high value treats in your pocket or a treat bag. Like real meat. I’m sure he won’t be able to focus on food when he’s that excited, but if you might be able to hold it right up to his nose as you’re turning and walking the other way to at least momentarily help him re-focus.

      You’ll have to use whatever collar seems to work the best for him and you but I’m thinking the prong collar might still be best (as long as it’s not going to break apart). Then you can also have a muzzle on him. With the Gentle Leader you probably can’t get a muzzle on easily.

      Best of luck and that’s great you’re working with a trainer. Don’t hesitate to find a 2nd trainer for a 2nd opinion if you’er not comfortable with the first.

  53. I use a prong collar with my dog and let me tell you it was a life saver!! I have a Great Dane his name is Optimus (yes as in Optimus prime) and I have tried a choke chain and he pulled through every correction and I went through 3 different harnesses all of which he broke. And looking back now when I tell this story it’s funny but at the time it certainly was not but he had a harness on and he caught sight of another dog and dragged me around the yard like a rag doll. His pulling got to the point where I was afraid to take him outside to go potty constantly checking if anyone else was outside or walking nearby or if there here any random animals hanging around. I get a lot of dirty looks from people using the prong collar but I use correctly and only when we’re out and unfortunately when your dog weighs more than you do it’s in my opinion the best option for both of our safety and honestly others safety as well because he is a very happy and playful dog but he is also very large and rambunctious and will knock anyone down along with terrify them when they see him charging full speed (although he would never harm anyone purposely). For my Optimus the prong collar was the way to go.

  54. I just want to share my experience and thank you for sharing your experience. Anyway I had dogs when I was really young, but I was not prepared when I rescued Bear, a very strong and strong-willed aggressive but sweet lab/springer mix, who was going to be put down because of several behavioral issues, and their previous adopter had actually ditched him out of frustration apparently. I agree with the experimentation and various method approach because like you mentioned in this post every dog is different. Especially a 1 1/2 year old rescue dog with behavioral issues will not be the same as training a dog from when they are a puppy, and other similar situations.

    I did read through all the comments on everything and one should just ignore the comments of those that want to judge and say you are inhumane or a monster for using a prong or even an e-collar. It is better to just brush off those ignorant people than risking having a child or elderly person bitten/attacked, the dog running in the street and getting hit by car, or the dog viciously killing your beloved cat. All those things I went through the experience with my dog Bear because I was told that I should only use positive reinforcement and that I would be a hater of dogs or be a horrible person if I used any type of what is thought as negative reinforcement. What would have been truly inhumane for me would be if I continued to only use positive reinforcement and increase the chances of any those things spiraling out of control. Even if a person considers themselves a dog lover that emphatically believes in the use of only positive…if that was your child in danger of getting attacked by my dog…some of you if you are reasonable and not ignorant might reconsider your positive reinforcement only stance.

    What ended up working was using and still using the prong collar for walks which he has come to love actually. He jumps and does a spin in the air when he see me grab his prong collar and leash. It stopped the aggressive barking, lunging, continuous pulling and calmed him and made him change almost overnight. After using the prong collar he has only pulled really hard once recently to the point of making himself yelp because he felt he needed to protect me from someone trying to mug me.

    And for those that said “why don’t you test it on yourself blah blah blah”…I actually tested the prong collar on myself and yeah it was a sharp pinch, but it actually didn’t break the skin and I actually had my friend tug harder on it than I use on it if I have to correct Bear.

    I used positive reinforcement for all his tricks, dinner time manners and teaching him how to wait instead of bolting out the door into the street in which a couple of times I had ended up spending an hour chasing him around the neighborhood and apologizing to people, etc. That was both very stressful and scary for me. And I continued to use positive reinforcement for that even though it took me months to mostly fix that behavior…and I say mostly because when he gets really happy and excited he still tries to do that sometimes. But the one time he got out after that he actually stayed close to home and only rampaged up and down the sidewalk a couple of times.

    I ended up purchasing and using an e-collar on him because he tried to kill my older kitten one too many times and I had exhausted everything else. I only used the shock feature twice though and after that the beeps seemed to work. It was also the only thing that taught him some car manners, but once again only used the beeps for even that. And now my cat Sporx and him are best buds and play with each other actually.

    Thank you again for a such wonderful article/post…I came here researching the gentle lead collar which he does not like at all either…as a side note.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on all these different tools, and I’m so glad you’ve found options that work well for your pup!

  55. I am one whom has always thought a prong was a bad tool. Admit I have scowled at those using them. Thank you for your detailed explanation with how they work, they made me rethink.
    My rescue was very easy to train, the only negative she came with was trying to run across a street to meet people she saw, scary in a busy area with 3 lain main streets but she learned fast. She still wants to meet everyone but no longer goes to run across streets.

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