When it comes to finding training tools to help with the training process, there really is a right and wrong tool to use. So which tools are the best to use? First, before using any sort of training tool whether you saw it at a pet store, or your trainer has given you the go on using such items, they are just that; Tools. They are aids to help you get to your goal of what you are working towards and are not a permanent item to keep on your dogs.
Another thing you have to keep in mind is that these tools can be used against you. Dogs can become reliable on just using those tools to be able to perform the behavior you want. But as soon as you take the tool off, all training goes out the door. So when you are using a tool, be sure you have a goal of removing that tool for good by doing the training your trainer has told you to do. If your trainer says that you will need these items for the remainder of the dog’s life, seek another trainer’s guidance.
Now, down to the tools that are used for Anti-Pulling training. There are Martingale collars, Choke Chains, Pronged Collars, Electronic Collars, Head Halties, and Haltie Harnesses. I am going to go over each of these individually and you can see where they sit on the dog’s body and what it does.
Warning: There are pictures depicted below that are graphic in nature. If you cannot handle it, please do not go any farther.
The Martingale Collar: This is designed to tighten around a dog’s neck as soon as he pulls, and release when he doesn’t. Worn right under the chin on the highest part of the neck, dogs who wear this the dog’s owner is looking for a quick release choke collar without the chain. Although designed to be more comfortable around the neck than a chain, it does the same exact thing as a choke chain. Typically, a dog to respond to this type of collar needs to be really sensitive around the neck area and can grasp the concept of the tighten, release idea when pulling. The down sides of this type of collar is that the material can most definitely wear the fur off of the area of the neck that this is place. If the dog pulls constantly and he doesn’t get what you are asking of him, there can be internal damage as well from using these collars.
Choke Chains are another type of training tools that are out there. This is designed for the same use as the martingale collar. There is a right and a wrong way of wearing this collar. When you are putting a collar like this on, It needs to look like the letter P from your point of view like the upper left hand corner. This allows the collar to release when the dog pulls back from pulling. The upper right corner is the wrong way to put a collar on and is very dangerous as this does not allow release even if the dog pulls back, so it is still blocking the airways. If you are using this collar in reverse or know of someone that is using a collar like this reverse, please turn it around. In addition there are so many things that can happen when using this collar. If you leave the collar on without supervision there can be accidents that could be detrimental. It could get caught on something and he cannot get away. When put on the right way, he may have a better chance with the release factor, but if the collar is on wrong, the tighter he pulls, the more he can’t breathe. The images below are what can happen to your dog if always left with this collar on, or it is too small or is constantly used (He doesn’t understand the use of the collar)
If you are using one of these collars and you cannot give more than 2 inches of release for the god to fall back on, then you need a bigger collar or get a regular collar and harness.
Pronged Collars are typically the go to tool for those tougher pullers out there. Designed to cause discomfort when pulling and designed for release when the dog pulls back. They are worn high on the neck like the martingales and the choke chains to hit the sensitive part of the neck. There are dangers when using these types of collars especially with dogs who pull too hard. Some dogs don’t register what is happening with their neck until a puncture happens. If left alone with these types of collars on can result in them pulling too hard for these punctures to happen as well.
The picture to the left is after a surgery to repair an injury in the neck after using a choke chain. The picture above is puncture wounds caused by a pronged collar. Although these are not wounds around the front of the neck, it can still happen. In this case, the pronged collar was way too small for this dog.
Now there are electronic collars that are used as tools in training. Whether it be pulling, parking or just in general obedience training. Every time the dog does a behavior the owner doesn’t like, the dog receives an electric shock as the behavior is being done. The thing about using shock collars, spray collars, and ultrasonic collars is that it suppresses behaviors instead of actually solving and training the behaviors that are undesirable, which in turns, makes the behavior even worse in the long run. They also become Collar trained, which means they will only perform the behaviors you are happy with with the collar on. There are so many dangers that come along with using such devices and if you are using one, I highly advise that you rethink the use of them.
The picture is of an electronic (shock) collar burn. This is what happens when you use a shock collar excessively or put on too high of a setting. A lot of times dogs will become used to the level of shock that you are using and so you have to go higher and higher in the setting. But what happens is that even though the dog is used to the setting, the skin is not.
Above is a diagram of the inside of the dog’s neck. They’ve got the vocal cords, trachea, larynx, esophagus, and the thyroid (Not pictured) all in the sensitive part of their neck. Dog’s skin isn’t all that different to ours, the only reason someone would say that dogs have thicker skin is because the dog doesn’t tend to show any reactions to any pain until enough force or trauma is inflicted to show any signs. Cats do the same thing. If you don’t believe that the dog’s skin is similar to ours, at least look at all of the important parts in the neck that is being damaged in the process of using all devices above in the name of training. There has been so many cases where the dog has to go to the vet for damages from using tools such as this.
When using any of the products above, they cause intimidation in your dog. The process of “If I do this, This happens” and what the dog is actually learning with this process is just what to avoid. They aren’t really learning anything but self preservation. Dogs that learn to use these products and never is taught otherwise for all it’s life, if you take the product off, most likely, they are going to pull because they’ve become collar trained instead of learning how to walk beside you.
The tools that you see now are what you call Anti-Pull Harness and Head Halters. These are the more humane way of training because the way this type of tool works is that it doesn’t cause any sort of physical discomfort, it makes them turn around and slightly confuses them as to why they are now facing you. The head halters are designed to pull the head downward when they pull like how horse halters work.
When working with anti-pulling, always work with a trainer that will help you teach the dog how to walk beside you instead of inflicting intimidation as to what would happen if he doesn’t walk next to you. Remember, dogs aren’t born into the world knowing what to do, it’s our job to teach them the behaviors that you want!
All pictures I got out of Google Images.