Before any discussion on a hot-button subject like prong collars can take place, it may be relevant to reveal the findings of a famous case study done in Germany with 100 dogs. Fifty of these dogs wore chokes and the other 50 wore prong collars. The dogs remained as case studies during their lifetime, and after they died, the researchers performed autopsies on them to look for negative impact left behind by their collar usages. Of the 50 who had worn chokes, 46 had injuries to the neck, trachea or back caused by trauma. Of the 50 who had worn prong collars, only one had injuries in the neck area caused by trauma…
Prong collars – like e-collars – provoke a lot of controversy in the dog-lovers’ and animal rights’ community. The appearance of a prong collar (also known as pinch collar) with its fang-shaped metal links, or prongs, with blunted points is reminiscent of a medieval torture instrument, which is why a lot of people denounce its usefulness and call them cruel and inhumane.
Supporting these charges against prong collars are graphic, heartbreaking pictures that often circulate on the internet, showing impact of prong collars embedded deep into a dog’s neck, leaving ghastly, open wounds. The subtext to these terrible instances of animal cruelty is: “All prong collars are dangerous”.
But, in the interest of factual record, it has to be pointed out that such pictures are rare instances of an animal being deliberately tethered to their prong collars for a long, long time. Enough time for the collars to have cut deeply and grown into the skin. Such a terrible event can happen with a benign, everyday flat collar as well, and the fault lies with a demonic dog-owner and not the collar itself. Like any equipment in use out there, prong collars have to be utilized correctly and there are horrid penalties to pay if ignorantly used or deliberately employed as an instrument of cruelty.
Fact is, prong collars were designed to correct with even pressure all the way around the dog’s neck to protect the trachea and other sensitive areas. And as the research results mentioned above proves, correct usage of prong collars actually protect the animal from harm.
This brings us to a host of myths that are in circulation, preventing dog-owners from making an advised and responsible decision on whether to buy a prong collar for their pet. Let’s go ahead and bust some of them:
MYTH #1: PRONG COLLARS HAVE SHARP, PAIN-INFLICTING POINTS
FACT: Though they’re pretty scary to look at, the prongs are actually blunt. You can check this out by putting one around your own neck.
MYTH #2: THEY FORCE DOGS INTO CORRECTED BEHAVIOR BECAUSE THEY ARE DESIGNED TO HURT OTHERWISE
FACT: On the contrary, these collars provide correction stimulus without much exertions from the handler at all. The prongs are evenly spaced around the dog’s neck and they are less damaging than choke chains because they apply pressure points to the skin, and not the muscles. In other words, far less force is needed to get the dog to do the handler’s bidding than any other corrective tool.
MYTH #3: THE PRONGS CAN PUNCTURE THE DOG’S SKIN
FACT: The prongs, as mentioned above, are blunt and therefore cannot possibly perforate skin. The puncture-like spots you may have seen in tortured animal pictures are caused by the collar being left on for a long time, leading to infections. Much like bedsores that humans get when they’re sick and bedridden for a long time. The same marks of infections will appear on the skin from other kinds of collars too, if a cruel handler is keeping the collar on out of extreme neglect or perverse intentions.
MYTH #4: DOGS LEARN BETTER WITH POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT TOOLS, NOT PRONG COLLARS
FACT: Nobody is arguing that positive reinforcement is an ideal training practice in an ideal world. But in real life moments, dogs get agitated beyond the point where positive incentives like food/treats/commands can calm them down. In such instances, equipment like a prong collar get the dog’s attention, and keeps them in the learning zone.
MYTH #5: PRONG COLLARS SHOULD ONLY BE USED AS A LAST RESORT
FACT: Each time a handler uses a tool and is unsuccessful with it, the dog becomes a little more resistant to learning. The novelty value goes away, as the animal soon works out that if he ignores or disobeys a tool, then that tool will simply be replaced. Trying and testing is foolishness if training a dog is indeed your goal. Having faith in the tool of choice is essential for any handler, if the dog is going to have faith in it as well.
MYTH #6: PEOPLE CAN BE TEMPTED TO ABUSE THEIR DOGS WITH PRONG COLLARS
FACT: If cruelty to animals is really a temptation, such persons should not be allowed to get near a living creature in the first place. Because, take away the prong collar, and they will find some other tool to torture the dog with.
As with any equipment, prong collars have a specific method of usage. If you use it for the purpose it was designed for, then dogs are effectively trained in a healthy, compassionate and safe manner. If anyone’s looking for ways to harm an animal with it, then no doubt he will find it.