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Are prong collars harmful to my dog?

Prong collars (also known as a pinch or constriction collar) are made of metal and are designed to tighten around a dog’s neck whenever pressure is applied. This can cause possible damage to the windpipe, nerves and other tissues. RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of dog prong collars due to the potential risk of injury, pain and suffering and because other more humane training methods are available.

What is a prong collar?

Prong collars have a series of fang-shaped metal links, or prongs, with blunted points which pinch the loose skin on a dog’s neck when pulled. These collars are considered harmful as they are used to correct unwanted behaviour through inflicting pain as punishment. Many risks have been associated with aversive training methods. Unfortunately, some dog trainers recommend these collars, even though more humane training methods are available including reward based training, which has also been shown to be more effective than aversive methods [1].

Dog Prong Collar
Dog Prong Collar

Prong collars have a series of fang-shaped metal links, or prongs, with blunted points which pinch the loose skin on a dog’s neck when pulled. These collars are considered harmful as they are used to correct unwanted behaviour through inflicting pain as punishment. Many risks have been associated with aversive training methods. Unfortunately, some dog trainers recommend these collars, even though more humane training methods are available including reward based training, which has also been shown to be more effective than aversive methods [1].

What harm is caused?

Many risks have been associated with this type of punishment based training, including aggression, fearfulness, anxiety and poor learning [2]. A UK study found that punishment based methods used by owners increased the risk of dogs showing aggression to family members and unfamiliar people [3].

A study of military handlers showed that dogs who were trained using punishment based methods, including the use of prong and shock collars, were less obedient, tended to bite more and showed problem behaviours and poor welfare [4].

Not only do punishment based methods lead to problem behaviours and poor welfare but they can reduce learning ability. This was shown in a study which demonstrated that dogs who were trained using reward based methods were better at learning a new task compared to dogs who were trained using punishment [1].

What can be done?

Many dog trainers and animal welfare groups continue to advocate for the sale and use of prong collars to be prohibited in all jurisdictions. Dog owners who seek trainers who use reward based methods can be confident that their dog will not be subjected to a prong collar.

References

[1] Rooney NJ & Cowan S (2011) Training methods and owner-dog interactions. Links with dog behaviour and learning ability. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 132: 169-177.

[2] Overall KL (2007): “Editorial: Considerations for Shock and “Training” Collars: Concerns from and for the Working Dog Community” in Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical App Res 2: 103-107.

[3] Blackwell EJ et al (2008) The relationship between training methods and the occurrence of behaviour problems, as reported by owners, in a population of domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 3:207-217.

[4] Lefebvre D et al (2007) The quality of the relationship between handler and military dogs influences efficiency and welfare of dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 104(1–2): 49–60.

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Updated on August 19, 2019
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https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/are-prong-collars-harmful-to-my-dog/

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