Pronged 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. Pronged collars work by inflicting pain as punishment in an attempt to correct unwanted behaviour and can also cause possible damage to the neck. RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of pronged collars due to the potential risk of injury, pain and suffering and because other effective and more humane training methods are available.
What is a pronged collar?
Pronged 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. Pronged collars work by inflicting pain as punishment in an attempt to correct unwanted behaviour. These collars are used as part of aversive training.
Risks and harms related to aversive training
Aversive training techniques and tools (including but not limited to pronged collars) cause animals physical discomfort, pain, potential injury, stress, fear, anxiety, and other negative emotional states, thereby compromising animals’ mental and physical welfare [1–3].
There is extensive evidence supporting the association between the use of aversive training methods and short-term indicators of stress and welfare compromise, long-term behaviour problems including anxiety-related and aggressive behaviours, and poor learning [1–7]. For example, a UK study found that punishment-based methods used by owners increased the risk of dogs showing aggression to family members and unfamiliar people. A study of military handlers showed that dogs who were trained using punishment-based methods, including the use of pronged and shock collars, were less obedient, tended to bite more, and showed problem behaviours and poor welfare . The reduction in learning ability associated with punishment based methods 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 .
There is now a large body of evidence supporting the use of reward-based training as an effective and humane way of training dogs that is associated with fewer welfare and behaviour concerns than the use of aversive methods.
Risks and harms specifically related to pronged collars In addition to the general welfare risks and harms associated with aversive training techniques, there are specific welfare risks and harms that have been reported related to pronged collars, including the following: stress ; aggression ; lower owner satisfaction with their dogs’ overall behaviour and leash walking behaviour ; and physical harm (acute blindness, severe swelling of the head, and inability to close the jaw, trauma and abrasions to the neck, serious puncture wounds, nerve damage, muscle injury, and laryngeal, oesophageal, thyroidal, and tracheal damage) [13–16].
What can be done?
Many dog trainers and animal welfare groups continue to advocate for the sale and use of pronged 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 pronged collar.
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