Is a Pinch Collar Right For Your Dog?

jvolk0122 writes to me, asking about the pinch collar:

Hi I adopted a lhasa apso terrior mix which is about 20 pounds and have started to train her. I have a pinch collar and have it fitted correctly. The problem is that I think it may be to aggressive for her. When I give a pop she yelps the first couple of times and listens well. After the first couple of times she starts to get really submissive by rolling on her back, peeing, and laying down not making eye contact. When this happens I am not able to get her to listen any more. Giving a correction at this point only makes her more submissive. Is there another collar that I could try or do you have any suggestions how to handle this?

Adam replies:

Hi, Jvolk:

I need more detail:

Just because a car can go 100 mph, doesn’t mean you have to drive it 100 mph, everywhere you go, right? In fact, you may never drive it 100 mph. You can moderate how hard you press the gas pedal. Just like you can moderate your correction intensity with the pinch collar.

But I’m sure you’re smart enough to have figured that out, already — so, maybe you can explain in more detail what’s happening? Is it related to a specific exercise you’re teaching? The “attention-getter” exercise?

jvolk0122 responds:

I’m just starting to work on the basic dog training commands, of come, sit-stay, and down-stay. For the sit-stay. I’ll tell her sit, then push her butt down. When she tried to stand I corrected her with a pop and tell her to sit again. I’ll say free and let her get up with praise. With the correction she usually yelps and looks really startled the first couple of times. Say by the fourth or fifth time I correct her she starts to get really submissive from what I can tell. I’ll correct her and she’ll go immediatly down on her back, she has peed before, or she will lay down and not look at me in the eye’s and wine. If I try to coax her up she’ll usually not make eye contact with me and get up but then go right back down. I’ve tried doing a lesser correction because she is not that big of a dog and it shouldn’t take that much to get the point across to her, but it still usually gets the same result. I’ve thought of getting those rubber coatings for the prongs to make it less of a correction that way? Is this the info you’re looking for?

DPTrainer4 adds:

If you’re just starting out, you might be working her a bit hard. The concept of learning is to make it easy for the dog to connect the action with the command, resulting in a reward. When I first teach a dog to sit, as soon as the rear touches the ground, I’m happy. Then I work up from there, asking that the dog hold that sit longer and longer, and that’s when I start incorporating corrections as a means to teach the dog that Sit means “Your bum stays there until I tell it to move.”

She just might need to learn the command better. It sounds, from your description, more like she’s learning a military drill and shutting down, with the rolling on her back and especially the urination. It’s the equivalent of throwing a new worker in with the seasoned ones and then promptly docking the new worker’s pay because the immediate results aren’t up to par. You can make training fun without going over-the-top clicker-trainer sunshine-and-butterflies peppy, and there’s no problem with using some food treats or a favorite toy as a reward when first learning new concepts.

You can keep using the collar, but I’d recommend backing off corrections until she knows what she’s supposed to do and you’re beginning to proof her commands.

Adam replies:

That was my thought, too. That’s she’s not 100% clear about what the command means. And remember: You need to “reteach” the command in 3-4 different environments before the dog will start to do it, anywhere.

What Age Are Pinch Collars Appropriate?

JoyceAnn writes to me:

We have two Havanese puppies. The oldest is five months. She, Bonnie, is a wonderful puppy, but I am having difficulty getting her to walk on a loose leash. Is she too young to use a pinch collar? Our male, Clyde, is 3 weeks younger. He is more relaxed and will often just lay down when he doesn’t want to walk. What age is okay to use the pinch collar?

Adam replies:

Hi, Joyce:

Typically, around 4 months of age. When you see the adult teeth start to come in. I think you’ll be fine, starting now.

– Adam.

DPTrainer 4 adds:

With smaller breeds, a light chain slip collar is enough, or if you want to go with the pinch, there is a micropinch out there for small dogs. It is not sold in stores, which is a bit of a disappointment, but here is where I get mine.

Try to use a lot of encouragement and maybe a favorite toy as a reward (not a bribe) for walking with you, and since they’re puppies too, they’re not going to have the attention span we normally expect dogs to have.

Point to Point: The Pinch Collar vs. The Choke Collar

1.) The pinch collar was designed to replace the choke collar. About the only thing that the choke collar has “over” the pinch collar is that it has been in the public eye for the last 20 years and is now widely accepted.

The pinch collar, in contrast, is relatively new to the public. When people first see it, they think it is some kind of cruel Nazi torture device. Instead of seeing prongs, they see spikes. The immediately form a rash judgement and refuse to look into the behavior benefits and reasons we use the collar. (See #4)

2.) The choke collar (supposedly) can do damage to a dog’s trachea if used excessively by a handler with poor technique. Of course, the pinch collar can also do damage if used with poor technique, but a green handler can learn to give an effective, motivational correction in about 10 minutes with the pinch collar.

The choke collar, in order to master proper technique, can sometimes take a couple of months. I find that, given the size of a dog like a Rottweiler, most clients are unable to give motivational corrections with the choke collar.

If the client is unable to give a motivational correction, the choke collar will rub and irritate the skin and wear away the hair around the dog’s neck. For toy-sized dogs, sometimes it’s easier to use the choke chain.

3.) If the pinch collar is sized and fitted correctly, it delivers a more comfortable (and at the same time more motivational) correction. The reason for this is that the pressure of the “jerk” from the leash is distributed all the way around the dog’s neck because the pinch collar constricts like a camera lens– all edges moving toward the center. And because there is a ring at the bottom, an inexperienced handler is unable to accidentally choke the dog.

In contrast, the choke collar works like a noose, and all pressure from the correction is delivered at one spot on the dog’s neck. Even for a large breed dog, this can be perceived as an unnecessary application of pressure.

4.) The fourth advantage of the pinch collar is that it replicates the way the Alpha dog corrects the subordinate dogs in the pack… by administering a bite to the neck. So instead of us humans getting hair in our teeth, we use the prongs on the pinch collar to give a proverbial “bite to the neck.” However, the average dog’s bite is estimated to be about 800 pounds per square inch. The Rottweiler and Pit Bull’s bite is estimated at around 1200 pounds per square inch. So even if we’ve got the muscles of Arnold Schwartzenegger, we couldn’t give our dog the type of correction they are capable of giving each other.

In sum, I have found that my average client can use the pinch collar to give one good motivation correction and get results with their dog. On the other hand, the clients who elect to use the choke collar often find themselves giving the dog 9 or 10 corrections before they are able to get motivational with the dog. And all the while the dog is building up a mental callous to the correction, which in the end means that the client has to give the dog a harder and more painful correction than if he were using the pinch collar.


When to Start the Pinch Collar

Keith writes: We have a 3 month-old Labrador Retriever (Shadow) that is naturally a bundle of energy. We have really learned a lot from your book/tapes. We have started using a prong collar on a limited basis and she responds pretty well except when we try to walk her.

I have listened to your tape and read the section of your book on training to walk on a loose leash but shadow doesn’t understand her part of the plan. Instead of walking she just sits or lays on the ground. I tried to give her a correction but she doesn’t seem to respond. I have also tried to use treats to reward her when she does walk next to me correctly. Is she too young to be using the prong collar? Do you have any suggestions for encouraging her to walk with the leash instead of sitting? Thank you for your assistance, Keith

Dear Keith: I recommend not using the pinch collar for formal training exercises (including walks) until you see his adult teeth begin to come in& which is usually between 4 to 5 months of age.

This usually corresponds with the first stage of social maturity. Otherwise, just use it if you’re having trouble with mouthing for now. Teaching her to walk on a loose leash is something that takes about 10 minutes. It’s no big deal. But don’t be in a rush to put her in college when she first must go through kindergarten. At this age, your dog doesn’t need to be taken on long walks. A romp in the back yard and chasing a few toys until she demonstrates that she’s tired or has lost interest should be enough.

Dog Freaked Out Over Pinch Collar

Buster writes: I tried the pinch collar on my Westie a few days ago and he freaked out.

He hated it, would not move and let out a little cry like he was in pain. Now I am afraid to try it again. Could he be too sensitive for this pinch collar? It was not too tight. After his initial reaction, he then began to skulk around next to me. At the time, I was with 2 trainers who teach in a dog training club I joined. They recommended the prong collar to me. They said he would get used to it. Any advice? Is there a way to ease him into it? – Buster.

Dear Buster: Yes… if you’ve got it sized correctly, what’s happening here is that your dog is manipulating you. He throws a tantrum and YOU RESPONDED TO IT AND STOPPED. He’s training you. Next time, glue the leash to your belt buckle and just keep walking. Don’t jerk it. Don’t say anything. Don’t coax or baby him. As soon as he learns that you aren’t going to stop (may be a bit now that you’ve already showed him you’ll stop) he’ll realize that the tantrum doesn’t get rewarded and he’ll start walking. As soon as he does, PRAISE HIM… BUT CONTINUE WALKING WHILE YOU DO!

The Pinch Collar: Using One Ring or Two

A reader asks: Have you ever done any research on the origin of the prong collar and it’s original use?

Also, I’ve heard it used in different ways, for example, leash getting hooked to one ring or both rings of the pinch collar? Which information are you privy to and what technique do you use? I’m always open to learning true information.

Thanks for your time,

Dear Jag:

I do not know the history of the pinch collar. It’s a good question. If I learn anything about it, I’ll write about it here, in my e-zine.

As far as using one ring (the D-ring) or two (the D-ring and the Safety ring) generally, I just hook the leash to the D-ring. This is how the pinch collar is designed to be used.

You can, however, hook the leash to both rings. This will damper the correction. You can use the pinch collar in this manner if you have a very sensitive dog or if you’re training an exercises where–for some reason–the dog is self-correcting, accidentally.

For example, when teaching the dog “control” in protection work, we try to communicate to the dog that he should only lunge if the attack command is given, first. If the dog lunges before the attack command is given, then he is corrected. However, in such a scenario, we want to error on the side of under-correcting the dog, rather than have him think that he should NEVER lunge by accidentally over-correcting.

Make sense?