How To Use The Prong Collar To Make Your Dog Obey

Arindam writes, “I have a Doberman pup who is 5.5 months old.  When I got your book he was already trained to know all of the basic command but I was not getting consistent response from him.

How To Use The Prong Collar To Make Your Dog Obey
Photo courtesy of creative commons license: GOzcan

After I read your book, now Pluto is always on prong collar (except when we play fetch and when he sleeps). I have started to see the result but I have a question:  “How do I use it to make him listen to my command every time? I mean… correcting a ‘bad’ behavior is easy to understand but when I want to enforce my command, how do I do it? Say I give the SIT command to PLUTO and he doesnt listen.  How do I give a correction? I mean the timing, do I POP the tab when he doesnt listen and issue the command again? Or how I do I do it? My fear is if I wrongly give the correction, he may associate the correction with ‘SIT’ — which I dont want.”

Adam replies:  

All commands need to be enforced immediately, even if the correction is a “token” correction. Command>Correction>Praise.

Say the command and then say the word, ‘tug”. (“down” — “tug”).

At the same time that you say the word, “tug” give a tug on the leash. Do it every time for the next few months, because you’re working on building a conditioned response to commands.

After a few weeks, he’ll start to respond so fast at times that he’ll be lying down before you can say the word, ‘Tug”… in which case you should not tug on the leash but instead just praise him. However, you should still be ready to tug the next time you issue the command, because he’s still in the reinforcement phase.

I’m pretty sure I covered this in the book, so keep reading as I’m sure you’ll get more detailed benefit from reading how I describe it in the book.

Also– keep the prong collar and tab on him when you’re playing fetch.  What if he decides to do something inappropriate?  If you were the pack leader, you’d simply use your mouth to give him a correction.  But since you can’t do that (at least not very well!) you’ll need to have the prong collar on him.

When Prong Collars Come Apart

Pinkie wrote to ask about whether she should be worried about her prong collar coming apart: “Hi, on another website they claim that prong collars can easily come apart on the dog when you don’t want them to, by a link breaking or if you don’t fasten it correctly. They sell what is called a dominant collar to be worn with the prong collar, in case it breaks. They also sell a special leather leash that has 2 snaps, it attaches to the pinch collar and also the dominant collar, so you always have backup. Does anyone have this problem of the prong collar breaking? I just ordered a pinch collar today from them.

When Prong Collars Come Apart — Adam Replies:

Hi, Pinkie:

Buy a Herm Sprenger brand prong collar and you shouldn’t have any issues. Yes, they occasionally will fall off, but it’s not frequent enough to be an issue. I’ve had some for three years that I’ve used every day that never come off. If you get a bad one, send it back.  Or use a pliers to bend the prong tight again.

If you’re really worried about it, just get a “choke chain” collar and put the harness snap of the leash through both the live ring of the prong collar AND the choke chain collar, so you’re using both collars at the same time. If you do that, you’ll want to size the chain collar so that when it’s pulled tight there is only about 1 1/2 inch excess.

Why Use Prong Dog Collars?

I was looking through our log files and noticed that someone had entered a search that asked: “Why use prong dog collars?

The question reminded me of the response given by famous bank robber Willie Sutton when asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where you find the money,” said Sutton.

Why Use Prong Dog Collars?
Because That’s Where You
Find The Results.

Now, don’t mistake my point: There is no big money in training with a prong collar.  In fact, there is so much propaganda and misinformation lobbied at trainers who use the prong collar that I can only guess at the millions of dollars of revenue that we balanced trainers don’t make as a result of “purely positive” trainers being… well… purely negative about other approaches to dog training.

Why use prong dog collarsIf a guy wanted to really make money, he’d focus exclusively on “purely positive” techniques (read: Cookie bribery) and promote himself as a cookie pusher.  (My term, not theirs).  Most dog owners who haven’t done much research simply love the idea of being able to throw cookies at their dog to make him behave.  There’s only one problem: Cookie bribery doesn’t work on 90% of the dogs a professional dog trainer is called upon to fix.  I wish it weren’t the case, but using what the cookie-pushers psycho-babble refers to as “negative punishment” (taking away or withholding something the dog wants) simply doesn’t work when the dog’s negative behavior is a self-rewarding behavior.  I.E., The dog barks because it’s fun to bark.

Those of us who use the prong dog collar as one of the tools in our bag of tricks do so because it works.  You get fast results, and despite the cookie pushers’ propaganda… using a prong collar is no more “violence” against the dog than when the mama dog corrects the puppy by giving a nip on the neck.  Still don’t believe me?  Take a look at some of my videos on Youtube and you’ll see happy, relaxed dogs who understand what, “No!” means.  The surprising thing is: Saying, “No!” to your dog (and using a prong collar correction to attach a negative association to the word, “No!” doesn’t kill the dog’s spirit anymore than when I ask my mother, “Should I turn left here?” and she says, “No!”

It doesn’t “hurt our relationship” because she tells me, “No!” any more than when the Mama dog corrects the puppy: With her mouth. Again I reiterate: We use the prong collar to replicate how the mama dog corrects the puppies.

Why Use Prong Dog Collars?  Because There’s
Nothing Wrong With Telling Your Dog, “No!”

There’s something else wrong with the cookie pushers: They’ll try to tell you that pack theory doesn’t exist.  It’s been “disproven” because some egghead anthropologist (who’s never trained a difficult dog in his life) wrote a paper and said so.

As if writing a scientific paper hypothesizing that a theory is incorrect makes it untrue… just like the academics who hypothesized that communism would mean the end of capitalism.

Uh, huh.  “Okay.”

Watch this video and tell me that dogs don’t correct each other:

So, if there’s nothing wrong with using a prong dog collar… what’s keeping you? Because some dog-nerd will try to shame you into believing that you’re hurting your dog, despite common sense evidence to the contrary?  Does the Golden Retriever in the linked video– who was trained with both a prong collar and a remote electronic collar– look like his spirit was killed?

Come on…

Learn how to use a prong dog collar.  Learn to use it the right way: Like any other training tool, it can be misused, but let’s be frank: You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to learn how to properly and safely use the prong collar.  With a little common sense and a little knowledge, you can get amazing results in literally minutes, while your “purely positive” dog trainer friend takes months to teach her dog the same behavior.  And in the end your dog will be a happier, more balanced pet for it, too.  And when your friends want to know why you use prong dog collars you’ll be able to both explain why and also show them with your well trained dog.

Wrong use of a dog prong collar

Miadog writes to me:

I can’t believe I have been using the prong collar with the prongs under my dogs neck, not behind her head!. I have been using it the wrong way for 8 mos. The associate at Petco never even asked if I knew how to use it. I just assumed the prongs went in front. I watched the video on how to walk your dog on a leash and finally saw the right use of the collar. I feel awful. Could I have caused any permanent damage to my dog’s trachea?

Adam replies:
Hi Mia…that’s a cute picture of your dog! Is she a Lab-poodle or a Golden-poodle? She’s got that poodle-y mix look about her!It’s hard to say if there’s any damage, but be reassured that if there is any, it might just be a little bit of soreness depending on how you had it fit, and it will go away quickly. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “prongs under her neck,” because when fit right, the prongs can sit anywhere around the dog’s neck…it’s just up to you if you like the chain portion on either side, behind the head or under the neck. Unless it’s fit wrong and/or used in a very harsh manner, the design of the collar actually prevents tracheal damage because it is a limited-slip design and puts pressure around the entire neck instead of just one small area. The associates at PetCo will never hear this in their training as associates (didn’t work there, but worked at a similar, locally-based, pet retail store and had to write the associate-training information on pinch/slip/electronic collar myself), but the pinch collar is actually a lot safer than the slip/”choke” collar and even the famous “Gentle” Leaders…when used correctly for training purposes.

If you find yourself with more questions regarding training technique or proper use of the collar, feel free to ask. That’s what we’re here for!

Mia responds:

Thanks. She is a labradoodle.


Adam replies:

Hi, Mia:

No, you haven’t caused any damage. That’s actually one of the benefits of the prong collar: It doesn’t put pressure on the dog’s trachea. Supposedly, the slip/chain/choke collar can… but even with that collar, I’ve never seen evidence of it doing damage or injury to a dog, if used properly.

Also: Please note that– as long as you fit the collar the way I show in the video, it doesn’t matter if the prongs are underneath the neck or on top. You can spin it around, depending on what exercise you’re working on… so that it’s easier for you to give the correction.

Example: If I’m teaching the sit/sit-stay, I’ll move it around so that the ring I attach the leash to is at the back of the dogs neck (and the prongs will be underneath– the side where the chest and chin are). This is because the tug on the leash for the sit command is straight up.

It’s the opposite if I’m working on the down, as the correction is in a downward and forward direction.

If you haven’t yet, please read through the Secrets book, as it will be an excellent supplement to the videos.

– Adam.

Mia responds:

Thanks Adam. I got the impression the collar was only used one direction after seeing your video. I am glad to hear what you said. I worked my dog for about 3, 20 min periods today, and she is pulling less on the leash. I can’t wait to get a 30 ft leash and try the off leash exercises.



kafox adds:
Great info! But wouldn’t it be cumbersome to constantly turn the pinch collar every time you want to enforce a command, or is that only for the first steps of training? Can a tab face downward or to the side and you can ‘pop’ it upwards or downwards for a ‘down’ or ‘sit’?

Adam replies:

Hi, Kafox:

Yes, it’s only an issue if, for example: I’m working on the down. I’ll turn it around, so that it’s easier for me, but it will slide around on it’s own– eventually, even if I didn’t.

– Adam.


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.

Her Dog Does Not Respond To Her Correction…

Dear Adam:

I bought your book over a year ago and still use it. I have my dog Cosmo where I want him, except for one problem. I have a friend,

Brian, who comes over to visit from time to time. Cosmo just goes nuts over this guy.

He will not respond to any commands– and even hard motivational commands when this guy is visiting. And I mean a motivational #6 on the e-collar (electronic remote collar)… he just goes back for more. I have never seen anything like it. He just loves this guy, and can’t seem to get enough of him.

Last evening I put him in his hut because I knew Brian would be stopping by, and closed the door to the bedroom. Brian just walks in, no knock, doorbell or anything. The bedroom where the hut is kept is at the other end of the house. Well, sure enough… as soon as Brian came in he started going off in his hut, whining and crying etc. It is only this one person. He is otherwise very well behaved. We go to the park where there are plenty of other people and dogs, and I have no problem. We walk down the lane off leash, and he responds to all my commands when other dogs approach, (even barking growling aggressive dogs) he comes and sits when cars approach and in every other aspect, as well behaved, mannerly, loving dog. His behavior towards Brian is the good kind, (if you call going berserk good) he just wants to play with him, jumps all around, licks him, etc. What I am trying to say is he is not mean, but like totally loves the guy and goes to another planet. I have tried chaining him, using the E-collar, leashing him, putting him in his hut, all to no avail. He absolutely will not respond to me at all. Don’t really know what to do at this point. He is on another plane. Any suggestions???

– Jeri

Dear Jeri:

Thanks for the e-mail.

Who makes your collar? Is it Innotek, Dogtra or Tri-Tronics? If it’s made by any of these companies, you need to call them and they will give you a way to boost the intensity. Or– much more likely– they may have you send it back as it’s unlikely (especially if it’s an Innotek) that the dog will simply ignore a level 7 stimulation. If it’s a Tri-Tronics collar, they will probably send you a higher intensity plug.

This sounds pretty extreme, but it’s really quite common. Either the collar isn’t putting out the way it should or the dog’s sensitivity is just very high.

Also, make sure to synchronize the leash correction with the e-correction and make sure you say the word “No!” first so that the dog knows the correction is coming from YOU and not your friend Brian.

Remember, the dog’s “drive” to play with Brian is going to be higher than his food drive or his ball drive. So any attempts to distract him will likely go unnoticed.