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.

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.

Why Use A Prong Collar To Train A Dog? Here’s Why…

By Lynn –

In the midst of my horrible month-without-days-off, I was down at the flea market with the puppies as was expected. It’s rather relaxed down there, and my cohort and I will regularly just walk off and see what fun fleas we can find that are actually worth something and not Made In China. Found a couple of Kentucky Derby collectors’ glasses that I’d been looking for ever since my other one broke, so that made me happy.

When I returned from that purchase, I had no sooner walked back into our booth when I heard “Ah, there she is, she’d be the one to help you with this.”


Turns out the problem was a GSD who was fear-aggressive and somewhat dominant. We spent some time talking, and the owner agreed that she did need to change herself to have some progress. In a nutshell, I recommended they seek out the services/referral of their friend who happened to have a working K9 officer, or a Schutzhund trainer. I also explained the concept of the pinch collar to them and recommended they ask their friend/referral whether it would be appropriate for their specific circumstances (I don’t feel that qualified with FEAR-aggression issues as much as I do dog-/people-aggression). They went on their merry way, hopefully to some success, since I didn’t see them the next week.

Next case was someone who mentioned that their Lab just put on the brakes during walks. She’d tried just about every collar, but when I told them about the mechanics and psychology behind the pinch collar, she was suddenly interested (which perhaps explained why she wasn’t shocked when I brought it out). After some chatting, she too went on her merry way.

My co-worker stated “Hey, if you keep recommending those, we might have to start selling them!”

That really got me thinking: Why do I and others here recommend the pinch collar so much? We all know that some dogs do just fine without one, a few can do fine with just a martingale collar, but why do we recommend pinch collars for the majority with whom we cross paths?

My answer came to me this morning while reading an article about an obedience-school dropout who broke stays, ran to play with other dogs, marked the doorway and in general was just a victim of poor training technique and application.

Most people don’t know or don’t think to start basic foundation obedience when they procur a puppy. Either they think the puppy is so cute it doesn’t need it, or things are going just fine, who knows. So they have this puppy who grows up…and keeps growing…and all of a sudden, they notice things don’t become fun anymore: walks are a chore, having guests over is a disaster, preparing dinner is a three-ring circus, and friends are no longer allowed to show affection without the threat of a bite. THAT is when they seek help.

Way later than they should have. Because now, instead of being able to fix a small problem, they are deluded with a multitude of problems that are almost overwhelming. I’m sure you trainers have seen it, when someone comes in and just lets loose about all these problems they’re having, never mind they just want the one fixed! (you’d think all dog trainers would get a PhD in clinical psych just so they can learn to deal with these people!).

These problem dogs are usually so headstrong and belligerent that even subtle gestures won’t work with them, even the insecure ones. It is precisely this reason why we recommend the pinch collar, because it allows the owner to start light and gradually get heavier without “nagging” on the dog with choke chain corrections.

And then there’s the wonderful feeling of relief and hope that maybe things can be made better.

(I commented on the article, by the way, just a quick “I blame the pure-positive revolution, yadda yadda” thing. Someone else actually agreed! Go figure that he used to work for a trainer, so he seems knows his stuff…even said he’d go for the remote trainer if things got bad! :D)

Quick addition:

There was also a comment about my micro-prong that I carry around for demos: it just seemed “too much” for small breeds.

But when you look at the pinch collar in general versus the choke chain, people tend to understand why we like it. In fact, I would rather not even think of using a choke chain on a small/toy breed just because of the delicate necks in proportion to human strength and concentrated pressure on a slip collar. I’ve already ordered a micro for a Manchester/JRT mix and she responded beautifully. That quick, firm, distributed pressure did a heck of a better job than anything else the owner had tried before.