There are two common mistakes the amateur dog trainer makes when someone tells him to go out and buy a pinch collar.
The first mistake the amateur makes is to incorrectly size the collar.
The size of the collar is not determined by the number of prongs in the collar, but rather the size of the prongs themselves.
Usually, these collars come in three sizes; small, medium and large. I can put together a collar with 100 small prongs in it, and it will still be a small collar.
The fitting will be extraordinary, of course, but regardless of how many prongs are in the collar, it is still a small pinch collar. If you wanted to, you could fit your pet Rottweiler with a small pinch collar, but you’d probably find that you’d be bending links every other day. So perhaps a medium, or quite possibly a large collar would be more appropriate.
In terms of fitting the pinch collar, you want to be able to put (aproximately) one half a finger space between the end of the prong and the skin of the dog’s neck.
[Update: We used to recommend 1/2 to 1 1/2 finger space, but have found that for the majority of clients, 1/2 finger space is necessary to get a motivational correction]
If you find that you must jam your finger beneath the prong, then this is not good, and means that the dog is probably always feeling some type of correction. On the other hand, if the collar is too loose, you’re not doing your dog any favor, either.
What happens is that the collar ends up either rubbing and irritating the dogs neck, or the prongs themselves slam against the dog’s neck when given a correction… which isn’t good either.
A good fit should allow the collar to ride on your dog’s neck comfortably and without irritation, yet snugly. Be aware that, in the beginning, your dog may not be used to the feeling of a metal collar around his neck. But give it time, and in a couple of days he will forget when he’s wearing it.
When To Use The Pinch Collar
For the first few months of training, or until your dog is conditioned, your dog should wear the pinch collar any time you find yourself interacting with him. Just like another dog, who would always half his mouth and teeth available to administer a correction to a subordinate dog, you need to be in a position to correct your dog too.
What this means is that, if your dog learns that he only has to work or behave when the collar is on, what you’ll have is a dog who is a complete angel when the collar is on, but a real devil when the collar comes off. This is what professional dog trainers refer to as being ” collar-smart “.
How do you make sure your dog does not become collar smart?
Simply make sure that you leave the pinch collar on, any time you are interacting with your dog. What this means is that, if you go out to dinner, and put the dog in the back yard, where he’s not being supervised, the collar should be removed. You don’t want to take the chance that the pinch collar will get stuck on something (like a gate, or chain link fence) and end up choking your dog.
So when you leave your puppy unsupervised, take the collar off. Otherwise, the collar should be on whenever you are around. Just like the alpha dog would always have his mouth to give a subordinate dog a correction, you must also be in a position where you can correct your dog EVERY TIME he exhibits undesirable behavior.
After a period of time, your dog will forget he’s wearing the collar, because he will have become so used to wearing it, similar to the way we humans become accustomed to wearing clothing.
The Second Biggest Mistake Amateur Trainers Make When Using The Pinch Collar
The second biggest mistake the amateur dog trainer makes when using the pinch collar pertains to when the handler administers the correction. There is a tremendous tendency of the handler to pull on the leash when giving a correction, rather than to “pop” on the leash.
What this means is that the collar is being kept tight, and not being allowed to be released… thus giving the dog continual pain. This is not the way the collar was designed to be used, nor is it natural for the dog.
When you give a correction, and accidentally keep the leash tight, it is as if the alpha dog bites the subordinate dog on the neck, but instead of releasing his grip, he continues to walk around the yard with the first dogs neck in his mouth. This would never happen. It is simply not natural.
Any time one dog corrects another dog, it’s always done with a quick nip. So, when you correct your dog, make sure you always give him a fast, quick pop and release.