The Truth About Choke and Pinch Dog Collars

Using a choke and/or pinch collar to help train your emotional support animal is a very touchy subject. Some dog owners swear by this method, but others think it is an inhumane and cruel method of dog training. In this post we will go over both kinds of collars and how they impact training your dog.

What is a Pinch Dog Collar?: The pinch collar, also called a prong collar, is made out of a series of fang-shaped metal links that have blunted points. This is the collar we most commonly see Boxers and Bulldogs wearing in movies and other media portrayals. The collar has a control loop that the leash is attached to. Once that control loop is pulled by you, the prongs will pinch the loose skin on your dog’s neck. Most trainers recommend only using a pinch collar for your dog if you have your dog walk right next to you and not in front of you (in “heel”). By having your dog walk beside you with the pinch collar, you can give slight tugs to keep your dog in line with you as the two of you walk. It is extremely important that you get this kind of dog collar properly fitted, preferably with the help of a certified trainer or vet to avoid any serious injuries to your dog. The pinch collar should be placed high on your dog’s neck. The fit should be snug in order for the prongs to not shift to the front of your dog’s neck and pinch the pup’s trachea. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are better obedience collars out there that are safer for your dog. But, if you insist on using a pinch dog collar, make sure you talk with an experienced trainer or vet.

Are Pinch Dog Collars Safe?: Pinch collars have a wide variety of uses. Some of those include teaching your dog how to heel, to not pull and to not pick up random, dirty objects from the ground where they are walking. Pinch collars can also control an aggressive dog while walking in a public, busy area. The breed that pinch collars work best on is those that are “bull-necked.” AKA dogs with thick or fatty necks to protect them from the more drastic effects of the collar. Pinch dog collars can also work well on larger, stubborn dogs. Under no circumstance should a pinch collar be used on small dogs, especially toy breeds that are particularly fragile.

What is a Choke Collar?: Also called a choke chain, this collar is made of metal and is designed to control your dog by tightening around its neck. This type of collar is designed to redirect dogs for pulling on their leash by inflicting a choke that causes some discomfort and/or pain to the dog.

Negative Consequences of Choke Collars

When a dog uses a choke collar for a long time, the dog can develop scar tissue which will build up the dog’s tolerance to pinching from the collar. This will enable the dog to not really care about the pinching and continue to pull on their walks. One of the downfalls of a choke collar is there is no way to control how much the chain will tighten on your dog’s neck. This means it is possible to strangle your dog while using a choke collar.

The tightness of the metal chain can also cause other injuries to the trachea, esophagus, neck sprains, nerve damage, fainting and even sometimes death. Due to these grave side effects, the Humane Society of the United States recommends not using a choke collar to train your dog. What’s more, improperly fitted choke collars can become embedded in your dog’s skin.

But, if other methods of training just aren’t working for your dog and you are insistent on trying a choke collar to train your dog, the National Humane Society says you must consult an experienced trainer so that you can use how to properly and safely use the choke collar. They also recommend never leaving a choke collar on your dog because it can catch on to something and end up choking your dog. PETA says that a choke collar should never be used. They recommend a font-leash attachment harness as a safe way to train your dog who tends to pull. These types of harnesses redirects the dog back towards the person that is walking them.

Alternatives to Pinch Collars and Choke Collars

Both choke collars and pinch dog collars have their adverse side effects, as we have gone over, including causing your dog to faint, damaging the thyroid gland, salivary glands and salivary lymph nodes in addition to the potential of choking your dog and even causing death. Worse than those physical injuries, pinch and choke collars can cause emotional damage to your dog and even cause behavioral issues. Another major downside to using choke and pinch collars and any punishment technique to train your dog is that the dog will create an association between the pain and the punisher (which is you, the loving owner). This kind of negative association can undermine your dog’s trust in you and even create and fear and anxiety in your dog.

So, with all of that being said, let’s talk about some alternatives that you can use to train your dog.

  • Head Collar: This type of collar will redirect your dog’s tendency to pull by placing gentle pressure on pain-free points of his body. Therefore, eliminating the pressure on your dog’s throat. This type of collar can be used to deter your dog from pulling, lunging and jumping while avoiding the coughing, choking and other pain that can be caused with choke collars or pinch collars. The head collar will put pressure on the back of the dog’s neck instead of their sensitive throat, preventing choking and gagging associated with choke and pinch collars.
  • No-Pull Harness: This is a harness that includes a double-ended leash. These harnesses typically have straps that cross above your dog’s shoulders and can be tightened at the center of your dog’s chest and behind his front legs. There is also a clip in front for your dog’s leash. Once you clip your leash to the harness and start walking, your dog has to stay by your side in order for them to keep moving forward. If the dog starts to pull, the leash will go off to the side which automatically directs the dog back towards you without inflicting pain.
  • Hands-Free Leashes: A hands-free leash will free up your hands (obviously) to give your dog some treats and practice positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement.
  • Muzzle: Muzzles need to be introduced slowly to properly train your dog. Muzzles are a way to train dogs that show aggressive behavior. If your dog needs to use a muzzle for a long period of time, it’s suggested that you use a basket muzzle. These types of muzzle allow your dog to pant, drink and still receive treats. Muzzles are a good way to test your dog’s response to problematic situations, you can also use them to introduce your dog that may be aggressive to new people or animals and to temporarily halt your dog from damaging, biting and eating things inside of your house or outdoors. Muzzles are not considered cruel but they do need to be used appropriately in order to stay safe. Be especially careful when your dog is out in hot weather while wearing a muzzle because the muzzle can make it tough for them to pant and breathe effectively.

Choose the Right Trainer: One alternative to a choke collar or pinch collar is working with a certified dog trainer. These trainers can help guide you through a lot of different training techniques and methods and help you find the one that works best for your dog.

Due to the painful side effects that come with using choke and pinch collars, we do not recommend you use them to train your dog. There are plenty of safer alternatives to training your pup.

There are a lot of options out there for different types of collars. From GPS tracking collars, flea collars to the obedience collars like shock collars or the pinch collar and choke collars that we outlined today. We hope you can use this guide to help you choose the most appropriate collar for your dog’s obedience and training needs. Since these two types of collars are a little more controversial and can be dangerous, we strongly suggest and plead that you consult with a certified dog trainer or your dog’s veterinarian before using one of these methods.

About the ASPCA: Fighting for animals is a 24/7 job, but your commitment makes it possible for our life-saving programs to create happy endings for those innocent lives touched by cruelty. Every single day of the year, we are rescuing animals from neglect and suffering. With your support, we are able to rescue animals from dog fighting, cockfighting, and puppy mills, work to end animal homelessness and farm animal cruelty, and provide medical care for countless pets in need. Please help us save even more animals and donate to this Team ASPCA campaign today.

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