Are Prong Collars Humane?

Of all the dog training tools out there, none are probably as misunderstood and stigmatized as the prong collar. When most well-intentioned dog lovers first catch a glimpse of a neighbor leading their pit mix around by the clanky metal collar, they incorrectly assume it's being used as a punishment to deter Fido from acting up. Read on to learn the truth about this vilified, yet shockingly useful collar that I use on 90% of my happy canine clients.

white pit bull mix dog wearing prong collar with trainer girl
Before training in his prong collar, Jake preferred to drag behind on walks and took about 20 minutes to make it around one block. Now he gets plenty of exercise jogging at my side around the neighborhood

Prong Collars are Actually Safer Than Classic Flat Collars

There's a reason your dog may not respond well to your attempts at leash training in her regular flat collar. These collars rest at the bottom of the neck, where your dog can lunge and pull against the leash as hard as she wants and not feel a thing. However, too much pressure against the trachea can cause irreversible damage to your dog's throat. Common yet underreported injuries include tracheal collapse and esophageal damage.

Prong collars, on the other hand, sit higher up on the neck where the tiniest bit of pressure will help your dog reflexively learn to stop pulling. They are designed to evenly distribute any pressure around the entire neck, so they’re MUCH safer than the classic flat collars that concentrate all force right on the base of her throat.

Brown lab mix on a walk wearing a Christmas collar
Flat collars are cute, but they can cause damage to the throat if your dog is a strong puller

What About Harnesses?

Harneses, while safer for a stubborn dog than flat collars, are actually designed to encourage her to pull as much weight as she can, which is ironic because most dog owners use them with the mistaken idea that it will help them gain control over their pulling pup. Harnesses were originally created for pulling sleds or heavy loads, so that dogs could use their entire body strength to drag the maximum amount of weight behind them. However, they can be useful and safe for certain small, injury-prone breeds (looking at you, pugs) if your dog doesn't have a tendency to pull or lead.

Husky in a harness chasing squirrel up a tree
River decided he was GOING to chase this squirrel, so using the power of his harness, he promptly dragged me over to it

Which Prong Collar Should I Buy?

If you think your pup might benefit from a prong collar, here is the one I usually recommend and have used on 90% of my canine trainees. The prong-free section rests on the back of the neck, and the prongs are smooth and rounded for added comfort. Make sure to add or remove prongs to create the perfect fit so that it's just tight enough to stay up high on the neck by itself.

Are you having any luck leash training your dog? Try working smarter, not harder! If you feel like you're not making progress or you've hit a plateau, reset your trainings to easy mode and help your dog succeed with the help of a prong collar.