What are prong collars?
A prong collar consists of interconnected metal links with prongs sticking out on the underside projecting into the dog's coat and skin. If tension is exerted on the attached leash, the collar closes together around the dog's neck and the prongs bore into the dog's neck.
There are different models of prong collars, for example models that actually look like leather collars as well as so-called coral collars which are made out of self-moving wooden eggs with sharp prongs on the underside. There are also prong collar in which the prongs themselves have small rubber caps on them in order to dampen the effect, but which are in no way conceptually less dangerous for the dog.
These collars are illegal in Switzerland and Austria, but unfortunately not so in Germany. Of course according to paragraph 3 of the German animal cruelty laws, any method that causes the animal pain while training or suffering is forbidden. The question is of course, if such a prong collar actually does have such an effect on an animal's health as set forth in paragraph 3.
How does a dog suffer when being corrected with such a prong collar?
The typical obvious injuries which can be suffered by a dog would be reason enough to forbid the use of prong collars.
They can lead to neck injuries, to neck skeletal injuries, to dangerous increase of the internal eye pressure and increase risks for glaucoma, the air passage can be penetrated and the disks between the neck vertebrae can be injured which can lead to unnatural neck positions with long-time damage to the entire system necessary for the musculoskeletal system, as well as having possible adverse effects on the dog's method of communicating with other dogs.
Beside these purely physical health risks, there are several important psychological risks to dogs and their relationship with their guardian.
Some of these proven indications are, for example, pain induced fear or aggressive behaviors, raised cortisol levels through pain/stress, thyroid deficiencies caused by extended periods of stress, increased excitement levels wit increased tendencies towards avoidance, fear and aggressive displays, fleeing due to fear of pain either forwards or away in panic.
In the course of such a short text, we can only superficially point out to the normal dog owner these danger in order to move him/her to think about what's going on. A dog that is continually under this fear of punishment from the owner can react with very specific additional unwanted behaviors. The dog could develop fear or avoidance tendencies towards his/her own owner. If other dogs are present when the dog receives such painful or fear inducing corrections, the dog might develop fear or aggressive tendencies towards other dogs (redirection).
And no owner would want to have his/her dog react aggressively towards a child or another person because of this potential serious redirection fallout from the painful corrections. As behavioral consultants we often see dogs with extreme panic of cows, open spaces or even garbage containers - and often our suspicions , that an animal has been trained using prong collars or even electric shock will be confirmed. If such a painful correction is performed without warning as the dog passes another person walking their dog, the punished dog can make a negative association with the other dog/person. In this way innocent passerbys can inadvertently become triggers for fearful and or aggressive behaviours.
When one understands, that actual learning under such acute stress is impossible, and that the inflicted pain from the use of prong collars is very stressful, then we must reach the conclusion how counterproductive they are. The only possible conclusion to draw from this is: DON'T USE PRONG COLLARS!
Text by: Freundschaft Hund - Gemeinsam durchs Leben, Tina Müller (please request permission for further distribution and use from the author)
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