Most shirts or jackets have a collar of some sort. They do not vary much and are a decorative and sometimes functional part of a garment. They don’t change much year to year, but they serve their place in fashion and function. Dog collars are another matter…
Dog collars are functional and only incidentally decorative. And a dog collar is directly tied (no pun intended) to a dog’s behavior and even his fate. I can explain a lot of what is known about dog collars from having researched and used most all of the designs on my own dogs or rescued dogs. Here they are.
Flat collar: with a plastic clasp or metal buckle. Generally made of nylon webbing or leather. It’s for attaching tags to and a leash to. The original collar.
Choke chain: usually chromed steel links and 2 rings. Properly fitted, the connection ring (to a leash) is on the end of the chain that emerges through the ‘other’ ring and toward the human handler over the top of the dog’s neck, not under. That allows the chain to slip easily and release quickly. A ‘pop’ or short snap interrupts the dog if it is to be corrected…. not a pull or a hard jerk. Decades old. Closely related is a nylon cord type ‘slip collar’ that is fitted to a dog by its length with no ‘slack’ versus a choke chain that has more slack.
Head collar: most well known is the ‘Gentle Leader’ from Premier in Richmond,VA. It has a neck strap high up under the jaw and an over-the-nose loop with a control ring attachment point under the dog’s chin for the leash. It allows a handler to control the head direction, and thus the dog. It’s like a flat collar worn high plus a nose loop… and is billed as ‘power steering for your dog’ and is known to be used on ‘pullers’ who are hard to walk. They emerged in the 1990s and I met the co-inventor, a past president of the national dog training organization APDT, as she demonstrated it for trainers..
Prong collar: also known as a ‘pinch collar’ or ‘German collar’ (the best ones are from Herm Sprenger company in Germany). The most misunderstood of the decades old designs, they use chromed steel links with a slip-chain attached to rounded prong tipped links that fit together. The points are ROUNDED and mimic the teeth of a mother dog on your dog’s neck. The prongs squeeze, they do not puncture.
Electronic collars: also called ‘e-collars’ are an adjustable flat collar with a radio receiver attached that generally activates mild stimulation. The receiver is controlled by a hand-held transmitter with 3 control buttons, generally. ‘Nick’ is a momentary stimulation (stim), ‘C’ is constant stimulation up to one-half second, and ‘P’ is page or vibrate with no electrical stimulation. The stimulation is electrical current at undectable up to very noticeable levels delivered to the dog’s neck through 2 small metal contact points on the neck. The collar is worn high up under the jawline. Originally called ‘shock collars’ or ‘electric collars’ the modern type have revolutionized dog training for the better, according to top professionals. They do not punish a dog, but rather guide and correct him from distance or close up without a physical leash attachment always needed. The collar settings are controlled at the transmitter by the handler in real time. Old fashoned ones had dip switches in the receiver to set the stimulation level and a single button on the transmitter. I had a good one and it worked OK, but the rechargeable batteries were marginal and the range was about 50 yards. Modern ones are inexpensive, reliable, and very adaptable for training new behaviors and correcting a failure to do a known behavior.
As professionals know, the 2 collar types most feared and despised are the most helpful ones to the dog… and also cause the least pain and no damage to the dog.
They are the 1) prong collar and 2) e-collar.
Though it seems backwards to most people, it is true. The prong collar is easy to fit and use and simply applies pressure on the dog’s neck under the jawline. A normal dog will immediately recognize the pressure is from the person and will submit and be attentive. Some dogs with a certain aggression type do not respond well to the use of a prong collar, but it seldom is the case. A trainer who knows how to fit and use it is a must if your dog is known to bite or assert himself against a person (including a handler).
It’s well-known among skilled professionals that a prong collar is effective to teach relaxed leash walking quickly. And it’s not done by hurting the dog (strangling on a choke chain or twisting his nose toward the handler as in a head collar or a blunt ‘yank’ on a flat collar). Did you notice each of those imposes pain and some fear?
A prong collar, if used correctly, requires just a ‘pop’ with the control hand and both hands are seldom needed for corrections unless the dog is sturdy and resistant. The smaller links for most all dogs and medium links for larger dogs are most effective and require less handler strength to be applied to the leash.
Remember this… a dog collar is not ‘cruel’ or ‘painful’ in its design or function. A person controls the use of the device and is responsible for the result. The lack of skill by an ignorant or careless person is the problem, not the device.
The electronic collar ( ’e-collar’), properly used, has a dual purpose. For commands already well-learned and repeatable, the dog can be corrected AFTER the ‘No’ command, delivered in a neutral voice if the dogs does not comply to the known command. A dog can get distracted or simply decline to obey a known command and that’s when a correction is used. The momentary stimulation of the e-collar is to correct a faulty response to a command… not to punish. So the stimulation level is adjusted just high enough to ensure the dog cannot ignore it and the ‘nick’ correction is generally used (maybe 1/10 second duration) for an instant… and no more. But the stimulation is not just for correcting disobeyed commands (versus ‘not known to the dog’ commands). There is much more!
When the stimulation is dialed down to be barely noticed, it can be used with a ’pressure on/pressure off’ approach to guide the dog to keep doing a behavior with pressure ’on’ (press the continuous button ) and when the dog has completed the behavior, the pressure is ‘off’ (release the continuous button) and the dog is rewarded. Remember that the dog is barely even feeling anything but a tiny tingle. It’s frequently used to quickly teach ‘here’ (come when called), at first using a long line to make sure the dog does not run away from the handler!
It’s much like your parent walking next to you with your first bicycle. “Just pedal smoothly, I won’t let you fall, you are doing fine…” is felt by the child and helps guide him in the action. And on completion, you congratulate the child and celebrate. The e-collar at low stimulation keeps the dog focused on doing the command . And the very mild tingle stops when the command is complete and the dog gets an approval (a pat, praise words, treat…) reward.
So what are the points to be made ?
By setting aside our bias toward a tool for dog behavior modification (not exactly the same as training), we open up possibilities to help the dog behave acceptably in the world of people and dogs. Even the momentary startle or discomfort of an e-collar stimulation or prong collar ‘pop’ far outweighs the damage, pain, and frustration of harsh methods used with choke/slip collars and flat collars. The dog is not hurt with an e-collar or prong collar and the handler does not get frustrated and then turn his anger on the dog with harsh handling. This is critical to the relationship of trust between the dog and any handler who has the leash/collar. A mishandled dog does not forget and John’s harsh mistakes can trigger aggression toward Jane if the dog is desperate or willing to challenge Jane.
The prong collar and e-collar used CORRECTLY allow a wide range of behavior shaping that is fast, virtually painless, and effective far beyond the old style collars. That is partly because over the past few decades, trainers have learned to really help a dog with them and stop viewing collars as punishment implements. Modern trainers have moved well past ‘shocking with an electric collar’ for ‘failure’ to do a command. The e-collar devices are now quickly charged up, extremely reliable in delivering the stimulation level selected by the hand-held transmitter, and easy to use. And their employment by skilled handlers has opened up the chance for ‘family dog’ owners to speed training, eliminate unwanted behaviors, and strengthen the relationship of trust and security between dog and family ‘pack’. YouTube video clips and video presentations from Leerburg.com (free ones, VOD onees and DVD lessons) are easily available. They show a homeowner exactly what to do and how to do it by watching real trainers with real dogs, not staged illustrations.
What about costs ? A Herm Sprenger prong collar will literally last your lifetime and costs about $25 . A high qualty e-collar can be had for $130-150 in the excellent Dogtra brand. Balance that against sore shoulders (or being pulled to the pavement by a strong dog on a leash), dog fights, continued barking, general ‘wildness’ and more. Think about the increased relaxation and real love and respect between handler(s) and dogs that correct equipment and its use afford us. Even before I revisited prong collars and saw modern e-collars, my motto for potential dog adopters was this: ” Training is like spay/neuter… it’s what you do FOR your dog, not TO him “. A dog learns by conditioning, not by cognition. That’s why trainers refer to ‘behavior shaping’… it’s to modify the dog’s behavior gradually in simple steps because a dog cannot reason like a person or gorilla or chimp. Dogs need simple and consistent responses so that they learn easily what to do and what not to do.
Keep this available for reference and look at free video clips and articles at Leerburg.com . It’s a gold mine of free information by top experts who handle ‘hard dogs’ in police work and dog competition sports. Your neighbor or sister-in-law is not a dog expert; listen to dog experts and follow their explanations. Here are two at YouTube.com … Search for these IDs :
Solidk9training and Thegooddogtraining …. both are top professionals.