*** Since this article, I have drastically changed my views on prong collars. I’m not as much of a fan as I used to be. The reason is that I think that the prong collar did less to teach Tierce and more to control him. I don’t think that they’re evil or that using them means that someone is morally bankrupt, but I think there are better methods out there.***
Something that was mentioned on SHIBA-L recently was this Secret Powers prong collar by Lola Limited. Its advantages are that it looks prettier than a regular prong and also it is less likely to draw the ire of those opposed to the use of such things. This brought up a few thoughts on the whole prong collar debate for me.
One of my tools is an ordinary prong collar, as Tierce has neck like bull and every so often requires a reminder that, hello, no, you’re not in the fucking Iditarod, thank you very much and I would like my shoulder back.
I don’t mind prancing Tierce out high, wide and handsome with his collar gleaming around his neck. I’ve been accosted by do-gooders who haven’t been able to answer the question of how do you control a Shiba who pulls on his leash during walks as if he was Buck moving the thousand-pound sled for John Thornton so that you can have a reasonably pleasant walk uninterrupted by yelling, strained tendons or yanking the dog around.
Tierce is actually pretty good and the prong collar comes out only on special occasions now that he is almost 3. However, when you’re dealing with an adolescent Shiba, I think there isn’t anything that beats a prong collar for quick control.
There are people who think the prong collar is cruel. I don’t entirely disagree.
“Cruel” refers to “willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others”. When you’re physically interfering with a dog so as to cause it discomfort, one can argue that you are willfully causing it distress. (Let’s ignore the fact that Tierce considers us not sharing the toppings of pizza to be “distress” here)
The prong collar controls by causing the dog discomfort if he puts pressure against it. I’ve put a prong collar around my arm and given it a tug and, damn, it doesn’t tickle. Dogs’ necks are a lot tougher than human skin, but I’m willing to bet that it doesn’t feel that great to Tierce.
Here’s the part that people who will condemn me for using a ‘torture device’ will copy and paste: I don’t mind causing discomfort and even mild amounts of pain to Tierce if I think it’s the fastest way to stop problem behaviour. If Tierce is lunging all over the place and the normal collar correction doesn’t work, it’s on with the prong collar and miraculously, a lot of the pulling and yanking and the fuck-you-I’m-going-over-here-except-I-weigh-25-pounds-and-you-weigh-mores stop.
Worse, I don’t even feel BAD about it. Apparently if you get to the point where you use a prong collar, you’re supposed to wallow in excessive amounts of guilt and bewail the necessity of it all. I don’t.
If Tierce walks nicely and doesn’t hurl himself against the collar in an attempt to get one… inch… closer! to that maple leaf frisking in the middle of the road, he doesn’t get pinched. It’s kind of like dog collar Aikido: the amount of energy the dog puts into pulling against the lead is the amount of discomfort the dog endures. Tierce, being a sensible creature, does not endure a lot of discomfort gladly. So he walks nicely.
I take into account MY feelings and tolerances and I’ve found that I’m a lot more patient with Tierce when I have something I know will get his attention and control him. There’s few things more frustrating for me than a dog who just doesn’t give a shit because he knows he can handle the amount of discomfort he gets from jerking against his buckle collar. Now that I’ve taken that away from him, he’s willing to listen to me and I can get my point across without reefing on whatever collar he’s wearing and constant warnings.
Now I’m sure that someone will bring up the head halters/choke chains/special harnesses that I could use. Well, I’ve tried a lot of them. Head halters would have me jerking Tierce’s head up on an angle to correct him and I just… no. Choke chains choke. They put pressure on the trachea, even when used properly. Harnesses just reinforce Tierce’s image of himself as a sled dog in the Yukon Quest.
Prong collars work for me and I won’t apologize for using them.
However, there are people who have found that these collars don’t work for them (read this if only for an awesome overview of Cesar Millan’s training techniques and how Mei Chuah of the Shiba Shake blog found they worked on her dogs Sephy and Shania). Not all dogs are created equal. What works for Tierce, who thrives on serious Schutzhund training techniques, does NOT necessarily work on another dog or even on another Shiba. There are some Shibas, especially some abused/neglected Shibas, who will respond to this training tool with shrieks and panic.
You can’t depend on anything to miraculously “fix” your dog’s behaviour issues. Prong collars are a tool; they are not a cure-all for a dog’s bad habits. So it’s up to you to determine whether the prong collar is a good fit for your dog. It is entirely possible that after shopping, fitting and buying, a prong collar will end up not being the most effective tool for your dog. So what you do is put the prong away and find a tool/technique that the dog does respond to.
As for the Secret Power collar above, I’ve got nothing against it, mainly because the collars are pretty and anything that makes my dog look more aesthetically pleasing is good in my book. And, hey, if it makes people feel better about using prong collars and therefore having better control over their dog, then fine. I’m just not ashamed of using one and letting people know that I use it. For me and for Tierce, it works.