Prong collars can have negative consequences if not used properly

What is a Prong Collar?

Prong collars are a popular and controversial tool used to help eliminate leash pulling in dogs. Also referred to as a pinch collar, a prong collar is a modified martingale collar with arms, or prongs, that extend and tighten against the dog’s neck in response to pulling on the leash. 

Why Use a Prong Collar?

For hard pulling dogs, prong collars (like martingale collars) can be safer than flat collars or choke chains, which concentrate the weight of the dog against their sensitive trachea. Prong collars evenly distribute the weight and pressure around the entire neck because the links of the prong collar tighten simultaneously. Most dogs learn to self-correct with prong collars due to the discomfort felt when pulling. If a dog is not responding, the collar may not be fitted properly.

Prong collars, while effective, can have negative consequences if not used properly.  

How to Use a Prong Collar

Prong collars should never be worn as a dog’s main collar and no tags of any kind should be attached to it to avoid damaging its integrity. It is imperative the collar only be worn during walks when attached to a leash. Leaving the prong collar on a dog for extended periods can cause the prongs to embed themselves into the dog’s neck which can lead to injuries and abscesses.  

Consequences of Improper Prong Collar Use

Improper use of a prong collar can make dogs prone to redirected aggression. This means dogs often mistake where a correction, the pinching feeling, came from and take it out on the human or dog they are interacting with. Because of this, be sure to take the collar off before allowing the dog to have social interactions with other dogs, especially at the dog park, trails, beaches, etc. If another dog bumps the neckline of the dog wearing the prong collar, it could feel like a correction came from the other dog. This often confuses dogs into an altercation neither dog intended to have. 

Prong Collars and Dog Introductions

Also avoid allowing dogs to greet other dogs on-leash while wearing the prong collar. If a dog wearing a prong collar is allowed to greet another dog during a walk, avoid tugging the leash during the greeting to avoid mixed signals the dog might interpret as a correction from the other dog. Rather, allow the dogs to separate on their own, or use a verbal cue like “come” or “leave-it” to end the interaction. Learn more about introducing dogs to each other here.

Alternatives to Prong Collars

A prong collar is not the right tool for every dog or every owner. Many people consider other effective, non-aversive tools such as a Halti or Gentle Leader or loose leash training techniques when training a dog not to pull.

Advice to Remember

If a prong collar is used, refer to the manufacturer’s information pamphlets or online resources to make sure the collar is fitted correctly. Allow the dog wearing a prong collar to self-correct without tugging on the leash during the training and desensitization process. Please remember:

– Only use the prong collar to walk the dog and take the collar off when the walk ends;

– Avoid allowing dogs to wear these collars during off-leash interactions with other dogs; 

– Avoid greeting dogs on-leash whenever possible; and

– It’s strongly recommended to work with a certified trainer experienced with prong collars before using one on your dog for the first time. 

Written by Dusty Robinson, certified trainer and Animal Care Manager of the SPCA-NN

Read tips and tricks for leash training your dog.

Learn More

Check out our Pet Education & Resources Hub for more resources like this!

Learn More!