News Flash! Choke Collars Are Actually Not Supposed To Choke Your Dog!
This is an issue I have been plagued by for years. Seeing dog owners improperly use training collars at the expense of their dog's safety.
I remember working at a large local pet store chain in college and overhearing a customer ask another associate about a pinch collar that would fit his tiny Maltese puppy so he could "train" it properly. I quickly intervened! if you are having trouble with a 4lb puppy pulling on you I assure you that a pinch collar is NOT your answer.
I am a huge advocate for positive reinforcement. It is the main method I use in my training, but I do use other methods as well because I believe in setting boundaries and using leadership skills to build a solid relationship with pet and owner. I never suggest anything that is going to hurt, scare, or make the dog not want to willingly participate in training. You want a dog that repeats good behavior because they associate it with something good. That will form a habit in a positive way. No one wants a dog that is scared to death to do something in fear of severe punishment. Dogs are not cookie cutter when it comes to training. I believe in finding a method that will work well for the dog's personality and owner.
Pinch collars and choke collars can cause extreme harm to your dog. It is vital if you are going to use this type of training tool that you are using and fitting it to your dog correctly. You can bruise and damage the skin on the neck causing scar tissue to build up. These collars are linked to collapsed tracheas and eye isuues from the pressure the put on the neck area if left on all the time. Even your basic collar can cause harm if your dog is excessively pulling on every walk.
I have been training dogs for over 12 years. I am telling you it is entirely possible to teach your dog how to walk well without them. I am by no way suggesting or advocating their use by this post, but I know there are people that will use them anyway. So if you are going to use them, I want to make sure you know how to do it correctly.
If you dog is actively choking, hacking, or struggling to breath during your walk. You collar is not on correctly. This goes for regular collars out on a walk as well.
If you are using a choke chain or a pinch collar they are meant to be slid all the way up on the dog's neck as far as possible. The bottom part should rest just under the jaw, and the top part should be flush with the bony point on their skull towards the back of the head. This takes pressure of the airways. A good example is the slip leads they use during dog shows. You don't ever see a show handler presenting a dog with the slip lead at the base of the neck do you? No they keep the lead high up on the neck to make sure the dogs can breath correctly and stay happy, yet they still have maximum control without harm.
The picture below shows an improper fit of a pinch type collar.
These collars are meant to be used during training sessions. If you are leaving them on your dog 24/7 you are putting them at great risk for injury and skin irritation. If you are using this type of collar I suggest a traffic leash like the picture posted below instead of your regular 4 foot standard leash. You are able to keep your dog closer and reduce the force asserted if they pull.
This is where I see people doing it all wrong ALL the time. I will see a huge Labrador "walking" their owner, dragging them down the street despite the pinch collar(usually not fitted correctly on the neck). This causes extreme pressure to the dog's neck, face, and eyes and constant digging into the trachea that can eventually partially or completely collapse without warning. If you use a pinch collar and are constantly in a pulling match with your dog please consider a safer alternative and enrolling your dog in a basic manners class that can teach you how to walk your dog in a safe more positive manner. You may save your dog's life!
There are so many safer and better alternatives. If you still want to use this type of lead I suggest a safer leather or nylon slip lead like they use in dog shows. Honestly your $0.99 slip lead you sometimes get at the vet are usually way more successful in walking than the heavy expensive pinch or choke chains and easily fit in the correct place. I suggest these for a dog that all ready walks pretty well on a leash and not for a dog that is a heavy puller because you will still be at great risk for injury if you are not walking them correctly.
If you do not have the time to get into a dog training class right away to learn some walking skills then these are a great option for excessive pullers that owners just can't control. The two most popular are Gentle Leader and Halti. They work similar to a horse halter. This is never meant to be a correction collar. The basic theme is that if you can safely control the dogs head then the body has to follow the head. If you stop and the dog keeps pulling he will just end up standing backwards. After a few tries the dog will stay nearer to you because they want the walk to continue. It's why we are able to lead huge horses and other giant animals safely with head halters. These are not meant to fit tight around the muzzle, your dog should be able to pant or pick up a toy while wearing the head halter. These are great for a temporary training tool to learn some basic walking skills. Be sure you have the correct size and fit for maximum results. The Gentle Leader comes with an instructional DVD. You can always email me firstname.lastname@example.org for questions as well!
These are a great alternative to the choke chain. They work in a similar way but this limits the restriction and pressure applied to the neck. You are also able to leave these collars on your dog comfortably for all day wear. Long necked dogs such as Greyhounds, Whippets, or Basenji's particularly benefit from this type of collar because it can expand the the widest part of neck comfortably during all day wear but can be slip up to top during a walk to prevent pressure in the neck. You can also find some super cute ones on etsy that can be custom made for your pet.