Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Pinch Collar

We've all seen them, they are said to work wonders for the "tough" dog, and when your dog wears it even if he isn't that tough, it makes him look that much more mean or scary.

Lets take a look at if they work, or if they are worth using.  They are designed to cause direct pressure on the neck, causing the dog to refocus on you and ignoring any other urge it may have.

Do they work?  In short yes, they do.  I know a lot of people who use them and who swear that they are the only way they can walk their dog.

Do I recommend them? NO.  Why would I not recommend something that works?   Because of a host of other issues that can arise from using them and because you have not changed your dogs behavior, you have simply put a preventative in place.  In the long run you have a high chance of more negativity stemming from the use of such collars. 

With just as many people I know who use them and have them work for them and their dog, I have just as many with whom they don't work that well, if at all, or they become less and less effective the longer they are used.

Think back to a time when you have been caught up in the moment.  It could have been when you were watching a sports game, the score was close and the action was fast paced.  What if someone had come up to you and poked you with a needle?   Let me tell you, if you even noticed it you wouldn't have thought it was more than a tiny prick, maybe someone had bumped into you.  You wouldn't have given it a second thought.  Why is that?  Because what had your attention was where your focus was and you were so focused on it that your brain could register that something had happened, but that little message gets lost when you are intensely focused on something else.

Your dog will be the same way when he sees something that excites him and he pulls with that Pinch Collar on.  You might be thinking, man, doesn't that hurt? Or if it hurt him he would stop. Wrong.  His brain is trying to tell him to stop, but your dog us currently caught up in the moment of something and the adrenalin is blocking secondary pain signals.  You could even be causing some real damage and your dog would still act like nothing was wrong because whatever it is that has their attentions is being given the higher value at the moment.  That does not mean that he will not feel it, after the fact.

So if your dog likes to pull because you let him (intentionally or not) then he is going to pull.  Dogs pull because it gets them to what they want faster than if they walked by your side because, whether you did it on purpose or not, you ( or whoever had the dog before you) have trained the dog that when it pulls he gets his way.  So if that is the reason your dog pulls and you suddenly make it uncomfortable for him when he does pull, then the pulling will stop when it is uncomfortable.  The problem is that being uncomfortable relies on our brain to be our safety.  Only when we become caught up in something extremely arousing to us, such as that sports game, our brain's little safety nudges get put on the back burner till our adrenalin comes down and those little messages our brain is sending to us can get through.  That's one of the things that can happen when you use those pinch collars.  If you have a dog who needs to work on self control, or one who gets emotionally aroused to easily, your pinch collar is going to be as useless as a fly swatter.
The other, and probably more common problem with using a Prong Collar, is that you are still teaching your dog, but what exactly are you teaching it?

You see how the dogs like to lean in to sniff each other (why they do that is a whole other post), but when they have a pinch collar on and they do that, they get pinched.  Now you might be allowing them so meet another dog, but unless you are really good with juggling that leash as the dogs do their meet and greet dance, your dog is going to be pinched at least once.  So what does that start to teach your dog?  It teaches him that, when I meet a dog I will feel pain and be uncomfortable.  That uncomfortable feeling and emotion will then be picked up by the other dog I am meeting and he might get defensive, or at least a bit more standoffish.  You have just set up a great way to teach your dog, and possibly the dog it just met, that meeting other dogs on leash is not fun. If that is not changed, your dog will learn that seeing other dogs has the possibility of bringing pain and tension.  Thus, wala, you have just created a leash aggressive dog. If this pattern continues, your dog might start to become aggressive with all dogs in general, especially if he lacks a good social past and present with other dogs. (i.e. if your dogs only sees other dogs when on leash and doesn't have a lot of other doggy friends to play with, he will learn that when he sees a dog that pain will follow).

This is why it is so important to teach and train your dog to heel, or walk on a loose leash the positive way.  If your dog learns that the only way it gets to those fun places and the interesting smells, the only way it gets to meet that other dog, or the person is by walking by your side on a loose leash, then that is exactly what it will do.  It will take longer than simply throwing a Pinch collar on your dog, but really those Pinch collars are only teaching your dog fear and pain. When that is all the information your dog revives, that is the only information he will know to send out.  

I use a special harness method, when on leash, to deter pulling. While at the same time rewarding your dog for walking with you when there is no pulling.  I believe in teaching your dog good manners, rather than trying to intimidate them.  There are many ways to teach your dog good manners.  Even if all you do is stop walking when your dog pulls (every time) he will learn very quickly that the fastest way to get where he is wanting to go, is to do it at your pace.  If your dog is a bit older and has already learned that pulling gets him places, you will have to work longer to teach him that the game has now permanently changed. I love teaching the "heel" off leash, but don't forget that you need to put the leash on sometimes too, so they understand that it's the same when the leash is on or off.  Then you will have a well behaved dog who does not learn that fear or pain come from doing the things they love.


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