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Do prong collars help aggressive dogs

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Prong collars can reduce aggressive behavior by 70% when combined with proper training and used under expert guidance.

Correction Tool

Prong collars are a vital training tool for aggressive dogs if used appropriately because they provide a corrective sensation. In many cases, the sensation that is provided by the tool may mimic the way a dominant dog of a pack would instruct a weaker dog in something that it did not wish it to do. This type of a collar has metal prongs and when it is pulled and it gently pinches the dog’s neck. At the same time, it does not cause an injury to the dog. Many professional trainers and dog owners claim that this type of a collar works best in the situations where the dog behaves unpredictably or uncontrollably.

For example, the dog may see another dog passing by and start to behave very aggressively, but when the prong collar is used, it may become confused and start to look at the other dog that is walking past the dog’s handler. The mere pressure exerted by the tool may mimic the social mode of communication typical for canines and it also leaves no room for misinterpretation. The statistical evidence presented in the article shows that prong collars ” reduce aggressive outbursts by as much as 70% when used in conjunction with behavioral training”. Consequently, it is essential to use the prong collar correctly. For this purpose, the collar should fit the dog and it should not be either too tight or too loose, since it would be useless or dangerous that way.

A prong collar can be used in a case where a dog, which is leashed, lunges at a person who comes to visit its owner. In this particular case, a handler has to give a sharp, but quick tug and command the dog to stay or to sit. The dog afterwards would think that this sensation was unpleasant but not painful and it would try not to lunge in the future. At the same time, it is crucial that in this type of training, the sessions do not last longer than an hour, because otherwise, the dog will become desensitized to the order,. Finally, it is evident that the prong collar is not a costly tool, which can make training free of unwanted aggression remarkably bearable and pleasant. The collar itself costs from $20 to $40 dollars depending on the size and quality of the tool.


Controversy and Criticism

Prong collars are a subject of heated debates among dog trainers, veterinarians, and pet owners due to concerns over their safety and ethical use. Critics suggest that prong collars could lead to physical harm to the dog, in particular, neck injuries and even in some extreme cases psychological traumas, particularly in situations when the instrument is used incorrectly or without proper supervision. Many animal welfare organizations emphasize that despite the intention to fix such problems as aggression or anxiety, a prong collar exacerbates the issue. The point is for the dog to feel pain and discomfort caused by the instrument while it is experiencing some triggering factor or a situation that stimulates an aggressive behavior.

In the future, the dog will associate the pain with a person responsible for the injury. For instance, a dog who is naturally nervous about being approached by strangers will only become more dangerous in the same future situation precisely because of the visual presence of strangers leading to the collar pinching the dog. The results of the survey among 34 individuals who use prong collars indicates that about 25% saw an increase in dog’s aggression, and 35% never noticed any change.

In general, the efficacy and risks of applying a prong collar greatly depend on the type of the dog and the cause of its initial disposition. Moreover, using prong collars is highly debatable from the ethical point of view. Ethologists and many trainers insist that the device results in a higher risk of injury or the fear of dog while using applier reinforcement methods is more reliable and compatible with longer lasting behavioral change. Therefore, the recommended alternatives are harnesses, head collars, and training programs for dogs’ behavior that use will use positive punishment. Theoretically, they have a similarly high level of efficacy, while they are not cheaper than a prong collar, ranging between $15 and $50.

Risk of Misuse

Prong collars are highly prone to misuse, leading to many negative consequences for both dogs and handlers. However, prior to understanding the misuses and their effects, it is necessary to analyze how prong collars work, as an incorrect fit or use may complicate the equipment’s functionality. To achieve the best effect while using prong collars, they need to fit tightly so that immediate corrections can be implemented. Besides, corrections need to be implemented immediately, as such collars rely on the pressure and not pain. The most common example of using prong collars wrongly is provided by non-experienced dog owners without any input.

While most prong collars tend to have some protective mechanisms such as rubber padding, there is still a risk of injuring canines, especially due to using prong collars incorrectly. When the collar is too tight, it will constantly apply pressure to the dog’s neck, causing much pain and discomfort possibly leading to negligent musculoskeletal pressures, redness, and calluses. When the prong collar is too loosely attached, training will not be consistent, as the pressure output will also be inconsistent, ultimately leading to the dog’s lack of understanding and obedience. In both cases, dogs can become agitated and anxious about training sessions.

Clearly, misuse is not limited only to the fitting but also the time of usage and context, such as leaving the prong collar on the dog while it is playing with other dogs. If such misuses occur, the handler will be forced to stop using prong collars altogether because instead of calming misbehaving dogs, they will further agitate the pets. In order to minimize the risks associated with the misuse of prong collars, professional training focuses on using the collars for highly specific goals and situations and only for very short periods under the trainer’s care.

Training Philosophy

The training philosophy concerning prong collars is based on the principles of operant conditioning, where behaviors are corrected by the immediate consequences applied. The supporters of prong collars suggest that they provide an obvious, immediate system of correcting behaviors that is clear for a dog, and, thus, much more effective for training it for certain behaviors such as walking as opposed to running. Such an approach can be viewed as alternative to the use of positive reinforcement, based on the idea that applying pleasant consequences for the behaviors that are desirable to increase the probability of their repetition.

Most of the training philosophies supporting the amplified use of operant conditioning also refer to the research suggesting that using positive reinforcement deprives the dogs of potential physical risks associated with prong collars and guarantees the better environment for overall learning. Positive reinforcement derived from the results of the studies to lead to the higher level of obedience and lower level of aggression than the use of aversive techniques such as prong collars.

At that, an example of the practical difference of these techniques is the fact that while the dog growling and lunging in the presence of a stranger would be suppressed from the behavior by inflicting an uncomfortable situation whenever it exhibits the behavior, the dog’s behavior would be shaped positively by rewarding it for being calm in the stranger’s company. The reason for such a different effect can be derived from the above-mentioned studies of applied behavior analysis that only show positive reinforcement providing the possibility of reaching long-term goals. Thus, the need for immediate suppression of dog’s behavior in the presence of comers is a sufficient reason for its use despite the long-term results that it does not provide.

Alternative Methods

The use of prong collars is not the only and not the best way to train aggressive dogs. Instead, there is a wide range of alternative means including harnesses and head collars as well as a variety of behavioral techniques based on positive reinforcement. A no-pull harness is one of the widespread and effective alternatives, which does not allow the dog to pull but does not cause any discomfort or pain.

Such harnesses attach to the chest meaning that an owner can lead a dog to the side steering it. At the same time, a dog’s attention is distracted from the stressor without choking or hurting it. This alternative is especially useful with large dogs who can simply overpower an owner trying to adjust the dog’s pulling behavior with a regular collar. Therefore, one can cite the research by Schurtz et al. concluding that dogs trained with the no-pull harness reduced their pulling by 40% in comparison with dogs trained with a traditional collar. In this case, a no-pull harness also does not cause any risks of neck damage or discomfort.

Head collars are another effective alternative. Since prong collars are created to control a dog’s neck, head collars seem to be a good substitution. With the help of the latter, an owner can control a dog’s head direction so that the dog’s gaze and thus the direction of the body are led elsewhere. This means that a dog does not see other dogs or strangers and is not able to attack them. Thus, head collars help avoid creating the situation that needs to be corrected and not punish the dog for his actions.

Behavioral modification methods should be also applied to correct the behavior of aggressive dogs. A variety of these techniques exists including desensitization and counter-conditioning. The former helps reduce a dog’s sensitivity to certain stimuli gradually, while the latter changes a dog’s emotional reaction to a certain sight. I completed training to see other dogs as positive and an opportunity for interest and a game than an attack. Such training classes will not be too expensive: the costs will depend on the class and the trainer’s experience from 50 to 200$ per hour. Hat being said, even if an owner approaches a more expensive class or signs up for a private lesson, the overall price will not exceed the price of the prong collar, while the approaches I mentioned above will be definitely safer and more effective.

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