Choke Collars

The choke chain, or choke collar, was the dog training standard for years. If you were training a dog twenty years ago, you almost certainly would have used one. These collars were used as part of a strict behavior correction, or positive punishment, training method that dominated dog teaching methodology. However, in recent years the methods and practices have changed due to concerns over safety and an increase in the use of positive reinforcement training. While many trainers are moving away from the use of this collar, it can still be a useful tool when used correctly.

The Basics

The Choke Collar looks like a series of metal links with two large rings attached to either end. You create a collar by taking one ring and pulling the chain through the other, to create something that looks like the letter P. The ring that connects to the leash is called the live ring because it moves when the chain is pulled and the other ring is referred to as the dead ring.

While it is called the choke collar, it is important to note that when the collar is used effectively and correctly, it does not choke the dog. According to trainers, the dog is conditioned to respond to the sound of the collar, not the restraint. It is this conditioned response that teaches the dog the proper behavior.

* Trainers that recommend the use of the choke collar, as well as those that do not, agree that restraining and choking a dog will only aggravate behavior problems. Because of the potential for harm to a dog, many trainers have stopped using the choke collar and have advocated against its continued use. However a few still recommend it as a training tool and contend that when it is used and fitted properly it will not harm your dog. The decision on whether or not to use this particular collar will ultimately come down to you, the owner, but it is important to consider the potential safety concerns when deciding how to train your dog and what equipment you will need.

Pros

- Helps owner control high energy and “difficult” dogs

Cons

- High potential for trachea and neck injury if used improperly

- Punishment can lead to aggressive behavior

- Not recommended for new or inexperienced owners

Fitting the Collar

According to trainers, it is very important to ensure that the collar is both fitted and attached properly, as incorrect use can injure a dog. The collar is supposed to fit comfortably over the dog’s head. You need to make sure that it is not only tight enough so that it doesn’t slip off when the dog lowers his head, but also loose enough that is comfortable for the dog to wear.  A good estimate length is to measure the circumference of the dog’s neck and then add two inches.

When putting on the collar, the part of the chain connected to the live ring needs to be on top of the dog’s neck. The collar will relax and loosen this way. If the live ring is underneath the dog’s throat, then the collar will tighten but it will not loosen. This will leave a constant pressure on the dog’s throat and can lead to choking. This constant pressure will encourage a counter pressure response from the dog. Dogs will learn to strain and pull into the leash if they feel constant pressure around their neck. According to trainers, this is counter-productive to training and can make it more difficult to teach a dog proper behavior in the future even if using different methods.

How it is Used

Choke collars are used for two main purposes. They allow an owner to correct improper behavior and act as a reminder to a dog that you need his increased attention for training. When the dog behaves incorrectly, a quick snap of the chain will tell the dog to act correctly. At first the dog will respond to the choking pressure of the constricting collar, however a dog will eventually become conditioned to respond to the snapping sound of the collar and will respond to that sound before being choked.

Quickly pulling on the collar creates a sound that resembles pulling on a zipper, this is called the zipper snap technique. Trainer’s who use the choke collar recommend practicing the zipper snap technique when the collar is not attached to the dog because when used properly, the quick snap of the collar will correct the dog’s behavior and you won’t end up choking your dog.

It is important to remove this collar when not training, because leaving it on could result in injury if the collar is caught on something. By only using the collar in training, the collar will also begin to serve as a reminder to the dog that he needs to pay more attention to you during training time.

When to use a Choke Collar

Many trainers now advocate against the use of the choke collar because of potential for injury to a dog, however some still suggest it as a tool for training high energy dogs and dogs that are difficult to control such as Siberian Huskies or Rottweilers. These collars are also recommended for use with long-haired breeds such as German Shepards or Keeshounds because the extra fur decreases the risk of throat or neck damage.

The collar can also be helpful for people with problems communicating authority with their voices or for dogs that are easily distracted because putting on the collar will force the dog to pay more attention during training time.

Because of the potential for damage or injury, this collar should never be used by new or inexperienced owners. It is important to learn how to use the collar correctly if you are going to use it to train your dog.

* These collars are not recommended for use on short-haired breeds because there is an increased chance of injury. However, there are fabric variations of the choke collar that were designed to be safer for short-haired breeds. The fabric variations are called slip collars. Slip collars work the same way as metal choke chains, however the nylon design has less risk of damaging a dog’s throat. They are a safer alternative to the choke collar.

 

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