22 September 2012

{22sept2012: prong collar}

People have expressed concerns about our use of a prong collar on Darwin, but we have good reason for using it. Before we moved to Singapore we were worried of Darwin being in a place that was not as dog friendly as Seattle. We had been experiencing problems of Darwin barking at people who approached her to say hello. We'd be out, on a hike, on a walk, at the park, etc, and someone would come up to us and ask if they could say 'hi' to Darwin. We'd say yes she's friendly, and as they'd approach she'd start barking. It was not in a vicious or aggressive way, but it made even dog people nervous (a 130lb dog barking would make anyone nervous) and we were sure it'd scare the daylights out of non-dog people. Also while she's a decent walker on leash (we were using a Wonder Walker Body Halter) she also would sometimes still pull with the harness on. We also heard from Darwin's holistic vet that using the harness a lot was not good because of the way it would rub against her shoulder muscles.
We wanted to correct the barking and work on her leash walking before we moved so we went to a trainer in Seattle. Kristie, Boo's mom, had nothing but good things to say about the trainer she's used, Steve at Nitro K-9, and we've seen how well behaved Boo is so we contacted him. His training method uses prong collars and part of the training was showing/teaching us the correct way to use it. 
At our first evaluation meeting with him we told him our concerns and he did a quick bit of leash work with Dar.
{hanging out waiting for our evaluation}

He noticed she was little gimpy (her back had been acting up again in the last couple months before our move and we had been back to seeing the holistic vet for acupuncture and chiropractic work) and mentioned that part of her barking at people could be related to her being in pain.
Because of her gimpiness he broke up her training sessions into six 30minute sessions rather than three hour long sessions. 

Due to the craziness that comes with moving we ended up missing our last session but still feel we were able to learn a lot from Steve and were able to address the main concerns we had about Darwin being in Singapore. She no longer barks at strangers who approach her (the few that do here) and she's also stopped barking at dogs who bark at her while we're out walking. She's also a much better walker with the prong collar. Every so often we'll switch back to her "pretty" collars but if she starts acting up we'll go back to the prong collar for a refresher.
I used to look at prong collars and think they looked really mean and cruel (ok really I'm still not a fan of the way they look) but after learning the correct way to use it I have to say I am amazed at how well it works. I don't think it's something you should go out and buy and use on your dog without the correct training first, but I think once you are taught the right way to use it it is quite an effective tool. 


  1. I agree with you completely! :) Morgan wears a prong collar when we go out, and it's like somebody remembered to screw the lightbulb back into her brain. She can be a little...I'm not sure what the right word is. It's not unbalanced, but it's near that. She's just a dog that we have to have under control all the time, and she will push the limits as far as she can every time. I love her and I know that I can't let her get out of control, so we do what we need to for her.

  2. Howdy Brooke, we have never seen this type of collar over here in Oz but it may well be used somewhere. It sounds like you totally checked it out and found a great trainer and if it helps, Darwin doesn't mind, then it's all good. Rory is still learning to ignore other dogs too when out walking. He is perfectly fine at dog school, but living in a very small town, he doesn't get a lot of social activity. He is getting better though. As you say, with an extra large dog, any behaviour out of the ordinary e.g. barking, always looks worse, sigh. Take care all. No worries, and love, Carol

  3. Thanks for sharing this experience! So many people have misconceptions about prongs, and we have encountered many judgmental people leaving comments about the choice of training tools they see people wearing on our SociaBulls walks. We know all dogs are different, and what may work for one dog wont work for another.

  4. Walking a strong and difficult dog with Prong Collars are likened to driving with Power Steering. Prong Collars are not necessary for puppy training but can be a great tool for some some dogs. It is important to know dog psychology - how dogs learn (operant conditioning) first and foremost when training dogs. And then understand the proper use of the tool being used. Without these knowledge or a lack of understanding may lead to misuse of whatever excellent tool in ones hand and unintentionally becomes abusive.

  5. Glad you guys were taught how to use it. Still not a fan of anything that tightens or causes the dog pain around the neck. The risk of damage is great even with the best of intentions. Life comes at you fast! :) I am curious about the correct way to use them though.. will have to do some research.

  6. I have no problem when people do know how to use them properly

    Stop on by for a visit

  7. Oh God - you know how much I hate it when people get judgemental and "high horse" about certain training tools - especially as most of the time, they're passing judgement without any clue as to how that tool is used PROPERLY at all!! I also hate the attitude a lot of people have of only 1 school of dog training being "right" and that all dogs should be trained using that method, if you want to be "kind" - it is just so misguided and shows how ignorant they are. The best trainers & owners are those that are willign to explore whatever training methods are best for their own dogs and to keep an open mind about things and learn how to use things PROPERLY and not humanise things too much...OK, I'll stop now before I really get on my hobby horse!! :-) I thought you clarified everything really well - well done!


  8. I completely agree. I have brought my 2 year old Giant Schnauzer (about 80 lbs and ALL teeth) over to Okinawa, Japan and he started lunging at people during our walks! I had already bought a shock collar for when he would ding in our backyard in the U.S, so I started using the shock collar on our walks to help him understand that it's not ok to lunge at people, especially the Okinawan/Japanese people who are interested/curious/afraid of him. He has learned alot and there are days that I don't put it on him and he does ok. You have to do what's right for your dog and to make sure that other people can be safely around your dog.

  9. I am curious about the correct way to use them though.. will have to do some research.

  10. well, you know where I stand on this. ;) (of course i agree completely). looks like you made it to Singapore! wow! i have to catch up!
    Good for Darwin and the prong! i keep thinking one day i'll use my regular collars on L&J but it hasn't happened yet. sometimes the prong is too much for loki too... it makes his barking worse. oy. drives me insane. but yes, it's all about how you use it...when it makes him worse, i will provide a lot more distance and a distraction (work for treat) type of thing. sigh. it's never easy living with a dog with special needs... hahahaaha! hugs to you and Darwin!