A dog collar is likely the first purchase every owner makes for their pooch. Every dog needs a collar to display identification and medical information. And, they can make for adorable fashion statements, giving your pup a little extra character.
However, pet owners and trainers often resort to using negative reinforcement or “aversion” collars in an attempt to train their dogs out of undesirable behaviors. Whether it’s leash pulling, jumping on the furniture, or incessant barking, there’s a collar that claims to eradicate each unwanted behavior. Every one of these collars relies on using punishment to train your dog. While aversion collars are sometimes successful as a quick fix to terminate specific behaviors, when used improperly or unsupervised they can cause physical injury and, frequently lead to long term psychological trauma.
Following are the 5 most dangerous:
1. Choke Collars
According to PETA.org, “the use of choke collars has been associated with whiplash, fainting, and spinal cord injuries, leading to paralysis, crushing of the trachea with partial or complete asphyxiation, crushing and/or fracture of the bones in the larynx, dislocated neck bones, bruising of the esophagus, bruising and damage to the skin and tissues in the neck, brain damage and prolapsed eyes caused by sharp increases in pressure in the head, and other injuries.”
Not to mention the obvious – being CHOKED – leads to psychological issues, such as increased fear and aggression.
2. Prong Collars
In addition to choking, prong collars can easily scratch and tear your dog’s skin, leading to a build up of scar tissue. Scar tissue means nerve damage, which means your dog will become desensitized to the pain the collar delivers and, will likely continue the undesirable behavior you are attempting to correct.
3. Shock Collars
There is no way to candy-coat it; when you use a shock collar on your dog, you are administering physical pain and injury. The act of being consistently electrocuted (however “gently”) can lead to long term health issues, ranging from heart and respiratory conditions to gastrointestinal disorders. And, there’s always the chance that the collar malfunctions and issues nonstop shocks.
4. Citronella Dog Collars
While a gentle spritz in the face of a non-toxic substance seems more reasonable than the collars above, it is still not a humane way to train your dog. It is highly possible that the collar’s sensors are sensitive enough to pick up on other dogs barking, thereby punishing the dog wearing the collar for something that they didn’t do. And, let’s be honest – getting sprayed in the face with a chemical is still seriously unpleasant.
5. Head Collar
Head collars (also known as head halters or, gentle leaders) consist of a strap that fastens around the back of the neck and over the muzzle. This type of collar focuses on controlling the head by putting pressure on the sides of the muzzle, making it more difficult for a strong or reactive dog to pull. While it does avoid the problem of putting pressure on the windpipe, it does not come without its dangers. As with the other collars mentioned above, the head collar still relies on using discomfort to redirect the dog. If the dog’s head was to be jerked suddenly, it could result in a serious neck injury. These types of collars are also more difficult to fit on dogs. And, a head collar that is too tight can cause pain by digging into the dog’s eyes, or create skin abrasions from rubbing.
So, what is the safest collar?
The safest collar is the buckle collar (sometimes known as a flat collar) which is best used for displaying identification tags and necessary health information. However, actually hooking your leash up directly to a buckle collar still puts your dog’s well being at risk. If your dog pulls consistently or, if he suddenly sees something and lunges, the quick pull on the leash will still snap on your pups neck potentially causing long term damage. The safest way to walk your dog is using a combination of a buckle collar (for ID)and a body harness (for the leash) to avoid all strain on the neck.
Effective training should be force-free, humane and science-based. No matter what the behavior, correcting your best friend through positive reinforcement using clickers, treats, food, and praise will yield better long term results and create a deeper bond between you and your dog. There’s no doubt that it takes more effort and consistency on the human’s part, but there is no greater reward than having a truly happy and healthy canine companion.