So many people assume that the only way to control a giant breed dog is through force such as a choke or prong collar. There are so many detriments to using such an aversive tool. Thankfully, there are better ways to ensure your dog doesn't pull you down the street.

No, Your Giant Breed Does Not Need a Prong Collar

Nothing hurts my heart more than to see a dog wearing a prong collar. I often wonder why the individual is using a prong collar on his/her dog. Oftentimes, it’s simply a lack of knowledge or misinformation.

Prong collars are used far too frequently, especially when it comes to giant breeds. So many people believe that prong collars are the only way to control such a large dog. I am able to walk Mauja and Atka (who easily outweigh me) by myself without the use of prong collars, choke collars, or any other aversive. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

What Are Prong Collars?

A prong collar is a device that has fang-shaped, metal prongs and is worn around the dog’s neck – much like a regular, flat collar. When the dog pulls, the prong collar creates a pinching sensation that causes the dog pain and discomfort.

Prong collars are a form of positive punishment. Don’t let the word “positive” confuse you. Positive punishment means that a negative consequence occurs after an undesired behavior. You are adding (hence the positive) a consequence to prevent a future behavior. Another example of positive punishment would be receiving a speeding ticket after driving too fast on your way to work.

Prong collars can also be looked at as a form of negative reinforcement. For example, after the dog learns that pulling causes the collar to pinch, he stops pulling. The dog changes his behavior (pulling) to prevent an aversive stimulus (pinching).

So many people assume that the only way to control a giant breed dog is through force such as a choke or prong collar. There are so many detriments to using such an aversive tool. Thankfully, there are better ways to ensure your dog doesn't pull you down the street.

Consequences of Prong Collars

Studies have shown over and over that pulling and jerking of the leash (on any form of collar) is extremely harmful to the dog’s neck and throat. Many dogs experience bruising on their neck and even eye damage. I see more puncture wounds in the dog’s neck than I care to say.

Physical damage aside, there are mental/emotional consequences of utilizing prong collars. Perhaps you’re struggling with your dog pulling toward other dogs while on a walk. Leash corrections don’t do anything to address the root cause of the issue. They do, however, increase behavioral issues such as fear and anxiety.

Our first dog, Kaeto, had horrible leash reactivity. We learned that in his prior home he had received leash corrections for over-excitedly pulling toward other dogs. He began to associate strange dogs with the pain of the correction which led him to fear other dogs. Seeing a dog meant pain. Not a good thing.

My Dog Doesn’t Act Like He’s In Pain

This is one of the most common arguments for proponents of prong collars. Just because a dog doesn’t show signs of pain or discomfort, doesn’t mean they aren’t actually experiencing it. Dogs typically have a high pain tolerance and won’t show pain most of the time. This is especially true for Great Pyrenees. The Great Pyrenees not only has a high pain tolerance but doesn’t let pain impact his job. It takes a very high-level of pain for a Great Pyrenees to react.

Another argument is that prong collars don’t cause pain if they are used properly. This is completely and utterly false. If they didn’t cause pain, they wouldn’t work. Going back to positive punishment and negative reinforcement, either the dog is receiving an unpleasant stimulus or the pain is removed after doing the “right thing”. Pain is involved either way.

So many people assume that the only way to control a giant breed dog is through force such as a choke or prong collar. There are so many detriments to using such an aversive tool. Thankfully, there are better ways to ensure your dog doesn't pull you down the street.

My Dog Gets Excited When I Grab the Prong Collar

What does the prong collar mean to your dog? Does it means he gets to go for a walk or a car ride? Maybe he gets to go to the dog park. Your dog is associating these events with the prong collar. However, he’s not excited to experience pain while out on these adventures.

No, Your Giant Breed Does NOT Need a Prong Collar

When Atka was only 3 months old, we had him in a puppy kindergarten class to work on the basics and on his socialization. The class had an adorable Saint Bernard puppy who was about one month older than Atka. They were the two biggest pups in the class, so they always had a great time wrestling together.

The owner was having a really difficult time working on loose leash walking with her Saint puppy. He would drag her into the building happily pursuing the closest person for pets, thanking them with copious amounts of slobber. After a few weeks, the trainer pulled out a bucket of choke and prong collars and selected one for the puppy. The owner seemed hesitant, but ultimately she allowed the prong collar. He wore it every week after that.

When Atka graduated puppy kindergarten, we decided to sign him up for basic obedience at the same location. Nick and I weren’t completely fond of the trainers, but they had been letting us do our own thing (I was the only one using a clicker). Our options where we live are extremely limited, so we went with what we had.

When signing Atka up, the trainer asked if we had a prong collar and a leather leash. We didn’t, so she started to head to the bucket of pain to grab one for Atka. Mama bear in me picked up Atka and told her absolutely not – she was not putting that on my puppy. We were not allowed to sign up for the next level obedience class.

There seems to be this idea that the only way to control giant breeds is through force. According to so many, giant breeds are strong, tough dogs that need to be put in their place so they don’t take over. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to train a dog that could easily take me down through force and intimidation. I would much prefer to have a dog that trusts me unconditionally.

So many people assume that the only way to control a giant breed dog is through force such as a choke or prong collar. There are so many detriments to using such an aversive tool. Thankfully, there are better ways to ensure your dog doesn't pull you down the street.

There Are Other Options

A few weeks ago, I ran into a couple with an adorable, 7-month old Great Pyrenees. He was stunning, but obviously still in his bouncy puppy phase (remember, giant breeds don’t mature until at least 3 years of age). I had to hide the horror on my face when I noticed the poor guy was wearing a massive prong collar.

Since I absolutely have to talk to anyone with a Great Pyrenees (we all know I’m obsessed), I approached them and we started chatting about their pup. They were in the collar aisle, so I asked if they had ever sought alternatives to the prong collar they were using. They said no because they were having great success with it. Their puppy was much more behaved in public. After discussing the dangers of prong collars and explaining their options, I was thrilled to see them leave with a Gentle Leader in hand.

No Pull Harness

No pull harnesses generally clip in front of the dog’s chest rather than on the back. When the dog pulls, the harness gently steers your dog to the side which allows for more attention to be directed toward you. There are many brands of no pull harnesses available, but we’ve had great success with this Easy Walk Harness with Mauja.

Gentle Leader

The Gentle Leader is my preferred tool for training loose leash walking. I’ve used it on Great Pyrenees, Great Danes, Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, and several other giant breeds.

The Gentle Leader works much like a horse halter. When your dog pulls, the leader gently directs his head to the side. This allows you to steer your dog in the desired direction. While out on walks, Atka gets very excited when he sees other dogs. No treat is going to lure his snout around to look at me when he’s highly stimulated. The Gentle Leader allows me to get his focus and then reward him for walking calmly.

The absolute most important thing to remember about the Gentle Leader, or any other head halter, is to not just shove it on your dog and go. Unless your dog is muzzle trained, he is not used to having something around his snout (just like when you first put a collar on a puppy – they’re typically not happy!). The Gentle Leader comes with instructions to desensitize your dog to the sensation so he accepts it just like he would a regular collar. Do not skip this step. Proper training and desensitization are vital to your success.

Training: The Key To Success

Using the above-mentioned tools are great while training your dog to walk politely on a leash. However, it’s important not to allow them to become a crutch. You really have to understand why your dog is pulling so you can successfully train loose leash walking.

There are many tactics and techniques for training loose leash walking. Rather than describe them all, here’s a list of helpful articles:

For More Content

We’re teaming up with Fidose of Reality and Budget Earth to take a stand against the use of prong collars. Head over to their sites to see what they have to say!

So many people assume that the only way to control a giant breed dog is through force such as a choke or prong collar. There are so many detriments to using such an aversive tool. Thankfully, there are better ways to ensure your dog doesn't pull you down the street.

21 comments on “No, Your Giant Breed Does Not Need a Prong Collar”

  1. When I brought my first Berner home in 1979 and enrolled her in training classes with our local dog training club, choke chain collars were required standard equipment. Fast forward to 20+ years ago and our local Humane Society began offering dog training classes – all based on positive reinforcement. Since that time my Berners have never worn anything but a flat collar and the training results have been amazing. It is a sad fact however that many of the dog owning public are not really dog savvy or training savvy. I think it would go a long way if pressure were put on PetSmart, Petco and other pet stores to stop selling choke chains, prong collars and shock collars. If you look at Pet Smart’s list of collar selections under “everything you need for your puppy – collars” – a pinch collar is prominently featured on the first page of the results. These collars certainly cannot be a big part of their business and focusing on the humane collars and harnesses would go a long way to promoting positive reinforcement based training methods.

  2. Thank Dog that you shared this. There is such a stigma, and an incorrect one, that big breeds need pinch/proke/choke collars to be trained. You knocked this out of the ballpark and good for you! I am so glad we are getting the word out.

  3. YES!!! My parents show and breed Mastiffs, and it’s so depressing to see the amount of prong collared dogs within the Mastiff circle. My parents don’t use adversities, and they have fine control over their dogs.
    I almost think it’s more sad to see a prong collar on a small dog. :/

  4. I’ve been struggling to understand the use of prong collars for a long time. I’ve never had a large dog, and while they sell XS prongs for tiny dogs (Ugh.) I’ve never needed one.

    But I try not to judge people who use them – I can kind of understand why someone would use them if they have a large dog AND health problems or disabilities that would make pulling very dangerous for the human – but creating a reactive dog seems much more dangerous.

    My feeling is, even though many trainers say they use them, and are able to prevent reactivity somehow – if there’s a better way, what’s the point of sticking to the metal stabby collar?

  5. Love this! I have used the gentle leader for training and now use a no pull harness for walks. They work miracles! I will definitely share this with some friends with large breed dogs. Thank you!

  6. Wonderful post! My human grandpa had a service dog and the company that he got her through used prong collars. She was a great and well trained dog, other then her I don’t know of anyone who uses these collars.

  7. Excellent post! NO dog should wear a prong collar, they have too much potential to damage the dog’s neck & throat area! I have a Husky and she pulled unbearably. I would never consider a prong or choke collar for my dogs. I tried the head halter but it didn’t work well for her. The no-pull harness however, worked like a dream! It took a bit of work getting used to it but we’ve been using it for 6 years with great success. I’ve used it on seriously strong pullers at the shelter too and it works great. I met a couple with a rescue Pit Bull once, the poor dog had a super heavy chain with a big lock around his neck. They said the rescue told them to use it to prevent him from pulling! What kind of “rescue” organization would advise such a thing?! I proceeded to educate them, trying to keep my horror in check. They clearly didn’t appreciate my advice to just go get a no-pull harness! It broke my heart & angered me at the same time. Thanks for writing this. Sharing.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  8. Awesome post, Kelsie! I actually just added a link to it on today’s post where we mention the no pull harness and gentle leader!

    I think a lot of owners who use prong collars have never considered what it is actually doing to their dog. Great job raising awareness on this issue!

  9. What a perfectly written post. This will be one I will continue to share. I can’t believe how people and trainers say prongs or even shock collars are the way. We have a gentle leader and a no pull harness we use for different outings. Why wouldnt you want your pup enjoying their walk. Great job Kelsie perfectky said.

    I do have a question big dog momma to another. My Saint is 6 and STILL pulls, manly when were on walks and I’m not walking fast enough to a tree he wants to mark…how did u transition from gentle leader/harness to just leash.

  10. I am a member of a Great Pyr Club and also a Pry owner. Last Spring we had a Club Picnic and they had 2 women that were canine law enforcement officers that were the guest speakers. They had with them one of their “officer dogs” and he was quite awe inspiring. They put on a fantastic demonstration USING Prong Collars. They also showed that the “pinch” was to replicate the bite a mother dog would give one of her pups. My 4 year old Pyr does just fine with a regular collar, but my 5 year old Golden Retriever can back out of any collar I have tried – except the prong. They and other members of the club talked about spine and throat problems with the choke collars. These do Not happen with the prong. The major thing is to be sure that the Prong fits right and do not Yank the leash. I am sure there are many discussions about this, but for some dogs the prong is the answer, without harming the dog. People just need to be educated on how to use them correctly and if they are necessary. As I said, my Giant Pyr does not need one, but my smaller Golden has to have one. Do your research – Do what works best for Your Dog!

  11. I do use a prong collar on my dog. It’s a life saver training tool and not a cruel medieval torture thing like this article suggests and like lots of people think. Flat collars are way more dangerous and can really choke out a dog who pulls a lot. As Terry said, the prong will replicate the correction given by the mother or a nip given by the alpha dog in a pack. That’s not inhuman and can be a huge training tool if used correctly with the proper fitting. Only those who have used a prong collar in their dogs will know how it can turn a puller in a complete angel. The prong collar is one of the best communication tools. My 3 month golden retriever puppy wears one and he isn’t hurt, depressed, fearful or anything. Otherwise, he is happy and learning by motivational reinforcements and corrections, where the prong collar really makes the difference. If you want to take months to train a loose leash or correct bad behaviors, that’s up to you. Your dog, your call. I’m not a professional trainer and don’t have the time I wish to train my dog, so the prong collar helps me to achieve the same results much faster without hurt my dog. I think some time people think they are fur kids and treat them like one. They’re not. They’re animals. They’re dogs and they see the world in a very different way and that’s why where some people see a inhuman cruel and medieval tool, I see a tool that uses the natural instinct of a dog being a pack animal who needs to be corrected in order to understand his place in the pack, which is your new family. I don’t feel I love my dog less just because I don’t think he isn’t a child or because I use a prong collar. Again, your dog your call. I just don’t want people judging me without even do a quick research, try the prong collar or even know why I’m using one.

  12. prong collars are NOT harmful and they do not hurt dogs . A regular collar can actually choke a dog more than a prong collar . How dangerous do you think it is to have a 80+ pound dog lunging and pulling you down the street ? I have been pulled over by a 75 pound dog who was on a regular harness and wouldn’t listen and just basically would drag me around the block . Even small dogs pulling can be problematic . Our small dog dodges and weaves , nearly tripping us while on walks . A prong collar and teaching proper heal completely solves this . It is NOT fear based . Do your research . There are many balanced trainers like Jeff Gellman of SolidK9trainig who have helped people who are struggling with their dogs . His whole goal is to create calm for the dog . I’ve seen his board and train and the dogs are not fearful but calm and listening to the trainers . The trainers are calm and kind . Any training tool can be used incorrectly but that doesn’t mean the tool is wrong or bad

  13. At what age can you use a gentle leader? We have a highly social, highly enthusiastic, extra big golden retriever boy (our second golden retriever although our first one was much smaller and much more submissive). With our first one, despite going to puppy classes and doing all the homework, she repeatedly injured either my wrist or my elbow with her pulling thus we wound up using a prong collar a several months before I was able to transition to the gently leader. This one is a big boy for a golden, 50pounds at five months! The trainer we work with (who trains search had rescue dogs, narcotics dogs, police doge, bed bug dogs….) didn’t start us with a prong collar but has us using one now. She said he was too young for the gentle leader because of his pulling. we are looking to an alternative as we wonder if the collar is the cause of some lameness in his front right leg. But how do you get such a big puppy to pay attention to you when on walks or (heavens) the cat comes in the room. I’m all for humane, but it has to work! So many sites don’t really tell you HOW to do stuff. So, When will he be mature enough for the leader and what the heck does one do about the cat??? Thanks, I know I rambled some.

  14. Prong collard are the best!!!! This is the worst article I have ever read!!! Ever!!! I had a yorkie in one and it worked beautifully!!! No it does not hurt the dog if fitted properly. My neighbor is having elbow replacement surgery because her trained service dog bolted after something and she has now decided to break down and get a prong collar!! It took a shattered elbow!!! I think prong collars are the best trading tool on the market…and a tool every responsible dog owner should use. My yorkie lived to be 17 so I can promise you he was not harmed and our life was so amazing because of it!!! Sure to look at it you might think it could hurt them until you inspect it and learn the machanics a truly the best trading tool ever…

  15. Article is over simplified. Of course I would not use a prong collar if I had any other option. But I have an aggressive adult adopted dog who is dangerous on a leash. I’ve tried the harness anti pull and it does almost nothing to stop my dog from sudden lunging at other dogs, children, squirrels, workers, and sometimes ups trucks. When used properly prong collars are safe and do stop my dog from sudden lunging etc. he is well behaved knowing it’s on and he simply walks like I am in control. He’s been to boot camp and prong collar was the only way to go for THIS dog. No injuries and no aversion to seeing the collar. Not all big dogs are slobbery sweethearts… for some it’s a safety issue.

  16. Lots of bad information here regarding prong collars. I used to think the same way until a professional trainer strapped a prong collar onto my arm and yanked and twisted like a mad man. There was no piercing of pinching pain I just was simply unable to pull away from the pressure there was no pain at all just steady pressure.

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