An Observation of Prong Collars

I KNOW this may ruffle some feathers but I really did make an interesting observation this past weekend.

I went to a HUGE canine event with Rio and my friend Monica (a KPA trainer) with her dog, Delta. This is an event for a greyhound rescue that is probably the biggest event of its kind that I have EVER seen. It is a two day event and I wouldn’t even venture a guess at the number of dogs that come through the gates.

This event had stuff to do for everyone. There was oval lure coursing, straight-line lure coursing, dock diving competition, a canine swimming pool, Purina Incredible Dog Team shows, police dog demonstrations, a canine maze (where dogs have to go through a maze to find their handlers), a fear-factor walk through (not as bad as it sounds, but potentially awful–they had lots of commonly scary items set up and people could do some training around the various ‘scary’ objects), the typical doggie event contests (bobbing for hotdogs, best kisser, best trick, best eyes, etc), a “try-it” agility course, vendors, and tons of local rescues. Considering the number of dogs around highly arousing events (like the lure course), I didn’t see or hear of any issues (unlike last year where I saw the woman get bitten by a dog). I saw some really heartbreaking things being done to dogs but… that’s for another post I suppose.

I would say that about half the dogs were walked on choke chains or prong collars (though significantly more dogs were walked on Sense-ation harnesses compared to last year). The number of dogs in rescues waiting to be placed in homes that were wearing prong collars and getting POPPED on prong collars made me want to scream, but that’s besides the point.

So, what was my big observation? Well, it has to do with the lure coursing field.

While waiting for Rio’s turns to run the course, I watched approximately 40 different dogs run the course. The dogs ranged from coursing pros to coursing newbs and from Whippets to a Basset (yes, I took photos!).

Although about half the dogs I saw at the event were wearing prong collars, only about 1/5th of the dogs I saw coursing were wearing prong collars and only 2 or 3 were on choke chains (*this may be a result of the person taking the prong off the dog well before it ran OR putting it on well after the dog ran but I saw most of them around the gate for quite some time before their runs).

I saw 8 dogs who were on prong collars (before running, NOT during) run on the course and what was so interesting is that 7 of the 8 dogs had to be chased around the field to get back on leash. I’m sad to say that most of them were on the run for at least a few minutes before being caught. One dog was so out of control it took the handlers 5 minutes to get the prong OFF the dog (it was rolling, mouthing, spinning, and more mouthing), then they chased the dog around trying to catch him again for about 3 minutes and THEN she had to SIT on the dog to get the prong back on–no joke). None of the dogs were puppies (which I was thankful for) but there was quite the mix of breeds/ages: a 1.5 year old Irish Setter, a 2 year old mix, a 3 year old Spaniel (can’t remember type), an 8 year old Setter, a 4 year old Golden, a 3 year old German Shepherd Dog, a 4 year old Lab mix, and the last one I couldn’t hear the name or breed mix for (they announced this for each dog). The 8 year old Setter was the only one of these 8 who did not have to be chased around the field to get leashed up after their run.

Of the 30 or so other dogs I saw run who were not on a prong collar or choke chain, only three dogs “had to be chased around the field” to be leashed up (two ran together and where chasing each other around). One was a young English Setter who ignored the lure and took the opportunity to run around like crazy for about 4 or 5 minutes and the other was a pair of Portugese Water Dogs (unsure of age) who chased each other more than the lure (they were not so much running from the handlers but were more just chasing each other around for a few minutes).

It’s an INCREDIBLY small sample to make any sweeping statements about, but it is very interesting to me and makes me curious. Within the context of this sample, the dogs who were wearing prong collars were much more likely avoid going back to the handler or being caught after their run than dogs being walked on flat collars, martingale collars, or harnesses. I wasn’t expecting to see such a difference (to the point that it wasn’t until about 2/3’s through the day that I even started thinking about it). After a particularly dramatic chase/capture/re-collar, both Monica and I started making the connection–that nearly every dog on a prong that we’d seen course was not willingly returning to the handler.

There are certainly many unknown variables when it comes to the causes for the dogs to run away from being leashed up but it is still interesting to me. This “I’m free from possibility of corrections” is one of the many reasons why I like to do a lot of my training off-leash. I never want my dog to see the leash as a cue to listen to me (or lack of a leash being a release from listening). I also don’t want to build my training based on the threat of punishment because when the threat of punishment isn’t there, the behavior often breaks down (whether or not this was happening in this situation is unknown).

It may be nothing more than a coincidence but it still was very interesting and got me thinking.

  1. Wait, wait….dogs who were actually RUNNING THE COURSE were doing so on choke chains and prong collars? Shouldn’t there be some kind of safety rule about that?

    Those are very interesting observations, though.

    • Oh No, they were not running with the prongs/chokes on at all. But they were wearing them leading up to the run. So the handler would take it off before the dog ran. They were aware of safety being the main importance.

      Sorry for the confusion!

      • That’s all right. I was just all RED FLAG ^^

        Still, I can’t really blame a dog for taking off from somebody who puts them in a prong collar and pops it. Granted, I frequently feel that people use prong collars in lieu of actually training. I know this isn’t the case for every prong usage, but it’s a definite percentage.

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