Prong collars, oh my!

Lifting the collar
Lifting the collar with man hand.

Prong collars – that and e-collars have to be the two most misunderstood and controversial pieces of walking/training equipment.

Prong collars has been a topic that has come up a few times in my program groups and 1 on 1 chats of late and its had me thinking about you guys, and how much or even how little you may actually know about this bad boy.

So I wanted you guys to be apart of the conversations we have been having behind the scenes this past week.

I have had many people assume I am a purely positive trainer.

For you guys as a dog owner you may not even quite understand what that means, or you may have some of an idea, heard that reward based training, positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to train a dog.

And to look for a trainer that does that instead of harsh methods, dominate ways of training.

And I agree.

But that doesn’t make me a 100% positive, reward only trainer, if that’s what you are looking for you have stumbled onto the wrong dog trainers.


However despite that fact I am an absolute softey, and I have found myself sharing with my clients this week a “back in the day”  story of when I was looking for answers for Bundy.

I was criticised about how gentle I was with him, I was too soft, too forgiving, too nurturing and motherly with him and I needed to be harder on him. I was the reason why he was so f’d up and if I got it right things would be fixed.

I knew with Bundy after 12 months that only rewarding his behaviour and ignore the bad wasn’t enough, I could see it was leaving out some of the picture and basically he just didn’t get how to life outside of what I was teaching him was good,

Ignoring “bad” behaviour, which was him just really struggling in knowing what the bloody hell to do left him out in the open floating with no guidance and no idea what to do.

But when I worked with balanced trainers, I felt the emotional gap between Bundy and I grow.

He understood more, but we as owner and dog, we who were meant to be best buds, didn’t come closer through that work. Admittedly it worked with the fact he was easier to handle, I didn’t feel so stressed and anxious about him especially taking him out of the house.

I stopped doubting myself as his trainer, but as an owner I still felt a disconnection between us.

It absolutely sucked, and I had no idea how to fix it, maybe it was just a thing that happened with some dogs and not others, maybe this was just always going to be us.

I spent years avoiding training with a prong collar, I wasn’t that sensitive that I thought they were barbaric.

Although when showing people I do tell them I agree it looks like a medieval torture device.

Keeping in mind LOOKS and IS are two very different things.

I had tried all other pieces of walking equipment, he found a way around all of them to pull and lunge at people and he was hurting himself on them.

I remember years before that when I was promised a head halti was the best way to go.

I spent hours getting him comfortable with it at home I even watched the DVD it came with TWICE.

The first time out of the house he was triggered several times, by the time we got home his nose was cut and bleeding I was like f’ that and didn’t use it again, and yeah I still came home with blisters on my hands. That was a regular occurrence for at least the first couple of years.

It was roughly 4 years in and honestly not enjoying using a check chain which was what I found to work the best but I still wasn’t happy with using it, I finally tried the prong collar.

Which funnily enough it was the prong collar that brought us closer together.

The thing is this the prong wasn’t what fixed things.

There isn’t a single tool that magically fixes anything.

But because of the way it looks my mindset changed and I knew we needed to work as a team instead of looking for tools to just fix them dam problem.

I knew there had to be a greater structure put in place so that this whole weird walking thing that we make dogs do – because lets face it a leash is just not natural in any way for a dog.

It motivated me to get really serious about it to dig more into connection, team building, working together not just I say and you do kind of attitude whether that be for treats or not

but to be honest I could have had this mind set with ANY tool I put on him.

It changed how I structured our training, that I didn’t want it to be formal and bossy not only did I want that team work feel when walking I wanted it every time I spent time with him.

And thus began structuring exercises and concentrating on training methods that carried out into our every day life so I could just be in the moment with him, relax and enjoy him and his every quirk without having to be switched on and demanding on him.

It stopped being about positive vs balanced, harsh vs soft, it became about me getting to be who he is and him getting to be who he is and us learning to work together to move in and out of the house more harmoniously together.

Because of that I am happy to say 6 years in I finally had my best mate, it finally came together.

For my clients who do use them – keep in mind we have clients spread across Australia and the laws differ in each state on both e-collars and prong collars.

They feel the same.

But heres the thing.

That started forming before the prong was introduced.

I often refer to our training especially our leash skills element of our program like a dance.

All be it an awkward dance at first – even for me with every boarding dog I work with sometimes I even stumble and get the steps wrong as we learn to work together.

And not all of my clients use it. I have one badass client who is in a wheelchair and she handles her two large breed dogs like an absolute boss on a flat collar and a halti.

It’s such an individual thing but the tool is such a small part of the whole picture.

If you came to me and said “should I buy a harnerss” “would a halti work for me” “should I go get myself a prong”

My answer would be hold up, we need to work out whats going on, how much your dog actually understands about what the leash and whatever it is the leash is attached to actually means to the both of you.

If you have been around for a while now you know with me, we dig deep, I don’t have a quick fix, this will do it answer for you, so I don’t encourage to just go out and get a prong collar, or throw your halti in the bin because of my bad experience.

What I would LOVE for you guys to do is question, try to step into you dogs paws, try to see it from their perspective, try to see how much they truly understand about the world around them especially that darn leash, those things that trigger them.

That’s where the solutions are born in getting a deeper understanding for your dog and where the gaps in communication, in your relationship and team work lay.

And if you are like my clients and you don’t want to have to wait as long as I did to discover the methods that really dig in and help not just now but long term.

You know where to find me 😉


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