Use of the Prong Collar

Does your dog do any of the following: Drags you around, walks on its hind legs choking on a strap or slip collar while it goes, continually lunges, refuses to follow unless you drag the animal on their butt? If so, consider the prong/pinch collar.

The pinch/prong collar is NOT for every dog and/ or every owner/trainer. Use the minimum collar to get the response you want from your dog. Be it bungee, cord, slip, strap or prong. You should be able to get the response you want from your dog if you are using the right tools and techniques. You should be able to control and work with your dog without constantly ‘reminding’ (jerking) him what to do. Nagging a dog on any collar does nothing to train your dog.

If you are nagging then the dog is IGNORING your corrections! All you are doing is effectively training the dog to ignore you. This goes hand-in-hand with nagging ‘sit-sit-sit-sit-SIT!’ We all remember what nagging does to us. Most of us tune out, ignore or fight back against nagging. Dogs are much the same in this regard.

Prong CollarThe prong collar is made of interlocking links, each with two blunt prongs that pinch the dog’s skin when the collar is tightened. Unlike the chain slip collar, it puts even pressure around the neck by pinching the skin in a band about a half inch wide. No pressure is put directly on the trachea with the prong collar. The prong collar may look intimidating or as if it could be a favourite of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition. It isn’t. In point of fact it is less likely to cause injury to the animal than a slip/choke or strap collar. However the prong collar is different and requires that you learn a slightly different approach to handling your dog.

There a two basic types of prong collars. The standard prong collar and the quick release. I don’t recommend the quick release type for large, strong, or intractable dogs as the typical quick release point is a very weak point in these collars. As well don’t choose a prong collar that does not have a swivel attachment ring. Variations of these two do exist.

In selecting a prong collar choose the correct collar for your dog. Collars with “large” prongs should be used on large dogs (over 70 pounds), have long hair, or have thick skin. “Micro” collars are available for small high intensity dogs, Jack Russell Terriers and Toy Poodles immediately come to mind.

The fit of the collar is of primary importance. The length/diameter of the prong collar is adjustable, remove links to shorten the collar and add links to increase the length of the collar. Fit should be such that you can slip one adult finger width under the prong. It should be snug, but not tight, midpoint high on the neck.

NEVER EVER slide a prong collar over your dogs head. One eyed or blind dogs lose a lot in their quality of life. I caution letting any dog run free wearing a prong (or slip collar) unless under close supervision. While the prong collar is less likely to choke your dog if it hangs up on obstacles; ie brush, sticks, fencing; the action of the prong collar will deter your dog from pulling itself free. I have seen a dog in a slip collar jump through brush , a branch got stuck in the ring effectively hanging the dog.

Don’t use the prong collar with a strap collar in place, it can easily interfere with the proper function of the prong collar. Place the prong collar around the dogs neck, switch the lead from the strap collar to the prong collar, remove the strap collar and put the strap collar in your pocket or pack. If you wish a safety in case of the prong collar failing, thread a nylon slip collar through the links of the prong collar and attach it to the same lead.

A note on commands. Heel is the only command to use more than once and don’t over do that one either. Give the heel command “Fido, Heel!” for each change of direction. Give commands in a clear, firm, deep voice. Give commands only once.


The secret to the prong collars use in heeling is slack. At a heel there should be six inches of slack in your lead. As you walk lightly twitch the lead with your left hand. This lets the dog feel the collar is there but adds no pressure. If your dog falls off or moves ahead draw your hand back and up smoothly and released quickly. Don’t hold pressure. Give the command as the pressure is increased: “Fido, Heel!” Don’t use a happy voice. Voice should be firm and deeper. Heel is the only command that should ever be repeated more than once.

A soft motion should be all that’s needed. If it doesn’t elicit the response you want snap the lead quickly, sharply, and firmly. Don’t be surprised if your dog yips. This is surprise at being corrected. They likely have never really felt it before. As soon as your dog responds correctly praise it. “Good Heel.” Use a happy voice. Higher pitched.

Be consistent with your dog. Don’t let your dog walk where it wants then snap it to heel without giving the dog the command “Fido, Heel!” and the opportunity to respond. Do expect immediate response to the command however. Don’t expect your dog to “heel” a yard behind you or in front of you at one point, then expect the animal to know it’s supposed to heel beside you the next. Heeling should be with the dogs shoulder just behind your knee. Consistency is key.


On a prong collar if you hold the six inches of slack in your lead you shouldn’t have to worry about your dog ever lunging. Your dog hits the end of that six inches of slack and is immediately self correcting itself. (Yes it can startle the heck out of your dog and may be even a bit painful the first time or two. Lunging will quickly become a thing of the past) Twitch the lead as it does so and say NO! Firm voice growling voice. And “Heel!” If at all possible immediately change your direction. You must get your dog under control immediately. Such behaviour is NOT to be tolerated.


Snug up the slack on the lead as you come to a stop from heel. Tap your left foot firmly on the ground (soft stomp?) as you come to a stop. “Fido, Sit.” Lift the lead up and slightly back. This causes the dog to lift its head and the back end to lower.

If your dog doesn’t sit immediately, keep light pressure on the lead with your right hand. Run your hand over the dogs back pushing down tightly over the haunches and then cupping the tail. If this doesn’t cause your dog to sit, apply pressure to the hind quarters with your left hand while lifting the lead up and back with your right hand. Give the command only once. Put the dog in the position you want, then praise the dog. “Good boy!” Lots of praise pets and pats. All praise should be in a happy-happy voice.


Achieving a down with a prong collar is the easiest of all whether your dog is in a sitting or standing position. Remove the slack from the lead. Give the command “Down!” and pull down on the lead sharply and firmly. Maintain the pressure in this instance. Resisting? Place your hand or foot on the lead, about a foot from the collar, and push down with your hand or foot while pulling up on the lead. Hold the pressure down until your dog will stay when you release the pressure with your hand or foot. Again lots of praise and pats for doing what you want. Never reward poor behaviour or responses.

If you have to physically lay on your dog to get it down do so. This shouldn’t be necessary with a prong collar. At least I’ve never seen it to be. Do NOT let the dog up until you decide/choose to and give it the release word or another command. If you have to force it down, don’t let the dog up while it is struggling. Doing so will only reinforce that if it fights it can get its’ way.

The key to all dog training. Practice. Practice. Practice. Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.

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