The saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" is not only directed at people and dogs, it can be directed at a training tool known as a "prong collar". We know we know... use the word "prong" and most people cringe, become disgusted, and immediately begin judging in some way. (You can't tell us you didn't do at least one of those things.) - Mmm hmm...
Before we continue, we ask that you try and stay as open minded as possible while reading this. Hey, if you're on a "pit bull" dog advocacy and outreach site you must be opened minded...Yes?... Okay, great... ;)
The title of this blog post is "A Positive Outlook with a Positive Approach". Two very difficult things to do when dealing with something you may not have had a good experience with, heard negative things about, or have not observed in a positive light. Kind of like the "pit bull" dog topic and the outlandish sites on the internet and fabricated media coverage, it's not uncommon for people to shut down and refuse to take another approach on prong collars.
Most people know that IF a dog is managed responsibly, it can be a wonderful family companion. They also know that IF a dog is managed through negligence, issues may and most often do arise. Well, the same goes for a prong collar. IF the prong collar is used and applied correctly, it can be a very useful training tool to both the dog and the handler. If a prong collar is not to your liking, that's fine. For some, prong collars make a world of a difference when it comes to keeping their dogs under control, at their side, and out of trouble. <-- Always keep that in mind - "under control".
Now this is where it gets tricky. This is where your mind needs to be W I D E open...
Remember we said "don't judge a book by its cover"? We encourage you to stop focusing on YOUR perspective of humane vs. inhumane but to instead focus on the perspective of the DOG. Is the dog communicating that it is being treated humanely or inhumanely?
Next time you are out 'n about (whether surfing the net or actually outside of your home), and you come across a person whose dog is wearing a prong collar, take notice to the ENTIRE picture at hand.
Ask yourself:*How is the dog interacting with the owner?
*How is the owner/handler interacting with their dog?
*Is the collar fitted properly?
*Is the dog staying at the owner's side or pulling them down the street?
*Is the dog calm and focused?
*Does the owner/handler look like they have their dog under control?
When seeing someone using one of these training tools, try to have a "positive outlook" on the situation. Notice that this owner is taking steps towards managing their dog. You may not know that person, that dog, or what she/he can handle. If the owner and dog are working well together, despite the collar choice, look at the entire picture as a well-managed outing. Prong collars are not meant for "popping". When used correctly, they are used for redirecting and applying equal amounts of pressure to the dog's neck, giving the handler more control. For dogs likely to pull, the resulting redirection actually reduces the stress to the throat area. If you see the person struggling, the dog pulling, the collar two sizes too big, then consider politely offering some "friendly" assistance.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Ask the person if you can show them a few helpful tips. If the person accepts your offer, adjust the collar so it fits properly on the dog's neck. (Check out this short video: Fitting a Prong Collar by BADRAP). Politely explain why the adjustment is better for them, their dog, and how their current technique can cause future issues if not adjusted. Show them how to hold the leash, talk to the dog, and position themselves to better communicate with their dog. With just a few adjustments it is amazing how much the handler and the dog can improve. Or offer some contact information for your favorite dog trainer you have worked with. They may not know of other training methods or who to turn to for assistance. Take steps to guide someone and not push them away. A positive, productive approach will get everyone much further than a judgmental, snappy reaction.
**Just as a person should never be ashamed of owning a specific type of dog - a person should never be ashamed of properly managing their dog**
Every dog is an individual with their own needs and their own limits, just like their people. Some people benefit from a different type of training tool/method than others. Offer help where needed, look at the entire picture, and don't just focus on "the collar". Be thankful there are owners willing to work with their dogs.
Just because you see a prong collar on a dog does not mean that person is misusing it, abusing their dog, or a "bad owner". Many are simply looking for ways to keep their dog under control, something we want all dog owners to do, right?
Looking for a trainer?
When looking for a trainer to help you progress with your dog, you don't have to go with the first one you find. Do your research. You should want to find a trainer that will help you understand the method they are using and will develop a program that is fit for you and your dog. Quality trainers can and will help you develop healthy ways to build a relationship between you and your k9 buddy.
Need a local trainer? click here
Need a local behaviorist? click here or here
You can also find listings of trainers in your area through your vet, word of mouth or on line.
Doing your own research:
There are many sites, books, and DVDs out there that will help you move in the right direction with managing your dog. As an owner/handler you should be 100% committed to motivational, humane skills which in turn will be progressive for you and your dog - Prong collar or not.
Here are a few that we recommend:
Click to Calm by Emma Parsons
Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
How to Behave so your dog Behaves by Sophia Yin
|photo from a bing search off the net|
This collar is two sizes too big for this dog.
The size of the prongs and the fitting (too many links) is a no no.
This is an improper use of a prong.
A collar this size is not needed for a dog of medium - large build (if any at all) or dogs with short coats.
This collar is fitted properly.
Positioned high on the dog's neck and you can fit 2-3 fingers between the collar and the dog.
Note the great communication from the handler and eye contact from the dog.