Prong Collars

In some states/territories in Australia, these devices are banned under their respective Animal Welfare legislation, but are still being used by many people operating as a dog trainer. Some are even using specially designed flat fabric collars that cover and hide the prong collar or are using with rubber stoppers on the ends of the prongs.

To use a prong or shock collar as an effective training method you will need a) a thorough understanding of canine behaviour b) a thorough understanding of learning theory c) impeccable timing and skill. And if you have those three things, you don't need a prong or shock collar.

"Abuse starts where knowledge ends"

Here is a summary of our research...

In most animals, punishment enhances anxiety and fear. It makes animals more reactive, and in turn, increases aggression and arousal. Animals that are already reactive and aggressive will become more aggressive when punished, due to feeling threatened.

There have been several studies conducted to assess both the effectiveness, and adverse effects, of using punishment-based training methods. These studies have all concluded that not only do these methods cause irreversible physical damage to the dog but cause undesirable behaviours after their use in training.

In all studies, punishment-based training has never been as effective for achieving obedience goals as reward-based training. Dogs that underwent aversive training methods, such as prong collars, exhibited more stress-related behaviours in both training situations and during their day-to-day life.

Prong collars are perceived by many dog owners as an effective form of punishment, due to the undesirable behaviours in that animal stopping. However, upon examination of those animals, the change in behaviour usually indicates that a lot of normal behaviours also stopped. These animals were found to be spending more time engaged in escape, hiding, and vigilance and scanning behaviours. These behaviours are all associated with anxiety and not with normal canine behaviours.

The risk of physical and psychological injury is increased by acts of punishment, such as prong collars. Dogs manhandled with prong collars have shown laryngeal, esophageal, thyroidal, tracheal damage, and calcinosis circumscripta-like lesions may develop because of muscle trauma.

Prong collars also increase the pressure on the dog’s neck and has been shown to increase intraocular pressure (pressure in the eyes), in a way that causes injury to vision over the long term. Dogs with thin corneas, glaucoma, and eye injuries such as corneal lacerations, are put at serious risk.


Primary References

Brammeier, S. et al. (2006) ‘Good trainers: How to identify one and why this is important to your practice of Veterinary Medicine’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 1(1), pp. 47–52. doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2006.05.001.

Schalke, E. et al. (2009) ‘Comparison of stress and learning effects of 3 different training methods in dogs’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 4(6), p. 252. doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2009.05.014.

Secondary References

Ciribassi, John,D.V.M., D.A.C.V.B. 2015, "Forget dominance: Fear-based aggression in dogs", Veterinary Medicine, vol. 110, no. 8, pp. 210-212.

Dreschel, N.A. (2010) ‘The effects of fear and anxiety on health and lifespan in pet dogs’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 125(3–4), pp. 157–162. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2010.04.003.

Guilherme Fernandes, J., Olsson, I.A. and Vieira de Castro, A.C. (2017) ‘Do aversive-based training methods actually compromise dog welfare?: A literature review’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 196, pp. 1–12. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2017.07.001.

Vieira de Castro, A.C. et al. (2021) ‘Improving dog training methods: Efficacy and efficiency of reward and mixed training methods’, PLOS ONE, 16(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0247321.

Ziv, G. (2017) ‘The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—a review’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 19, pp. 50–60. doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2017.02.004.