Why Choke Collars Aren't the Best Solution to a Pulling Dog and What Is

June19doggoweb2Dogs do not make the connection between the tightening of a collar around their neck and you at the end of the leash.  All they know is that something is digging into their neck and since dogs can tolerate a lot of pain, they just pull harder.

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see dogs on regular or choke or spiked collars pulling forward while I watch the collar dig into their neck as the leash tightens. For some reason the pet parent thinks the dog will stop pulling because he is choking and then gets frustrated when they see it isn’t working.  Most will feel guilty because they know the dog is hurting while others think the dog deserves it because he won't stop pulling. Some don't even notice.Either way, the dog continues to pull.

Vets don’t like choke collars and tell us the trachea can be damaged, causing excessive coughing, or the constant pressure on the trachea will cause it to tighten, like a muscle, making it difficult for the dog to breathe. Importantly, choke collars should never be left on at home. If the collar gets stuck on something, the dog can literally choke itself to death as it gets into a panic trying to pull itself away.

Frankly, I don't think they should be used at all (continue reading for the best no-pull method) unless you have an exceedingly aggressive dog (not just the typical excitement a dog exhibits when it sees other dogs), and even then you should have an experienced trainer who has worked with aggressive dogs, show you how to properly use it.

They will tell you to make sure the leash and collar are always loose and when it tightens you simply give a “correction” which is a sharp and quick (not harsh) snap of the leash while using your voice to tell the dog what you want him to do. I like “no pulling!” The tightening of the collar should last less than a second. Do Not EVER jerk the dog back or yank it hard! The tone of your command should be firm, not angry. This way the dog can connect the pressure on her neck to you and your voice, calmly, firmly telling her what to do. The leash is not just something we use to keep the dog from running away. It is a tool to get the dog's attention focused on you and your commands.

But if you are using a choke collar simply for a pulling issue, then throw it out and listen up...

The absolute best way I have discovered to get dogs to walk at our pace is a no-pull front harness, with a simple 6 ft. leash along with training the dog to pay attention to your voice and commands while on the walk. Do not use the popular extension leashes - on top of being dangerous (you can't control the dog in an emergency) they teach the dog to pull. Think of it.  The no pull harness attaches the leash to the front of the chest and doesn’t involve choking or pain of any sort. I love this harness and have rarely put it on a dog without instant results. I have seen dogs go from pulling their pet parent’s arm off, to instantly becoming docile and relaxed while walking alongside them. If they do pull against it, a slight tug and command and they slow right down. Remember to keep the leash loose. Don't allow it to tighten.

It is also critical that the dog is trained to listen to your voice telling it what to do with clear simple commands. When you are on a walk you are tapping into the dog's instincts for pack behavior. Because of the possibility of a potential crisis, it is necessary to have a leader tell the pack what to do. Run, hide, attack, ignore. If a bear should suddenly appear, the pack cannot have a discussion and vote.  The leader directs, the followers obey, and lives are saved or food is brought down.  It is the same on your walk. If you aren’t acting like an effective leader (telling the follower what to do), then the dog assumes the job, barking, lunging, trying to take care of the problem and getting you to do what it wants. When you start yelling at your dog he just perceives you as joining in the barking.  Training your dog to commands on the walk and repeating the training when there are no distractions will make it easier to get the dog's attention and do what you tell her to do when there are distractions.

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Drawing by Axel Wilhite


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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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