I'm attached are you?  I am attached but I am not hurting anyone.  That's right, I'm physically attached to my dogs when I need to be; that meaning a leash law or safety reasons.  My attachment of choice is a harness, the Easy Walk Harness by Premier to be specific.   Today's blog is about choke collars as you may have guessed or heard already.  My inspiration for the blog was a chance interaction with a woman at the park yesterday.  It ended with her walking away with her hand up, palm facing me so you can guess how it went.  

I took little Miss Penelope out yesterday.  Earlier in the morning I had dug out a harness that I'd purchased for Jessie years ago but it had always been too big.  I was pretty sure that it would fit Penny and it did, it was perfect.  It was the Roadie car harness which I needed to keep her in one spot while we drove to the park.  It worked perfectly and she lay quiet as a mouse on our short trip.  Once there I kept the harness on to continue on our walk and it looked very comfy.  We were only a few feet into our walk when a group of women came by, one had a dog.  

Penny and I moved off of the path to let them pass when I noticed the poor choking dog.  I quickly assessed the group and felt that maybe I shouldn't, but I had to.  I called out "have you ever tried the Easy Walk harness?"  The little 15 lb dog was pulling like crazy and the woman kept pulling, long and slow yanks on the collar.  Every once in a while she'd give it a more serious yank.  I had to say something and you never know.  Sometimes people actually listen, not often but sometimes.  The owners body posture told me right away what she was about to say.  "I volunteer at the shelter and this is what they told me to use, I'm using this harness for training now," she said angrily.  "You mean that choke collar?"  I shouted back.  

The response I got from her is typical, angry.  Just a few weeks ago I did the same thing and got a surprisingly positive response.  The couple stopped and we talked a long time about options and how they should deal with pulling.  They actually thanked me as they walked away.  But not yesterday, I continued to explain to the woman how the collar damages the neck as she walked away waving her hand "thank you, thank you, I'm doing what the shelter told me."  I had one final thing to tell her "you might want to look it up!" and she was gone.  

I am hoping that maybe, just maybe our interaction gave her a moment of thought.  A dogs neck is a delicate thing, not the durable, unbreakable structure that many think.  But more so than not we just don't think about it.  Choke collars have been around forever and as far as I am concerned they should now be history.  They should be among the other things left in the past that we look back and and say "remember when?"  But sadly they are not, they are cheap and the old timers still believe in them.

Choke collars choke, hence the name.  Many strong believers say that if used properly that they do no damage.  I disagree.  I am not a person to spout about things I've never dealt with; I've used choke collars and this is why I don't and won't use them again.  I am not here to tell you not to use them or that you are a bad person if you do; I am simply explaining why I don't.    

But here are a few facts on the subject.  

A dog's neck was not meant to have a chain around it.  Contrary to popular belief like many things that have gone on for years and years, it's not okay to yank on our dog's necks.  It hurts and it can cause lasting and permanent health and pain damage that might only be seen via x-ray or mri.  This like many other things that go in the "it's just what we do," department need a good clear thinking through.  Sit down, pour yourself a coffee or tea and think.  Do you think that putting a chain around your dogs neck and giving even the slightest of yanks is okay?  I don't. 


  1. Personally, I am a believer in "choke" chains when used properly. If the dog is *choking* or pulling on the collar, they are not being used properly.

    First thing...most people put the collar on wrong. The part that attaches to the lead should go *over* the neck, not *under*. The collar won't release in the under position. It is supposed to snap and release ie become loose. If it snaps and stays tight...its on wrong.

    Second- the collar should be loose when walking. If its constantly tight, you are using it improperly.

    The theory behind this collar is to mimic the mother dog's corrections to a puppy. Momma will correct a puppy by biting and releasing the back of a puppy's neck. Its a pinch and release. Its not a constant tugging. That damages the neck and trachea.

    I'd prefer these collars would be called a snap collar, because that's how they should be used. Misbehaviour , snap the collar, RELEASE.

    Many people use too long of a collar too. There should only be an inch or two of give before it pinches. Too long and its useless. You'd have to pull and pull to get it to correct. The moment is gone by then.

    Now, I don't care much for harnesses...but I don't disagree with people who use them. Used properly, they work. Used improperly and the owner has no control over the dog.

    Snap collars should never be worn continuously. They are only for walks and training, then taken off.

    I guess the main point is snap collars and harnesses are only useful if properly used. They are only humane if properly used. Pet owners and trainers need to really research both and have them properly demonstrated by competent professionals.

    I wish I knew how to do videos and uploads to demonstrate these collars correctly. How I use them, there is nothing inhumane about it. The trachea is never involved, just the back of the neck.

  2. I've gone back and read the links you've provided. They absolutely illustrate my point of improper use. Hanging a dog, using prong collars, pulling by dog are improper uses of this collar.

    If the collar can't be used by you (pl), you shouldn't use them.

    My dogs are always at my heel with a loose leash and collar. If the go ahead, I snap the collar and release...just to remind and to give them a slight pinch on the *back* of the neck. My dogs have never had problems physically or emotionally.

    but again...if you can't use them properly, do't use them. But a blanket condemnation isn't warranted either.

  3. Liadan, you totally have the right to your opinion as do I. I don't think that anyone should use them and as a very experienced trainer in the use of choke/conventional training and positive reinforcement I have the goods to back up my opinion. Once you learn about positive reinforcement training, which most conventional trainers won't do then you will never go back to a choke collar. There is so much more to training a dog than just correcting by giving them a physical snap. Dogs are so much smarter than we ever give them credit for and their learning curve is all about association. JMHO

  4. Oh absolutely positive reinforcement should be given. The 'snap' isn't all there is to training. I believe in many different methods. I'm just saying this one tool isn't at all bad when used correctly. Trouble is, it so seldom is used correctly.


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