Service dogs and pinch collars: help or hindrance?

January 18, 2010 · Posted in Equipment/Supplies, Service Dogs, Training 
pinch collar

We really enjoy watching professional dog trainers work their dogs. I am amazed at how they can command their dog’s attention and maintain a level of control over their dog’s head through the use of a leash and collar.

As a wheelchair user, handling a dog can be challenging. From a sitting position, it can be more difficult to manage my service dog’s movements without the assistance of other techniques and devices such as a pinch collar or training collar.

Does your service dog forge or as I refer to it, have a secret desire to be a member of a sled dog team? All three of my service dogs have had a wandering head for either food particles on the floor or the need to get ahead of my wheelchair. I always feel so guilty for using a pinch collar but I have to say, it works like a charm.

When a trainer suggested a pinch collar for my first dog, Ramona, I was shocked and appalled. How could I put such an offensive looking device on my little angelic service dog? Well, my little angel was eating everything in sight and the pinch collar definitely got her attention. Ramona was more responsive to me whenever she was wearing it AND I didn’t have to pull so hard on her.

My second dog, Morgan definitely had aspirations to be a member of a champion sled dog team. He was somewhat interested in food, but he was more interested in forging ahead of me. This posed a real problem as I started developing shoulder and neck pain because of the force I had to apply to keep him from forging ahead and literally pulling me out of my wheelchair.

When I put a pinch collar on him, he too became more aware of his forging and became much better at heeling beside my wheelchair without pulling me out of my chair or causing irreparable shoulder damage.

My current service dog, Whistle, has these similar tendencies although they are not as pervasive as with Ramona and Morgan. He likes to find morsels on the floor that he can scoop up and he likes to forge every now and then. What he does like to do that Morgan and Ramona didn’t do, is he likes to sniff where other dogs have urinated. He just can’t seem to resist.

I was so thrilled because I really haven’t had to use a pinch collar on Whistle. However recently, his desire to sniff where other dogs have relieved themselves has become an increasing problem.

As a result, I finally broke down and purchased a new pinch collar for Whistle. Once again, it looked very offensive to me. I was so worried that I was hurting him, although I know it looks much worse than it actually is. And, I have to say, it has really curbed the issue of Whistle breaking from a “heel” command to sniff uncontrollably. So for now, I am back to using a pinch collar when Whistle and I are in public. I have to ask, “how do you feel about using a pinch collar on your service dog? Is it a helpful tool or a hindrance?”


20 Responses to “Service dogs and pinch collars: help or hindrance?”

  1. Tonja on January 18th, 2010 8:51 pm

    I use a pinch collar on my Service Dog as well. I have joints that dislocate. Any extra pulling is a big no no for my draft dog! Ha! He is a good leader. Other collars he doesn’t even notice.

  2. Sherlock on January 19th, 2010 5:27 am

    I am training a rescued 3-4 (approx) year old boxer for service work for myself. He has come along nicely in all areas except he is still highly distractable outside of our home area. He’s getting to the point where he’ll ignore people as long as they don’t walk up to me (and we’re still working on that!). He doesn’t like other dogs, especially big dogs, coming toward him. He was apparently a bait dog for a dog-fighting organization and so he is aggressive to big dogs approaching him, even in a friendly way.

    I use a prong collar on Beau when we’re out of the house. My trainer discovered that Beau is well-trained on that particular collar but off collar, he’s a normal adhd teenage boxer! Put his gear on (collar and vest with mobility handle) and he’s a completely different dog.

    Somehow he just knows that the collar and vest mean he’s working and at home without those on, he’s just a normal everyday dog. He plays well with our other two dogs and he is able to ignore them when we have training time inside.

    That collar makes all the difference in his attitude and behavior. It also helps me a lot as I have torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders and cannot have surgery to repair. I’ve also had surgery on both hands. So I need a dog that is easily controlled with just a flick of the leash. And this works.

    I, too, was appalled when I went to get Beau from his first “boot camp” and the trainer showed up with Beau in a pinch collar. Until I learned the proper way to use the pinch collar (for correction not punishment) and also learned that, to Beau, this means “working.”

    Because other people have such negative attitudes toward these collars and because Beau’s boxer hair is very short (so the pinch collar stands up and looks like a torture device), I always tie a kerchief around Beau’s neck and drape it over the pinch collar when we’re out in public. It doesn’t hide it completely but enough the people don’t give me ugly looks or (in some cases) say something nasty. One of my trainers also does this when she has her dogs out in public on the pinch collar.

  3. Denise on January 20th, 2010 5:34 am

    I also use a pinch collar on my service dog. I also have problems that require no pulling on my arms or shoulder. It works very well and have no problems with him but the public seems to think I am hurting my service dog and I get all kinds of nasty comments because of the way it looks. I have tried to use other collars such as the gentle leader head halter and it does not work for my dog. I recently bought a cover for my pinch collar and I sometimes use his service dog bandana to cover it so i don’t have to explain why i use it. It works and i am not hurting my dog or myself because he does not pull ahead like with other collars.
    I wish someone would make one that works as good, easier to put on and looks better until then i will continue to use the prone/pinch collar and try to educate the public.

  4. Wayne Tuttle on January 20th, 2010 2:36 pm

    I am a Guide Dog handler and a Service Dog advocate and for many years I have seen a number of people with their pet dogs using these horrible looking Collars. Like many, the commonly called “Pinch Collar” or the less obtrusive name “Prong Collar” has been given a bad rap because of it’s medievil design.

    A few years ago I met a chap at a park who was walking his dog that was wearing a Prong Collar. I always wanted to know if this collar actually hurt the dog, so I decided to ask him a few questions. After speaking with him a great length, I was convinced this is a very useful tool for correcting a companion dog or even a Service Dog.

    Some research has been conducted surrounding the use of the Prong Collar. Here is one such study…

    After further investigation, we believe the Prong Collar is a very useful tool to be added to our product line. We will also be developing a Prong Collar Cover in hopes to alleviate the negative stigma attached to it’s current design.

  5. Sherlock on January 21st, 2010 4:43 am

    Here’s a place to get prong collar covers.

    And I have a prong collar that snaps into place — here’s one

  6. Marcie on January 26th, 2010 7:02 pm

    Thanks Sherlock, I really appreciate those web sites!

  7. Mary on January 30th, 2010 11:17 am

    I’m curious as to how often the pinch collar comes off the dog(s) am I correct to assume that the dog does not wear the collar at all times? Thanks!

  8. Marcie on January 30th, 2010 12:40 pm

    Thanks for your comment Mary. I can only speak for myself, but I only use the pinch collar on Whistle when we are out in public. When we come home or if I feel we are in a comfortable environment, the collar definitely comes off.

  9. Barbara Drury on May 1st, 2010 1:50 pm

    My dog as well has developed a need to sniff every pee spot we pass by. My solution is to put him back into the gentle leader harness. It goes around his neck and slips over his nose. I hook his leash to the nose ring and with the concept that “where the nose goes, the body immediately follows”, he only requires a gentle tug to keep him on task.
    After doing this a few times, I now only need to put it on him and he “KNOWS” that he better behave and he acts like the most well trained service dog in the world! lol

    This has also worked as a quazi-muzzle for places that require all dogs to be muzzled while outdoors…People just assume that it is one and it doesn’t impede his helping me and everyone is happy.

  10. Melissa Wallace on June 10th, 2010 5:22 pm

    I use a micro-prong sometimes for my SD. He is also a trained tracking dog, so I want him to pull in certain harnesses. We also do obedience, so he has beautiful heeling. BUT, he pulls fiercely when he knows we are not training or showing for obedience. The micro-prong brings an instant response from aggressive pulling to quiet walking when I cannot devote all of my attention to him, like navigating stores and airports. Once he calms down, I can remove it if I want because he knows how he is supposed to act. He is still young (2 Years), but little dogs have delicate tracheas, so I would rather have a micro-prong on him than do leash corrections or let him pull and hack.

  11. Laurel on August 13th, 2010 3:06 pm

    Ah, prong collars. My girl has one, and she’s only 65 lbs (a very strong 65 lbs). It’s the only way I can get her to listen relatively quickly (although a good “No” is proving useful as of late). She sniffs, she scavenges, and greets people-what a guide dog! My greatest hope is that one day, all service dogs can just wear half-check collars all the time. But until then, I’ll have to check out those prong collar covers–do they also make them for slip collars? My baby wears both (the only prong I can operate had to be the one that comes apart easily!), which is doubly unnerving to the public.

  12. Sue on December 2nd, 2010 6:37 pm

    I use a prong collar in public just-in-case. Sometimes a circumstance will arise that is totally unfamiliar to the dog. Mine had never seen a rabbit. I got a good jerk up my arm the first time. Now he wears the prong collar even out walking. He actually likes it. I buy 5/8 inch ribbon that has some substance, ie grograin. I weave the ribbon in and out the chain. I can change them easily for holidays or seasons. I let the ribbon dangle somewhat. Everyone thinks they are so cute and overlook the prong part.

  13. Dena Feller on December 28th, 2010 10:14 am

    I too, have used a prong collar with my girl, Bailey. She is an almost 80 pound German Shepherd. I get a TON of questions about whether she is “mean” or not, and if she is a “police dog”, but have found that the easiest way to control her AND my anxiety issues- (try going into Wal-mart with a Service Dog, a 6 year old, and a 9 year old and you too will understand!). If you use the collar in the correct manner it is a TOOL, nothing else. Though recently I have been using an Everlasting collar by a company called StarMark. It is basically a plastic prong collar and it works well even with a thicker coat- like Bailey has. Prong collars are NOT abusive if they are used CORRECTLY. And they provide a degree of control to those of us that (as I do) feel anxiety in an unfamiliar situation. Thanks for bringing this up!

  14. Marcie on December 28th, 2010 10:52 am

    Thanks for your comments Dena, I completely agree. It is a great tool for handlers IF it is used correctly. I have limited balance and upper body strength and it enables me to handle Whistle much more effectively. I have found it to be an indispensable tool over the years with all three of my assistance dogs.

  15. Gary Johnson on January 1st, 2011 4:43 pm

    A less obtrusive, but equally effective solution is a Triple Crown collar.

  16. Marcie on January 1st, 2011 5:07 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Can you tell us more about how you use the Triple Crown collar?

  17. Gary Johnson on January 1st, 2011 10:29 pm

    It works exactly like a prong collar, but doesn’t raise questions from the public due to it’s softer appearance and non shiny color.

  18. Dena Feller on January 4th, 2011 2:58 pm

    Marcie- the Triple Crown Collar is the same one I posted on calling it the “Everlasting” collar. I really love mine, and Gary is right- it really does not look like a prong at all. Bailey responds to it as well as her regular prong, even though it is made of plastic. She has a thick ruff of hair around her collar area. The wonderful thing about it is that while it works well with thick hair, it works equally well on dogs with flat coats too. It may even work better…since I have never had a flat coated dog, I can’t tell you about that.

  19. Marcie on January 4th, 2011 4:35 pm

    Yes, it sounds like a great option. I am going to get one for Whistle. Thanks for the recommendation everyone!

  20. Megan on May 5th, 2014 1:14 pm

    My dog Luna who is 1 years old and in training to become my service dog. Also has a prong collar and does really well with it.

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