Dog Collar Round-Up, Part III: Slip/Choke and Prong Collars
Slip collars, or “chokers”, are a standard of “old-school” dog training. They are so-called because the collar passes through its own loop and “slips” into a tighter position when either the dog pulls or the handler pulls on the leash – thus “choking” the dog.
I prefer the term “slip” because “choke” has bad connotations (intentionally so, by detractors); and although it can be a dangerous collar and must be used with care, there are situations and dogs that benefit from it.
First of all, unlike non-slip neck-collars, these can be worn relatively loosely around the neck without fear of the dog slipping out. If your dog is a lunger, or spooks at noises, he can slip free from traditional collars and harnesses, whereas the slip will close tight around the neck making that much less likely.The other benefit is the effectiveness of the slip in communicating a “correction” to your dog. I don’t particularly like the term “correction”, as that connotes a kind of punishment that isn’t necessary; I call a quick light tug on the leash that taps the dog’s neck – just like tapping a friend on the shoulder – a “communication”. Slips are particularly effective in helping you communicate to your dog via the leash because they grip the neck, simulating a quick bite that another dog might give to “correct” unbalanced, anxious, or aggressive behavior.
Communicating with leash-tugs to your dog can snap him out of a dangerous mindset that isn’t focused on you – e.g. when he sees a squirrel, another dog, or a wayward chicken bone. With proper redirection and reward, this type of communication can be a crucial part in training a peaceful, happy, and obedient dog.A variant of the fabric slip collar is the slip chain, pictured on the right. The chain offers a firmer tug and is generally sturdier, so suitable for bigger, tougher dogs like pits and shepherds. Some owners also find that their dog responds to the sound the sliding chain makes, and that helps provide control. However, I find that the chain doesn’t respond as quickly to a tug since the links have to “chunk-chunk” over one another before tightening; and correct timing is essential when communicating with your dog for training purposes.
An even more extreme version of the slip chain is the prong collar, pictured here. The idea of the prongs is that they act like teeth, even more realistically simulating a dog’s bite and so providing more intense correction (here you can genuinely call it that). Some owners of big tough dogs find great success with these. However even more care must be taken when using them, as they are even more dangerous than the non-pronged version. Not only can the dog choke, now the neck can actually be punctured if he lunges or pulls quickly or strongly enough.
So here’s the scoop for slip/choke and prong collars:
- Can be worn loosely without slipping off over the head
- Ideal for communicating to the dog with a leash-tug
- Dangerous and potentially harmful to the neck or trachea of small dogs
- Dangerous to all dogs if they pull, lunge, jump, or run
- Chains, and especially prongs, are even more risky
Overview: If you find no alternative other than a slip/choke or prong collar works to control your beast, be extremely careful and use it as gently as possible. Also never leave your dog wearing one unattended, whether leashed or not. In most cases, however, you should be able to find a less dangerous alternative that works just as well with proper care and training.