Ah, the choke collars, they make the ink flow those!
And for a good reason, many people still use choke collars to teach their dog to walk on a leash. In contrast, others categorically refuse to hear about them, advocating more positive methods based on the reinforcement of good behaviours and not the avoidance by fear of the bad behaviours adopted by the dog.
What is a choke chain, and how should it be used?
There are several types of choke collars, there are steel ones (the most common, also called “chain” collars), leather ones, but also semi-choke collars that have a stop and therefore do not choke the dog completely (but a little bit anyway, let’s face it!).
What is the method to use a choke collar?
The choke collar system is based, as its name indicates, on the strangulation of the dog’s neck as soon as tension is felt in the leash (and therefore in the collar). Therefore, the choke collar is used to make the pulling of the dog unpleasant for him, and this is then supposed to make him walk on foot. Or at least not to make him pull on the leash. This is called negative association or conditioning. “I do X behavior, I get Y reaction. I don’t like reaction Y, so I will stop behavior X so I don’t experience reaction Y again” (to summarize).
Dog trainers who use the choke collar proceed in the following way: as soon as the dog passes his master (and is therefore no longer “at heel”) or as soon as he is at the end of the leash, a bell is rung. This sound corresponds to the slight strangulation caused by a sharp blow on the leash.
The problem with this technique is that it is not adapted to learning good behaviours and especially the first learning. Indeed, this technique can be quite adapted for re-education. On the other hand,, there are many other methods less brutal and more respectful of the animal for initial education.
To take the example of behaviour X and reaction Y, I would say that it is preferable to make the dog understand that his behaviour X (pulling on his leash) causes him not to get what he wants (i.e., moving forward). In contrast, behaviour Z (walking on a relaxed leash) causes something that the dog wants (to move forward). And this method is quite feasible with a flat collar, harness and even a choke chain if you want, but for the time being, it will not help.
Always remember that it will always be more effective, fair and consistent to reward and reinforce your dog’s good behaviours than to punish the bad ones. We always work better when we play on cooperation rather than on fear and avoidance.
I say “work better” and not necessarily “faster” because going fast is useless in education, and it is always rather counterproductive. Let me explain. If you want to go fast, in fact, you will use a brutal tool and a radical method playing on your dog’s fear and, therefore, his capacity to understand that he must avoid such or such behaviour. You may have gained a day or two of work (and even then, it must be well done), but you will have lost the confidence of your animal, and you will have turned him into a dog who runs away and who will no longer appreciate “learning”. Whereas if you had worked on reinforcing the right behaviours, you would have gained a dog that is at ease with itself and eager to learn and get satisfaction.
I am not necessarily against the choke collar, but I am against using this tool without reading the instructions first. But that’s the problem, choke collars are sold to most people as miracle solutions, quick and last resort, but without any help to know how to use them.
So desperate owners buy this tool thinking that it will be enough but not knowing that the choke collar if misused, can become dangerous for the dog.
The choke collar can, if misused :
traumatize the dog, make him fearful, especially towards his master,
injure the neck, the vertebrae, the trachea and the larynx,
create a negative association between the strangulation and the dog’s environment at the time of the bell if it is not given “at the right time”.
The drifts that we see daily:
The choke collar is left permanently around the dog’s neck, and the dog is likely to get caught in a branch or something and get stuck. I can’t forbid you to use a choke collar (although it will soon be forbidden in competitions and shows.), but I can only advise you to use it only during exercises working the walk off the leash. Not as a walking collar and even less as an everyday collar.
The choke collar is not in the right direction and therefore does not loosen, even after the famous “ringing”, so the dog is always choking. And yes, the choke collar is put on in a very specific direction. Don’t hesitate to watch tutorials on the subject to be sure not to put it on backwards.
The master adopts too dry gestures, which in the long term will cause injuries to the dog. The famous ringing of the bell is done at specific times and in a specific way as well. The idea is not to choke the dog too long or too hard.
The master will come and shave the neck of his dog for more impact when choking (or when discharging if it’s an electric collar or when choking with a spiked collar). This is crazy and unacceptable!
On a personal and professional basis, I do not use choke collars anymore because I have simply found other techniques that are just as effective and that respect the animal I work with more.