Prongs and Chokes to Harnesses

By Allison Lamminen

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A little bit of context

There is a lot of information out there about ways to modify dog behavior, but much of it is incomplete or inaccurate, based on outdated concepts of the "alpha" and dominance. As a result, many well-meaning dog lovers end up using methods such as prongs and other correction-based tools to teach their dogs to walk on leash, which may reduce pulling, but often leads to psychological and behavioral problems, as well.

This issue is particularly challenging in rescue, where volunteers may lack formal training and access to resources, and the dogs themselves often have complicated histories that make them more sensitive to fallout from aversive training techniques. Our campaign seeks to provide humane alternatives to training tools that come with a high risk of side effects, discomfort, and injury.

The problem

One myth is that prong collars do no harm. Some argue that they don't hurt or that they "feel like a mother's teeth," and somehow this causes dogs to stop pulling on leashes. In truth, when a dog pulls while wearing a prong collar, the spikes tighten around the neck, causing pain that can only be relieved if the dog stops pulling. The results? A dog who stops pulling on a leash in order to avoid pain. The same is true for choke collars, although they won't loosen if they are put on improperly.

Prong collars and choke collars can result in desired behavior and are cheap and easily available to rescues with limited budgets.

So why do we want to replace tools that have been proven to work with more expensive harnesses? The answer is this:

Prong collars and choke collars come with a high risk of misuse, and there are superior, humane ways to teach dogs to walk nicely that are less likely to cause psychological or behavioral fallout--not to mention serious injury. Rescue dogs are already dealing with transitions and multiple care providers along with histories of abuse, maltreatment, and neglect; once they are in rescue, it's time to break the cycle of mistreatment. Moving away from aversive training tools is a great first step.

Here’s what we’re doing about it

We will be holding loose leash walking classes for rescues and their volunteers. When participants in those classes bring prongs, choke collars, and ecollars (aka shock collars) to training sessions, we will provide them with high-quality, fitted no-pull harnesses, instead. Our intent is that participants will see how fun and easy it can be to teach their dogs to walk at their sides with a loose leash instead of pulling. As a result, they will be likely to continue to using harnesses in the future. In short, we want to convert people to more up-to-date training methods by providing them with the tools they need to implement them successfully.

NOTE: We will ask participants to commit to using no-pull harnesses during the training.

You can join us

We are in need of donations so that we can provide harnesses at no cost to foster homes affiliated with Minnesota rescue groups to help us take prongs, chokes, and ecollars off the street. Won't you help?

Our first class is coming up soon, and we would appreciate donations of any amount to get us started. If you cannot donate, please share with your family and friends. Together we can build a more humane future for dogs in rescue.

Thank you!

Allison and Cheryl

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Team Members

Allison Lamminen

Cheryl Gfrerer