Using a choke collar is probably one of the most controversial topics in dog training history. Use of the poorly named “choke chain” or “choke collar” has been debated for years.

Most old-school trainers–like me–believe that the proper use of one can be a very effective tool without being cruel or inhumane in any way. A chain collar is not always the right tool and I don’t recommend one for every case. Many of the new wave, highly educated, young “schooled” dog trainers of today are opposed to their use. The new generation dog trainers say that choke collars are violent and inhumane, and should never be used for any reason. These people have probably never starred down an angry, 135 lb Rottweiller that is trying to kill them; or a 3-year old, 75 lb. Pit Bull who has never been taught to walk on a leash properly and is trying to pull the arms off his owner; or any size dog that is totally out of control. Their answer is to use treats and give positive reinforcement. Not all dogs are treat motivated or easily distracted from their target so the reality is, that just doesn’t work sometimes. Many people also tell me that they’ve tried using a gentle leader, which works only until their dog decides they want to kill the cat or another dog walking down the street. Then the “gentle” goes right out the window and they become impossible to handle pulling, lunging, growling and barking. So, what do you do?

I believe there are times when the use of a chain collar, or correction collar, as I prefer to call it, can make an impression on the dog without harming him or breaking his spirit. Now, I will tell you that a chain collar—if used incorrectly or in anger–CAN be a weapon. But, it can also be used as an effective training tool in the right hands. I always use this example: If you take a hammer and drive a nail into a board with it, it is a great tool right? However, if you take the same hammer and hit someone in the head with it, it becomes a terrible weapon.

The biggest part of the problem and misunderstanding about chain collars is that people do not use them properly. It starts with putting it on the dog’s neck correctly. The correct way is to feed the chain through one of the end rings until the collar forms a “P” shape.  With the dog on your LEFT side, slide the circle of the “P” over your dog’s head with the leg of the “P” pointing straight back toward you.

This allows for a quick, stern “correction” to be made, but for the collar to become instantly loose when tension is released therefore minimizing the pressure around the dog’s neck to a split second. I see it time and time again. The most common way to use a chain collar as a weapon is to put it on the dog backward where it cannot release, therefore locking it around a dog’s neck.  Most people who have a dog that pull them down the sidewalk try using a chain collar thinking it will stop the dog from pulling. This could not be more wrong. When a dog is in full-pull mode, his mind goes blank. The chain collar tightens around his neck, cuts off his air supply, and could cause serious damage to his throat. The dog just pulls harder and continues choking himself. They don’t seem to make the connection that if they stop pulling they’ll stop choking. The constant pressure on the neck is using the collar as a weapon. (This same pressure on the neck can also happen with a regular strap collar.)

When the chain collar doesn’t stop the pulling, some people will then try the dreaded harness. This could be the worst item ever invented. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me that they bought a harness to stop their dog from pulling. My next question is always, “Has he stopped pulling now with the harness”? Invariably they say, no, not really. If you think about it for a minute. Don’t they use harnesses on Huskies to pull sleds? Of course they do because the harness attaches to the strongest part of the dog–his back and shoulders. So, doesn’t it make sense that attaching a leash to the strongest part of your dog’s body isn’t going to stop him from pulling? It will stop him from choking but not from pulling. Not to mention, you cannot control a dog and his movement by attaching a leash to his shoulders. You must control the head and neck. So, before you slip a “correction collar” around your dog’s neck, be sure you know the proper way to use it. Consult a professional, learn the technique and be a good dog handler and “Pack Leader.” Remember, to get the results you want, you must give your dog clear signals so he knows exactly what you expect.

Good luck with your training! Paul