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Harness vs. Choke Collars

Walking your dog daily is vital to their overall health and your relationship. But if your dog pulls or lunges during your walk, it does not make for a pleasurable experience.

So how do we solve the problem? Well, there are a few choices, including head collars, no pull harnesses, choke, prong & electric collars.

Head collars and harnesses are two effective and humane options for teaching your dog to walk well on a leash.

However there are many people that use choke & prong collars. Punitive training techniques hurt dogs psychologically and physically and so do some pieces of equipment.

From a medical perspective, the anatomy of your dog’s neck is exactly the same as yours, so too much pressure on this vulnerable area can cause thyroid problems, trachea collapse, breathing problems and heart issues. These health problems occur when a collar constricts around the throat, and are usually associated with the use of prong (pinch) and choke collars.

Studies have shown that there are many health issues that can be caused from walking your dog on a collar, including:

  • Hypothyroidism, which can be caused from trauma to the thyroid gland in the neck

  • Ear and eye issues as a result of extensive pressure on the neck

  • Behavior problems caused by pain or other physical injuries from the use of a collar

What kind of injuries do choke collars cause? The thyroid gland lies at the base of the neck just below the larynx close to where any collar sits. Just one yank can cause injury to a gland that controls many of the body’s vital functions.

  • Studies show that the gland gets severely traumatized and becomes inflamed whenever a dog pulls on the leash.

  • When this happens, the gland is 'destroyed' by the body’s own immune system which tries to remove the inflamed thyroid cells.

  • The destruction of these cells leads to hypothyroidism, which causes loss of energy, weight gain, skin problems, hair loss, ear infections and organ failure.

Choke collars also affect other areas of the body including the eyes.

  • Another study reveals that when force is applied to the neck via a leash and a choke collar, pressure in the eyes is significantly increased.

  • This type of pressure can cause serious injury to dogs already suffering thin corneas, glaucoma, or eye injuries.

  • The same study was done with dogs that were wearing harnesses, which had no impact on eye pressure when force was applied.

Why should prong collars be avoided? Dogs walked on prongs are also constantly subjected to pain and discomfort, which creates fear, anxiety and aggression on walks. Dogs that are already reactive on leash can become even more reactive due to frustration from collar discomfort.

  • A 1992 study of 400 dogs concluded that pulling and jerking on the leash (with any collar) is harmful to a dog’s neck and throat.

  • One of the clearest correlations was between cervical (neck) damages and 'jerk and pull'.

  • 91% of the dogs who had neck injuries had also been exposed to jerking on the lead by the owner or been allowed to pull hard on the lead for long periods of time.

Even though supporters of electronic training might praise the effectiveness of the method, dogs trained using these tools only comply or cooperate with the training out of a fear of what will happen if they do not comply – the dog is not truly being obedient.

  • Shock collars may cease a behavior in the moment, but the severe stress and anxiety they cause can lead to more aggression in the future and can create entirely new behavioral problems.

  • Several countries have already instated bans on shock collars,

Why Should You Say NO to Shock Collars?

  • Shock controls a dog without allowing that dog to make choices and solve problems, which often results in 'learned helplessness' – the dog effectively learns to give up.

  • Shock forces a dog to 'behave' with little concern for the root cause of the negative behavior.

  • E-collar training essentially cripples an animal’s true learning ability.

  • Shocking a dog can actually exacerbate aggressive behavior in the future.

That leaves us the no pull harness. Why use a harness?

  • To prevent injures

  • Teach your dog not to pull

  • For your dogs’ safety

As a professional dog walker I am a huge fan of the "Freedom No Pull Harness." I have had many of my clients invest in them.

What other options do I have to stop my dog pulling? There are more effective and humane alternatives to using a choke or prong collar on your dog.

  • Find a great positive trainer to help you teach your dog to walk on a loose leash.

  • Even large, strong dogs can be walked without the use of a choke or prong collar.

  • Consider a regular harness or a chest-led, no-pull harness to stop pulling without causing your dog pain or fear.

It is important to remember that dogs need positive, constructive guidance from us to help them adapt and thrive in our strange, domestic world

If you are a dog walker at IMHS, we have Freedom No Pull Harnesses. Please try them out today!

Information taken from

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