And no it is not a torture device. I don’t know how to discuss this without starting a massive debate. People tend to feel so strongly against them- as evident to the anonymous comments I received (in mentioning of the prong in the post from the other day). I wonder if this is a spill over from the prong debate on The German Shepherd Dog Community via Facebook? The original thread was posted a few days ago as someone was having difficulty with putting on and taking off the prong. They asked for any pointers owners might have and prefaced their post with saying they needn’t bother with the negativity and it got nasty real fast! Funny thing is someone asked about the Herm Sprenger prongs today and it is a much more positive thread- so I don’t know what to think. I didn’t even post a comment on either of them!
Anyways, it’s great if you and your dog can get on with a flat collar or a head halti or harness and I really wish they had worked for us- they didn’t. Don’t judge and insult others who have found the prong to be a viable TRAINING tool in their own situation. Don’t discredit someone’s responsibility as a pet owner and trainer for choosing to use what they use. I take no issue with directing someone on the proper way to use a prong (or head halti or harness) in regards to what works for them, but I do object to people flat out calling someone irresponsible and an animal abuser, and making statements that people who use prongs shouldn’t own pets of any kind!
When properly trained in how to use a prong- it has become for us an essential TRAINING tool. That is OUR experience with trying all others. And that is OUR decision we have made as responsible and loving pet owners.
Klaus pulled from the very beginning and pulled to the point of choking himself out on the flat collars. He was stubborn and head strong and just would not heed to the pressure of a flat collar around his neck. It was scary and awful to witness. A lot of times traumatic damage to the esophagus and wind pipe occurs with flat collars and dogs who pull. We began by implementing the age old adage of stopping in our tracks and waiting for him to calm down. We were taking a step at a time. Pulling. Stopping. One more step. Pulling. Stopping. This was when he was just a few months old! We attempted to address this issue on a daily basis for two months to no avail.
At this time we were seeing a trainer one on one at the place we use to go for doggy day care. We were told to try the gentle leader or the head halti. And in the beginning it worked! We were so happy and relieved. We really believed we had found a solution and we could move forward with our training. Walks were a pleasure now- for everyone. He was getting stronger everyday but now it was a breeze taking him for walks- and not the least bit traumatic.
However he quickly learned to pull through. Essentially the gentle leader would force him to turn his head if he was pulling too much due to where the leash was clipped to. Because Klaus’ drive is high all around, the pulling began to not bother him. He even began to use it as a way to play tug o’ war with it. To this day there is a slight variation in the fur on his nose that is a clear indication of where the gentle leader laid across his snout. Oh and as a funny side not- I can’t tell you how many people assumed it was a muzzle! What a weak that would be! He can still open his mouth and take a bite if he wanted to.
The trainer we were working with was “positive enforcement” only, with not a lot of experience with working line shepherds, and she was dead set against even showing us the prong. Because we did not want to use it without proper training we looked to the harness next. Which, let’s really think about this for a second. Sled dogs wear harnesses which encourage them to pull. Why would we implement a harness if we were trying to stop him from pulling? I know it’s supposed to redirect depending on if it was a front or back clip harness but it did not work for Klaus.
*Note: I’m not bashing the gentle leader or harness for other dog owners who have found they work for them and their own situation. But for us- no way was it going to work for the kind of dog we were dealing with. No matter how often we worked with these type of leashes. We were working on dog training on a daily basis- everyday at home on our own as well as the one-on-one classes we were having with the trainer, 1-2 a week! We don’t claim to be professional dog handlers but we also weren’t slack in our training by any means.
Thankfully we discovered a trainer who had experience with high drive and working line German Shepherds who was able to properly show us how to use a prong and implement corrections.
I know people cringe and think corrections?! How harsh. The prong mimics the type of “corrections” he would get from his mother or his siblings. Having it explained to us that way made so much sense! If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching the pack dynamic of mother and offspring- you would have seen dogs being “corrected” by a quick little nip on the neck. We tried the collar on our arms and legs to see what we were dealing with- and the force of corrections we were giving Klaus were barely noticed.
I have to wonder about all the naysayers if they are reacting to something that merely looks horrendous without fully understanding the prong? They tend to be the ones who are so quick to ask “well would YOU want to wear one?!”. I have to ask them do YOU have any training/experience with this type of collar? No? Why not educate before passing judgement? I’m not saying that there aren’t people who misuse the prong. But any of the collars can be misused- I am talking about the people who are trained in the proper way to use them.
A quick flick of the leash and the collar is tightened and quickly released. With a dog who pulls while wearing a flat collar, there is no release, just constant pressure and in our case a dog that was choking himself out. With the head halti he would pull and pull to the point the fur was worn down around his snout- and yes it was properly fit to begin with. I’d say the type of training we do now with Klaus is 5% corrections and the rest is “positive enforcement”- through high reward treats, praise and love, and the opportunity to play with his favorite toy, his ball.
The first day we used the prong Klaus was in a heel. Now mind you our former trainer had never shown us a heel- rather her focus had been to get him to not pull using the harness- “we’ll get to a heel if he can learn to not pull on the harness”. It came in handy when we were addressing his dog reactive issues while walking him.
We love walking Klaus and I know he enjoys his walkie time as well. I can’t imagine using a halti with him now- he’s such a powerful dog. He knows what the prong means, he doesn’t shy away from it or fear it. He runs to the door and nudges the handle indicating “hey mom come on! let’s go now!”.
In the end, when you’ve tried the flat, the halti, and the harness and nothing seems to be working- take a deep breath. You do have options. I know the prong may seem scary at first, but seek out a professional (and the people at the big chain pet stores I wouldn’t consider professionals- I don’t even think they should sell prongs there) and learn the proper way to use such a collar.