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3 Controversial Dog Training Tools (and Why You Should Use Them)

3 Controversial Dog Training Tools (and Why You Should Use Them)

All dogs learn differently.” That’s a statement often quoted by pet owners and trainers alike. But just as many would dispute that and say, “All dogs learn the same way.” That it’s only temperaments that vary.

It’s because of this that many different training methods abound. Regardless of the training method, though, some training tools are almost universally regarded as “bad,” “inhumane,” or just plain “cruel.”

We’re listing down three of these controversial training tools and enumerating the reasons why they’re not as bad as some might think.

1. Prong Collar

What is a prong collar for dogs? A prong collar is a connected chain link. However, unlike the usual chain links, prong collar links have open ends. These ends face towards the dog’s neck. It’s also sometimes called a pinch collar.

When is a prong collar used? Typically, this type of dog collar is used for beginner obedience training, for example, teaching a dog to walk on a leash.

Prong Collar on White Background

Why is a prong collar controversial? Well, look at it. It doesn’t exactly inspire warm and fuzzy feelings. Plus, the term pinch collar denotes pain and hurt. So why would one consider using it for dog training?

Reason for Using a Prong Collar #1 – It Doesn’t Pinch the Way You Think

Prong collars do not pinch dogs’ necks the way people think. It doesn’t pierce or stab the skin when used correctly. Instead, it applies pressure around a canine’s neck when the correction is given.

Think of a stuntman lying or walking on a bed of nails. The nails do not break the skin because they are evenly placed, and thus the weight and pressure are equally distributed across the large surface area. There may be pressure, but no pain. A prong collar is in some way similar.

Try to look beyond the appearance of the collar. Used properly, it can help advance dog training tremendously.

Reason for Using a Prong Collar #2 – It Can Protect Against Trachea Damage

An inexperienced handler or dog owner can make the mistake of pulling on a dog collar excessively, whether due to excitement or frustration. For example, a prong collar can distribute the pull force around the neck so the throat does not get the full impact, protecting against the trachea damage.

Reason for Using a Prong Collar #3 – It is a Great Communication Tool

The even pressure around a dog’s neck is not unlike what a mother dog does with her pups. This makes a prong collar a great directional tool. It can help create a structured walk and lets you communicate with your dog better.

What is the proper way to use a prong collar?

Should you use a prong collar in dog obedience training? Why not? But make sure you use it right.

The prong collar comes with a ring that swivels. That is where you snap the leash on. Ideally, you’d want to attach the leash first before putting the prong collar on your dog. This is so the part with the catch ring does not get twisted. Now, to put the prong collar on your dog:

  1. Push one of the open prong links up. Once it is slightly up, pinch and pop it off.
  2. Place the prong collar high on the dog’s neck. It should go just behind the ears and under the jaw.
  3. The fit must be snug and not drooping. Check the fit by putting two fingers between the dog’s neck and the prong collar. The collar is too tight if you can’t stick a few fingers in between the prong and the dog’s neck. If it’s too loose, take a link off to adjust the fit.

Note: Some prong collars have levers that make pinching and popping off the link easier.

How do you take the prong collar off? Push the open prong up, pinch and pop off. The same way you did when you put it on.

How long can you use a prong collar on a dog?

A prong collar is a training tool. It is not your primary dog collar or designed for long-term use. When training with a prong collar, limit the use to one hour or less. Always check for irritation. Stop using immediately if so, and wait for your dog’s skin to heal before trying again.

Remember to use mild corrections. If you’re walking your dog and stop, the prong collar will tighten and self-correct your dog if he doesn’t stop. There won’t be a need for you to pull on the leash.

Prong Collar Basics

2. Muzzle

What is a muzzle for dogs? A muzzle is a mask-like device. It is placed over a dog’s snout. This is usually used to prevent injury from biting. However, people see a muzzle and automatically think the dog is bad.

A lot of misconceptions abound about a dog muzzle. It signals, albeit incorrectly, that a dog is:

    • Aggressive
    • Has a Biting Problem
    • Has Cruel Owners

These fallacies are further perpetuated in popular media like movies and tv shows. They typically show the dog baring his teeth or growling, and the next thing you know, the dog is muzzled.

But they’re so far from the truth.

Chihuahua Wearing Oversized Dog Muzzle

Reason for Using a Dog Muzzle #1 – It Helps Protect the Dog

A dog’s mouth is used for a lot of things. For example, muzzling a dog prevents potentially dangerous situations like a dog eating feces, wound chewing, anxious and excessive grooming behavior, and more. A muzzle is a protection device, yes. But it is more protection for the dog rather than from the dog.

Reason for Using a Dog Muzzle #2 – It Can Help Ease Anxiety and Fear

Dogs are emotional animals. When they feel fear, they can lash out. Biting is one inclination, although it usually is their last resort. People see a dog with a muzzle and are immediately wary. They’d usually give the dog a wide berth. A dog that struggles with anxiety and fear can benefit greatly from no one trespassing on his personal space, thereby preventing bites brought on by fear. It also allows dogs to interact with their surroundings more safely.

Reason for Using a Dog Muzzle #3 – It is Not a Punishment Tool

Regardless of breed, temperament, or size, all dogs need to be trained early. Using a muzzle is helpful in many events in their lives, including visits to the vet or the dog park. Many veterinarians and groomers rely on a muzzle when working with dogs that are not used to being handled or those fearful of strangers.

So the idea that muzzles are used only to punish a bad dog is incorrect.

But just like any tool, a dog muzzle must be appropriately used to ensure that it is effective and not harming your pet.

How do you use a dog muzzle? Here are some tips on how to put a muzzle on a dog.

  1. Always start by getting your dog used to the muzzle. Training your dog to be comfortable with a muzzle prevents stress and aggravation when it’s time to wear it.
  2. Introduce the muzzle slowly. One way to encourage them to put their snout into the basket is by feeding them treats through it.
  3. Start with short sessions. Once your dog can put their nose into the muzzle when asked, you can start letting them wear it for 15-30 seconds at a time. Gradually let it stay longer to build the dog’s comfort level.


  • Use a dog muzzle for extended periods.
  • Leave it on unsupervised.
  • Use it to punish a dog.

Make sure that:

  • You have the right size muzzle to fit your dog.
  • Read the instructions that came with the package.
  • Straps are kept tight enough so your dog can’t remove them himself.
  • Straps are loose enough to fit between the strap and the dog’s head.

Dog muzzles are certainly controversial. But used correctly, it’s another fantastic dog tool that can reduce stress on both pet owner and dog.

Dog Muzzle Infographic

3. E Collar

No controversial dog training tool list will ever be complete without mentioning e collars.

What is an e collar for dogs? Is an e collar the same as a shock collar? An e collar is a dog training tool. It is also called a remote training collar, remote trainer, or the more common term, shock collar. It received the moniker because it uses static stimulation (read: low electric pulses) to issue a correction.

Dogtra 200NCPT Remote Training Collar PetsTEK Edition

An e collar set typically comes with a remote transmitter and a collar receiver. The remote triggers the correction with a push of a button, and the signal is sent and received by the collar, which then issues the correction. Modern e collars come with other correction options like vibration, audible tone, or even spray.

Bark collars, used to correct excessive barking in dogs, are usually categorized under e collars as well. However, they are not traditionally used for dog training like a typical remote trainer.

Should you use an e collar for training? Many would say no for the reason that “shock” evokes hurt. And no decent pet owner would want to hurt their dog. Like the previous two devices, though, e collars are not meant to harm dogs. Used correctly, it is a valuable addition to fostering balanced dog training.

Reason for Using an E Collar #1 – It Provides Instant Correction

Imagine taking your dog outside, and he suddenly bolts to run after who-knows-what. You can scream yourself hoarse, but if he is out of hearing range, you’re, as the kids say, SOL. An e collar has a longer range than your voice. With a push of a button, correction is sent instantly to your dog. This simple and quick static pulse has saved many dogs from dangerous situations.

Reason for Using an E Collar #2 – It is a Great Communication Tool

Dogs can’t communicate with words the way people can. Instead, they mostly rely on your voice tone and inflection to gauge what you mean. Sometimes, training gets frustrating to the point that you’d find yourself raising your voice. This can make things even more confusing for your pet.

An e collar helps you avoid that. Because the correction issued remains constant, the dog gets much clearer feedback and enables you to communicate better. And with better communication, training sessions will run more smoothly and will likely be less time-consuming.

Reason for Using an E Collar #3 – It is an Effective Training Tool

E collars can help with recall and help proof commands, among others. In his book, E-Collar Training for Pet Dogs, Ted Efthymiadis states that not only is an e collar effective in training dogs quickly, it’s also another way to build the trust and relationship between a pet owner and their dog.

But can an e collar hurt your dog? Any tool misused can hurt and harm dogs. A shock collar is no exception. However, if you use your remote trainer as it’s supposed to be used, that is not to punish but to train and correct, then you’re looking at a gadget that’s effective and humane.

What is the proper way to use an e collar?

  1. Find an e collar that fits your dog’s size, temperament, and need. While the stimulation levels are adjustable, you still want one that does not have a too high power output if you have a very small or sensitive dog. Similarly, you don’t want to get a shock collar with a power output that’s too low for your stubborn dog. For example, the ME-300 by E-Collar Technologies is highly recommended for small and sensitive dogs. In contrast, a bigger dog like a German Shepherd or Vizsla may be better off using a Dogtra 1900S.
  2. Make sure the collar is fitted correctly. The e collar must go high on a dog’s neck. The receiver box should be on the left or right side of the throat. The strap must be tight enough not to slide around but loose enough for your dog to still move his head comfortably.
  3. Get your dog used to the e collar before starting training. Put the collar on your dog for a few minutes each day without turning it on to get him comfortable with the device.
  4. Always start at the lowest stimulation level. Avoid unnecessarily surprising your dog. Start at 0 and gradually move up until you see your dog respond. That would be your starting level. If your dog reacts negatively, for example, with a violent head shake, you’ve gone too high.

When it comes to e collars, consistency is key. You can get your dog off-leash sooner if you train consistently and patiently.

Do's and Don't's of E Collar Use

Dog training programs are plenty. Dog training tools, even more so. There will always be devices that are more controversial than others. But always remember, never judge a book by its cover. Or, in this case, never assume a tool is bad because of the way it looks. A prong collar, dog muzzle, and remote training e collar can all be used together with balanced training techniques. But one must always consider that they need to be used correctly to be effective and not harm your pet. And as always, if you’re unsure, seek the help of a professional trainer or your veterinarian.


1 comment

  • Thank you! This is one of the best blogs I have read on the value of these training tools! It is so important that people start to realise these tools are for the benefit of the dog, and I know as a trainer that these tools have literally saved countless dogs from behavioural euthanasia!

    - Michelle

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