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Are Choke Collars Bad for Dogs?

Are Choke Collars Bad for Dogs?

Dog owners have many training methods and tools available, each promising to shape their canine’s behavior in the desired way. The choke collar is one of the training tools that has garnered controversy and debate among dog owners, walkers, and professional dog trainers.

This particular training tool, also known as a choke chain, has been used for decades, but is it a good choice for your dog? As dog training evolves, pet parents need to understand the implications of the tools they choose, especially regarding their dog’s health, safety, and overall well-being.

What Is the Choke Collar?

At its core, the choke collar is a length of chain or rope that tightens around a dog’s neck when the dog pulls or lunges. The idea behind this collar is to offer a correction and get the dog’s attention, deterring unwanted behavior. 

What Are the Different Variants of the Choke Collar?

The choke chain, for instance, is typically made of metal links and tightens when tugged. Meanwhile, the prong collar or pinch collar is designed with inward-facing prongs that provide a pinching sensation on the dog’s neck when tightened. There’s also the slip collar, which is similar in design to the choke chain but often made of fabric or leather.

Why Do Some Pet Parents Use Choke Collars?

Each of these collars operates under a similar premise, using an aversive method to gain a dog’s attention. However, the degree of discomfort or potential harm varies, with some being more severe in their corrective action. 

With several alternative training collars available, including the traditional flat collar, head collar, and e-collars, there are options that may be gentler, safer, and kinder for your dog.

What Risks to a Dog’s Neck and Health Does a Choke Collar Pose?

When it comes to our beloved pets, ensuring their safety and well-being is paramount. And while choke collars have in the past been a go-to for many seeking control and obedience, there’s growing concern about the risks associated with their use.

The primary concern revolves around a dog’s neck. When a choke collar tightens, it exerts pressure on the trachea and esophagus. Repeated pressure or a sudden jerk can cause tracheal damage. 

This is especially concerning for small dogs, which have delicate neck structures. Beyond the trachea, there’s also the risk of affecting the dog’s esophagus, potentially leading to issues with swallowing.

Furthermore, choking can restrict oxygen flow to the brain, which, in extreme cases, can result in fainting or more severe neurological effects. Notably, if a dog lunges frequently or if the collar is used without proper guidance, it can lead to long-term health implications.

What Are Alternative Training Collars to the Choke Collar?

Dog training has recently witnessed a revolution, shifting towards gentler, more positive reinforcement methods. As a result, several alternative collars have gained prominence, offering effective training without posing the risks associated with choke collars. 

Dogs, as any pet owner can tell you, are sensitive and generally eager to please and to learn. The choke collar is a method that many trainers believe is unnecessary if time is taken to properly train a dog and help them understand what you want them to do,

The Flat Collar

Some pet owners believe that they need a choke collar to control a strong or excitable dog, but that is no longer the case, with many kinder options available that can give that sense of security to pet owner.

The flat collar, commonly used by many dog owners, provides control without tightening around the dog’s neck. The head halter focuses on controlling the dog’s head, steering it, and thereby controlling the body without causing harm to the dog’s trachea.

The Pull Harness

The pull harness or easy walk is designed to deter pulling by offering control over the dog’s torso rather than its neck. This ensures that dogs, especially strong ones, can be controlled without pressure on sensitive neck areas.

Martingale Collar 

The Martingale collar, often hailed as a safer and more humane choice, is designed with two loops. When a dog tries to pull, the collar tightens just enough to prevent escape without choking. 

Originally designed for dogs with narrow heads, like greyhounds and whippets, it has gained popularity among many dog owners as a middle ground between flat collars and choke chains. 

With so many alternatives available, it’s evident that dog training has evolved. When used correctly and in tandem with positive reinforcement training techniques, these tools can help address unwanted behavior effectively without compromising the dog’s health or well-being.

What Do Professional Dog Trainers Say About Choke Collars?

In dog training, positive reinforcement has become the gold standard. This training technique focuses on rewarding desired behavior, which not only encourages the dog to repeat that behavior but also builds trust and strengthens the bond between dog and owner.

The principle behind positive reinforcement is simple. When a dog displays a desired behavior, such as sitting or staying, it’s immediately rewarded, typically with a treat or praise. Over time, the dog associates the behavior with a positive outcome, making it more likely to perform that behavior in the future.

Using positive reinforcement methods eliminates the need for aversive training techniques and tools like choke chains and shock collars. Instead of forcing compliance through fear or discomfort, dogs are motivated by rewards, leading to a more enjoyable training experience for both the dog and the trainer.

Professional dog trainers and behaviorists often laud the merits of this technique, noting its efficacy and the overall positive impact on a dog’s behavior. Clicker training, for instance, is a subset of positive reinforcement training where a clicker is used to mark the exact moment a desired behavior occurs, followed by a reward. 

This precision helps the dog understand what behavior is being rewarded. Most importantly, the dog understands what he is being asked to do, and the use of a choke collar without training only teaches the dog that collars and walks are painful rather than teaching them that walking without pulling is the desired behavior.

Your veterinarian is a good resource for finding a good dog trainer, and your local pet store will often have the names of trainers in your area. Group training classes are very popular as well and can be enjoyable for you and your dog.

Dogs Need a Collar: How Can You Match the Type of Collar to the Type of Dog and Behavior?

Every dog is unique, not just in appearance but in temperament and behavior as well. When it comes to choosing a collar, it’s not a one-size-fits-all decision; it’s crucial to consider the individual characteristics and needs of each dog.

A flat collar may be preferable for small dogs with delicate tracheas to avoid undue pressure. These collars distribute force more evenly, reducing the risk of tracheal damage. On the other hand, a strong dog with a penchant for lunging who loves to exercise might benefit from an easy walk harness, which offers control without placing pressure on the dog’s neck.

A head collar, sometimes known as a gentle leader, can be an effective solution for dogs that exhibit aggressive behavior or have a history of pulling incessantly. By controlling the dog’s head, owners can deter unwanted behavior and guide the dog more efficiently.

However, it’s crucial to remember that collars are just tools. Their effectiveness hinges on proper use and training. Transitioning to a new type of collar should be done gradually, with the dog’s comfort in mind.

How Can ElleVet Products Help You Train Your Dog?

ElleVet develops CBD and CBDA products for pets, and part of their mission to help pets is a well-rounded approach to problem solving. ElleVet products are extremely effective for helping pets who need calming or need relief from discomfort. 

ElleVet has a customer support team that talks to pet owners about their pet, and not only recommends the right product for each dog, but they also encourage pet parents to opt for updated training methods that prioritize dogs’ physical and emotional health. 

If your dog is extremely stressed during outings to the park or in crowds, or is a rescue trying to adjust to a new situation, ElleVet staff will recommend the right product to help them handle the stressful situation, but will also suggest seeking training help from a trusted trainer and draw upon their wealth of experience in the veterinary field. 

ElleVet Calm and Comfort high stress, situational use product or the everyday stress products such as ElleVet soft gels, can make the world of difference for a dog trying to handle stress and fear. Making the right choices for your dog, from the type of collar to wellness solutions, reflects a commitment to their overall well-being. 

Wrapping Up

Collars, an essential tool in dog training, are more than just fabric or metal loops that go around a dog’s neck. Their implications span our beloved canines’ well-being, safety, and behavior. Choosing the right type of collar for your dog is integral to responsible pet ownership. 

By focusing on the individual needs of each dog, we can ensure that training remains a positive, stress-free experience for both the pet and the pet parent. While aversive tools like choke collars have their proponents, the modern move towards positive reinforcement training emphasizes understanding and mutual respect between dog and handler. 

Remember, every tool or technique we use sends a message to our pets. Let’s strive to ensure that the message is always one of love, care, and understanding. As dog owners, we have the power and responsibility to make choices that prioritize our pets’ well-being, and in doing so, we pave the way for a trusting and lasting bond.


Canine collars: an investigation of collar type and the forces applied to a simulated neck model | NIH

Tracheal collapse | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

A Clinical Approach to Canine Neck Pain | MSPCA-Angell

Positive Reinforcement: What Is It and How Does It Work? | Simple Psychology