Vizsladogs, Ltd.

Pinch Collars: A Valuable Training Tool
by Linda Penry

revised February 10, 2000

I overheard someone say that pinch collars (or prong collars) were from the "old school" of dog training. In addition, I’ve been told that by using a pinch collar I was training my dogs with "brute force and ignorance." They have also been called "barbaric," "cruel," and "inhumane." Others have said that this collar will "break a dog’s spirit." Since these statements are far from true, I decided to compile some information on these collars and their use.

The pinch collar is a valuable training tool when used properly and is much more humane than the antiquated choke collar. The choke collar, as the name implies, chokes the dog by putting pressure directly on the trachea. As a result, it is a potentially dangerous tool. A harsh jerk on a choke collar could damage a dog’s trachea.

The pinch collar works on an entirely different principle than the choke collar. Instead of choking a dog, it is designed to pinch skin evenly all around the neck. The prongs of the interlocking links have blunt ends, therefore no harm is done to the dog’s skin or trachea. With the pinch collar, corrections are distributed all around the dog’s neck, not just in one place as with the choke collar. Pinch collars are often referred to as "power steering" since less force is needed to effectively correct the dog.

Unfortunately, the pinch collar looks like some sort of medieval torture device. As a result, the uneducated person is often afraid of it. A good way to overcome this apprehension is to put a pinch collar on an owner’s arm or leg and give a correction so that he or she experiences what the dog will feel. The effect is similar to poking yourself in the neck with your fingers. When compared to the strangling action of the choke collar, owners prefer the pinch collar.

The pinch collar comes in a variety of sizes that range from mini to extra large so they can be used on dogs of all sizes. It is important to note that a pinch collar may not be suitable for every dog, especially those that are aggressive or extremely shy or fearful. There are some dogs that may never need a pinch collar. There are some who may need it only in certain situations. There are some who may need it quite often due to their owner’s limitations or to the characteristics of the breed (for example, size and/or strength of the owner or the dog).

Some people suggest that a properly fitted pinch collar fastens so that it lies in the middle of a dog’s neck. Others suggest that it should lie high on the neck right behind the ears. I prefer a collar that fits in the middle of the neck. Either way you should be able to run a finger under the collar. As a result, the links should not press against the neck when the dog is standing quietly by your side. If you can slide the collar over the dog’s head, it is too loose. Links can be added or removed in order for the collar to fit properly. Never leave this type of collar on an unattended dog.

A correction with the pinch collar consists of a tug and release action. A slight tug on the leash is immediately followed by releasing it so that the leash is once again slack. If you continually hold the leash tight, you will be constantly correcting the dog. Therefore, after a correction, you must keep slack in the leash until another correction is needed. On rare occasions when this collar is used for the first time, a dog may yelp due to this new sensation. Never drag a dog around on this type of collar. Before using a pinch collar, I would strongly suggest that you talk to a trainer who actually uses this type of collar and observe the correct way it is used.

Students in obedience classes that I have taught are amazed at the instant results that can be obtained when switching to a pinch collar. The immediate benefits of the collar can be seen with dogs that have been constant pullers. When wearing the collar for the first time, it rarely takes more than one or two corrections before these dogs are walking calmly beside their owners on a loose leash. The dogs are then much more attentive to their owners and no longer drag them around. Both the dogs and their owners are finally able to work together, rather than against each other. As a result, training becomes a much more pleasant experience for both of them.

It is extremely important to note that the pinch collar does more than just correct pulling. Competitive obedience trainers, which would include myself, find this collar very useful in teaching attention and precision. The first piece of equipment that Terri Arnold in her series of books, Steppin’ Up To Success With Terri Arnold, lists is the pinch collar. Diane Bauman in her book, Beyond Basic Dog Training, also recommends the use of a pinch collar when a buckle collar is not effective. She states that she has "never been happy with the results from a choke collar" and "it is not necessary to choke a dog in order to teach him something." Both of the obedience trainers/judges under whom I have trained in the past also use pinch collars.

I have used a small pinch collar when training my Vizsla and my Labrador Retriever. When teaching my dogs a new behavior, I also use praise, food treats, and special toys that I only use during training as rewards. Once the behavior is learned, I can then use a slight correction, if needed, with the pinch collar to get their attention and remind them to focus on me rather than the surrounding distractions. Behaviors that are learned by using a pinch collar can eventually be transferred to a buckle collar.

For example, my Vizsla and I are attending an obedience class so that we can practice in order to prepare for competing in Novice obedience. The class is full of puppies. My Vizsla wants to be dominant to other dogs, particularly puppies, so he has been easily distracted in this class. Just having the pinch collar on reminds him to focus on what we are doing without, and I emphasize without, me having to correct him. Having a buckle collar on at this point only resulted in me having to nag him to pay attention to me, not the puppies. Nagging does not make a fun or successful practice session for either of us. Once he is comfortable in class and is no longer distracted by the puppies, the pinch collar will be replaced with the buckle collar.

"Brute force" is not involved when using a pinch collar. With or without their pinch collars, my dogs enjoy training. They get all excited when I ask them if they want to practice. Their tails are wagging. They "dance" at my feet eagerly waiting to see what we will do first. I would assume a dog that was trained using the supposedly brute force methods that people have accused a pinch collar of employing would rather slink away in fear than eagerly await training. Also those who know my dogs would agree that their spirits have not been broken by using a pinch collar. The pinch collar is a very important training tool that should not be disregarded because of its appearance or because of people’s misperceptions


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