Winston is a great dog, smart and affectionate. He only
has one problem: he just
can't get anywhere fast enough. His walks always turn into a tug-of-war
his walker's arm socket and his neck. An old-fashioned dog trainer would
teach him not to lunge by walking him on a "choke" chain collar and
abruptly whenever he starts to pull.
Sherry Fries, an accredited animal chiropractor,
adamantly disagrees. "Anybody
who still employs the jerk method for training their dogs...should have
thing done to him or her," she says. What happens? "Whiplash of the most
severe kind. It can also set the stage for disc disease, neuropathy, or
the spinal cord and nervous system."
"...[Choke collars] are responsible
for thousands of dogs being injured
each year through blunt force
trauma to the trachea and spinal
column. The danger lies in the
accumulated effect of repeated
pressure to the neck."
~ Kirby B. Hill, owner and trainer,
Dog Sense Unlimited
According to British veterinarian Robin Walker, the
"yank and stomp" method
was popularized by the well-known animal trainer Barbara Woodhouse,
books from the '60s and '70s are still sold in stores.
"Barbara had arrived with her choke chains and nasty
things were happening
to dogs' necks," he says. "Since then I have seen a stream of screaming
arriving at my surgery with dislocated neck bones and damaged voice
But it's not just choke collars that are the problem:
Sherry Fries explains,
"When a dog is jerked by a collar, his head is stationary, and sometimes
body whips around. So now we're talking about maybe 50 to 60-plus pounds
on the stalk of the neck being thrown around, and the dog can't tell us,
that really hurts!"
The garroting effect of a choke chain can cause bruising
and damage to the
skin and tissues in the neck, resulting in the formation of scar tissue.
tissue has no feeling, thus subsequent jerks will require greater force
Not only can the jerk method of training cause physical
injury, it can cause
psychological problems as well. Kevin Behan, author of Natural Dog
warns: "...with a choke collar, the dog has an instinctive reflex at his
deal with the sensation of something tightening around his neck. He may
misinterpret the correction on the choke collar as a stranglehold and
unnecessarily become rebellious or afraid."
"I have seen many cases where a
happy, friendly dog who just needs
some training has become, with
the use of a prong collar, a fearful,
even dangerous dog."
~ Arty Ansell, dog trainer
Australian veterinarian Dr. Robert K. Wansbrough has
printed a factsheet on
the hazards associated with choke collars. In it he warns that chokers
cause dogs to become fearful of hands, resentful, and aggressive.
While choke chains and their ugly counterpart, the
"prong collar" (sometimes
recommended by trainers when the war of wills caused by a choke chain
escalates) come in for the most criticism, regular buckle collars aren't
necessarily the answer.
"No dog deserves to be adorned
with the strangulating links of the
choke chain...if you care for your
dog, chuck the choke!"
~ Roger Mugford, dog trainer and
author of Never Say No!
Chiropractor Sherry Fries dislikes all collars. "I
implore people to use harn-
esses as opposed to any collar," she says.
Like a choke collar, a buckle collar puts pressure on a
pulling dog's neck.
The absolute safest option for walking a dog is probably a standard
harness. However, if your dog is a determined lunger, he or she may need
intermediate tool for training.
LEARNING TO WALK SAFELY
HALTERS AND HARNESSES
One of the gentlest devices for training dogs not to lunge is a head
These consist of a strap that fits around the back of the dog's neck,
to a loop over the dog's muzzle and continues down to a control ring
chin. The idea is that where dogs' heads go, their bodies follow. The
works, not through force, but by redirecting the dog's focus sideways or
It may also re-create the sensation felt by puppies when their mothers
them by putting their mouths over their puppies' muzzles. (For
Premier Pet Products at 1-800-933-5595.)
The "no-pull" harness consists of cords that run under
the dog's front legs. It
puts pressure on the chest and "armpits" when the dog pulls, not on the
While safer than a collar, these harnesses have been suspected of
chafing and even radial injuries in some dogs' legs if used incorrectly.
in animal supply shops and catalogs.
Trainer Robin Kovary emphasizes that any training tool can be dangerous
the wrong hands. "The technique is everything. A heavy-handed approach
counterproductive," she says. "It causes fear and stress which impairs
learning." Kovary believes that a dog can be taught to heel just by
positive reinforcement, such as "lure rewards" (urging the dog to stay
holding a treat or toy, for example).
And, finally, ALWAYS use a retractable leash: it takes
the strain off you and
Injuries caused by choke collars:
* Dislocation and/or fracture of the vertebrae
* Invertebral disc protrusion
* Partial or complex paralysis of the hind and/or forelimbs due to
* Damage to the vagus nerve affecting function of major organs such as
heart, lungs, liver, bladder, spleen, kidneys, etc.
* Crushing of the trachea with partial or complete asphyxiation
* Crushing of and sometimes fracture of the bones in the larynx
* Bruising of the esophagus
* Sharp increases in pressure in the head, which can cause brain or eye
damage and sometimes prolapse of the eye
From PETA's Animal Times, Summer 1998
Go on to The Rhetoric
of Apology in Animal Rights
Return to 3 March 1999 Issue
Return to Newsletters
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