Pressure collars. The Martingale, the Prong, the Choke. All collars with one thing in common. They want to teach your dog to do what it's told - and they want it done fast. If I put a collar on your throat and it tightens up on you every time you pull away from me, you will most likely stop pulling away. Until the moment that collar is off of your neck.
Now, before you get too worried - I'm not a crazy dog trainer that believes that you should treat your dog like they are your children. That is just as detrimental to your doggo as a pressure or E-collar. See, there is a balance in dog training that is quickly becoming ignored.
Let's talk a bit about why I refuse to use any type of pressure collar, or E-collar.
First, a disclaimer: I do believe that there is a place for pressure collars and E-collars. They are for dogs with significant behavior issues that are ingrained from years of bad or no training. This is for dogs where it's negative training collars or euthanasia. This is NOT for puppies, dogs that pull on their leash, or dogs that bark at other dogs on your walk. E-collars are for either very extreme dog behavior, or for training hunting dogs. I will talk in a different post about hunting dogs and why E-collars are the main way they are trained.
Negative collar training is remarkably popular today. I am a bit surprised, as the movement in dog training seems to lead toward respectful and loving training...and negative collar training is the opposite of that. The majority of dog trainers in my area utilize pressure collars and prong collars as early as the puppy class. The reasoning that many give for pressure collars and not treat based training is summed up in this quote from a puppy class I attended in BattleGround, WA: "I don't want to carry treats around with me forever, and the pressure collar will be phased out over time.". I have one question - aren't treats supposed to be phased out over time, as well? The answer is, of course they are. So that means that my choices for which training option to begin with is a negative one or a positive one.
I have also been told by a trainer that they use the pressure collar to make sure that the dog can't slip it's leash if there is a problem. I thought about that one for about two seconds before I told her that my dog has been trained to run to me if she is scared. The complete disbelief on the trainers face made me sad. At four months old, your dog should never bolt from you, even if they are scared. You shouldn't need a pressure collar to ensure that. You shouldn't need ANY collar to ensure that.
Let's talk about the type of people that agree with me. After all, I'm just some dog trainer living in a little town in Washington. For the Canine Good Citizen test you cannot use anything but a standard flat collar. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs, an international registry of certified therapy dog teams, does not allow neither prong nor e-collars on their therapy visits. They have a great blog on why here. The Humane Society of America has a wonderful breakdown of the types of collars here. They make sure to note in various places that, " Positive training methods should always be your first choice."
There is only one reason that I can see that all of the trainers seem to favor these kind of training tools is that it's faster. Yep, you heard me. It's faster. For the short term. I like the way it's stated in the Pet Professional Guild's statement of position on this subject: "Evidence indicates that rather than speeding the learning process, harsh training methods actually slow the training process, add to the animal’s stress and can result in both short-term and long-term psychological damage to animals." While I am a bit less of an alarmist in some degree, I can't say that I disagree.
Positive approach training takes time. It takes patience. It takes commitment. It takes a willingness to laugh, and to not take a dogs refusal personally. It takes love. Negative training will not result in the life-long training and bond that you are most likely looking for with your dog.
Facts are facts. A dog, like any animal (human or otherwise) will react to negative experience training. However, there is a HUGE difference between training for the moment, or training for life. Read Zifa's progress story to learn how I have put my money/time/effort where my mouth is and it shows how fast, and how stable positive approach training can be.