Prong collars use metal prongs that pinch or dig into a dog’s neck when the leash is tightened. They are used to gain control and correct pulling behavior or aggression.
Choke collars do not have metal prongs, but use small chains. When the leash is pulled tight pressure is applied around the neck until released and the chain goes slack. They are also used to control negative behavior.
Many dog trainers use these types of negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is defined as methods that extinguish behavior through punitive measures. They claim that if used properly they are effective and safe since little pain is inflicted on the dog.
There are however documented cases where prong and choke collars caused physical damage to dogs. These include soft tissue damage, eye problems, esophageal and thyroid gland damage. They are also known to injure the salivary glands and lymph nodes.
Many animal professionals feel that when prong collars dig into the necks of aggressive dogs they can become even more aggressive. They are viewed as a band aid method of treating the symptoms rather than the problem.
There is also the social stigma of walking a formidable dog with a massive prong collar around its neck. Whether aggressive or not the dog will attract negative attention and be labeled as such.
The experts seem to agree that training through positive reinforcement is more affective particularly when started when the dog is young. Socialization with other animals and humans is another important tool in the prevention of negative behavior.
Using fear and physical punishment to extinguish negative behavior can also change a dog’s disposition. A dog can become withdrawn, fearful, and even show signs of depression with continued use of punitive collars.
The fact that no long term studies exist regarding the effects of prong and choke collars does not suggest that Pit Bull owners should be any less guarded about using them.