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Wednesday, July 6,2022


By Tina Valant-Siebelts  
Attended an outdoor dog event recently, it was like being wonderfully transported back in time. Saw dogs of every breed, size, and shape, along with lots of like-minded people crazy about their (and everyone else’s) dogs. I was in my true element! There was an array of vendors, with amazing handmade wares, healthy treats and canine services. One owner stands out in my mind.

Her lovely medium-sized dog was very excited with all the activity (dogs, treats and attention). The dog was on a martingale collar. These collars were originally developed for sighthounds, which include the Afghan hound, borzoi, greyhound, saluki, and Irish wolfhound. Sighthounds have the uncanny ability to slip out of their collars, and they are fast runners.

Martingales slip over the head and have two loops. The short loop can be of the same material as the collar or a small linked chain. The small loop clips to the lead. If the dog pulls, the short loop decreases, exerting slight pressure with the long loop. The restricted large loop prevents the dog from backing out of the collar. Martingales are to be used for walks, not left on the dog, like a flat collar with ID. Ineffective on bully breeds, martingales are also not recommended for puppies, toy, or small breeds.

Martingales can be a safe and effective training tool. This woman yanked hard, upwards on the lead. Her dog’s front feet were literally lifted off the ground, every time he barked. Dogs vocalize (kids squeal) when they get excited. The dog’s trachea was at risk for being crushed by each swift upward pull. I started a friendly conversation, hoping to help. Her responses were salty and abrupt. She “had not asked anyone for their advice.” Lady, you’re at an event surrounded by dog lovers, trainers, behaviorists, rescuers, and owners. We help each other – for the benefit of our dogs. What she was doing was clearly not working, and was endangering the dog.

“Do you expect me to use a prong collar? THOSE ARE ABUSIVE!” she yelled, and stormed off toward the parking lot. What I didn’t get to say is that a prong (also known as pinch) collar can be a safe and effective training tool – WHEN properly fitted and humanely used. It would have been a far better option for her dog. She was noticeably angry. Several people had approached her that day, and she just had enough.

Most (of us) mature adults are not in the same physical shape nor do we have the same upper body strength we had in earlier years. Our pride, bad habits and/or lack of information are not worth the risk of tearing a rotator cuff, taking a bad fall or injuring our dog. If your adult (medium to large) dog pulls, a properly fitted/used prong collar could be the solution. Prong collars are not the old-fashioned choke collars, where one end of the metal chain slips through a larger metal circle. Like martingales, prong collars are only to be used while walking or training. A dog should always wear a snug buckle collar with ID, in addition to either of these collars. Pinch collars are most effective when your dog is alongside you, preferably on your left (where s/he should be walking), not in front of you.

Friends in their 70s recently adopted a young, sweet pit mix. Walking him was not fun for them, and could be dangerous. He was quite a puller. I asked the owner for his forearm and loosely put a prong collar around it. “Does this hurt?” I asked. “Not at all”, he responded. I applied slight pressure, so he would know what his dog would experience. “What about now?” He felt the slight even pressure on his arm. When properly sized, worn (high on the neck) and used correctly, all the dog feels is a slight pinch. They usually correct themselves from pulling. I adjusted the pinch collar to fit the dog and off we went for a walk. “THIS is why we got a dog!” he excitedly shared. We enjoyed an extra long, calm walk together.

Anything when properly used can be of benefit. Improperly used, almost anything from a hammer to a car can be dangerous. With proper use and fit, martingales and pinch collars have helped far more dogs and their owners than they have hurt.


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