August 05, 2009
The Collar Debate: Pinch vs. Choke
By David DiBenedetto
I have to admit I never thought I’d need a pinch collar (also called a prong collar) for Pritch. I assumed they were only necessary for the pit bull crowd. Mark that as another lesson learned on my part.
My revelation came courtesy of professional dog trainer, Connie Cleveland, at the Dog Trainer’s Workshop in Fountain Inn, S.C. Cleveland has been training dogs for nearly 40 years, and while she focuses on obedience at her day job, her passion is training field trial pups.
I told Cleveland that I was having trouble with the Heel the command on long walks with Pritch, which are a necessary part of our summer exercise regimen in downtown Charleston. Recently she had begun to tug and drag, and the choke collar seemed to have no effect. Cleveland suggested that on a long walk, Pritch should neither be expected to Heel the entire time nor should she ever tug on the leash—either in front of me or dragging behind. We decided on a new phrase, Let’s go, as our leisurely walk command. Then Cleveland pulled out a pinch collar.
Before we started, Cleveland showed me how to fit and work the collar, and then Pritch got her new neckwear. Did she like it at first? Absolutely not. When she hit the end of the leash and felt the pinch she let us know. But remember, she was causing the pressure by tugging on the leash. After she settled down, we continued our lesson, which required a few pops on the leash as we walked in a field. Within 15 minutes Pritch was walking like a champ, even as we passed other pups. We then moved on to Heel and place-board work (more on this in an upcoming post).
Now, I know some of you many think the pinch collar is not necessary. One bird dog trainer, John from OTMBoykins, who often comments here, swears by British style slip leads. Others think there is no need for anything but a traditional choke collar. And nobody is wrong. Find out what works for you and your dog and use it. (If you do go the pinch collar route, be sure that you have it sized properly and never leave it on a dog after a training session.)
The pinch collar isn’t something I see as a long-term necessity. But I can tell you that walks around town are a pleasure, and our Heel progress is exceptional. And now when Pritch hears the clink of the pinch collar when I grab it from my training bag, she comes running with her tail wagging.