Quite often people ask how they can stop their dog pulling on the lead. They often go on to explain that they have tried everything, including choke chains. Oh no Why are these things so readily available and so commonly suggested to anyone with a dog that pulls?
A choke chain or choke collar is a continuous loop (not necessarily always chain, they can be rope or similar) that slips through itself to form a collar at one end (think noose). It is placed high up on a sensitive area of the dog’s neck, behind the ears. When the dog pulls he literally gets choked by the chain or loop around his neck. Choke chains/collars can also be called slip chains/collars, check chains/collars or correction chains/collars.
Why the different names?
Dog trainers often refer to them as correction or check chains/collars. Some trainers use them for brief ‘corrections’ during training. They were not invented for walking your dog and shouldn’t be used for this purpose, even if you agree with the use of the device during other aspects of dog training. If you do walk your dog on one then you are almost guaranteed to choke them, hence why so many people now refer to them as choke chains/collars.
I wish I knew why they are so often recommended to someone who says their dog pulls on the lead. They were not invented for that purpose and should not be used for that purpose.
Variations of the choke collar
The prong collar is similar to the above but its closure is limited and there are metal prongs turned into the dog’s neck. The idea is to apply pressure to the sensitive part of the dog’s neck rather than to cause the animal to choke.
Half check collars (also known as combi or Martingale collars) are supposed to only close to the extent that a standard flat collar would close around the dog’s neck. As long as the correct size is purchased so that the two sides of the collar (the rings) meet with a 2 finger gap like a normal collar, these are relatively safe when used correctly and are sometimes used by owners of dogs with narrow heads.
So, back to check chains - what are they used for?
As mentioned above, they have been used for many years by dog trainers who believe in using quick ‘corrections’ during training sessions. But as also mentioned, worryingly they are often purchased and used by the public to walk their dog.
Will it stop my dog pulling on the lead?
No. They really weren’t invented for that purpose at all.
Are they harmful to dogs?
Yes. Being choked or strangled is not going to be good for anyone, including dogs. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (A.P.D.T) produced a leaflet called Let’s Teach Them, Not Choke Them.
The leaflet explains that choke chains:
Can cause behavioural problems
It further explains that choke chains have been directly linked to the following medical conditions:
Injured ocular (eye) blood vessels
Tracheal and oesophageal damage
Severely sprained necks
Transient foreleg paralysis
Laryngeal nerve paralysis
Hind leg ataxia
What are the alternatives?
You need to deal with the reasons why the dog is pulling and try some positive training techniques. There is no need to hurt your dog in the name of training. Join a dog forum and ask for training tips, get a good book on the subject or hire a reputable dog trainer who uses modern, positive dog training techniques. For more information on this please see the end of this article Shock Collars: Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?
You could also try a head collar such as a Halti, Canny Collar or Gentle Leader that has been specially designed to stop dog’s pulling on the lead.
So what should my dog wear for walks?
I would never walk my dogs with their lead attached to any kind of dog collar. Even a standard dog collar can cause injury to your dog’s neck if you attach a lead to it for walks, especially if your dog is a puller. A dog harness is the only thing I ever attach my dogs leads to. Harnesses are more secure, comfortable for your dog and will even increase the level of control you have over your dog. Look for a dog harness that is adjustable (for a good fit), secure, well made, comfortable and suits your dog’s particular needs.
That is not to say your dog should not wear a collar. They must wear their ID tag – it is the law. For more information please see Dog Identification and the UK Law. So get a nice comfortable dog collar but personally I only use it for attaching the identity tag. My dog’s leads are always attached to their harnesses.
Before you buy a choke/check chain
Do I understand what this device should be used for?
Do I know how to fit and use this device correctly?
Do I want to risk causing my dog fear, pain or injury?
If you answer ‘no’ to even one of those questions then please step away from the choke chains, check collars, slip leads or whatever else you may hear them called. Don’t buy one and if you already have one – bin it.