When I got Isaac from his trainer, I also got three collars - two regular collars and one prong collar.
If you're not familiar with prong collars, they are metal collars that have little prongs, sort of pointy metal pieces, that go against the dog's neck. They are sometimes used when training dogs because you can easily correct a dog that is wearing one by tugging on the leash. That's because if you tug kind of hard, it causes pain to the dog. If a prong collar is too tight or if it's not used correctly, it can really hurt a dog. It can make sores on the dog's neck. It can really hurt.
That's not how they are supposed to be used, though. And that is certainly not how it has been used on Isaac.
Before I decided to apply for a dog from Isaac's program, I talked to the trainer. One of the questions I asked her was what kind of collar she used with the dogs she trained. She told me she occasionally used a prong collar and went on to explain when and why she would use one.
She said occasionally she used one with a dog that pulled a lot when walking on a leash because it's fairly self-correcting. If it's uncomfortable to pull on the leash, the dog won't do it. And as long as the collar fits properly, the dog won't be injured by a prong collar used in this way. The dog controls how much pull is put on the collar.
She said she also sometimes uses one when working with a handler that has little arm strength. The prong collar allows the handler to control the dog with much softer movements and it's much easier to deal with pulling and to keep the dog from taking off after a cat or squirrel.
I used Isaac's prong collar very briefly after I got him, then put it away. I didn't think I needed it.
Over the past year, my back has gotten much worse. When I first got Isaac, I would try to hold onto the leash when he tried to take off after a cat or deer. A few times he got away from me anyway, but many times, I was able to keep hold of the leash. These days, I can't. And Isaac has figured that out. I've been having more trouble lately with him taking off when he sees something or someone he wants to chase or greet. He doesn't do it when he's working but he does it when we go for walks or just in the lobby of my building. It's becoming a big problem. I think he's doing it because he gets away with it but if I try to hold onto the leash when he tried to bolt, it triggers such incredibly painful spasms in my back that it makes me cry. I've tried to just hold on anyway and ignore the pain, but it's the kind of pain you cannot just ignore.
Today I decided to dig out Isaac's prong collar. I only put it on him when we were going outside. I took it off as soon as we came back in.
I watched him very carefully while using it to make sure it wasn't causing him discomfort. What I noticed is that he was much, much less likely to try to jump up on neighbors in the hallway or in the elevator. A couple of my neighbors commented on the change in his behavior, too. I'm glad they noticed it, but on the other hand, that shows you what a problem it had become, that they would notice this and see it as a big change.
He never looked uncomfortable. His tail was wagging away the whole time. He just wasn't jumping on people or pulling on the leash.
It actually allowed me to be very gentle with him. Instead of holding the leash really tight and pulling on it myself when a neighbor walked by, I was able to hold the leash normally and Isaac decided not to pull. It meant taking Isaac out did not involve a wrestling match, which is what it sometimes feels like.
My plan is to keep using the prong collar for a while. I hope that at some point I can stop using it and he'll still behave like he's been behaving with it on, but for now I'm going to keep using it. I may decide not to use it when he's working, since I usually don't have trouble with him pulling or trying to change critters when he's working. I might just use it when we go out for a recreational walk. I was really happy with how well he did with it on today, though.