prong collar e collar

Prong collars and e-collars – why?

There is a growing debate on the use of these training aids and it really is a concerning topic. People say “Prong collars e-collars – why?” and this is a great question, but it is a poor statement.

Maybe twenty years ago, many people had never heard of a prong collar, I remember using them and discussing them on various forums etc that I was on.

I met little resistance because really, no one really knew about them.

By that time, I had long established myself as a respected dog trainer and behaviourist amongst many and I demonstrated and taught people the method in which I use these training aids to reach dogs where other methods are failing to provide progress.

Today, most people in the dog world know about prong collars and e collars, but many have learned about them through propaganda which was designed to spread lies, superstition and fear around these simple tools.

Prong collars e collars

There are photos floating around the internet showing how cruel prong collars are because in the picture, they punctured the skin.

It is well known the main picture people use is fake. There are tones of pictures of dogs with harnesses and flat collars that have grown into the neck and skin of the dog simply because they have left on too long.

Do not be fooled by dishonest people.

People coming to see me that have been through multiple trainers that have tried and failed numerous times by restricting the client and the dog to one or two systems, usually revolving around a reward only regime, but not always.

These dog owners are at their wits end, stressed, anxious, frightened, in trouble with council perhaps and nothing is working.

I may recommend a prong collar and a look of horror comes over their face.

I can see they have fallen victim to the propaganda. And most likely have been told all of this by the very person who failed them.

Training aids are designed to aid training.

Meaning, they make training possible over a broader range of dogs with a broader range of temperaments and varied history of behaviour.

Without these aids, many dogs would and DO fail to develop reliable behaviours, get access to freedom perhaps such as off leash dog areas like beaches and forests etc.

I will say to many people, let’s try this and if within 60 seconds your dog is not relaxed, happy, tail wagging, looking up at me with a clear look of trust, this is not the right aid for your dog.

I go further to say that there will be no yelping, vocalising or shut down body language created by my training or training aid I choose.

The gulp occurs and they agree.

I begin my process and in a flash the dog is not pulling, looking up at me, has a spring in their step and tail wagging.

It’s about this time I say “59, 60!”

Owners often cry with joy, put their hands to their face because they are smiling so wide their cheeks hurt. Partners are elbowing each other in disbelief.

I have even had people stand up in rage saying, “that last idiot try to steer me away from the help I needed for YEARS!

You may be sitting there thinking the only way they can be used is big leash jerks, well understand that the only way food was used many years ago was stick a piece of kibble in a dog’s mouth.

As that has grown immensely so has the use of pressure.

If you see someone jerking a collar without conditioning or under high distraction the dog is not ready for, they are getting it wrong in my book.

Will this work? Probably, I don’t know as I don’t do that, but it is not the only way, that is for sure.

Here are a few secrets.

  1. What the owner saw in my consult was not created by the prong collar, it was created by me, my system and using an effective training aid to make it all work.
  2. If you are a trainer and you are steering people away from these trading aids, you better get these people results fast because when they find out the truth, and they will, in my experience they spend a great deal of time steering people away from you.
  3. Not all dogs will work for food at a level in which solid reinforcement will occur, that’s far from a secret, AND NOT ALL DOGS NEED PRONG COLLARS OR E COLLARS EITHER.

I have read where other trainers have said that I must not be a very good trainer if I need to use a prong collar.

Here is another secret. I DON’T!

Let’s lay down some facts so you will see what I am talking about.

Over twenty-five years ago I discovered that dogs would work very well when their arousal state was channelled into a reward.

I tooled around with this for quite some time and eventually travelled through Europe to see people running various versions of what I had experienced myself.

Over my career I have developed various elements and attributes that suit my goals and set those up in a system I can teach to my clients.

This is called MY training in drive system. It’s MINE not because I invented TRAINING, or DRIVE but because the elements I have assembled are unique to me.

My system rarely uses any form of pressure other than reward pressure. Reward pressure is the removal of an expected reward – Negative punishment.

I have a team of people with a huge list of podium finishes, High in trials, winner of winners and championships across a very broad range of dog sports.

So, can I train a dog without a prong collar? Clearly.

Can I train a person to train a dog without a prong or e collar? Clearly.

But many of my clients are not good trainers, and news flash, they don’t want to be or need to be.

They want to own dogs as is their right and they want to train them without spending years and many lessons becoming a professional trainer or competitor.

Their timing may not be great, they don’t understand motivation truly, their handling can be average to terrible at best. And this is often after they have trained with the propaganda spreading trainer that is an expert in positive training.

Their dog may be in a tough spot or not bred to work, have genetic issues or learned ones.

So whilst some will say “it is your job to teach people this”, consider this. People come to me and partake master classes, because they want to learn to be dog trainers.

They do a number of these over a couple of years to learn about elements of training and behaviour.

The average pet owner does not want to do this whilst their dog barrels around out of control. They, more accurately, their dog, needs intervention now.

Too many owners give up on dogs which ends in a life in the backyard, broken relationships between the dog and the owner, dog being euthanised, just this week owner killed by their dog (Very sad story of many) and worse outcomes.

Yes, they shouldn’t give up, but they do and will continue to when the learning curve to train their pet dog is so long, arduous and often so ineffective that they hate learning and training.

When your house is burning down, enrolling in a University course and getting a degree on firefighting is not the path many would take.

Let’s help dog owners put the fire out!

Chances are, if you do this, they will become interested in training and want to learn more.

In fact, Team K9 Pro members are mostly made up of people that came to me to help with a behaviour problem. Now they combined have thousands of competition wins across many sports trained with predominantly reward use!

Here is a great article

This is a great news article about how important Police dogs are to the Legal System and how effective they can be and using my breed of choice is even better news.

Look how happy yet effective these dogs are and whilst you’re enjoying the video, take a close look at the dogs neck, yes that is an e-collar with two receivers and also a prong collar.

Check it out here


Why doesn’t reward based work all the time?

It will work all the time in a very high percentage of cases, but the process with some dogs would take so long, the risk of the dog doing something very bad is too great to take the risk to push a less effective strategy.

When you use food in training, I feel the food must be received with a high value so that the loss of that food would be a huge contrast. This way we can motivate the dog with food and add motivation by removing the food.

If this value is not apparent, then using food (for me) as the primary training aid is out. I will still use food as a reinforcer but will find something else to help progress occur.

Here is a little understood fact. “You cannot make a dog experience positive reinforcement”

You can shove a piece of chicken at dogs and make them swallow it but does positive reinforcement occur? No.

Dogs will experience Negative Reinforcement when any type or any level of discomfort is removed.

Conditioning is important.

Prong collars, e-collars, clickers, markers etc all need to be conditioned.

Conditioning in my systems means that we teach the dog how to interpret the message we want them to gain from experiencing a cycle of the training aid.

Every clicker trainer will know this and those who are learning clicker training can understand this.

For without conditioning, it is just a noise.

Of course, the same goes for all training aids. The e-collar needs to be conditioned so that the lowest perceivable level can be effective. If this is not done, you have to use the collar at a high level to push the dog into avoidance to stop the behaviour.

Most people have learned that a tiny little vibration in their pocket means they should get their phone out, press the screen and say hello. The vibration does not blow your leg off!

Ban the tools people will be forced to learn!

Think of it this way, without these tools I can still train dogs very well, people struggle though.

So, they will need more lessons with trainers like me that can teach them.

That’s a win for my business, right?

Probably but it will be a huge loss for dogs as many will just be surrendered, euthanised or resigned to life in the back yard.

Anyone pushing for any training aid (used properly) to be banned will be responsible for the death of an unimaginable number of dogs.

I am presented with dogs that many trainers would not go near, and I can get most of them to a place where they can be a well-behaved happy dog in public and around other dogs.

If you are a trainer and do not see this level of dog, and the level of dog you see can improve without these tools, fantastic!

But please don’t take them out of the hands that need them for dogs that through no fault of their own are out of control.

Regulate – restrict – don’t REMOVE.

I would strongly support any intelligent restriction on the use of certain training aids to mean that they can only be used under the strict guidance of an experienced trainer or behaviourist.

I have no problem with that at all.

I would support legislation that says you have to train your dog or something like that but removing prong or e-collars would be like banning a medication that saves lives because it could have minor side effects if used improperly.

Every trainer uses punishment!

If they say they don’t then they are either wrong or lying. Any time a dog expects a reward and the trainer withholds this, delays it or removes it, this is using Negative Punishment. That is a fact.

Here are some expected rewards that a trainer may remove or advise you remove that will generate Negative Punishment in your dog.

  • You show your dog a piece of food and hold it back, your dog shapes (offers) a behaviour to end the Negative Punishment and get access to Positive Reinforcement.
  • Your dog comes running to come in the house because your dog likes being inside, and you close the door before the dog gets in. Negative Punishment.
  • Your dog is chewing your shoe and you take the shoe away, Negative Punishment.
  • Your dog wants to chase and capture a rabbit, small dog or cat, and you do not allow this, Negative Punishment.

I could write these all day! The attributes of Operant Conditioning are apparent in everyday life for us all, if you are cold and put on a jacket and it feels better, Negative Reinforcement.

Prong collars and e collars can be used effectively without putting undue stress or pain on dogs, that is a fact I can demonstrate to any reasonable person.

There are dogs that will not, in any reasonable amount of time, modify their behaviour through the use of Positive Reinforcement only, this happens every time the existing behaviour is more valuable than the reward you’re offering.

This does not mean that that you have to go to high levels of Positive Punishment and jerk the neck off the dog either, but very small amounts of pressure can be used to generate some motivation where other motivators have failed.

Respect that people and dogs are all different, and respect that a piece of metal cannot hurt a dog without a person attached.

If people put a lot more time into selecting the correct dog for their needs, invest time into raising them correctly and intervene right away if things are looking shaky, there would probably be very little need for most training aids.

Perhaps that is where our energy needs to go.

I am always, ALWAYS willing to show people how I would use any training aid, from food, toys, tugs, prong collar,  e-collar, it doesn’t matter.

So if you want to learn about any of these, reach out and I will happily explain and demonstrate.

If you do not need any training aids and see no use in them, that is great for you, certainly not suggesting everyone needs to be using anything.

If you are a trainer and you have a client with a dog that just is not getting where they need to be, reach out, I won’t bite!

Comments and shares always welcome, this is a topic I am passionate about – no not prong collars, but HELPING PEOPLE WITH THEIR DOGS.



About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

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  1. Steve – great article. I’d love to start collar training in NSW but it’s obviously banned here.

    Regulating it properly and introducing a license to own/use one could be a first step if they were to change the laws. Have you looked/spoken to anyone about this?

    I feel it would require a team effort to get this law overturned.

  2. Great article. If only the nee sayers would read this, but they won’t because facts and common sense have no place in their emotional argument.

    Coming from SA I’m a little worried as to no trainers here wanting to speak up about this stuff through fear of backlash. I have started putting out content talking about it. It’s necessary
    Also need to speak to business lobby groups to get help fight the giant that is the rspca.

  3. An interesting post, and I agree that while in a perfect world we wouldn’t need aversives, we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes have to choose the lesser evil, although which option is the lesser evil can be a bit subjective.

    However, I disagree with just one sentence. “Anyone pushing for any training aid (used properly) to be banned will be responsible for the death of an unimaginable number of dogs.”

    I think nobody should be blamed for the actions of another. Yes, some owners will take the easy way out and abandon (or worse) their dog, but that is their fault and their responsibility alone. Think about the reverse. Does your support of these training aids make you responsible when some idiot abuses and injures their dog with it? Even though you only support responsible use, you can’t ensure that that’s what will happen, and your actions would have made it easier to access those tools.

    Like I said, we don’t live in a perfect world, and we already struggle to fund the enforcement of animal welfare laws. I’m extremely sceptical that they would be able to create and police a law that only allowed certain tools to be used under the guidance of an experienced trainer or behaviourist (especially since we don’t even have legal requirements to call yourself a trainer or behaviourist!) and the potential for misuse of these tools are very high.

    I don’t think people misusing these tools should be blamed on you, just like I don’t think people’s actions if these tools are banned should be blamed on those who supported the ban.

    • Hi Kitty, if a Government removes the training aid in a world in which people are already struggling to control their dogs, and then the dogs cannot be controlled and they are seized, euthanised, lost or killed running on a road or even surrendered, then I do feel the fault / blame with those that took the solutions away or at least part thereof.

      The potential to miss train and or abuse dogs is also great.

  4. I find it funny, in a nonsensical way, that some people are fervently against stronger training aids. I wonder if somehow along the way, they have missed every Nature Documentary on TV.

    Are some people desperately wanting to believe that a dogs body language is the only way to which they actually communicate. Its a complete no-brainer, what happens if a dog fails to pick up the cues of another dogs posture, gesture, or expression. They’re not called Canines, because they have pillows for teeth.

    Dogs strike with a closed mouth (like some snakes), they mouth, snap, or nip etc to indicate to another, that a boundary has been crossed. This is all simulated by the range of stronger training aids. and are a lot simpler than morphing yourself into a dog, in order to train one.

    Plain and simple, the range of stronger training aids would not exist if food/reward training worked 100% of the time, with 100% of owners/trainers, with 100% of the breeds, and with 100% of individual dogs.

    You also don’t have to be a neurologist to know that the concentration of nerve endings, and the pain tolerances of dogs are very different to a humans. So it would be completely ignorant to make inferences solely on what a human may experience. Am I the only one, who see’s two horned animals head-butting each other and thinks, well their neurological structure has gotta be very different to mine?

    • There surely is a lot of confusion around. Thanks Adrian.

    • Many people, like myself, recognise the potential harm of these training auds. As well as the aids, people like Steven have an added confidence and charisma that dogs automatically respect. Without those, I think the average dog owner could hurt the dog in their forceful attempt to use them or be inneffective for fear of hurting the dog. Improving my charisma in my dog’s eyes is something I hope to achieve when I hope to achieve when I come to K9Pro

  5. Spot on as usual Steve ,as a balanced trainer in WA it looks like our tools are about to be banned its so frustrating its taken me ten years to to get most of the rescues on side on using the tools after years of dogs dying through the usual vet behaviourists and so called force free trainers telling them just to kill the dog there’s nothing that can be done ,

    • I have read the draft and it is incredibly stupid, I very much hope this does not eventuate in any form. If it does behaviour, in dogs will spiral and they will be killed.

      Great work with rescues, dogs that have not had the best start really need their next chance to be the one. Good work Eric!

  6. We purchased an E collar and are delighted with the results we’ve been able to achieve. I watched low level ecollar training videos (we had already done positive food reinforcement training and got him to good compliance but would not come when called no matter the reward) the dog is a rescued gundog, the 4th of these dogs we have rescued over the years and the only one we needed this kind of training aid with. He is / was a very focussed dog and we were able to help him break focus using the low level E collar training. He started killing possums and fetching live snakes on our acreage property and was at risk of injury or worse. He is 100% reliable on recall now with or without the collar. I truly do not believe we could have achieved that without the use of a tool. He’s an awesome companion and has a much better life and we are converts to low level ecollar training.

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