Prong collars cause injuries and behavioral problems, but many safe and effective training alternatives exist

June 21, 2016 – The San Francisco SPCA has launched a campaign to educate the public about the harm caused by prong collars. Prong collars are designed to inflict pain and discomfort and can cause serious physical, behavioral, and emotional damage.

“We continue to regularly see prong collars on dogs throughout San Francisco,” said Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, co-president at the San Francisco SPCA. “Most owners don’t want to hurt their dogs – they want to do the right thing. There’s a huge need for community education.”

The SF SPCA Veterinary Hospital treats prong collar injuries, which range from skin irritation and punctures to spinal cord problems. Prongs can easily damage a dog’s delicate neck area. The protective layers of the skin on the under portion of a dog’s neck, where the prongs of the collar are designed to pinch, are 3x thinner than those of human skin.

Prong collars often lead to long-term behavioral problems. If pain is experienced during everyday activities, like walks and vet visits, dogs can begin to associate an owner’s presence, and other harmless stimuli encountered while wearing the prong, with fear and discomfort.

Because of the harm caused by prong collars, the SF SPCA’s campus in the Mission, will become prong-collar-free environments in the coming months. Visitors will be asked to remove prong collars and instead use flat collars, which will be provided free of charge.

“Veterinary visits can be stressful for many dogs without the added fear and anxiety caused by prong collars,” explained Dr. Scarlett. “We want your dog’s experience on our campuses to be as positive as possible. Furthermore, it’s a safety concern for our medical staff. Veterinarians and technicians can easily harm themselves while trying to examine a dog who’s wearing a prong collar.”

Instead of aversive training equipment and tactics, the SF SPCA supports positive reinforcement training. Positive reinforcement uses treats, toys, affection and attention to motivate and help teach desired behaviors. Nearly any behavior can be taught using these methods.

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