The Choke Collar: The Right Choice For You?

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Puppy in Park on LeashSee our article on the dog training collar for an overview of all the different types of dog training collars available. A choke collar looks just like a thick silver chain, and unlike the pinch collar the choke collar does not have prongs that pinch in to your dogs skin. The choke collar works very much like the pinch collar in that it works in direct relation to the amount of tension in the leash. Unlike the pinch collar when the choke collar pulls tightly it chokes the dog by pulling tightly. A choke collar works much like a rope looped through itself, when the leash is pulled tightly the collar pulls tightly around the dogs neck causing it to choke itself (hence the name) and relax back in to stride to loosen the tension on the leash and the collar.

Choke collars are used in many of the same training situations as pinch collars, for the most part in maintaining composure outside the home and with aggressive dogs. Choke collars can be helpful with larger dogs or dogs with aggressive tendencies; again they should not be used on small or fragile necked breeds. Choke collars can also be detrimental when used on stubborn dogs who can continue pulling on their leash despite being choked; this can cause damage to the dog’s neck as well as the loss of circulation to the tongue which will turn blue.

Criticism of the Choke Collar

There are quite a few critics of the choke collar due to the fact that the collar does exactly what its name describes – it chokes a dog that is not being obedient. The choke collar is, in fact, one of the most critiqued training collars used to train dogs. The truth of the matter is that this is not a collar to use if you are an inexperienced dog owner. The trouble when using this collar is that even when fitted correctly the collar can damage your dog’s neck and cause choking. If you are considering using a choke collar you should consult your vet or trainer to determine whether this is the right collar choice for you.

The information contained in this article and website is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional safety advice; it is provided for educational purposes only.

About The Author:

Amy grew up in England and in the early 1990's moved to North Carolina where she completed a bachelors degree in Psychology in 2001. Amy's personal interest in writing was sparked by her love of reading fiction and her creative writing hobby. Amy is currently self employed as a freelance writer and web designer. When she is not working Amy can be found curled up with a good book and her black Labrador, Jet.

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August 27, 2017 12:03 am

… the fact that the chain is fit incorrectly on the dog in the photo above the article says a lot…

Kimberly Alt
August 28, 2017 8:46 am
Reply to  Drayton

Hi Drayton, that was a stock photo we found online to use for this article. It’s not a personal photo we took ourselves.

January 3, 2014 11:02 am

Why are we resorting to giving a dog pain in order to “CORRECT ” him – That is certainly not training – Modern scientific training methods use positive reinforcement. We humans have the big brains and opposable thumbs – so why can’t we open our minds to different ways of training? There is much blowback from compulsive/averive training and we are messing up a lot of dogs.
Wanda Woodworth MA, CPDT-KA
Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Telesha Rodriguez
July 5, 2019 2:40 pm
Reply to  wandawoof

Have you ever delt with 45 lbs of aggression?

Marcus Richard
October 19, 2018 9:25 pm
Reply to  wandawoof

How are canines any different than human behavior correction therapy? And I use the word “therapy” very loosely…..

August 27, 2017 12:06 am
Reply to  wandawoof

In fairness certain kinds of ‘choke’ chains such as fur savers are a good option for people who know how they should be fit and want an option that isn’t going to interrupt their dogs coat if it’s fluffy. The real problem is that many people buy training tools, and think the tool will do all the work for them. That’s a false assumption. No matter what they should be correcting the dog in a way that clearly communicates what they would like the dog to do, instead of correcting them in a way that just says ‘no’ without any indication of what they did wrong or what the right thing is.

May 4, 2012 10:01 am

This is probably not the best thing to be used by the casual dog owner, mainly for the reasons already explained. Why put your dog through something which may actually cause them pain? It just does not seem like a good idea to me unless you really know exactly what you are doing.

Also, I think that these should never ever be used on puppies of any type. They are very impressionable and this could be very traumatizing to them. They should really only be used on older dogs and even then only if they have problems with obedience or other serious issues.

Probably the best solution if you are having problems training your dog is to seek the services of a professional. This means an actual trainer or even an obedience school.

In the end, I suspect such collars should simply be used by experienced trainers rather than just the casual dog owner. This is another reason why it is better to get the advice of a vet or trainer before choosing such as pain-causing collar. Trainers typically find other, non-painful methods of training, especially with all the dog training theories available today. A vet is far more likely to recommend dog school or dog rehabilitation than a choke collar of any kind.

Erik Wiedmann
January 5, 2020 3:17 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

In reference to choke collars: All necks are delicate no matter what breed you are training and pulling or yanking a dog by a regular collar can in some instances be just as detrimental as using a choke collar so would be trainers should understand that just because you may not be using a choke collar does not mean you can yank a dog by the neck. If you have to yank your dog, it means that you are not walking him properly to begin with and the dog is either dragging or has excessive lead.

May 3, 2012 7:36 am

Another modern solution is the electronic collar. The electronic version doesn't do much more than a normal choke collar could, but when properly calibrated it can be a very flexible device. Owners can use a remote control to activate the collar, which allows them to only use it when the dog starts acting improperly or investigating something off limits. In other words, it can be a very specific tool of instruction, and allows a dog a much greater degree of freedom, just in the right directions. It can also be used far more casually around the house than an option like a choke collar. The more elaborate systems allow an owner to set up an electric "fence" to keep the dog within a certain boundary, although this has very limited training value. Of course, the electric collar also has some negative features. If it is calibrated incorrectly, it will have no value as an instrument of instruction or it will be far too painful for the dog.

Honestly, I am not quite sure what I really think about such a tool. I certainly see the benefits in terms of a training tool. However, I also know that training a dog is more about consistency than anything else. The question which I keep asking myself is whether or not this is something that could really be used in a consistent fashion. If you would use this on the dog at the same times each day, then maybe this would have a fair amount of value. The thing is that dogs thrive on routine. So, if you are using this collar on an almost a random basis I just think it will confuse your dog and likely make him or her very irritated.

April 30, 2012 5:47 am

Unfortunately, these more proper forms of treatment are often a challenge to the average dog owner. A choke collar has immediate benefits because it owners can buy it, slip it on their dogs, and consider their job done. There's no need to spend time and money getting an electric collar to work, or trying to force on a halti and gentle leader, or taking innumerable hours to play through reward or bad-boy scenarios. But even when properly adjusted the choke collar can be an easily misused tool of dominance. Dogs can easily hurt themselves by constantly pulling on the leash even when the owner is watching out for their safety. After all, some dogs simply won't understand that they need to stop. These are some of the primary reasons I'm more of an advocate toward professional obedience schools and training lessons.

I also want to mention that good owners consider all other kinds of factors before using tools like a choke collar. If the problems are of a psychological nature (puppyhood abuse can have devastating effects on a dog's life, much like child abuse for humans) then a choke collar probably won't solve the underlying issue. Diet can also be a key factor behind mood. If an otherwise healthy dog starts to turn aggressive, the problem may be an improper diet that is causing physical reactions. A new addition to the family or a new environment may trigger similar changes.

Choke collars are better used for extremely aggressive dogs that may hurt dogs or people around them, not through bad temper but simply through protection, over-exuberance, and a misunderstanding of the rules of play. Sometimes a little bit of discomfort can be the best way to get through to this type of dog. Otherwise, I would say seek an alternative solution that is healthier for both you and your dog.

April 29, 2012 7:38 am

The dog trainers that I know would probably say that if a dog has reached the point of needing a choke collar, then something has been very wrong for years before then. Of course, every dog and every situation is different. In some cases choke collars may also be necessary for certain types of naturally aggressive dogs or even for drastic rehabilitation, but it's still a sad thing to see a dog needing a choke collar to behave. I'm curious under what specific circumstances a vet would suggest a choke collar?

Of course, there are other options available, but they also have their drawbacks. For example, a more modern version of the choke collar is the pinch collar, which has a similar design but is made of interlinking metal parts. When the dog pulls against the metal, its skin is pinched. Proponents of the prong collar say it is not nearly as damaging or detrimental as a choke collar, and mimics the way that a bitch would nip her young to make them stop a particular activity. This may or may not be true, but at least the idea sounds more palatable than a choke collar. However, prong collars may be even trickier to put on than traditional choke collars. A small mistake could mean the difference between a teaching tool and a lot of pain, since there's only a fraction of an inch in space needed to make the collar work properly.

If this sounds more barbaric, there's also the halti and gentle leader, which is based on the halters used for equestrian training. Like a horse halter, this "collar" actually fits around the head. The leash can then be used to control the direction of the dog's head so you can steer it away from objects better left alone. While this sounds more humane than a choke collar (since there's no immediate pain involved), it also some cruelty-based problems. For example, a dog can quickly learn to deal with a collar, but most dogs will hate having a halti and gentle leader strapped to their head. The more aggressive dog that can benefit from it the most will typically refuse to even let their owners put it on. And even if this stage is complete successfully, then owners will have to be very, very careful in how they use the halter-based device. These are not automatically controlled by movement in the same way a choke collar is. An inexperienced or unwary owner can quickly cause neck and back damage to their dog by twisting the leader improperly.