Its The Dog

Learning through dogs


I mentioned before that tools have rules to be used properly. So what are tools? In aversive training the typical tools are choke chains and prong collars. In reward based training head collars, front clipping harnesses and clickers are commonplace. So lets look at them.

Choke Chains

Despite the name, choke chain isn’t mean to choke per se.  They were designed to give a “correction” by jerking the leash. This can cause some dogs, particularly those not use to it, to cough and gag. The trauma of the force against the trachea can cause it to collapse. A harsh correction can break the hyoid bone in the dogs throat and repeated trauma can cause thyroid issues.

Choke chains are often abused by people who’ve not been properly trained to use them. Many people let their dogs charge out in front of them pulling and choking themselves. The collar has to be places on the dog facing the correct way. For left side walking you place the chain on your wrist and let it fall, if it forms a P you then slide it over the dog’s head from your wrist. If the collar is backwards it will not slide properly.

Prong Collars

Prong collars look vicious, but they are a little more nice than choke chains. They still run the risk of collapsed trachea, broken hyoid bones, and thyroid damage. But because the pressure is dispersed over the whole length of the collar. However, prong collars can be abused and misused.

A man who bred, worked and showed giant schnauzers in the 60’s and 70’s told me the proper way to use a prong collar is to employ negative reward by applying steady pressure on the collar until the dog performs the demanded behavior.

Front clipping harnesses

Front clipping harnesses use physics in favor of the handler/trainer. If the dog lunges or pulls the pivot point at the chest causes the dog to spin around. SOme dogs may find these harnesses aversive, others don’t mind them. There are many different designs available depending on what you and your dog is comfortable. Some dogs may chafe at points of contact such as the sternum and arm pits.

Head collar

You can find these tools being misused in averisve training, but that is not the intent. Averisve trainers will often give corrections to a dog with a head collar, this is a dangerous method as you’re yanking the dog’s head. Head collars were designed similarly to the front clipping harnesses with the pivot point being closer to the leading part of the dog. Similar to a horse halter, if you stop the head you stop the animal. They were also designed with pressure points in mind. The top of a dog’s nose is a sensitive part of their body, slight pressure on this point has the ability to signal endorphin (a calming hormone) release. They do look a little like a muzzle, and odd looks accompany their use.


A marker is a tool used to mark a behavior the moment it happens creating a bridge between behavior and reward. The marker sequence is mark the reward. To establish this with your dog you have to charge the marker. 

Made famous by trainers such as Karen Pryor who initially used them in training marine mammals. There are several different kinds of markers, from whistles to clickers. The only danger that may arise from marker training is obesity. To avoid over feeding you must adjust the animals diet to assure they’re not consuming too much food. Rewards do not have to be excessively big, a chihuahua would do fine with a treat about 1/4 the size of a pea. A great dane would be happy with a pea sized treat.

So that’s an over view of some common tools!


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