Your tiny dog doesn’t sweep you off your feet when they pull on walks, but their pulling ruins the walk nonetheless.
I know exactly what that’s like – pulling on walks was one of Matilda’s biggest behavioral issues, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t seem to convince her to calm down and walk politely.
As I researched ways to train her, I read about micro prong collars for toy dogs. In a forum, one user suggested a chihuahua wear a micro prong collar because they felt the use of tools did not depend on the strength of the dog, but the toughness of their personality.
I agree that a dog that’s determined to pull on walks, despite attempts at training, needs extra attention. But as I researched different training methods and tools, I realized that a prong collar would do much more harm than good.
Does A Micro Prong Collar Actually Hurt?
One time, I noticed a large, pink prong collar at PetSmart. I’ve never used a prong collar on a dog before, so I took the empty aisle as an opportunity to get up-close and personal with the device.
I placed the pronged side against my upper part of my neck, in the correct, recommended position. Used as designed, the prong collar has to be high up on the neck, and for it to stay in that position, it has to be tight enough for the prongs to, ever-so-slightly, dig into the skin.
I didn’t have to press the prongs into my skin at all to feel uncomfortable. It felt like… well, it felt like prongs gently stabbing my neck. I pressed it a bit deeper into my skin, and though I didn’t expect to love the feeling, I was surprised at just how painful it was, even though I wasn’t putting much pressure on it at all.
Now, keep in mind, a dog does not control how the prongs are positioned on their neck. They cannot always predict or understand a sudden correction. Dogs can’t make sense of billowing plastic bags or fleeting shadows – how could they make sense of constant poking, and occasional jabbing of two dozen metal prongs around their neck?
A dog’s skin is actually much thinner and more delicate than a human’s. The epidermis of a dog is 3-5 cells thick however in humans it is at least 10-15 cells thick.
Toy dogs are at even greater risk of pain in any type of collar. Pressure around the neck can cause tracheal collapse, thyroid issues, nerve damage, and even eye injury, especially in Pugs, Chihuahuas and other breeds with protruding eyes.
However… if you’ve seen photos of dogs with deep, bloody puncture wounds around their necks from prong collars, keep in mind that those severe injuries are not from normal use. Dogs won’t typically suffer obvious, outward injuries from prong collars unless the collar is left on for months.
Prong collar injuries are more difficult to notice because they can happen gradually – and people who use them might not trace a health issue back to their equipment.
What Your Toy Dog Should Wear On Walks
You shouldn’t attach your dog’s leash to anything worn around the neck – regular flat collars, micro prong collars, chain collars, martingales – all of these collars create pressure around the dog’s neck.
A toy dog should always wear a soft harness on a walk. A harness distributes pressure around the dog’s chest if they do pull.
Avoid falling for harnesses that claim to stop pulling. Most of these have some way of applying painful pressure to stop your dog from pulling, usually with a strap that tightens around your dog’s vulnerable belly area. Not much research is available on these harnesses because they’re new to the market. Regardless, it’s not worth risking an injury to your dog’s internal organs – or even causing your dog pain – for the sake of training.
Pain-free no-pull harnesses clip to the front of your dog’s chest, rather than your back, so your dog will face you when they pull. However, most of these do not fit dogs under 15 pounds.
You don’t need any fancy equipment to train your toy dog to walk politely on a leash. A comfy harness keeps your dog from experiencing pain and discomfort. Only when your dog is not stressed or in pain, can you properly begin to train them.
What Most People Get Wrong About Training Dogs Not To Pull
To the untrained eye, painful training equipment seems magical. Simply place this around your dog’s neck, wave a magic wand, and voila, no more pulling.
But that’s not how you train a dog to focus on you and enjoy the walk while they’re in-sync with you. That’s how you train a dog to be afraid to act naturally for fear of pain.
Keep in mind that a dog that pulls does not have a “tough personality.” A pulling dog is a curious dog, or a dog who is bored of walking at your leisurely human pace.
Why risk hurting your dog when, instead, you can find a fun way to engage them on walks?
Use treats, at first, to train your dog to walk by your side. You won’t need treats on every walk, though walking is a wonderful training opportunity.
Get to know what motivates your curious dog on a walk, and use that as a reward. Do she love to sniff and lift her leg on trees? Reward her with those trees.
Does she love to sprint? Race ahead when she’s walking nicely, slow down when she’s not.
A separate blog post on loose-leash walking is soon to come.
In the meantime, start shopping for a comfy harness that fits your toy dog – not an easy feat if your pup is under 10 pounds, but it’s a worthwhile investment for a lifetime of fun adventures together.