Prong Collars: Appendix

In a recent post about prong collars, I used mathematical approximations to compare the effects of a prong collar and a flat collar. Here is a list of other factors one would consider if doing a complete analysis. None of them mitigates the disparity in pressure between the prong collar and the flat collar, and most would actually worsen the effects of the prong collar if included in a more complete model.

1. More Collar Math

  • Since the force conveyed to the collar from the leash is a vector, having direction as well as magnitude, the pressure is not always evenly distributed on the collar. In the case of the loose collar, it’s a gradient, having the greatest magnitude in the front, if the force is pulling straight back on the dog.  However, if we can approximate the area of the collar on which the force acts, we can get an average pressure.  And most importantly, this uneven distribution is true for both the prong and the flat collar. It means that in the places of maximum pressure it will be even higher than the estimate—and this will make a bigger difference on the prong collar since the pressure is already high enough to be painful.
  • I’m not accounting for the fact that each link of the prong collar acts as a separate unit (it’s not continuous like a flat collar). Again, this means that the prong collar doesn’t comprise the continuous unit of a flat collar and may have more differences in pressure in its links.
  • I am not accounting for the small effects of the force gravity on the collars. Yes, there’s yet another force present.
  • Finally, during “corrections,” when a trainer jerks sharply on the leash, there can be a very large, sudden force. The math of this type of dynamic force is complex. There is no advantage to a prong collar when a sudden jerk is applied. And it should be noted that a magnitude this could have a different effect on small and large dogs. Small dogs would likely be pulled off-balance. Larger dogs, because of their larger mass, would be more vulnerable to a puncture or internal neck damage.

Again, none of those things magically improve the comfort of the prong collar. Most will have the opposite effect.

2. Demonstration

As an experiment, I laid a 4.5 lb brick directly on my forearm for 30 seconds. That created a pressure of about 0.20 PSI. It was not uncomfortable, just a little awkward. After removing the brick, there was no mark on my forearm other than a little dirt.

Then I did the same thing with the prong collar between my forearm and the brick. That created a pressure of approximately 56.25 PSI. It left marks on my arm that were still there 30 minutes later. Remember: same brick, same force.

A dog may not pull or be dragged with a constant pressure for 30 seconds. But a dog being corrected on a prong collar will undergo forces much higher in magnitude than I have demonstrated here.

When I ran the prong collar across my forearm rather than lengthwise, the pressure was distributed onto fewer prongs and thus higher. Interestingly, after about 30 minutes the indentations left by the prong collar turned into swollen welts. They were still visible on my arm the next day.

Injuries to skin from prong collar
Welts left by pressure from prong collar on my arm


3. The “Proper Fit” Argument

Some proponents of prong collars claim that “properly fitted” prong collars aren’t uncomfortable to the dog. But the experts don’t.

Here is a direct quote from a movie about fitting prong collars by Jeff Frawley:

When the prong collar is loose and low, you have to apply a very dramatic correction to get a proper result. How much slack there is on that collar is how hard you have to pull on that leash. When the prong collar is properly fit, you barely have to apply pressure to get the right correction that you are looking for, making it a much more effective tool.

In other words, it takes less effort to make the dog uncomfortable when the prong collar is properly fit. The math shows that too, since a tight prong collar already has an additional force on it above and beyond what can be applied with leash pressure.

Back to the main prong collar post.

Copyright 2017 Eileen Anderson

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