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Ask the Pet Expert | Is a choke-chain collar OK?

I use a choke-chain collar to walk my mastiff because he pulls, but I was told that kind of collar might injure his neck. We're working on training, but in the meantime what's a good alternative?

I get this question all the time. A choke-chain, also known as a slip chain, is simply one of many tools available to train dogs. It is similar to a nylon slip collar and a British slip lead. In my experience as a professional dog trainer, I have never seen a dog injured by a choke chain, but I have seen many dogs injured by a regular snap-on collar.  My only concern about a slip chain is that it doesn't come with instructions; the label usually says "for professional training use only," and many of the chain stores sell low-quality versions that don't work effectively.

Because it doesn't come with instructions and many sales clerks don't know how to use a slip chain as intended, dog owners are left to guess what size to get and what technique to use. I often see dogs wearing collars that are too big or thick and that are on backward. Despite the name, it's actually meant to be loose at all times and not choking the dog.

If you aren't already doing so, I recommend working with an experienced trainer, one who can help you fit the collar correctly and show you how the collar was designed to be used.  Better yet, find a dog trainer who uses all training tools and can help you determine which works best for you and your dog.  Every dog is unique. 

Pauline Houliaras, a certified professional trainer, is co-owner of Doghouse Girls (doghousegirls.com) She is a founding member and current president of B-More Dog, an all-volunteer nonprofit whose mission is to promote responsible dog ownership through education and outreach programs in the Baltimore area. (bmoredog.org). Send your questions to sun.unleashed@gmail.com.

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