Slip Collar (or Training collar)
Also named by some a Choke chain, the slip collar is a traditional training tool loved and hated by many. It is a controversial tool dreaded by Positive Reinforcement Only trainers and turned into a political argument by organizations such as PETA. In reality there is a lot of misinformation out there and we are here to try to explain some of it. I will call this type of collar a slip or training collar because its purpose is not for choking a dog if used properly.
The Good: A slip collar provides an effective way for the owner to communicate with his dog. Dogs, just like people, communicate through physical touch. Just watch an older dog schooling a puppy – they will sometimes give the puppy a gentle bite on the back of the neck followed by a low growl that says “stop it, you are annoying me”. You probably know by now that your dog won’t always listen to you when you tell him NO. A quick leash correction using a slip collar will basically mimic the big dog gently biting down on the puppy’s neck to discipline him. Furthermore, there is no chance a dog would be able to slip off its collar. Also, if the dog still pulls on the leash, the slip collar will evenly distribute the resulting pressure around the neck – unlike a standard buckle collar, which concentrates the pressure on the dog’s trachea.
The Bad (and the Ugly): A quick internet search will most likely yield thousands of results from websites listing all the “bad” things about “choke” chains, but not all of them are true. Some of the contrary ideas are actually results from grotesque misuse of this training tool.
And once again, any training tool can be dangerous if not used properly. The slip collar takes the cake for the most widely misused tool – unfortunately the results of such ignorance can be fatal for the dog. Dogs left unsupervised while wearing a slip collar have been reported to suffer injuries due to the chain getting tangled – in their crates, outside or even to another dog. Slip collars incorrectly sized can cause the fur to be rubbed off and result in skin lesions.
PETA’s website has a field day discussing this topic. They mention dogs that have had “their chiropractic alignment compromised” by receiving slip collar corrections. They go further to claim the use of slip collars can cause behavior issues such as dogs becoming fearful of hands or collars slipping over their heads after having trained with a slip chain.
Honestly, both claims are arguable. For starters, a dog’s neck is not anywhere near being similar to a human neck. It resembles the muscular structure of a person’s thigh. So unless you are as muscular as Hulk, it is not accurate to imagine what any collar would feel on your neck. I know nothing about chiropractic medicine but I can say that if a dog owner or a trainer is giving leash corrections strong enough to potentially harm Fido’s neck structure, they are probably not doing the right thing. I have personally seen a fellow trainer who took pride in training his canine clients exclusively on a slip collar because he felt he had the strength and technique to deliver appropriate corrections – even when it was clear that excessive force was being used to deliver those corrections. He once reported a dog almost going into a seizure-like state after receiving one of his overtly “manly” corrections. Really?!
How strong is too strong? Well, some dogs have a higher tolerance to corrections – or a higher level of stubbornness, for sure. If one is issuing slip collar corrections to the point that the dog’s neck is being violently jerked, and Fido is still not responding, it is time to switch tools. In other words, I believe you can only go so far with a slip collar and the level of strength employed in corrections. Excessively violent jerking of the leash and slip collar can be bad for Fido and will not add anything to the training process.
I personally have never observed or heard of any cases of behavioral problems caused by a properly employed slip collar. PETA is probably not telling us the whole story again – if a dog demonstrates fear of hands and collars over its head, the problem was already there and the slip collar most likely did not cause it.
In summary, the slip collar is a great tool to communicate with your dog in a way canines would communicate with one another, but it has its limitations and can be dangerous if improperly used. You should always seek professional advice if you are unsure of how to use any training tool on your dog.