Herman Sprenger Pressure Collar Humane Test

As I've mentioned previously, I find that the 'universe' of dog training writings (like any other 'thing' one researches on the internet) rife with all manner of opinions presented as facts (but lots of good stuff too).  There is a difference between a fact and an opinion--and this is true in all matters--and presenting opinion as if it were a fact is just plain not cool. I also see the same 'opinions' almost identically worded which strikes me that these opinions (paraded as facts) are not held with conviction but rather plagiarized and subsequently held with conviction.  In my personal and professional life, I try to avoid falling into the same trap.

In this post, I wrote about my decision to use a prong collar.  I know that there is the "Gentle Leader" which purports to be humane and effective.  I used this successfully with my Am Bulldog mix, Macy. However, while the Gentle Leader was effective, Macy was uncomfortable (though compliant).  The strapping is across the nose and close to the eyes was not happily endured.  This sample size of one is not statistically valid, but it is a fact.  Others' mileage will vary.

With any endeavor having the right tool for the right situation is an imperative--whether you are a carpenter, electrician, accountant or cook.  The pressure/prong collar is the right tool for Dexter dog and Dexter's situation.  It is not the right tool for every dog and every situation. That modality would be akin to if the only tool you have is a hammer, then you perceive every problem as a nail. One needn't look far to see that these collars have been decried  by many as being inhumane. For my circumstance (Dexter!), I needed the right tool for the job at hand. Nevertheless, I wanted to ensure that I understood empirically what the 'other end of the leash' felt like.  Therefore, to ensure that I did not plagiarize the opinions of others and present it as a fact, I conducted my own empirical study as follows:  (Note:  Jeff Gellman did a video that I subsequently found after this post.  You can find it here.)

Hypothesis:  The Herman  Sprenger Prong Collar is a pressure/prong collar that applies even pressure to the dog's neck, and does not cut or scratch the dog's skin or cause pain.  With appropriate fit and proper introduction and combined with calm leadership techniques (work already undertaken), this collar is a humane training tool.  (And any training tool not subject to these qualifications could be considered inhumane).

Because I had already studied the fit, performed the introduction and have used it calmly, my test is centered on validating the mechanical aspects of the collar when in contact with the test subject matter. See Dog Training Page for links to Sean O'Sheas videos.

Materials Used:
  • Herman Sprenger Prong Collar, 18" medium weight
  • My personal body part--thigh area just over the knee--I had on shorts, so this area was uncovered.
  • Lead attached to the collar swivel
In fairness, I might have had a beer or two.  My husband was there and can vouch for the strict application of these procedures and the results.  He also shared the conclusions--but he may have had more beers.

Method and Results:  
  1. Attached the collar to my right thigh. No discomfort.
  2. Pulled the lead so that the collar would tighten on my leg.  Pressure, no discomfort.
  3. Pulled the lead yet again so that I was pulling as hard as possible --and held this position for more than 15 seconds.  (I should have timed this more accurately). Discomfort.  No pain. Indentation marks as one would expect when pressing metal against one's bare skin. These marks disappeared quickly.
Study error potential:  It is possible, though highly improbable that my thigh might be less delicate than the upper area of a dogs neck and that would render my conclusions suspect.  Perhaps if I were a roughneck on an oil rig.  I'm an accountant.  Accordingly, I rather suspect that this is not the case.  Further, and importantly, given the strength of a dog's neck and the protective covering of fur v. my thigh, I do not believe my conclusions invalidated or diluted in any way.
Conclusions (subject to error potential qualification noted above):
  1. In non-corrective mode, the collar provides no discomfort to the dog. 
  2. In corrective mode, a properly fitted, calmly used, metal prong collar on a dog's neck is no more uncomfortable than it would be on a human's bare-skinned thigh.
I would imagine that other inferiorly engineered/produced collars might scratch or puncture. (This is an opinion, not a fact--and side by side testing in the manner I described above would test that accurately).  My handling results in using this collar were immediate.  I believe (opinion) it to be (1) because the collar provides unambiguous, instant feedback to the dog regarding the handler's wishes and (2) clarity promotes a training session that is both focused and enjoyable for both the dog and the handler.

With dogs such as Dexter, who is powerful, acrobatic, willful, strong and with whom I have NO PRIOR FOUNDATION,  I have to make a choice among my experienced risks and highly likely to recur risks:
  • my injury (shoulder dislocation; being pulled to the ground or back strain) and/or 
  •  injury to my or another's person or animals due to this hurtling ball of exuberant (but happy intention. 
I've been hurdled into with bumps and bruises and back strain.  Daisey and Ella, my delicate female English Setters have been knocked to the ground for fun (with accompanying yelp) and possible long term relationship.  Dexter's excited and a big puppy who wants to play.  His play is like going to Thunderdome; unfortunately, he simply does not know any better. We are getting better at anticipating his jumping our girls, but to be fair, they purposefully put themselves within his long lead reach.  Go figure.  Nevertheless, we do have 'pack' time where everyone is well-behaved in proximity to each other. We try to cultivate that time as often as possible.

As parents and dog owners, we have to manage risks with our children and our pets.  The above are painful 1 events due to a dog not controllable through use of stout martingale.  My job is to weigh pain that the dog can inflict against discomfort that the dog feels in failing to heed reasonable behavior requests that he can understand.  It is not a fair shake for those of us on the other end of Dexter's intentions to let this stand.

Accordingly, using a device that successfully gets his attention without harming him while preventing his harming others is a no-brainer.  I don't think that choice either unreasonable or inhumane.  Rather it is irresponsible for me to (1) not advocate on behalf of my other dogs/cats or the other people and their animals for their comfort/safety and (2) not offer clear choices for Dexter in his behavior.  As he is offered a loving home, security, food, rewarded good behavior, I'm also confident that he is getting balanced messages that will allow him to reach his full potential.

So judge me if you will for not allowing Dexter to charge my English Setter girls and knocking them to the ground and rolling them in an attempt at play and using a tool that allows me to effectively control him without injuring myself (or him).  It's his choice; and his consequences. He has been choosing well better.

 Please understand that I am carefully and accurately choosing my words of pain v. discomfort. And as I outlined above, the discomfort consequences are far less for him than the pain consequences for others in his line of sight or at the other end of his lead. If you are faced with such a dog and such choices as I am, feel free to conduct your own test and draw your own conclusions.

1 To provide some contrast between pain v. discomfort I offer these examples:
  • Pain:  kidney stone, nail in foot, childbirth, broken bones or sprains. 
  • Discomfort is bodily restraint of any kind that causes pressure (too tight pants bra, belt seat belt), full bladder, stone in shoe, sand in sensitive parts.
Further, my English Setters have a far different threshold than my Am. Bulldog or pitbull.  Know the dog.  Know the appropriate method.  Wrong methods on wrong dogs (either overcorrection of undercorrection) will cause undesireable results.  I will write later about how someone ruined my Daisey with overcorrection.


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