The Deadly Choke Chain
Updated: Aug 31
One of the most chaotic and controversial subjects in the dog training world and in dog ownership, is the use of the archaic chain collar device known as the “choke chain.” What is it?
“Choke chains (also called choke collars, slip chains, check collars, or training collars) are a length of chain with rings at either end such that the collar can be formed into a loop that slips over the dog’s head and rests around the top of the dog’s neck, just behind the ears. This is supposed to correct a dog’s unwanted behavior, such as leaving the “heel” position. Pulling harder or longer on the choke chain presses on the dog’s trachea and/or larynx and may restrict breathing.”
Unfortunately, when this choke chain device is overbearingly used improperly then serious injury can inflict the dog’s trachea, spinal column, can cause paralysis and can even cause death. It’s a health hazard for sure, and the dangers of its uses are becoming more mainstream as new training innovations are quickly taking its place. But we dog lovers, owners, and training professionals are still left inflicted with the choke chain’s mass production being sold in major retail stores in the US nationwide. Some dog lovers have gone to social media to promote the dangers of using it. Some celebrity dog trainers are praised for training methods that don’t utilize it. But there are still many, many people left with the easy purchase and no-skills with using the chain incorrectly.
So, I have personally found (as a federal certified dog trainer by the US Air Force), that there are at least three viewpoints to look at when using a choke chain training device: okay to use them, not okay to use them, or only at times for training purposes. Training devices have come a long way so there are alternative methods to controlling overly aggressive dogs because what do we truly want when it comes to our family pet? We want our furry family member to behave and listen, to have manners and love us unconditionally. There is no one size fits all learning device for either humans or animals. So there must be some compromise if you want effective behavior modification results. For instance, I would not recommend using a choke chain training small dogs or puppies, I personally prefer to use a harness. But if a dog owner had a large working dog breed and they have already been using a choke chain, then as a dog trainer I should stick with what they had and then introduce an alternative, innovative behavior modification method
When I was a dog trainer in the military, the choke chain was a required piece of equipment for obedience training but it was NOT used for detection training, scouting, and training drills that incorporated building searches. The dog training device depended on whatever training drill we were tasked with. Choke chains were not something we kept on our military dogs 24 hours a day because they can behave just like little kids when you are not around, getting caught on something inside the house and hurting themselves.
One alternative to the chain is a rope collar. But whether it’s a chain or a rope, dog training professionals know how to position the collar to gain control over the canine, for obedience purposes. Then depending on how obedient the dog is, the training professional would then adjust the collar or utilize a lighter training device.
But here are 5 reasons why YOU should not use a choke chain on your family pet:
1. Do not use a choke chain if you are not a dog training or a working dog professional.
2. Do not use a choke chain if you don’t know how to train dogs.
3. Do not use a choke chain on a puppy or small dog.
4. Do not use a choke chain if you have anger issues and get mad easily at your dog.
5. Do not use a choke chain if you do not absolutely love your dog like it’s your only child.
As a dog training professional, I recommend having a training consultation with a professional trainer first so they can see what is used for behavior modification, and what he or she really wants when it comes to changing the behavior or your personal family pet. Then the trainer can customize the dog training to fit your lifestyle if you have a really good dog trainer.
As a personal dog owner, my first choice is to start training the puppy in a harness right way, don’t wait. The earlier the puppy knows how to walk in a harness then the easier they become at handling their behavior as an adult because when we go out for a walk, it’s time to work because I am the pack leader and my dog is my follower. Does that make sense? All in all, I feel that there is no one size fits answer to the choke chain training device but when in doubt, just don’t use it at all!