Is a Choke Chain Bad for a Dog?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Choke chains can be dangerous for small terrier dogs.
Choke chains can be dangerous for small terrier dogs.

Many dog trainers extol the use of the choke when helping animals learn good behavior. Others see the choke chain as unspeakably cruel, with too great a potential for injury especially when people aren’t trained on how to use them with their dogs. Dogs can have injuries from choke chains that include collapse of the trachea, but there are also injuries caused to dogs that are trained with flat leather or nylon collars. Injuries with choke chains appear more often.

A standard dog collar and leash.
A standard dog collar and leash.

There is a middle ground that suggests that a dog that is trained properly with a choke chain is not likely to suffer injury. People who advocate the use of these chains are quick to point out that choke chains are not a substitute for the basic collar. They should only be worn during training and a flat nylon collar is better when training does not take place.

Many dog trainers extol the use of the choke when helping animals learn good behavior.
Many dog trainers extol the use of the choke when helping animals learn good behavior.

The most important part of using a choke chain correctly is to make sure that when you slap the leash to correct the dog, you are doing so in a light manner. It’s strongly recommended that you get training in how to do this properly with a good dog trainer or animal behaviorist. If the leash snap to correct is done properly, the chain will loosen immediately thereafter, and this is unlikely to hurt a dog. Some prefer the pinch collar, which causes a small amount of pressure around the neck during the snap and then automatically loosens.

Most pet owners prefer training based on positive reinforcement over choke collars and similar devices.
Most pet owners prefer training based on positive reinforcement over choke collars and similar devices.

Some dogs may not be suited to choke chain training, even when someone who is trained does it correctly. Many smaller dogs are more prone to injury of the neck. A lot of the smaller terrier breeds can have trouble with collapsing windpipes and training may be safer and more effective with a haltie that fits over the nose, or a halter. There are certainly ways to train a dog without the use of choke chains, and you can consult animal trainers and behaviorist in your area to find someone who emphasizes other methods.

The most important thing to remember if you do decide to use a choke chain is that you need training to use it properly. Also, you need to make sure the choke chain is only in use during training sessions. If you’re not going to be home for several hours, be sure the chain is removed so as not to endanger your pet.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent AllThingsNature contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent AllThingsNature contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon948363

Choke leashes cause trachea damage and should be banned!

anon356983

I've been using the chain for 40 years on various sizes and breeds with great results. Never have I choked or hurt a dog. I never take the chain off leash because my dogs prefer to be walked with it than to have the leash hooked to the collar.

anon243265

If you take your dogs to daycare or dog parks remove the choke chain. They can get caught in another dog's mouth and once that happens the dogs will flip, roll over, and pull to get free. This could break the other dog's jaw and choke the dog to death, and you cannot unclip or cut through the choke chain to free them.

We almost lost a puppy at the dog daycare where I work because of this. If you have a choke chain, keep bolt cutters somewhere accessible.

anon238907

Whoever invented this concept or came up with the idea should have it put around their neck and have it yanked hard when they do something wrong.

anon153090

My Dad has been taking his rescue dog to dog training classes. Last night, the trainer insisted that a choke chain was used, despite Dad's objections. Result - the dog was vomiting, retching and fighting for breath and went to the vet this morning. His trachea is damaged and inflamed and he is getting acid reflux now. He is in a very poor state and this is at the hands of an "experienced" dog trainer.

I feel like putting one on her and seeing how she feels now! If this is the result of choke chain training, then it is unspeakably cruel.

GiraffeEars

@ Anon23219- If a choke chain is used properly; it is not used to prevent a dog from breathing. It is not a way to hold power over an animal or even inflict pain. It is meant to be used in the same manner as a tap on the shoulder, or a way to guide an animal into a behavior. A choke chain is used for corrective training.

Maybe the name does not do the device justice, but using physical touching is common amongst all species during training. People even use physical touching when training themselves. Light touching and pressure is used to correct stances in martial arts, posture in strength training, etc. In these instances, no physical pain is being exerted on the subject.

anon23219

There is a moral or ethical question about having the right to "train" another sentient being by letting them know we hold the power to breathe in our hands.

The major organizations of veterinary behaviorists can all come out strongly against the use of force in dog training, as the potential negative behavioral side effects are increased with force.

All of those old ideas were starting to die out and be replaced by dog training based in science and learning, until this little man with delusions of Hollywood snuck over the border to espouse theories that not only are mostly incorrect and disproven, but dangerous.

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    • Choke chains can be dangerous for small terrier dogs.
      Choke chains can be dangerous for small terrier dogs.
    • A standard dog collar and leash.
      By: Alexey Stiop
      A standard dog collar and leash.
    • Many dog trainers extol the use of the choke when helping animals learn good behavior.
      By: CallallooAlexis
      Many dog trainers extol the use of the choke when helping animals learn good behavior.
    • Most pet owners prefer training based on positive reinforcement over choke collars and similar devices.
      By: duncanandison
      Most pet owners prefer training based on positive reinforcement over choke collars and similar devices.