Hi folks, I have a question about alternatives to prong collars for training. I thought a bit of background info. would be helpful. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions.
I recently moved to Adeliade from the U.S. Even more recently my husband and I welcomed two puppies into our home. My husband has mainly had smaller dogs (toys or terriers) and has done very little training and I've had larger working dogs (GSDs and Rotties) and have trained them for Shutzhund and done a bit of agility work (in fact back in the U.S. my Shutzhund trained rottie saved my life when an intruder broke into my house one night when I was home alone). My husband picked out a red heeler and I chose a great dane/mastiff/ridgeback cross. While we each do training with both dogs, he is the primary handler for Jethro (the red heeler) and I'm the primary handler for Abby (the great dane/mastiff/ridgeback cross).
Back when we first got Abby I hired a trainer to come out to do some one on one training with us. My more recent experience is with higher level training, so I wanted a puppyhood refresher. The trainer confirmed that I had a good handle on things and that Abby was coming along nicely.
Well Abby is 6 months old now and it's time for obedience class. We went to the local dog club and signed up last weekend. From the age of about 5 months I have been using a prong collar with Abby, just as I have always used with my other dogs. She is a very happy, well adjusted, playful, and polite pup (not to mention big!). The obedience club was shocked to see that I had a prong collar on it and they asked a lot of questions, which I was totally fine with. I know how to use one, I'm experienced with using one, and I understand people might have a knee jerk reaction at first. I also explained how prong collars are often safer and more humane that choker/check collars. I even took the collar off of Abby and showed the folks at the club how it works and encouraged them to give themselves a correction around their arm or leg to dispel any misgivings that they might have. The folks at the club were really open minded and decided to permit the prong collar and they had also heard of them before and know that in the U.S. we use them for training and even on service dogs.
Today we got a phone call from the club saying that prong collars are illegal under an animal cruelty act here in South Australia. So of course I don't have an issue with the dog club, it's not their rule it's the state's law (which I still can't believe! It's nowhere even remotely close to being cruel). Can anyone direct me to a website where the state law banning prong collars in Australia is laid out? Also, the lady from the club told me that if I was to take Abby for a walk here in South Australia with a prong collar a ranger could actually take Abby from me for animal cruelty.
Obviously I've got to find an alternative to using a prong collar. I would like to train at the local dog club and I certainly don't want to risk loosing Abby. However, I am really uncomfortable with the idea of using a choker/check collar. My vet back in the U.S. was very opposed to these as he saw so many dogs with damaged tracheas and other neck trauma. I'm contemplating just training Abby with a regular soft collar. I'm also not interested in using a harness or a halti/muzzle harness. I don't think that either is a proper training tool for a dog without issues that necessitate the use of those specific items and have seen them create problems when used needlessly.
I would certainly appreciate any suggestions on training collars that are safe, effective, and legal. Thank you!
P.S. I'm NOT interested in discussing the perceived cruelty of prong collars. I have used them on 3 dogs with fantastic results. None of the three dogs ever sustained bruising, bleeding, or even yelped. Plenty of people who have never used a prong collar have somehow managed to form rather strong opinions about them. Certainly everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, I'm simply not interested in hearing negative or derogatory ones regarding this. Thank you for respecting this simple wish and responding appropriately.