I never use a choker chain because I love my dogs and I don’t want to hurt them.
My theory as to why the use of choker chains is so common in the modern show ring goes something like this:
Once upon a time in the dark ages, someone came up with the idea that if you cannot control a dog with a soft neck collar, then a choker chain will make the dog subservient and do what the handler demands. Ever since, this concept has been foisted on dog handlers down through the ages and no-one has ever really challenged its logic.
Dog obedience schools around the world instruct first time attendees that they must put their dog on a choker chain. Animal welfare representatives routinely recommend choker chains in the media. Handler classes, breeders and breed clubs also condone this barbaric concept.
And yes, I know that they’re not called choker “chains” anymore but that is exactly what they are: by any other name, they’re still a chain and they still ckoke. To call them a “collar” is factually incorrect and the very definition of “choke” is to obstruct a person’s or animal’s airway; to make breathing or moving difficult. I bet I could get you to do anthything I wanted if I put one of these devises on you precisely because THEY HURT!
So why are loving and compassionate dog owners, who would never dream of striking their dog, willing to work with a dark ages device designed to inflict PAIN? Surely these owners would change if they knew there was a better alternative? Surely these loving and compassionate owners would switch straight away but they don’t. Why? Could it be that learning a new way, a gentler, more benevolent and considerate way, is it just too hard? Is it simply easier to go on choking their dogs into submission than learning a new skill? Surely not!
Any form of choking, whether it’s performed with a chain, soft cord fabric or leather, produces the same result: it inflicts pain on your beloved animal. The worst part is, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you don’t believe me, try this:
Tap the back of your hand with your left index finger as softly as you can. You can feel it, right? Well when you do the same thing to your dog, it can feel it too. Soft contact is all that is necessary to signal to your dog what you want it to do and this is true for ALL BREEDS OF DOGS. Yes, a tap as soft as this can effectively communicate to a dog exactly what you want it to do and any dog can be trained to perform the tasks we require of them without force simply by replacing force with a range of touch signals that the dog can understand.
What is even more amazing about this concept is that the softer the contact signal, the better it works to communicate your requirement to the dog. The fact is, no matter what lead, collar or chain you use, the pressure it applies is felt by your dog. If you’re applying that pressure by more than a soft touch, then you can be sure that the type of lead/collar/chain that you’re using isn’t the problem. No, the problem is you because you haven’t properly trained your dog to understand your touch signals.
People sometimes argue that choker chains are necessary for certain breeds but I’ve handled just about every breed of dog there is from Toys and Terriers to Hounds, Working dogs and numerous of the Mastiff family and have never used a choker chain. Yet every one of these dogs carried out everything I required of them with the softest of touch signals.
I firmly believe that the use of choker chains to handle show dogs is barbaric and only illustrates that those handlers who use them have never learnt – or have been willing to learn – a better way to show dogs, a way that is is gentler, kinder and more respectful of the animals they supposedly love.
A world famous breeder and handler once tried to convince me that choker chains were alright if used properly. It was their opinion that the dog would hear the ring coming up the links of the chain and react before the chain started to choke them. This may well be true but the behaviour of the dog is based on what behaviorists call negative reinforcement – that is, the dog is responding not because it wants to do something, but because it has been conditioned to avoid a negative stimulus, which in this case is pain. And this is my point: why do handlers continue to use an instrument of fear and pain to get their dogs to do what they want them to do, when they could be using positive reinforcementto achieve the same, if not better results?