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We were in Sunrise last week installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® system for a new client and his happy-go-lucky American Bulldog named King.  King was a great dog, but he was young and full of energy.  When they were in the front yard, King just loved to run into the street every time someone walked by.  He just wanted to say “Hi”, but because of his size and excitement, he would scare many neighbors.  After we installed the fence and provided the training, King was more than content with staying in the front yard.  My client was very happy with the results and was excited about being able to be in the front yard with King and having happy neighbors.  Since we had been talking about dog training earlier, he had a question about walking.  Since King was so strong, my client couldn’t use a regular collar or harness to control him on a walk.  He had been using a check chain collar (many times called a choke chain) and was wondering if that was wrong.

American Bull Dog with an electric dog fence in Sunrise Florida


Most people think of choke chains and start saying that they are horrible and hurt dogs.  This was my opinion many years ago.  Over the years, I have changed my opinion on this tool as well as many other tools that we use to control and direct our dogs.

My current opinion is that any tool, if used properly, can be effective and humane for our dogs.  The first thing that I want to make clear is my definition of using a tool, such as the check-chain (choke collar) properly.  If a client can use the check-chain collar on their dog in a way that does not hurt or scare them and their dog responds by giving them calm and respectful focus, they are using the tool properly.  If they use the tool and the dog becomes agitated and hurt, the tool is not being used properly.

Let’s look at the check chain collar to understand its proper use and its incorrect use.  First, let’s look at its proper use.

The check chain collar is designed to be loose around the dog’s neck.  The leash is attached to a ring at the end of the collar and hangs down from the collar.  If the dog begins to pull or make an inappropriate movement, the leash is given a quick tug.  This tug engages the collar and tightens is momentarily.  This momentary constriction of the collar will make a high pitched sound to get the dog’s attention.  It also engages the dog’s neck with the chain to gain their attention.  As quickly as the tug takes place, it is released.  This allows the collar to reset to a loose state.  The sole purpose of the action is to make the sound and slight, tactile connection with the dog’s neck to get his focus back to the owner.

The improper use of the check-chain collar is then the tug turns into a pull.  If the owner simply pulls on the collar and does not release, the sound of the “check” is over and the momentary, tactile sensation of the constriction turns into a prolonged action.  The “hanging” sensation that the dog now feels causes his adrenaline to spike and will cause him to pull even greater than before.  This causes the collar to continue to constrict to a point that can scare and hurt the dog.  No learning it taking place.

How can I, as a dog trainer, know if the owner is using the collar properly?  First, I can simply observe them walking and watch what happens.  I can also be a little more observant and look at the dog’s neck.  If I see redness or spots of fur missing, it is obvious that the check chain collar had been overly constrictive.

I checked King’s neck, and it was just fine.  There was no redness or soars where fur would have been rubbed off by the collar.  This meant that my client was doing a good job.  Just to be on the safe side, I decided to review the proper way to use a check chain with my client to make sure that he and King would be fine.  I discussed the following:

  • dog fence dog training check chainWhen you look at a Check Chain collar, it is made up of a long chain with rings on both ends. Push the chain through one of the rings to make the actual collar.  You should now have something that looks like the Dog Check Chain Collar (see illustration to the right –>).
    • Attach the leash to the ring at the top. This is the “leash side”.
    • Now, take your hand and grab the chain at the left side. This is the top of the collar.
    • Put the collar on your dog with the top of the collar going over his head and the “leash side” facing where you will be standing while walking him.
  • Make sure that the collar is loose enough so that it can loosely hang about three or four inches below King’s neck.
  • Grab the leash so that it is just loose enough that when you give a flick of your wrist, the collar will give a slight tug and momentarily constrict.
  • Start walking King slowly. As soon as he starts to move ahead or turn away, give a slight flick of your wrist to enact the sound and slight tactile constriction on King’s collar.  He should look back to you for guidance.
  • If King begins to pull and the collar does not loosen after a tug, stop and have King sit and calm down.
  • Start again when he is calm and focused.

Again, the check chain collar (choke chain) should normally be loose around King during the walk.  The wrist flicks and momentary sound/tactile constrictions should rarely be needed.  We have not scared or hurt King and taught him to walk politely while giving us focus.

What you need to remember is that any dog training tool, used properly, can be effective and humane.  The problem comes when you don’t use the tool properly and your dog becomes scared or even hurt.  Please contact us with any dog training, dog safety, or dog fence question you may have by clicking on Dog Fence Training Help.  Read more of dog training and safety tips at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Sunrise South FloridaWe have been working with dogs a long time and have been professional dog trainers in South Florida for eleven years.  During that time, we have trained over 3,500 dogs (and their owners).  For dog training help, please go to Home Dog Training Sunrise South Florida.