Why we don't trust those that recommend choke chains or slip leads

Why we don't trust those that recommend choke chains or slip leads

July 04, 2024

Choke Chains and Slip Leads are Punishment, Not Training


Unfortunately we still see pet stores without ethical codes, trainers that aren't accredited by CANZ and Joe Bloggs from next door "whose had dogs all his life" recommend these tools. These devices tighten around a dog's throat when they pull, ostensibly to teach them to walk calmly on a leash. However, the reality of their use is far from what responsible dog guardians and accredited trainers aim for.

Punishment, Not Training

Slip leads and choke chains operate by causing discomfort and pain when the dog pulls or lunges. This tightening action is meant to discourage undesirable behaviour. Instead of learning to walk nicely on a leash, dogs learn to associate pulling with pain and discomfort. They do not learn the desired behaviour but rather to fear the consequences of pulling.

Behavioural Consequences

The use of punishment-based techniques like slip leads can lead to serious behavioural issues in dogs. Dogs may become fearful, anxious or reactive because they associate the discomfort with specific triggers such as seeing other dogs or people. This can escalate into more severe behaviours where the dog skips warning signs and jumps straight into aggressive responses when stressed or triggered.

Physical Risks

Apart from the behavioural implications, slip leads and choke chains pose significant physical risks to dogs. The constant pressure and tightening around the neck can lead to health issues such as increased risk of arthritis in the neck and spine, and in severe cases, tracheal damage or collapse. These tools compromise your dog's well-being in exchange for a supposed quick fix to leash pulling.

My Expert View

As an accomplished dog trainer, Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant with IAABC and CANZ-accredited Animal Behaviour Consultant, I firmly oppose the use of slip leads and choke chains in training. Instead, I advocate for methods that eliminate the need for physical force and correction.

Slip leads should not be part of any training tool box. While they may be useful in very select situations, such as safely transporting trained working dogs who can't wear a collar or managing dogs in high-stress environments like at the vets, shelters, or when they are lost, they are not suitable for training. Using slip leads during training only applies pressure, discomfort, or even pain to the dog's neck, which is completely unnecessary.

If a trainer suggests using a slip lead or a choke/check chain, they are opting for a method based on physical force. Is that the approach you want for your dog?

Once You Know Better Do Better

It is however important not to judge dog guardians who do use these tools or have in the past or pet store workers who recommend them. Often, they are simply unaware of the potential harm and believe they are following good advice. Most dog guardians genuinely want the best for their dogs but may lack access to the latest training methods or information. Similarly, pet store workers might not have specialised training in animal behaviour and recommend what is commonly available or familiar to them. Instead of casting blame, we should focus on educating and providing alternative, humane training methods that promote the well-being of dogs and foster positive relationships between pets and their families.

That being said, it is reasonable to expect a higher standard from those who call themselves experts in the field, such as trainers. Professional trainers should be well-versed in the latest, science-based methods and committed to the welfare of the animals they work with. Relying on outdated or harmful techniques, such as slip leads and choke chains, indicates a lack of continuing education and a disregard for the well-being of the dogs. As experts, trainers have a responsibility to use and advocate for humane, effective training practices that promote positive behaviour without causing physical or psychological harm. In an unregulated industry it can be hard to choose whom to trust which is why Companion Animals New Zealand is working on increasing their database of accredited trainers.

Additionally, pet store owners have an obligation to be informed about the products they stock. If they lack expertise in training, ethics, and animal behaviour, they are responsible for seeking advice from reputable consultants who do. In today's environment, there's no excuse for being unaware of the negative consequences associated with selling tools like slip leads and choke chains. Pet store owners should prioritise the well-being of animals and make informed decisions about their inventory. We can and should expect better from those who play a crucial role in shaping the choices available to pet guardians.

What's better?

Selecting appropriate tools and techniques for your dog’s training is essential for their well-being and behaviour. Slip leads and choke chains may appear effective in the short term, but they come with significant risks and do not promote a positive relationship between you and your dog. Instead, opt for humane training methods that build trust and communication, ensuring your dog learns happily and safely. A great alternative to any collar is a well fitting, non-restrictive harness and if the dog is really strong and still in the process of learning lead-walking, this setup might be helpful.

Remember, your dog deserves to learn in a manner that respects their physical and emotional health. Let’s ensure our training methods reflect this commitment.