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Say no to choke chains

Taking your dog for a walk is meant to be something pleasurable for both you and your dog. We understand that if your dog pulls on the lead the entire time it can really make this an unpleasant experience. However, is a choke chain really the answer??

Time and time again we are hearing that people have ‘tried everything’ to stop their dog from pulling and that their dog trainer has advised that they use a choke chain for ‘correction’, or even simply that they thought it was ‘just what you do’ to stop a dog pulling.

If you are using a choke chain, have you noticed any improvement? Have you noticed that your dog is being ‘corrected’ when they are not actually doing anything wrong? Maybe they have just stopped to urinate, smell something or perhaps they are over heated or tired?

Research shows that a staggering percentage of dogs walked using choke chains, or a sharp jerking motion for correcting, will end up with a frightening range of injuries.

- Sprained necks

- Fainting

- Transient foreleg paralysis

- Hind leg ataxia (loss of balance)

- Neck injuries

- Tracheal and oesophageal damage

- Spinal injuries

- Injured ocular blood vessels

- Laryngeal nerve paralysis

The vast majority of pet owners simply ADORE their pets and would not intentionally harm them; however they are just not aware that there is something wrong with that they are doing, or another way to teach and correct undesirable behaviors. This blog is simply trying to raise awareness of the dangers of using a choke chain and highlight the fact that there are other ways!

There are many different products far more suitable than a choke chain. Flat collars, harnesses or head collars. All of these products come in various different versions, and it is important you try a few and work out what best suits your dog.

We are always happy to help if you have any questions regarding the appropriate device for your dog, we all know no two dogs are the same and therefore no two solutions are the same!

This is the story of Murphy, a beautiful Australian/French bulldog.

Like all good pet owners, Murphy’s family wanted what was best for him. They wanted to safely introduce Murphy and his sister Chloe (Cairn Terrier X) to their brothers’ dog who is a rescued kelpie cross and very timid.

The family did their research and came across a dog trainer who seemed right for the job of training and educating Murphy and the family. The trainer spent a total of three hours going through dog behavior, basic lead walking and good ways to introduce the three dogs.

During this session the trainer introduced Murphy to the choker chain. The owner was cautious and expressed concern stating that ‘Murphy struggles and pulls ridiculously.’ She expressed that she wasn’t comfortable walking him on a choker chain because of the way he pulls and that he has a high tolerance of pain and seemed to always ignore discomfort.

The trainer assured the owner that if the choker was placed correctly, high on the neck behind the ears and away from the trachea there would be no stress on his breathing and no damage caused. The trainer was confident that the ‘jerking sound and movement would be enough to keep him (Murphy) in line.’

The first day the choke chain was used the owner felt Murphy responded much better than expected although there were a lot of ‘hucking and frothing around his mouth.’ The trainer encouraged the continued use of the choke chain.

A week or so later the family decided to reintroduce the three dogs to see how they would behave together. Murphy remained on a choke chain as the owners wanted to ensure they were doing their best to continue the recommended training ensuring Murphy would learn how to behave on a lead.

Murphy did not respond to the choke chain at all. ‘He is like a bull at a gate; he won’t stop even if he is exhausted.’

"Some old school, force-based trainers insist that you have to overpower the dog with force, using things like scruff shakes (where the handler grabs the sides of the dog's neck and shakes him), and alpha rolls (where the handler flips the dog onto his back and holds him there until he stops resisting) or, if necessary, by hanging the dog with a choke collar until he submits or collapses in unconsciousness."

- Pat Miller – Author

During this reintroduction his owners felt as though he was getting a little too worked up and decided to walk him back to her brothers’ house. Through out the walk Murphy was consistently ‘hucking’ and frothing around his mouth. As they were walking, Murphy started to slow down rapidly and he was panting profusely so the owner stopped to check him out.

Murphys’ mouth, gums and tongue were a deep blueish purple colour and he was very limp so they picked him up and carried him back to the house. They feared that it may be heat stress so when they arrived home they tried to cool him down for about 20 minutes, during which time he drank a huge amount of water.

The owners continually checked on the colour of his gums, noting that they were slowly returning to their usual pinkish colour. As soon as Murphy was more settled they put him in the car and drove him home.

As soon as they got him Murphy made his way to his bed and tried to settle in. He seemed very worn out but quite distressed and could not settle for over five minutes.

While he was laying down the owner notice that his breathing was very rapid, he then got up and vomited. ‘He didn’t really look well so we decided to rush him to the Pet Emergency Specialist Centre. At this stage we still thought it was heat stroke.’

The owners called ahead to let the centre know they were coming and to give a brief history of what had happened. When they were taken in to consult they described what had happened and how a trainer had recommended they use a choke chain.

‘The vets and nurses were immediately disgusted, they said how irresponsible of a trainer to advise a choke chain on Murphy, considering his breed and than ANY good trainer should now not to implement a choke chain on breed like Murphy when training’ or on any breed for that matter!

The emergency centre admitted Murphy straight away and put him in to an oxygen chamber. They were able to record his oxygen intake which wasn’t nearly enough. They also checked his soft palate and nostrils which lead to the diagnosis of Murphy having Brachycephalic Syndrome which lead to respiratory distress…. All from using a choker chain.

Murphy underwent surgery on his nostrils and had his soft palate trimmed. He spent two days in the intensive care unit.

Murphy has healed amazingly well and is now a very happy and healthy dog. When speaking to his owner she said ‘ I feel sick to the stomach about that day, and regret 100% not listening to myself and sticking with what I knew was best for him!.....we have moved on to using a ‘spawn’ brace and it works a treat, he still pulls occasionally but nothing too severe.’

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