Why not retractable?


It is fairly common to see people walking their dogs on retractable or flexi-leashes. As an idea they seem great; your dog gets a lot of freedom, it can be hands free and they are fairly inexpensive.

So why would you never see one of our staff walking our dogs with one?

Well Flexi-leashes may sound awesome, they have a lot of disadvantages as well. Firstly, let’s consider local by-laws:

  • Windsor by-law 245-2004 states that the dog must be under control of their guardian at all times and Section 26 states that dogs given the classification of restricted must be on a leash no longer than 6 ft or 1.8m.

  • Windsor by-law 200-2002 section 8.2 the domestic animal must be on a leash no longer than 6ft (1.8m) within any park, even it is declared a leash-free zone the owner should always have a leash on hand. Secondly, Ensure that the dog under voice control and within visual site at all times!

Therefore, from these by-laws you can see that technically unless you lock the leash at 6ft, it is not permitted within most public areas.

Secondly, using them on walks is problematic- the line is often tight, thin and breakable, allows pulling, the lock can give out and allows too much freedom for proper handling. A tight line especially attached to a dog’s neck can make them feel restricted and when meeting new animals vulnerable; increasing the chance of reactivity; barking and snapping. The line is thin which can cause injury to the dog or others if it becomes tangled or if it snaps/breaks. Some retractable leashes are cheaply made and the lock can be released by a good pull- extending the line. As mentioned before, the line is long and allows a lot of freedom, on a walk- meaning that the dog could become tangled, can be in the way of bikes and cars and otherwise get into bad situations (eg. greeting an aggressive dog). If you decide to “reel” the dog in you could cause damage by whiplash or by grabbing the thin line in a panic.

The leash actually prompts pulling on a tight leash to get further; counterproductive to proper leash walking. Additionally, the style of the leash is not conducive to conditioning loose leash walking. A leash should be held with 2 hands, one to secure it to you and another to control length, predict pulling and keep your focus on the dog and environment. The one hand approach of the flexi-leash allows you to be distracted. And for all these reasons these leashes are not good at controlling strong pullers or large, excitable dogs.

These leashes probably should only be used in your own backyard. They should not be used for parks, walks or greeting others. If you use these leashes because you have a hard time controlling your dog or like your dog having more freedom (use a longer normal leash), consider our loose leash walking class or an obedience class to practice your commands in a distracting environment.

~ Jayden Mayville and Kelsey Jewell

The Dog's Nose...

Of course everyone knows dogs have a great sense of smell but did you know that their extremely powerful olfactory senses are able to recognize very diluted quantities of molecules? Equivalent to a dog finding two grains of sand that smell differently, on a beach that is 500 feet long, 150 feet wide and 40 inches deep! However, dogs do not have to depend on their sense of smell as they also have other great senses including sight and hearing. Therefore, when a dog hunts they prioritize their senses- seeking out the easier and cheapest way to get their next meal. They will use sight first, sound second and smell last. When shifting to scent- they will first sniff the wind and if that does not yield results they will sniff the ground for tracks. The purpose of this is to reserve energy. Therefore, to insure your dog uses their nose to solve the problem, all visual and sounds clues must be eliminated.

Why should you train your dog’s nose?

It is a good outlet for their natural ability, provides canine enrichment, and has other beneficial side effects. Physical exercise is usually our first choice when we are trying to tire out our dog but another great option is mental activities. These activities, also known as canine enrichment activities, consume a lot of the dog’s concentration, and considering dog’s reserve sniffing their “prey” until last, nosework is one of the most energy consuming tasks your dog can perform. Additionally, nosework is a calm activity and like other canine enrichment activities, improves problem solving skills.

Nosework has also been connected to better relations between owners and their dogs with improved cooperation and performance in other fields (eg. obedience). It enhances the trust bond between owner and dog by switching the role of leader and follower within the duo since the human must trust the dog to follow the scent, when often the dog depends on the human. Lastly, training your dog to find things is not only fun for them but can be beneficial to you and others- as dogs that excel in nosework can find lost items, people, and help with tracking and scent detection for drugs, bombs or even allergens.

Interested in working your dog's nose? Any dog is welcome to attend our Scentwork 101 course even if it seems they have no sense of smell- they may surprise you! Our first course will begin September 5th for more information refer to our training page. 

Prong and Choke/ Check Collars: the Good and the Bad!

Prong and chokers are common tools seen in dog training, usually made of metal, they sit around the dog's neck providing a correction (tightens) when the owner pulls/jerks the leash. A choke collar is a chain looped around the neck which tightens while the prong is a collar of metal spikes with a chain loop, these spikes will tighten, pinching the neck. It is said that prong mimics a mother dog's bite- which they use to correct their young pups. However, with little scientific backing and no older female dog present this is likely not the case. It could be stated that the collar allows for more evenly distributed pressure on the dog's neck then a flat collar or choker-but why is it necessary?

Correction collars are positive punishment and negative reinforcement based which means: They are used to stop the dog from engaging in a behaviour by adding an aversion: pain or used to get a dog to complete a behaviour, where the aversion is removed after (eg. sit). The actions of the collar are often not combined with consistent language and the dog is forced to figure out how to behave with no/little direction other than a tightening of the collar. This means the trainer will have to depend on a collar to get a response if they do not combine this collar with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement shows your dog what to do and in almost all cases makes any kind of pain or punishment unnecessary (sometimes- removing attention to stop a behaviour such as jumping may be needed; negative punishment/extinction). Corrections can also lead to hyper vigilance as the dog does not always know when to expect a correction.

Now some will claim that prong doesn't hurt the dog, but if it didn't, it wouldn't be very effective, would it? Consider a hot stove, if you touched it and it only seemed slightly warm you'd keep engaging in this behaviour but if it caused a slight burning sensation you probably wouldn't do it again. Same thing for these tools. These same people claim to try on the collar and express that it was mostly pain free, however, human skin 2x-3x thicker than a dog's!1 Even so, the neck is a highly sensitive area with many important elements; the trachea, esophagus, lymph nodes, thyroid gland,veins, muscles and spinal cord. All of which can be bruised or injured with one good tug. Still, if used properly it is said that these collars shouldn't cause permanent damage, but this has been refuted by a study in 1992 which claims that any collar can cause damage when it jerks or pulls on the neck.2 Additionally, see Eileen Anderson's blog for more on how prong collars can hurt based on pressure points – link.

With pain also comes fear and potential aggression, which not only applies to the tool but the surroundings at the time of the correction as well. This is extremely true when using these collars on walks as they provide constant pain and discomfort due to pulling or other behaviours. Even with near strangulation most dogs will continue to pull against these collars as the drive to pull can override the pain. Dr. Stanley Coren, relates this to their evolution from predators which had to hide their pain for survival purposes and work through it to get their next meal.3 He additionally, provides studies which suggest dogs do feel pain and it can affect their health.

The use of correction/pain/fear, social anxiety and frustration are the some of the leading causes of social reactivity.4 Though the former is more seen on leash (as they have no escape) it can leak into their off-leash interactions, causing them to act more irritable around dogs; as seen in our daycare. Therefore, even if you are interested in using these collars in your training you shouldn't use them for walking in public areas or on a fearful /poorly socialized dog to further prevent or increase reactivity. You may be able to utilize this collar with confident overly friendly dogs but there are better options for all dogs including front clip harnesses and headcollars. Though no matter the tool, you still need to train your dog to walk properly, the tool is only to support your technique and allow you to work with your dog (not control them!). Note prong is suggested for aggressive dogs to “keep them at bay”- they never claim that you can counter-condition aggression, positive reinforcement methods can!

Prong collars are used for obedience and puppy biting as well. As stated before your dog's ability to interpret what you want will depend on the collar with no positive reinforcement to support it. Secondly, it hard to control your dog at any distance with just the collar. With puppy biting, if the collar is present it has shown a decrease in biting but like most animals after they begin to associate pain with a certain object they will become defensive and if necessary offensive; they will bite you before you can bite them! Or they will see it as playful and continue to bite. Sometimes even bad attention is good enough for the dog- especially if that is the only source.5 Usually, with consistent positive reinforcement and some negative punishment, a puppy will stop biting or only gently mouth by 6 months old. Now some might see this as a long time but biting is a dog's main form of communication and the only way they have to grab things so of course it's going to take time to show them a different way (especially if some people in your house let it happen.)

Choke collars can be used for the same purposes as prong and have similar side-effects but also seen as more damaging. In all the only good use for a choke collar is to prevent your dog slipping a leash on a walk or for reducing collar chewing-when your dog stops chewing switch back to a normal collar. They should NEVER be used unsupervised (eg. Tie-out).This is because the biggest risk involved with this collar is it getting caught and it tightening enough to choke out the dog (a flat collar can also do this unless its a quick release.) These collars are seen as inhumane even by those that use prong due to the pressure they apply and the fact the choke trainers would have the dog wear the collar at all times.

Now, you read all this and your saying to yourself, they just have a bias view. Prong collars are perfectly effective tools when used properly. Okay. Some how does one use this collar effectively?

Most trainers can agree on the following:

Prong collars are to be used during training sessions only! Prong collars are adjusted to fit and should not fit over the dog's head. There are two ways to clip the leash to the prong collar- with one ring (live) which provides more correction and 2 ring (dead) setting which dulls correction. The average person requires a professional to show them how to use the tool correctly to avoid injuring their dog. Some would even avoid handing the leash to a “layman”.7 So why is it available at the pet store? These trainers believe dogs have a sweet spot for correction, that may be so but you can administer correction without pain/discomfort- a simple yell is aversive. They also can all agree too much correction will hurt a dog physically and mentally, therefore you should not let your dog continue pulling or constantly have a tight leash, and corrections should be done with a firm, short tug. Dogs will correct themselves with these collars-the trainers often state that's because the dog is not paying attention but the owner is just as likely to not pay attention and cause a correction. What if the dog is relieving itself and you continue walking? If you support dominance theory you'll blame the dog but as some of you know you should form a bond with your pet which is based on mutual respect and trust- not dominance.(to be discussed in a future blog)

However, with how the prong is worn, leash placement and use in training, opinions can differ:

Leerburg says they should fit snugly below the jaw with the leash attached on the right side of the neck, the leash should be attached to the dead ring most of the time.9 According to them live is only if the dead ring is not enough -some trainers use live all the time. So how do you switch to the live ring if your dog is lunging and barking without letting them get loose? The only solution Leerburg would supply is a slip-collar; similarly to the choke collar it will tighten in a way the dog cannot slip it and could potentially choke them. They call it the Dominant Dog Collar and even suggest it is more humane than the prong collar. Additionally, Leerburg states that some dogs can be overstimulated and aggressive due to the prong collar so their slip-collar would be a better option. This collar's additional purpose is to prevent escape if the prong un-clips (the links were not attached properly or worn out).9 Another trainer will agree with placement of the prong collar but states the leash should attach in front and only shift slightly to the side, as the prong could damage the throat.6 This trainer is also one of few to mention prong should not be used on young pups under 6 months old as it is too extreme. This trainer also differs in opinion in the belief that this collar is not for every dog. Yet another trainer states the collar should sit mid-neck fairly loose, only being present to the dog during a correction, with prong on back of neck and leash in front. This trainer mentions how some of their field differ in opinion about what size prong to use, as some say small prong clips are better- they cause more pain- this trainer says prong size should increase with the dog. The last trainer suggests the dead ring lets the dog adjust before moving to the live ring for the rest of the training- never to return to the dead ring. Interesting considering this trainer mentions transitioning dog's off prong to a collar. These trainers also mention positive reinforcement and utilizing the dog's drive- showing even with correction there is a need to redirect the dog.

To conclude, as positive reinforcement trainers we will encourage you to avoid this tool as there are many good options out there that do not require aversion to work. The trainers in the correction field can not even agree on how the collar should be worn while all positive reinforcement trainers can agree a front clip harness is the best for pulling. From our research and years of experience we would suggest not using these collars especially on public walks (even the trainers suggest adding distraction in slowly to minimize over correction), with already aggressive dogs or with sensitive/fearful dogs. We will not make a claim that these collars are never necessary but will consider every option before resorting to them. Lastly, we want to create a loving bond built on trust and respect while avoiding pain or aversion.

~ Jayden Mayville, Manager and Trainer at Animal Antic Behaviour Centre. 

Reviewed By: Kelsey Jewell (Trainer) and Kait Fox (Manager)


  1. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/structure-of-the-skin-in-dogs

  2. Hallgren, Animal Behavior Consultants Newsletter July, 1992, V.9

  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/canine-corner/201109/do-dogs-feel-pain-the-same-way-humans-do

  4. https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/behavior/aggression-dogs

  5. https://doggiedesires.com/get-your-dog-to-stop-biting/

  6. http://teacherspetk9school.com/PinchCollar.pdf

  7. https://www.nitrocanine.com/blog/2017/04/18/use-prong-collars-every-dog/

  8. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/interpreting-tail-wags-in-dogs

  9. http://leerburg.com/fit-prong.htm

  10. http://k9protraining.com.au/

  11. https://eileenanddogs.com/2017/08/10/why-prong-collars-hurt/


prong placement.jpg
Interested in our training methods? Want a different option than prong/choke collar? We'd love you to join  our obedience or leash walking class! We will discuss how to train with positive reinforcement, and what techniques and tools will work for you and your pup. 
Additionally, if you hand in your prong/ choke collar to us, you will receive $10 off a harness! 

All About Canine Enrichment!

We tend to humanize dogs and forget that they have different needs. Canine enrichment is all about letting dogs be dogs, in a way that is positive and fits into our urban lifestyles. We love that people think of their dogs like they are children but some of their species-specific behaviours result in destruction, for which dogs are often punished or re-homed. Foraging, chewing, digging and sniffing are all natural activities for dogs that manifest in annoying and destructive activities. Dogs need a positive outlet to do these mentally and physically stimulating behaviours.

Most people assume walking their dog once or twice a day is enough exercise, but like children they also need mental stimulation. If you don't want your dog chewing the couch or digging in your garden, teach them when and where these activities are appropriate. Dogs will often become destructive out of boredom. Training classes are another great way to relieve boredom and bond with your dog so please check our website for the next agility or dog games class.

Chewing – Give them bully sticks, antlers or the Petstages Dogwood stick that is available at the centre. These types of products can also help clean their teeth! Make sure to supervise dogs when chewing and throw away any pieces small enough to choke on.

Foraging – Play a game of hide and seek with treats or even their meal in the house. Ask your dog to sit and wait/stay while you hide food around the house. Use your release word to let your dog go and find the food. You can also scatter their meal in the backyard and let them sniff it out.

Digging – Buy a plastic kids pool and fill it with sand. Hide toys or treats just below the surface and let your dog find the treasure! If you don't want sand in your backyard, head to a local park or beach and bury a few toys.

Sniffing – Sniffing is how your dog gathers information and makes sense of their world so go on a “Sniffari”. Dedicate one walk a day to just letting your dog sniff whatever they please. You can work on your leave its and walking cues while doing this as well. Follow their nose and let them lead the way.

Animal Antics carries a variety of products that can help keep your pup busy and entertained. Come by and check out our selection of work-to-eat toys! We carry products such as Kongs, Kong Wubba, Kong Wobbler, Kong Gyro, Tricky Treats balls, Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug and the Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble. Mental stimulation is often more tiring than physical activity (not that this is any reason to neglect that) and leads to a happy, healthy dog!

~Kait Fox, Manager at Animal Antics Behaviour Centre

Farra using a frozen Kong

Sydney having lunch with the Tug-A-Jug