View Full Version : Why you should avoid choke chains

22nd June 2006, 02:50 PM
Alarming facts from a recent survey :

63% of the dogs examined had neck and spinal injuries.
78% of the dogs with aggression or over activity problems had neck and spinal injuries.
Of the dogs with neck injuries, 91% had experienced hard jerks on a leash or had strained against their leashes.

The study concludes that leash corrections, the dog forging ahead or a tethered pet hitting the end of a solid line may inflict spinal injury.

Excerpts from the above mentioned survey:
“During 1992 several Chiropractors, my students and I conducted a study of 400 dogs from different dog clubs in Sweden. Dog owners were offered a free examination of their dog by a chiropractor in return for their voluntary participation.

Those who volunteered to participate in the study had mostly ordinary dogs, in that owners presented them to us without any suspicion of spinal anomalies…Canine back problems are common. The result of our study showed that the chiropractors found back anomalies in 63% of the 400 dogs…dogs that “acted out” in other words, that exhibited over activity and aggression, 78% had spinal anomalies. Spinal anomalies seem to constitute an irritation that often results in stress reactions, aggression or fear. This is also in accordance with my own and my students’ experience with problematic dogs... In our study there were some factors that correlated with spinal anomalies. These were:

Pulling on leash (see explanation below).
Limping during adolescence.

Pulling on leash:
Of those dogs that had cervical (neck) anomalies, 91% (!) had been exposed to harsh jerks on the leash, or they had a long history of pulling or straining at the end of a leash. There is a risk of "whip-lash" from jerking the leash that probably increases if the dog wears a choke chain. Choke chains are constructed such that pulling it results in pressure distributed around the dog's neck, but the muscles that absorb the pressure are situated mostly at the sides of the neck. The neck and throat are almost unprotected.

Choke chains can be dangerous. For many years I and others have criticized the use of choke chains and training methods that use jerking and pulling on a leash as a means of controlling behavior. Unfortunately, most dog trainers use just this technique. There is probably a relationship between the force of the jerk and the risk of injury. I believe dog owners should be warned that chaining a dog to anything firm, that isn't elastic, without surveillance may increase the risk of a spinal injury. A dog can easily forget the boundaries of the chain or rope, accelerate, and suddenly come to a halt, with all the stopping power concentrated around the dog's neck.

Hallgren , “Animal Behavior Consultants Newsletter” July, 1992, V.9 No.2.

From http://larzpetgear.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=29

Still unconvinced? Also see:


And here's an excerpt from an article here: http://www.uwsp.edu/psych/dog/LA/hawgood1.htm

From 16 Veterinary Practices, I received 13 responses and seven confirmed recorded cases of injured dogs caused by choke chains. This number in the Norwich area alone would amount to hundreds on a national scale if this were the average. Add to that the ones that never are brought to the attention of a veterinarian. Almost all the Practices agreed that they would advise against the use of chains if there were confirmed cases. None recommended their use.

Most of the trainers I contacted do not use chains but 2 recommended their use, with one recommending their use on untrained dogs. One trainer advised that they should be banned altogether after nearly losing one of his own dogs through strangulation when a choke chain locked. Only one agreed they should only be used by experienced handlers, which I personally found disturbing. Seven thought it might be a good idea to add a warning label to each chain at the point of sale.

Pet shop outlets seem more interested in the till takings but agreed they may consider displaying "warning information" about choke chains only being used by experienced handlers if injury proof existed. The two distributors I contacted apparently are not aware of any problem but one of them decided to consider adding a warning into its standard label.

My survey also brought me into contact with Robin Walker, a Veterinary and Dog Behaviourist, who had an article on this very subject printed in The Veterinary Record in March 1999 showing evidence of injury to dogs. He listed:

Injured ocular vessels
Tracheal and oesophageal damage
Severely sprained necks
Cases of fainting
Transient foreleg paralysis
Recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis
Hind leg ataxia

Radiographs showed misalignment of the cervical vertebrae and in some cases Horner's Syndrome was diagnosed. I personally suffer from this condition. The injury was caused by a suddenly, but in my case voluntary, movement of the neck which has left the nerve supply to one eye damaged, resulting in occasional pain to the eye and headaches. The injury is not visible to another person so it would not appear to show in a dog without a radiograph. Some of the conditions described above were at the time known as "Woodhouse Neck".

As for shock collars and 'invisible fences':

"Why is it when we use electricity on a human, it is called torture, but when we use it on a dog, it is called training?"

-- K-9 trainer/ Police Officer Steve White (http://www.puppyworks.com/speaker/white.html)