The Sprenger Collar: Are They Cruel?

The Sprenger collar is one of the more controversial dog training tools on the market.


At the end of the day, though, they’re just that – a tool. Exactly how a Sprenger prong collar is used and the impact it can have are determined by the person behind them. 


When used responsibly, I find these collars safe and effective. This article will cover all my training tips and tricks, as well as everything from sourcing the best collar to avoiding mistakes when working with a Herm Sprenger prong collar.

An Introduction to the Sprenger Dog Collar

What is a Prong Collar?

A prong collar is a chain link collar with rounded prongs attached to the inside. These prongs apply pressure when the collar is pulled with slight force.


Prong collars are designed to mimic a mother nipping the neck of her puppy to correct their behavior. They are popular amongst owners who follow the concept of balanced dog training.


‘Balanced training’ uses positive rewards and aversive consequences, such as the pinch of a prong collar, to bring about the desired behavior. 


For it to be effective, your dog must understand that rewards can be earned and consequences can be avoided. It takes time and effort, but the results are worth it.


sprenger prong collar

Is a Prong Collar the Same as a Choke Chain or Pinch Collar?

Prong collars are also referred to as ‘pinch’ collars. Throughout this article, we will use the terms interchangeably. 


Simply put: prongs refer to the prongs on the collar, while pinch refers to the collar’s release mechanism. 


A prong collar is not a choke chain. 


Prong collars are designed to apply an equal amount of pressure the whole way around a dog’s neck. This equal distribution prevents injury. 


Choke chains apply pressure to only the front of a dog’s neck, essentially ‘choking’ them, as their name implies.

Is the Sprenger Prong Collar Cruel?

On its own, a prong collar is not cruel. The purpose of the collar is not to hurt your dog but to redirect them and correct unwanted or dangerous behaviors.


For some dogs who pull on their lead, a prong collar actually poses less harm than a normal collar. This is because they are designed to apply an equal amount of pressure around your dog’s whole neck.


A normal collar, on the other hand, will naturally only strain at the front when a dog is pulling against their leash. This can cause damage to the windpipe and other important parts of your dog’s neck.


However, this does not mean that they can’t be abused. There are plenty of horror stories out there, usually stemming from the trainer using the prong collar incorrectly.


While I advocate for their effectiveness, please understand that prong collars can seriously hurt your dog if not properly utilized.


Severe yanking and over-the-top force can damage the fur, neck, and throat.

herm sprenger collar

Basic Safety Tips for Using A Prong Collar

To ensure your dog is kept safe, a prong collar should never be:


  • Used as a form of physical punishment
  • Used with undue force
  • Used on scared, nervous, or aggressive dogs
  • Left on when not training
  • Left on when the dog is unsupervised
  • Used if the handler is not competent and confident 


If you do not feel confident using a prong collar or are even slightly unsure about the amount of force you should be using, always seek in-person guidance from a professional. This applies to any training tool.


Benefits of The Sprenger Prong Collar

Prong collars are a fantastic training aid if your dog does not respond well on a leash.


I used to spend walks with my dog, desperately commanding him to sit and heel before he charged across the road. I was at a complete loss! I had never had an issue like this before – all my other dogs were naturals on a leash.


Eventually, a trainer recommended we try using a prong collar.


I wasn’t thrilled about this idea to start with. After a lot of research and some flip-flopping around, I decided to at least give it a try. I dreaded my dog being hit by a car, and it was starting to feel like an inevitable event at this point.


Since I’m now here sharing this story with you, my problem pup curled up happily at my feet; I think it’s quite clear that it worked! And it’s one of my road trip essentials that I pack to be extra safe when exploring other places.


I’ll share all of the tips and tricks that we used a little later on. First, let’s answer that initial burning question: what should you look for when purchasing a Sprenger prong collar?


Choosing a Sprenger Prong Collar

What is the Best Brand of Prong Collar?

The most popular brand of prong collar on the market is the Herm Sprenger prong collar.


A German manufacturing company specializing in creating metal products for dog sports, Herm Sprenger, has led the industry since 1876 and is known for its high-quality collars. 


This outstanding reputation is why you often hear prong collars referred to as Sprenger collars. They can not be beaten and are the brand we will focus on in this article.


When purchasing, remember that poorly designed prong collars can be dangerous for your dog and set you back significantly in your training.


While I’m always looking for the thrifty option, this is one training tool where I recommend splurging for quality’s sake.


Are There Different Styles of the Herm Sprenger Prong Collar?

Short answer: Yes!


Long answer: There are many versions of the Herm Sprenger prong collar on the market, depending on your requirements. I’ve rounded up some of the more popular designs and included them below.

Traditional Herm Sprenger Pinch Collar 

The most common Herm Sprenger pinch collar is, of course, the traditional design. It features signature rounded prongs, two leash attachment points, and fastener plates for increased security. 


This collar makes for an excellent addition to your training arsenal if you have a strong or particularly determined dog. 


The stainless steel used to make this collar ensures a secure fit and prevents any breakage during training sessions. A chrome-plated option is also available, as well as black steel.


Herm Sprenger Pinch Collar with Swivel Attachment

Again, a very simple design with all of the same offerings and the same choice of materials. 


The added bonus is a swivel attachment, which provides additional flexibility and movement to prevent leash tangles. If your dog is a hyperactive walker who likes to follow its nose, then this is an ideal choice for you.


Herm Sprenger Prong Collar with Quick Release Hook

The Herm Sprenger prong collar quick-release system allows you to easily fit and remove the collar, without needing to pull apart any links. It can be safely fitted within seconds, making it great for training on the go!

Herm Sprenger Prong Collar with Buckle

This version of the quick-release prong collar features a buckle instead of a hook. The thick material of the buckle prevents accidental unfastening and breakages. This makes it slightly bulkier to fit but also less finicky to use. 


Both versions of the quick-release collar are ideal for beginners, as they are very difficult to fit incorrectly.


You can find a more comprehensive training collar guide on the Herm Sprenger website, including sizing recommendations.


Speaking of which… let’s move on!

Selecting a Prong Size

There are three common sizes of prong: 2.25mm (small), 3.2mm (medium), and 4.0mm (large).


Herm Sprenger 2.25mm 

The smallest size available. The Herm Sprenger prong collar 2.25mm is recommended for both smaller dogs and medium to large dogs with thin coats.


It can be used on bigger dogs if a more snug fit is required, since you can add or remove individual links as necessary. Because of this, it’s often considered the most versatile size and is quite popular.

Herm Sprenger 3.2mm

This is the most widely available size of Herm Sprenger prong collar. It is best used on medium to large dogs (up to 200lbs) and works well for those with thicker coats.


If your dog is easily overstimulated, then this prong size will be the best choice for you as it creates less sensation than the 2.25mm prong.


Herm Sprenger 4.0mm

The 4.0mm Herm Sprenger prong collar is only recommended under specific circumstances since its large size makes it tricky to fit correctly. 


A loose, incorrectly fitted collar can be dangerous to your dog and so the 4.0mm Sprenger collar is best left in the hands of a professional.


How to Fit a Prong Collar on Your Dog

The first step to using a prong collar safely is knowing how to fit it to your dog.


A correctly positioned prong collar will sit much higher on your dog’s neck than a standard flat collar would. It should be positioned just slightly below the ears, under the jawline. 


If it is positioned too far down the neck it can be harmful to your dog. It will also be much easier for them to slip out of or snap.


The fit of the collar needs to be snug but not overly tight. This can be done by adding and removing links until the desired fit is achieved. While this may sound difficult, it quickly becomes second nature. All that you will need to do is pinch one of the links to pull it apart.


The collar should always be applied in this way. It’s important to never put a prong collar on or take it off over your dog’s head as this will impact both the fit and the effectiveness of the collar.


Learning to properly fit a prong collar can take time, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you struggle at first. Once you have perfected this routine, you can then begin using the collar in your training!

Training With a Sprenger Dog Collar

When to Use a Sprenger Prong Collar

The Sprenger collar is most commonly used to correct behavior on the leash, but it can also help in many other training areas!


Sit, down, and heel are essentials among the long list of commands that can be taught with the aid of a prong collar. 


This again comes back to the use of balanced dog training.


Take ‘down’ as an example. You begin by walking through the movement and creating an association with your chosen command. The word ‘down’ in this case.


When you feel your dog is ready, you can then introduce both the positive reward and the aversive consequence. When your dog is in the down position, reward them with a treat.


If your dog hesitates to get into position or breaks before being commanded, you apply a small amount of pressure to the leash. You are then conditioning your dog to associate the undesired behavior (breaking position) with an unwanted sensation.


This will make them less likely to break in the future, as they would understandably prefer a treat over the pressure of the prong collar.


Make sure you pick out something they particularly love to keep it as enticing as possible! A little bit of beef jerky, anyone?

Introducing a Sprenger Prong Collar Into Your Training Routine

When first introducing the prong collar to your dog, you will want to create a positive association. While pressure from the collar will eventually become your aversive consequence, you don’t want to associate it negatively with the collar itself.


What is the best way to do this? Treats, of course!


Allow your dog to investigate the collar.

When you bring the collar home, allow your dog an opportunity to sniff it and explore.


Whenever they react positively in its presence, you can issue them with a reward.


You don’t want to place the collar on them yet. Simply let them become used to it being in their space.


Fit the collar

Once your dog has come to associate the prong collar with all of the good things that have been coming their way, you can then fit it to them for the first time.


How long this takes depends on your dog. You know them best, so read their signals and don’t push them if they aren’t ready.


As long as the collar isn’t too tight, you don’t need to worry about adjusting the prongs for the first fitting. This stage is just getting your dog used to the collar and practicing the positioning.


Again – use those treats!


sprenger dog collar


You’ll be able to tell when your dog has become comfortable with the collar around its neck. Look at their body language. If their ears, body, and tail are relaxed, then that is a sign you can proceed.


Adjust the collar

At this point, you should adjust the fit to be a bit snugger. You can then practice putting the collar on and taking the collar off over the day.


Incorporate into training

When you are certain that your dog is not afraid of the collar or nervous about wearing it, you can begin to implement it into your training schedule.


No matter how confident you feel, it is best to start small. Dogs can have surprising reactions when presented with new situations. A new training tool is no exception to this.


I found that my dog and I had more success starting with basic, already-known commands rather than jumping straight into correcting negative behaviors. Practicing a behavior, you have already perfected allows you both to ease into the new tool without any added pressure.

Creating Boundaries and Corrections

While prong collars are a great product, no training tool can work miracles without a helping hand. They can only be effective if you make sure that your dog understands the rules of your training session.


If your dog can’t link the consequence they are facing to a behavior they exhibited, they will quickly become frustrated and confused.


herm sprenger prong collar 2.25


You want your dog to feel confident in following your lead and to have a good understanding of your expectations. 


You can create this connection by responding immediately to any behaviors. Unless a reward or consequence immediately follows a behavior, your dog will not make the connection between the two.


Take toilet training as an example. You wouldn’t reward your dog for going to the bathroom an hour after it happened. You would follow up immediately with a treat or verbal praise!


As such, you shouldn’t apply an aversive consequence five minutes after your dog has tugged you down the street.


This is why the consistent use of a prong collar is important. If you frequently switch between a prong collar and a flat collar for your training sessions, your dog will become confused.


Why is it okay to pull on some walks while on others, they face consequences?

When to Stop Using a Prong Collar

With consistency, your dog will begin to understand why they are being corrected and how they can avoid it. They will learn what triggers the collar, as well as what triggers rewards.

They will start to act in a way that encourages you to provide them with more treats and praise rather than with the sensation of the prong collar.

At this point, you will be able to look at moving on from the prong collar!

herm sprenger pinch collar

Final Thoughts

We’ve looked at both sides of the story and covered the need-to-know. Now, the leash is in your hands.


Remember that your dog is not acting to spite you. Always treat training as a partnership. A Sprenger collar can be a fabulous asset to your training relationship – if you are willing to put in the work!