Check chains (also known as choke chains) and utilising leash corrections during dog training are harmful and outdated methods which are still being utilised by other dog training professionals today. There are more effective and welfare friendly techniques proven by scientific literature based on teaching your dog what we want them to do.
Check chains and Leash corrections are often advised when the dog is pulling by jerking on the lead to stop the unwanted behaviour. Leash corrections are also used with normal collars and slip leads. The problem with check chains and leash corrections is it does not focus on what we want the dog to do, but instead focuses on what we do not want the dog to do. Punishment reduces or weakens a behaviour, therefore this method may work to reduce pulling, but at what cost?
Damaging the human-animal bond
Utilising aversive methods when the dog is doing something the owner does not want can have a detrimental impact to the relationship between the dog and their human. Fear may be induced and other behavioural issues may stem from utilising these methods.
These methods cause harm to the dog physically and can have significant impact on damaging your dogs neck, causing pain to your dog. Dogs will avoid corrections and punishments so it can produce a dog that complies.
Effects on Behaviour
There may be an increase in anxiety in your dog, with a fallout of potentially making their behaviour worse. On the other hand your dog may stop its behaviour, but have we treated the underlying reason for its behaviour? No, instead we have caused physical and emotional damage to your dog. Some dogs learn to cope but are in a negative emotional state.
What are other trainers using these methods missing?
Using a check chain is not taking into account WHY the dog is pulling in the first place! This is where the inexperienced recommending these methods look to use a quick fix but don’t look into why these dogs are pulling, what are they feeling, and what is the function of their behaviour?
What do we do instead?
So we firstly look at WHY the dog is doing that behaviour. The dog may be pulling due to fear, anxiety, frustration, excitement, wanting to sniff, pull if aroused or stressed, some dogs are simply rewarded for pulling, or the dog has just never been taught to walk nicely on a lead.
When we have addressed WHY, we then look to manage that behaviour in the short term whilst looking at changing that behaviour through reward-based methods. For example, take a dog who is barking and lunging to other dogs through fear. We will look to manage this behaviour by ensuring this dog is not exposed to these triggers, look at teaching the dog an alternative response (e.g. Look at owner), with a longer term goal of gradual exposure to the fearful stimulus at a distance the dog can cope with and learn.
If there is an underlying behavioural problem then this needs addressing first.
So simply placing a check chain on a dog and jerking the leash may stop a behaviour (or not) but it is not dealing with the underlying motivational and emotional response of that behaviour. There is much more to how we deal with behavioural problems so please check out your trainers before using them and stand up for your dogs if you get advised by any professional to use these methods!
It is astonishing how many trainers are still utilising these methods. There is no excuse for this. As a professional it is important to keep up with the most up to date research and this is something lacking in parts of the profession. Most dog trainers who use check chains do not have a good understanding of operant conditioning and the consequences of using it.