Prong Collar vs. E-Collar for Your Akita
Akitas are known as a stubborn breed. Aloof and with a strong prey drive, Akitas are often said not to be a great choice for a first dog. All of those things are true, to an extent, but having a successful relationship with your Akita is all about communication and training.
Two popular tools for training your Akita are prong collars and “e-collars.” While some may say the use of these tools is controversial, you’ll find that many experienced dog trainers and Akita breeders recommend them, and for good reason…when used properly they can be an effective way to communicate with your Akita and maximize the results of their training.
Before we talk about the pros and cons of each let’s be very clear: Prong Collars and E-Collars are not designed to hurt your Akita, they are designed to provide tactile feedback and communication with your dog.
While the E-Collar has some distinct advantages over a prong collar, which we will discuss below, prong collars are a more cost effective than an e-collar, and also do not have as steep of a learning curve. Prong collars work by tightening around the neck of your dog if your dog is pulling on their leash.
A good prong collar will be adjustable in size, and the prongs of the collar will not be sharp. The idea behind the prong collar is to mimic the “bite” of a mother dog grabbing one of her pups by the neck. The amount of pressure placed on the dog is completely dependent on how hard the dog pulls on the leash. The harder the dog pulls the more pressure.
It’s for this reason that I really like prong collars…because the dog is in control. Your Akita will quickly realize how the feedback works. We find the prong collar to be extremely effective when going on hikes where we may encounter other dogs or people on bicycles…two things that get our Akita, Haga, very excited. When we are approaching a situation where stimulation may be high, I can gently apply some pressure to Haga’s prong collar and remind him that I’m still here, which helps break his focus from the other dog or biker.
Fitting a Prong Collar
Your Akita’s prong collar should fit snugly when clasped, but not be choking them. The prong collar should also be placed relatively high up on your Akita’s neck. Many people place their dog’s collar low on the neck, almost on their shoulders, like a piece of jewelry. This is not an effective placement for your prong collar.
Some dogs, including Akitas love to pull, and the closer the leash is attached to their torso, the easier it is for them to pull. That is exactly why we don’t use a harness for our Akita.
When NOT to Use a Prong Collar
A prong collar for your Akita is not appropriate for every situation. We typically do not use a prong collar in the house with our Akita, Haga. We also would not recommend it for your Akita under the age of 6 months.
A prong collar may also not be appropriate for an extremely reactive of aggressive dog. Some dogs can become so excited that no amount of pressure or discomfort will stop them from pulling. In those instances the dog will likely hurt themselves, and possibly you as well. If you feel your dog is too reactive for a prong collar, purchasing a different product likely isn’t the right solution. Instead, what you want to find is a quality dog trainer for your Akita.
E-Collars work by delivering an electrical stimulation to your dog. No this isn’t an “electrical shock,” as there is a difference between E-collars and shock collars. A good E-collar is adjustable, not just in fit, but in sensitivity level, and will have a few different modes.
The E-collar we use can vibrate or stimulate your dog’s muscle (think like those machines that athletes use to make their muscles twitch which helps with muscle recovery). Most dog trainers recommend trying the e-collar on your arm to see how it feels so you can better understand what your Akita is experiencing. Although the vibrate feature doesn’t hurt your Akita, dogs find the vibration very annoying, so it gets their attention quickly.
E-collars come in two parts, the actual collar itself, and a trigger for you to hold to activate the collar. They also come in different sizes/strengths depending on the size of your dog and their coat. Double coated dogs like Akitas need bigger prongs on their E-collar to ensure contact is made.
The main purpose of an E-Collar is give your Akita a gentle reminder to listen to you when giving a command. It’s kind of like tapping them on the shoulder and saying “Hi, I’m still here.”
Prong Collars vs E-Collars: Pros and Cons
Prong collars are simple, cheap, and effective. However they do have some drawbacks. First and foremost you have to be directly attached to your dog via a leash for them to be effective. This makes them challenging to use indoors. While you may choose to keep your Akita puppy leashed when it’s very young, it can be annoying to have your dog dragging a leash around the house all of the time.
Another drawback of the prong collar is it is only effective when pressure is being applied to the collar. This means it’s more of a reactive tool than a proactive one. While you can apply light pressure to a prong collar if you know a distraction is upcoming, it’s really more designed for when your Akita may suddenly see something and react.
E-Collars are extremely helpful because you don’t have to be attached to your Akita. Some E-collars even have a range of several miles. This is helpful if your dog ever accidentally gets off-leash. This very thing happened to me last winter as I was walking my Akita and slipped on some ice. Even though he bolted off into the woods, I was able to use the E-collar to get his attention, and get him back with recall.
This is what makes E-collar training great for inside the house as well, as you can use it to remind your Akita not to counter surf or jump on the couch. The different functions of the E-collar also make it great for giving a ‘warning” to your Akita, in anticipation of them doing something you know they’re not supposed to do!
The E-Collar, just like the prong collar, does have some drawbacks however. For example there is a skill to using an E-collar. It’s not the type of thing that you should just throw on your Akita and start using without some training for both of you. This is why we highly recommend signing up for an E-Collar training course or class with your Akita.
Another small con of an E-collar is that both units will need to be charged regularly. While this isn’t an issue for most people, as these days just about every device we use needs to be charged, this is something to consider. It’s frustrating when you’re about to take your Akita for a long walk and you realize your E-Collar’s battery is dead.
Which One is Right For Your Akita?
You may not like this answer, but we actually recommend both. If I could only pick one, I think the prong collar would be my choice, as it is less expensive, easier to use, and when our Akita is very stimulated, I think the feedback he gets from the prong collar is more effective than the E-collar.
With that said, I do like the versatility and flexibility the E-collar provides. So my official recommendation is: Start with a prong collar if you haven’t’ already. Work with that, and if you feel like you need another means of communication for your Akita, move to the E-collar.
If you have experience with either of these tools, drop a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.