Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What would my dog choose?

Here Dahlia shows off the wonderful freedom
she gets even without a shock collar
Recently I came across this post on the "truth about shock collars" page.  Now, don't be fooled here.  They're not really giving you the truth about shock collars, but rather their twisted version of the truth (it doesn't hurt, there's no pain, it's just a stim).  But here Robin MacFarlane asks her readers if they believe their dogs would choose to be trained using an e-collar (which is really the most common euphemism these days for a shock collar).

It's an interesting question to ask.  Would your dog choose to be trained the way you train the dog?  Would your dog choose to do obedience or rally or agility?  What sorts of choices would your dog make if given that sort of freedom?

Ms. MacFarlane cites many choices we make for our dogs: vaccinations, what they eat, and what dogs they interact with, among others.  I cannot argue with her there.  There are many choices we cannot allow our dogs to make because they would make poor choices.  I can guarantee my dog would love to eat any leftover meat she found in the garbage.  I'm sure she would prefer not to go to the groomer or ever have a bath again.  She sure wouldn't choose to be hosed down after taking a dunk in our rather disgusting pond and coming out smelling like the swamp thing (please note: I allow her to chase geese into the pond; she does this on command; it's fun for her but it does result in a dog who smells terrible and requires a bath).  In fact, making the choice to drink from the pond at one occasion was also a poor choice she made (resulting in rather a lot of stomach upset and a bacterial infection that required antibiotics).  Dogs aren't known for making the best choices.

But does that mean they would choose to be trained using something that causes a pain in their neck every time they do something wrong?  Would they choose an uncomfortable sensation when they do something wrong over a reward when they do something right?  I may not be a dog, but considering that dogs tend to be comfort-seeking "do what's best for me" types, I would imagine that dogs would answer with a resounding NO.

I know how my dog would respond.

She responds with stress signals to a harsh voice.  I'm not talking voices directed at her, but for example, we adopted our dog during the 2008 presidential election.  There were many evenings of angry shouts at the television.  We had to stop watching the debates because our dog was stressed out by our raised voices.

When we first got her, we didn't expect her to try to herd UPS trucks and when she tried to, in an emergency stop sort of situation, we had to yank her back hard by her collar.  She shut down and rolled over.

I've reached out to touch her and accidentally shocked her (dry winters around here).  She once wouldn't go near me for an hour and after a shock or two, she starts to flinch if I reach for her.

She flinches when I reach for her.

And this is not a purposeful shock.  This is entirely accidental, but it's enough punishment to make her hand-shy for a time.  If I inflicted that on her day after day, year after year, in the name of training how do you think she'd react?  I think I know how.

On the flip side, seeing how she reacts to being rewarded, how her drive in agility has increased as has her tug and toy drive, tells me that she loves the rewards.  Seeing how agility itself has become the reward tells me she loves the rewards as well.

So would my dog choose to be trained using a shock collar?  No.  I can say with absolute certainty that no, she would not choose that.

Free free to comment, shock collar users and trainers.  I will warn you that comments are moderated, but only to stop spam.  I will gladly allow you to have your say.

A clarification: My dog does not eat the garbage.  She goes into the pond when I let her.  Drinking the pond water was unexpected and happened as she raced into it, gulping the water as she went (chasing geese into the ponds is no longer happening).  My dog only flinches away from people after being shocked (a smart move, in my opinion).  She is not afraid to be approached by anyone (including young children, other dogs, and cats).  My dog is an easygoing joyful dog to live with, a happy dog who has never been abused in any way.  Any issues she had (e.g. her frustration reactivity to other dogs) has been dealt with in a positive manner.  She does not live her life on the end of a leash.  She is a wonderful dog who is granted a lot of freedom (not crated in the house when we're out, off leash hikes, etc.) because she makes the right choices and she knows that sticking by me and coming back to me are hugely rewarding.

Anyone who comes to this post and thinks I haven't trained my dog and am some sort of martyr with a bad relationship with my dog could not be more wrong.  Perhaps those people should read past this one post that they take issue with because they train using shock collars and I choose not to.


  1. If your idea of how to use an electronic remote training collar is "a pain in the neck every time they do something wrong" then you need to find a different instructor who can teach you how to do it right. Whoever taught you how to use the e-collar didn't do a very good job.

  2. That's a simplified version but please do feel free to explain how you use it if you think that's not accurate. The fact is that a shock collar is a punisher. There are two ways to use it:

    1. Ask the dog to do something (e.g. "sit") and shock them until they comply, then release the button. The company "Sit Means Sit" uses this method. This is the negative reinforcement part of the quadrant.

    2. Shock the dog when they do something wrong (e.g. jumping on you) so that they learn not to do that thing again or they will get punished. This is the positive punishment part of the quadrant.

    Some people I know use it only for "proofing" behavior or for distance work (neither of which I believe requires the use of a shock collar), but it still amounts to the same thing.

    And I'm not looking for anyone to teach me how to use a collar. I've spoken with and observed enough trainers to know it's not something I want. I know my dog and I know it's something SHE does not want. I can achieve (and have achieved) everything I want without using something that causes pain, fear, intimidation or "an uncomfortable sensation." If I can achieve everything I want using positive reinforcement why would I want to put my dog through such a thing?

    1. Then for "you", Michelle, using a remote collar is not a viable option. However, it is for many dogs and their owners. Yes, it is used as -R and +P but at a sensation that the dog can feel but does not hurt. Evidently, the trainer you spoke with used it incorrectly or based upon old style of training. We use it as a total part of a training program along with +R and -P.

      There are four quadrants of learning theory, not just one or two. And, your responses with the dog will be fluid. It is impossible to use only +R but a program should be based as much as possible on that component. A program that utilizes +R and -R shows the dog what is the correct choice and what isn't. It is a very effective communication for the dog.

      I encourage you to learn more about how we use it for yourself by attending Robin's seminars or one of her graduates (even if you never intend to utilize it for your own dogs) so you can make an informed decision about modern day use of the remote training collar. I did this myself before switching over from being a clicker trainer to a balanced trainer. I wanted to learn about it even if I wasn't going to train my clients with it.

      Are you a trainer? If so, it benefits you and your clients to know first hand how we use it so that you have the current day knowledge or if you still walk away not convinced then you have better info as to why you believe the way you do to counter those who promote this style of training.

    2. I'm hoping this will appear as a response to the response by "michigandogtraining" but I've never seen it come out threaded like this. Learn a new thing everyday.

      I am not a professional trainer. I'm a person who has an intense interest in dog training and who plans on, in the next few years, to begin fostering for rescues and wants to learn as much as I can before taking on dogs who have various issues. At the moment, the most I do is train my own dog and help friends with their dogs, just for some experience.

      The people I met with who trained with shock collars were people that were greatly respected in their field. I have no doubt they knew what they were doing with the collar. I've read Robin's descriptions of her training on her page. Yes I think the training can work, but that doesn't mean I agree it's the right thing to do. I've met with enough folks, read enough, seen enough people on youtube, to know it's not something I ever plan to use. While I don't generally use all of the quadrants, I do use two (+R and -P) frequently. I used to use +P in the form of verbal corrections but since stopping that I've seen my dog and my friends' dogs even more joyful when learning. I wouldn't say it shut my dog down, but I've seen a lot more joyful body language since I stopped using even that.

      I walked away sure that I did not want to utilize the tool after meeting with people who train with them and feeling the collars myself. I felt the same way after talking to people who used choke chains and prong collars as training tools.

      I see no reason at all to use such collars. I prefer my training to remain fun, upbeat, and not aversive. If I can achieve what I want to achieve (a dog who is great off leash under verbal control, who possesses both drive and self-control) then why would I want to use the collar? Most of my training has been done with her on a flat collar and no leash utilizing toys and treats. It works for us, even when dealing with modifying behavior issues (reactivity, in this case).

      Thank you for your response!

    3. Michelle, that's great that you're able to get the desired results you want with your dog using +R and -P. If so, then there's no need to use a remote collar. There are many dogs who do not need it. But there are also many dogs who do and would benefit from it.

      I don't "yell" at my dogs either but do you ever raise the tone of your voice when giving a command or cue, do you ever frown at your dog upon them not doing a desired behavior, etc. these would also be +P, (even though I believe them to be appropriate in some situations and effective communication). I just don't believe it is possible for someone not to use some form of -R and/or +P now and then. Even the Dali Lama gets upset from time to time by his own admittance. Although very holy and compassionate, he is still human.

      So I guess my point is that no matter the tool or methodology used, the majority of trainers (from both sides) are trying to humanely and effectively train dogs so that they can do more things and enjoy more family companionship. I find it very discouraging that trainers put each other down. And, even Ian Dunbar has said that there are four quadrants to training, not just one or two, behavior and the quadrants are fluid and it seems to be the +R trainers are the ones who more regularly use +P on their clients and colleagues because they don't agree with their philosophy while supposedly promoting positive training methods for dogs. This has been my experience as well.

      And, I also believe that while a person can know that the remote collar isn't for them, they shouldn't dispel it for all dogs and owners as it is not a torture device used properly just like any other tool that is used properly. In fact, it saves many dogs lives who otherwise would be going to the pound to be put down because their drive was too high and the family could no longer put up with the dog despite other training methods tried before the remote collar.

      And, while people are entitled to their opinions for themselves and their personal dogs, I find it saddening that some people who are not trainers (or even those who are trainers but are not trained as remote collar specialists) are dispensing what constitutes to inaccurate training information about the remote collar. This is similar to me being a former law enforcement officer. I know a lot about the law but I would never give someone advice as how to proceed in a criminal case because I am not a lawyer.

    4. I try very very hard to not let any frustration or anger show in my training. Am I always successful? No. I don't think any human being on the planet could ever successfully not show anger or frustration. It's just part of the human (or even canine!) condition. I'm getting better at not raising my voice with commands and keeping a smile on my face even when things aren't going right. I'm generally a pretty easy going person and it takes a lot to get me really riled up and so it doesn't happen very often that I DO get riled up, especially with my dog. She really is a joy.

      The strange thing about this post was that I didn't write it to put anyone down. I wrote it to answer a question that was posed as to whether or not I thought my dog would choose something aversive (in this case, a shock collar) for her training and my belief that she would not. I'm not sure why people are so up in arms over my calling shock collars an aversive and/or painful and/or uncomfortable. I find it to be aversive and either uncomfortable (lower levels) or painful (higher levels).

      Unfortunately, I am allowed to have my opinion and my opinion is that aversive tools are not needed in dog training. Can they be used? Certainly. Can they be effective? Certainly. Can some dogs deal well with them and still be ok? Certainly. But not all dogs can deal with aversives, even mild ones (training with my dog got much easier and more fun after I took out verbal punishment). And having seen and dealt with so many dogs who have been trained solely with +R/-P (especially in agility circles) I become more and more certain that there are methods that work just as well, or even better, than any of the shock/choke/prong collar methods.

      I also think that a lot of shock collar trainers do themselves and their clients a disservice by ultimately covering up what the collar IS. Even if they don't believe it causes pain at lower levels, I have seen complete denials of its being aversive. Yet then you go to their page and read descriptions of how they use it (e.g. This use of negative reinforcement is one of the most commonly used e-collar techniques among dog professionals. By pairing the sensation with the command and teaching the dog how to turn off the sensation, you will achieve greater versatility in use as opposed to waiting and correcting (applying positive punishment) the dog for non-compliance with your command.), you realize they are very aware that it's something aversive that the dog wants to avoid ("turning off the sensation"). Claiming it's positive reinforcement and not an aversive is simply not true.

  3. Of course you're not looking for anyone to teach you. In order to do that you'd need to have an open mind and forget what you think you know. If all you want to know is that it's a punisher, it will be very difficult for anyone to teach you anything different. The fact is that there are many, many people using electronics to train without causing pain or fear in their dogs. The static shock you're talking about is much stronger than what they're using, and the "accidental" nature of that static shock means there is no context for the dog to learn from.

    If you were to take lessons, one of the first steps would be to find your dog's "working level" which means a level that the dog can feel but that does not cause pain or fear. If you're right that it's only a punisher, that step would be completely unnecessary. So now that we've taken the pain and fear out of the equation you can maybe stop thinking about punishment and start thinking about the possibilities that remain. If the pain and fear and intimidation you write about were real, how would you explain all the happy working dogs out there who have been trained with electronic collars? How would you explain the fact that someone watching a training session CAN'T TELL when the trainer is pushing the button?

    People with the "pain and fear and intimidation" idea etched into their brains are the reason I am no longer teaching people how to train with e-collars. I can teach an old dog new tricks but I find it too difficult to get people out of the mindset of using the collar as a punisher. No matter how much I show them how to use it as communication and motivation, they will go home and start pushing the button when the dog does something wrong. So if that concept is stuck in your brain it is better that you have chosen not to use an e-collar. If ever you find yourself with an open mind and enough curiosity to learn something different, there is probably a trainer near you who can show you a humane and gentle way of using the remote training collar.

    If you're achieving everything you want using only positive reinforcement that's fine. But before you write another essay about how the collar works, get educated. At this point you have no knowledge, no experience, and no credibility in the matter.

  4. Cynthia, I would appreciate that you didn't come onto my blog and attack me. I am happy to allow folks to have their say, even if they disagree with me, but attacking me is going too far.

    When I decided how to train my dog, I met with trainers from all walks of life and all training styles. I met with a couple e-collar trainers (ones people assured me were good). I also met with a rep from "Sit Means Sit." I watched them train. I learned a lot about how they trained. I felt the collar myself on levels from the lowest to about midway (as far as I could handle it). I tried it around my neck and against my upper arm. The feeling ranged from uncomfortable to painful at the mid-levels. I didn't allow them to go further. I saw how they marked unwanted behavior and used it to get the behavior they did want. I saw one of them using rewards along with it. I saw one of them using it on high levels as negative reinforcement, releasing the painful shock when the dog did what they wanted.

    You say it's not about pain, not about intimidation. But then you refuse to say what it IS about. Is it simply a marker? If so, why not use a clicker (or for distance work, a whistle)? This is the answer I get from every e-collar trainer on the internet these days. "It's not about pain and if you think it is, then you're WRONG and clearly an idiot who knows nothing." Well, that's very helpful. Thank you.

    I'd also like to point out that this was not an essay about how the collar works. This was an OPINION PIECE about whether or not I believed my dog would choose it. I don't think she would. And she's never going to have to because I HAVE achieved everything I have wanted to achieve (including training her out of reactivity and the need to chase every single little creature she sees) using positive reinforcement. I know every e-collar trainer and user on the internet wants to believe that +R training = no off leash freedom while shock collar training = lots of freedom, but that's simply not true. My dog is off leash a lot and it's all been done through positive reinforcement. I'm happy with what I chose. I did research, read books, met with trainers, and made a decision. I'm pretty sure, considering how joyful my dog is, that she's happy with that decision too.

  5. I find it interesting that your "Never shock a puppy" graphic, (Which in itself infantalizes adult DOGS.) links to a page that offers a "no-pull" harness to anyone who turns in an item of politically incorrect training equipment.

    So you are endorsing the *constant* noncommunicative pain, restriction and discomfort, and potential for orthopedic damage, of the straightjacket harness over the communicative potential of an electronic collar, chain training collar, or prong collar?

    Ah, well. A little smidge of "knowledge" can pave a smooth, straight path to erroneous certainty. You have trained one pet dog to your own standards, whatever those may be. If you are ever faced with, say, a different dog, or a new issue, or a more challenging standard of success, you may discover that you know less.

    You may find that you do not know, for example, why a Dogtra electronic collar on the vibrate or pager mode is a more effective interrupter of social misbehavior (and subsequent bridge to good social behavior) than a audible correction, a physical correction, or any level of electrical stimulation from the same collar -- and a FAR more powerful teaching tool than the "positive" redirection you have been conditioned to rely upon. You may, or may not, ponder that thing you do not know, or even explore it empirically, before offering pronouncements on it derived from your prior reflex conditioning. Time will tell. Or not.

    FYI, I am not an "e-collar trainer." Just a trainer who uses every appropriate tool, method, technique and concept at the appropriate time, for the appropriate goal.

    I've got one dog out of four who was obedience trained initially with a prong collar. He hasn't seen it for probably a year, maybe longer. I decided yesterday that he needs some brush-up on precision work in crowds, and dug out his training collar. Cole performed the same vertical bounce display that he does for his dinner when he saw the prong. So, without much speculation, I guess I know what his choice "would be" about training equipment. His initial off-leash work, when he arrived as a very troubled adolescent, was done with an electronic collar, used mostly in that pager mode that provides such an inconvenient challenge to the "pain and intimidation" agitprop. I could dig out that collar, if I can find it, and would not be surprised to see him achieve the same joyful hangtime.

  6. When I added the "never shock a puppy" graphic the entire site was apparently something different than it is now. Since it's down the page quite a bit I will admit up front that I completely forgot it was even there and so never thought to go back. Originally the page was referencing puppies. I think it grew out of someone observing someone using a shock collar on a very young puppy and went from there (if I remember right -- it's been awhile). The site has changed dramatically since I first linked to it. I'm not a fan of no-pull harnesses or head collars either as they do use aversive methods to stop dogs from pulling. I'm a fan of training to stop a dog from pulling though I can, on occasion, see the uses of such things in very short-term uses when it comes down to walks vs. no walks.

    I have no issues with people using vibrating collars. I don't consider those to be "shock" collars as they're not shocking them. I know people with deaf dogs who train with a low-level vibration, almost as if that vibration is the dog's name. The dog feels the vibration and looks to find their owner. It's not aversive, it's a cue. If that's all that shock collar trainers used I wouldn't have any issue with what they do. I wouldn't feel the need to use it with my dog as it's just expensive equipment we don't need. She can hear and she knows to keep close while off leash. If I adopted a deaf dog in the future I may very well make use of a vibrating collar (though finding ones that ONLY vibrate is rather difficult these days) as a way to call the dog. If I wanted to train a (hearing) dog for herding, then I'd probably just use a whistle.

    You may think that positive interrupters aren't effective but I've seen the opposite. And with social misbehavior, I attempt to keep the dog under threshold and so don't often need to interrupt or redirect in such a way.

    You're right that I've trained one dog to my standards, which are fairly high. No, she's not an competitive obedience dog. I have no interest in having her sit in the right way or retrieve a dumbbell and everything else folks do in obedience. It's just not my cup of tea. I've trained her to be reliable off leash, to have good manners (we have our CGC), to not rush the door when it's opened, among other things. I've worked with her to not be reactive to other dogs. I've trained her to chase geese on command (she loves to chase and I don't want her to do it when it's not safe, so I've trained her to check in with me and to only chase on command). And we train in agility and have gotten a few ribbons (having just started competing; we got a late start!). So I think my standards are fairly high for what I expect out of my dog. She is not your typical pet dog by far.

    You may be dismissive of my training or what I know all you want. I certainly find that attitude fairly prevalent among people who choose to use e-collars, that if someone dares to not use one and be public about it they must not know anything, never seen one in use, or have unruly dogs because they don't use them. If you wish to believe that based on one post where I say I don't think my dog would choose to have me use shock to train her, then that's certainly your prerogative. It's untrue. But you can believe what you wish.

    You say you use every "appropriate" tool. Well, there are plenty I find inappropriate for my use (shock collars, prongs and chokes among them) and so I use every "appropriate" tool as well. I've checked out those routes, seen how they're used, and have opted not to. I think my dog is incredibly happy to be trained the way I train. I have no doubts I made the right choice.

  7. Here's a question. Is this how you folks use it?

    "One of the most versatile and simplistic ways to introduce a dog to collar stimulation is to pair the sensation with obedience commands. I understand this may go against conventional thinking about how to use correction, but by tapping the button simultaneously as you give a command, you can teach the dog that the sensation goes away as soon as he complies with the expected behavior. This use of negative reinforcement is one of the most commonly used e-collar techniques among dog professionals. By pairing the sensation with the command and teaching the dog how to turn off the sensation, you will achieve greater versatility in use as opposed to waiting and correcting (applying positive punishment) the dog for non-compliance with your command."

  8. Ah, so the vibration collar (so long as it has NO electronic potential, because, I don't know -- it would be ideologically impure then?) is a viable tool, because it does not rely on "pain and intimidation." And you've heard about one way it is used, in one context, of which you approve.

    What if I told you (because you haven't the experience to have discovered this yourself, or the breadth of education to have heard it from an experienced person) that, in fact, for some dogs in all contexts, and most dogs in some contexts, the vibration is far more disturbing, intrusive, and distressing than the same collar used on low or even medium intensity in "shock" mode?

    What if I told you that I've worked a deaf dog who *could not* adjust to the vibration, but was very happy to work with low-level electronic stimulation?

    After all, the vibration does not and CANNOT "hurt" the dog. Try it on any part of your own body (ahem ...) You will verify that it is not distressing at all.

    Yet it is not uncommon for it to be "too much" for a given dog in a given context -- and it is difficult to predict which dog and which context.

    Funny how the dogs will refuse to slot themselves in to the four quadrants of human preconception.

    When I added the "never shock a puppy" graphic the entire site was apparently something different than it is now. Since it's down the page quite a bit I will admit up front that I completely forgot it was even there and so never thought to go back. Originally the page was referencing puppies. I think it grew out of someone observing someone using a shock collar on a very young puppy and went from there

    I've looked at the "entire site."

    The very first post references a gormless blogging conference which I actually attended, with the very same dog referenced above. (And who attendees could not stop complimenting for his superb training, though I'd only had him a few months and had taken him on as a serious behavioral rehab project. True, compared to the other dogs there, they were correct. He could hold a stay outside the banquet room, heel through the crowd, ignore the gang signs of other dogs, leave the kitties and ferrets alone, and keep his shit together while politely schmoozing the people. Everything I expect of a normal dog after a month or so of training. This was considered exceptional. Guess that shows where *their* bar is set.)

    Quote from the very first post:

    Founders/organizers at the first-ever BlogPaws conference in April 2010 challenged pet bloggers to Be the Change for Pets. When asked what ONE thing would improve the lives of pets, some of us replied … raise awareness about humane (pain-free) alternatives to dog collars designed to hurt, startle, punish. That’s how Never Shock a Puppy was born.

    And, by “puppy” we mean any dog — no matter size, sex, age, or breed.

    So, no witnessing a baby-dog being traumatized. Just a couple of non-trainers who got a collective bug up their butts at a conference that dealt mostly with "monetizing your content stream." And were absolutely clear about their infantalizing intent from the beginning.

  9. Clickers can freak out some dogs too. You find another way to train, e.g. lessening the sound of the clicker, using a word instead of the click, etc.

    Ultimately, nothing you say is going to get me to use shock collars. I've done my research, read a lot, met with trainers, seen them in use. I don't care if you find them "impressive." If I can achieve whatever I want to achieve without using anything that is uncomfortable or painful, then I see no reason to use a shock collar. Most people find my dog impressive. But I guess I must be lying since I have an untrained, garbage digging, bad dog who cannot ever ever be let off leash.

    And I really don't know what you're on about with this "infantalizing" thing anyway. This post was about my belief that my dog would not choose a shock collar for training. Dog or puppy, I won't do it.

  10. And to add: I will no longer deal with sarcasm, rudeness, and outright hostility on this blog. If you wish to address this post in a meaningful way without any of the above, I will be happy to engage you with you.

  11. Once again the Negative trainers are getting all up in arms because they are scared that maybe just maybe more people are crossing over which means in the long run if they want to stay in dog training they may have to update their education.

    Most of the time when a negative trainer makes a comment they really do come off as a bully...it fits with their training methods and so far from what I was seeing all of the prong,choke, shock collar lovers are being just that. Yes yes, we know your methods get a result but there are to many dogs who are ruined by those kinds of training methods... SO WHY risk the chance of using those methods when there are other routs that lessen the chance (By Positive Reinforcement does work.. if it didn't then just like you all state about your method...you are doing it wrong). The way you are all speaking you think YOU honestly have all the education.. the way that you are not opening your mind is just the same you are telling this writer... And how you are acting to me sounds like you disbelieve the AVSAB which are far more educated in animal behavior than most common dog trainers...Do any of you have a PhD in animal behavior and if so are you still going back for updated CEUs? Or have you stuck with what you learned not willing to see all of the issues at hand.

    "The AVSAB recommends that veterinarians not refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate dominance hierarchy theory and the subsequent confrontational training that follows from it,"

    But because they do not agree with the shock collar trainers or even the negative reinforcement trainers they must be wrong even though this is what they have been studding, experimenting with and gone to school for over 8 years for...

    Their statement is about the shock collars, prong collars, and yes choke collars training methods... A shock collar NEVER replaces a leash I have seen owners loose their dogs as they take off and the owner keeps on pushing the button. Trainers telling owners to let their dogs off of leash and run around in public is one Against the law and two dangerous... while you may trust your dog you do not know how other people and even dogs will react.

    So before you jump onto someone's blog and then invite your buddies maybe you should just read it take it in mind and either like it or pass it and go onto next blog...because at this point you are coming off as a bunch of internet bullies.

    And sorry if this posted twice issues with the web today

  12. "Find your dog's working level." I like that. When I hold a shock collar receiver in my hand and go up to level 5 on my PetSafe Guardian, it tickles. Well, it's a hefty tickle, but not vastly unpleasant. Now, when I put that same collar on my own neck, level 1 hurts like hell. When I try the same thing with my PetSafe model 305, it tickles in my hand up to level 7-8, but then it hurts. Put IT on my neck and level 1 hurts like hell.

    Some people are pretty insensitive to static shocks, some very sensitive. It stands to reason, that dogs also have these sensitivity differences. I know, that I've shocked my dog on her nose with static shock. she refused to come near me for a couple of hours.

    Now even if a shock collar only delivers a static shock, which it doesn't. An electric geek explained this once to me, but I'm not one. In any case, he told me, that shock from a collar is DC and static is AC - not the same thing at all. Be that as it may, a shock collar itself is not a positive reinforcer. It is not pleasant and was never meant to be pleasant. It has a punitive effect no matter how low it's administered. It's meant to. Either as a so-called negative interruptor, stopping an unwanted behavior - IOW punishing that unwanted behavior, and in order to successfully interrupt this unwanted behavior, such as charging off after a rabbit, it has to be sufficiently hefty to STOP the behavior, OR it has to signal a behavior that was insufficiently well done, in other words also a punisher. Now in the first case, the shock usually is administered through continued press of the button until the undesired behavior stops. This IS a kind of reinforcer. When the dog dog compleis the shock stops. Let me repeat this. The reinforcer is the stopping of the shock. Meaning whatever is perceived as unpleasant (to put it mildly) STOPS.

    However you slice it and dice it, shock works because it's unpleasant. that being the case my dog has only one working level - without shock.

    Now the "other side" asks the question: "How are you going to stop your dog from charging after that rabbit with your clicker? Good question. YOU DON'T. You train your dog to:
    1) a bomb-proof recall. A combination of classical and operant conditioning using exclusively positive reinforcement for actually coming back.
    2) you manage your dog when you know you are in an area where rabbits are around
    3) you can also condition your dog to offer an alternate behavior when she sees such an animal. My dog, a hunting dog, looks immediately to me when she sees a cat, a squirrel or a bird. Then we play our "look at THAT" game. After about 3-4 repetitions, she's not even interested in the other animal.

  13. (cont)
    In other words, instead of depending on a shock collar to STOP a behavior, I train the situation such, that the unwanted behavior doesn't even appear.

    Border training: this is an application for invisible fences. Why is it, that even while chasing a ball, if that ball goes across the street, my dog sits at the curb instead of running into the street? Because we worked at training her, no matter what, to stop at the curb and sit. It's the training, NOT the device that's important. Shock is the easy, lazy way out. Training takes patience and inquisitiveness to look past the envelope. Try it - it's fun.

    Happy Training.

    P.S. - why do I as a Clicker Trainer have not one but 2 shock collars? Because I'm organizing a couple of shock collar experiments. After that, I will destroy them. Isn't it interesting, that petSafe itself is putting up $200,000 for research into shock? why now after all these years? do you think they'll be happy to see the videos of people trying their shock collars on body parts OTHER than the hand? I wonder if they have already read the literature on experiments done in the 80's and 90's about sensitivity differences between people and parts of the body? Probably not. Will I be submitting my experiments for a part of that $200,000? Nope, even though I know one of their panel members and this person said that if submitted, he/she could get me up to $25k. I don't take blood money.

  14. I currently have four dogs that all have freedom off leash, even my five month old puppy. I have not only never used a shock collar, but I've never used a correction. Punishment is either an NRM or withholding a game of tug which they all love.

    I can recall the puppy from a good chase after the older three in 10 acres of land with one "Tempe!!!" and get instant compliance - and again, she is only 5 months old.

    So why would I need to use a shock collar to train any dog if I can do that with a puppy?

    I am a cross over trainer. I use to use all those "devices" to get compliance / control / submission. I no longer use them, and as soon as possible get ALL my students and their dogs OFF THE LEASH and training naked. I also do not use a clicker, and rarely use a marker. These dogs have self control, impulse control, know when to make choices and what the best options are in the human world. They have been shaped to be dogs and companions with understanding of the world they live in.

  15. BTW - here's a challenge I never had a taker for. It's aimed at any shock-collar trainer, but I've also made the same challenge to a prong collar trainer (isn't it interesting, that they all have their device of choice and they all are punishment devices?) and gotten no takers there either.

    The challenge:
    I will lay down my clicker and not use one when working with either my own dog or my clients' dogs. I will film the sessions and show the level I can reach without my "main tool of choice".
    You will lay down your shock collar/transmitter and not use it (have it on the dog, either) with your dog(s) and your clients' dogs and show the level of training you can reach without it on video.
    We'll do this for a period of 3 months. Videos will be posted on YouTube.

    Show your training skills, not your device skills. I have absolutely no problem NOT using a clicker and getting excellent results. Can you say the same about your shock or prong? If not, then it may be time to sharpen your basic training skill. If yes, then why use them at all?

    Ok, let's see who's got the guts to take me up on this...

  16. I honestly just laugh when I hear e-collar/"Balanced" trainers go on about what they consider to be a properly trained dog. Why? Because if I met any one of them in public with my dog who I consider highly trained they would be HORRIFIED. He jumps on me, randomly throws trick behaviors, if I let him approach others for petting he'll likely jump on them too, he barks, he pulls like a horse on a leash and he's exactly where I want him to be.

    What you put emphasis on in your training is completely up to you. If someone doesn't care to work on stopping garbage raiding and would rather manage it WHO CARES? That's not a mark of a bad trainer, it's just someone who really doesn't feel like dealing with that issue.

    Now, I don't have an ecollar, But I'm not against them at all. Really, I'm not. More than likely I'll use one some day but I don't have a need to right now. All the behaviors I would use it for (outs, recall, distance work) are already pretty rock solid. I would like get one and put it on level 100 and completely extinguish his love of peeing on small white dogs but not enough to go shell out the money for one.

    And you know what? I do know my dog enough to know he would never choose the ecollar. Mainly, because he's a dog and like the women stated in her blog, they are pretty self serving. He already gets all the freedom he wants without one so why would he pick it? Now, if I had a dog that never got any off leash freedom except on an ecollar I do think they would choose one over being never allowed to run. It's the same reason my old girl runs to the prong. My boy though, he gets enough time nekkid to really not be happy when the prong comes out (when I don't feel like being pulled or when I'm biking) even with the enjoyment he gets while doing things on it.

    I guess I just don't get why the condescending tone is needed. You all are happy with your dogs. Sounds like Crysania is happy with her dog. I'm happy with my dog, that's for sure! You all obviously have different priorities, I know in my training I value FUN, drive, excitement, reliability and being an operant dog. You put more value on other things? Good! Keep it up! But the talking down that happens from ecollar trainers (balanced trainers, aversion using trainers or whatever you want to call yourselves) is really rather saddening and makes me more and more disgusted with you all to be perfectly blunt. And this is coming from a prong using, marker loving, treat giving owner.

    At the end of the day you like dogs, I like dogs and I'm pretty sure Crysania likes dogs. She also just answered a simple question about HER dog. I don't quite get what there is to get so defensive about. Continuing using ecollars, prongs and check chains! But really, it does nothing but make you look bad when the tone you adopt when talking to people that do things different is one of superiority.

    Also, Crysania, your girl is lovely!

  17. In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. ~Edward Hoagland

    Would your dog use a shock collar on you? I guess it depends upon the kind of relationship you want.

    Do dogs enjoy shock collars? I've never seen a masochistic dog.

    Masochist: "Beat me!"
    Sadist: "NO!"

  18. Thank you to the folks who jumped in with their commentary. I wasn't able to respond right away to everything. I'm honestly not sure why there was such s condescending from people who train with e-collars. I answered a simple question with what I believed my dog would choose and apparently that made me deserving of attack, both here and elsewhere. The personal attacks were entirely unnecessary, though I can't say I'm entirely surprised. I have found the behavior of many of these types of people on message boards to be extremely bullying and offputting. Many cannot handle any sort of dissent or even a question about their technique. When I first got on some boards and saw videos on youtube (a number of years ago now), I asked some simple questions of some e-collar trainers. At the time the only thing I knew of shock collars were invisible fences and I wanted to know how theirs differed from what I saw on a friend's dog. My comments were deleted and I was blocked from commenting on their videos. And that was from a simple question!

    I can't help but hope that all that nastiness over someone daring to choose differently than they do and to post publicly about it is some sort of extinction burst.

    "Musicofnote1" - I hope someone takes you up on your challenge! I'm not surprised that no one has, however.

  19. I have to say reading both sides of this argument, that I would never use an E-collar/shock collar on my dogs. The use of this type of collar would scare my dogs. I know my dogs, and I know they would prefer reward based training over something that startles, frightens, or causes discomfort. The canine training center I attend only uses positive training methods. I trust my trainers, and my dogs love attending classes there. I just wish all trainers would use positive training methods.

  20. My understanding of collies is that they're fairly sensitive. I imagine that e-collars would be too much for them. The pain/uncomfortable sensation/stim/pressure/whatever people want to call it would be over the top. I think even with the "hardest" of breeds they're not a necessity as I know many people with "hard" breeds who train using positive reinforcement.

    The place we train at does not allow anything that is not positive reinforcement. We can use treats, toys, or anything else the dog finds rewarding. But we do not use shock, choke chains, prongs, or anything like that. Why would you want to? Agility is supposed to be FUN.

  21. my word! Tsk -
    U'd think as guests, people would be mindful of their manners & avoid being rude to the blog-author, who is, after all, the host --- but U'd be wrong, apparently.

    i think dogs, like all other species, want to please... THEMSELVES.
    that's the part we humans so often get wrong, the dog was never born who simply wants to please any human, all humans, all the time - from *birth*.
    it's a ludicrous idea, & incredibly self-serving: if any dog DOESN't want to do everything -we- want her / him to do, we can just label that dog abnormal, 'dumbinant', psychotic, 'stubborn', etc.

    Dogs are living creatures & they're sentient; they don't like pain. I've never seen a masochist-k9 in my life; stoic, yes - 'enjoy' pain? NO. Dogs will endure pain, but they're not enamored of it.

    if U choose to use a shock-collar, at least have the decency to be forthright & admit what it does, & what it's designed to do: apply shock from a battery, via electrodes, across the dog's skin - & as dogs differ physiologically from humans, OUR PERCEPTION of the same stimulus cannot be assumed to mimic their perception.
    Dogs' blood is more saline & more ionic than humans'; that makes it a better conductor. Human-skin has subcutaneous fat; that's an insulator, it makes human-skin a poorer conductor, & provides higher-resistance to electricity [DC or AC, either one].

    Shock-collars are not 'force-free'; the user may not put hands on a dog or require direct or indirect contact, but they DO coerce, & the 'force' is quantifiable, measured as amperage.

    The difficulty is getting actual data on any individual collar, plus the almost-infinite variables which affect each individual shock: the hydration level of the dog, the humidity of the air, any atmospheric ions, the electrolyte-values of the dog, how 'fresh' the batteries, how much charge they carry at the moment, the gap of the electrodes, dry or wet skin / coat on the dog, etc, etc.
    That's why THE SAME SETTING & SAME COLLAR ON THE SAME DOG DON'T DELIVER THE SAME SHOCK, EVERY TIME. In fact, they rarely deliver identical shocks, simply because of the massive number of variables involved. Ask an electrical-engineer; it's easily confirmed.

    Since i can achieve the training-goals or behavior-mod i wish without shock, & without prong, choke/slip, or other aversive tools, & don't need to pin, poke, roll, confront, flood, intimidate, coerce, or threaten a dog to reach those goals... i don't. I think both the dogs & i are happier without them.

  22. Thank you, leashedforlife! I found the information on the fact that the collar could affect them differently from day to day really interesting. I never thought about that. I don't know a ton about electricity in that way (considering I'm a musician!), but it makes sense.

    I'm not sure why people cannot seem to admit that the collar is an aversive. And aversives are something that a dog wants to avoid. Sometimes you can't help something being aversive (like shots or a blood draw or accidentally getting shocked in dry weather), but I prefer not to use anything that is aversive in my training. I don't HAVE to train her. She is already well-behaved. So does she need to know tricks? Does she need to do agility? Nope. So if I'm going to do stuff just for fun, why would I want to make it not fun by adding an aversive element to the training?

    I've seen plenty of dogs e-collar trained, some for proofing, some from the start. Can it work? Sure. Those dogs were very well-trained, very exact in what they did (sometimes a little too robotic and exact, but that's just my opinion!). Can choke chains and prong collars work? Sure. Seen them work too. They did for years after all when many used them.

    Do I think they're the best method? No. And I've seen them backfire horribly. I remember when I first research reactivity issues and was trying to find a method to work with my dog. One method suggested leash popping her every time she started to focus on another dog. The goal was to get her to associate the pop with focusing on the other dog and so therefore she would seek to avoid the pop by remaining calm. I admit to trying that. A few times. She saw the other dog, I popped her, and it immediately set her off barking and lunging. But...that wasn't supposed to happen! It was supposed to stop her! I tried it again. Same reaction. Well, golly gee as it turned out tightening the leash and adding such tension made an already tense dog MORE TENSE and made that dog go right over threshold. Oops.

    I found the "look at that game," brought out the treats and what do ya know? Within a month I started to see a change in her behavior and after a few months I could walk along the opposite side of the road with her just taking note of the other dog and continuing on (sans treats, thank you very much).

    Now unless the dog is running by at very close quarters (something that happens so rarely I haven't been able to set up enough training sessions for it), she's completely non-reactive. And even in those instances, she calms down very quickly and doesn't go totally over threshold like she used to.

    So yes, I think aversive methods can work in some, even many, situations, But do I think it's RIGHT? Do I think it's humane? No. I don't. I see no need to use aversive methods to coerce my dog to do something I want.

  23. I won't go through all the threads--and am not by any means a greatly experienced dog trainer. And for full disclosure I do come down on the side of being "anti-" e-collar.

    But I do have a question for the trainer who says "not all dogs need it, but some do . . ." What on earth did trainers do with all these e-collar needing dogs before the invention of batteries and remotes!!??? And if they were that in need of a technique that was yet to be invented, why on earth would people have kept breeding those traits in? In anticipation that there would be such a device in the future?