|Here Dahlia shows off the wonderful freedom|
she gets even without 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.