Training with Shock Collars—Why You Should Just Say NO!
I decided to add this information on shock collar training to my web site after one of my clients brought his dog to me for help with aggression problems that developed following trying to train the dog with a shock collar. During our first session my client remarked that most of his buddies “really fry their dogs.” So, this page is dedicated to all the dogs out there who are getting fried even as you read this.
Table of Contents
Engineer Explains How Collars Work by Jim Casey
Shock Collar Abuse and Accident - Trainer's Eye Witness Account by Leslie McDevitt, author of "Control Unleashed"
Satire on Shock Training for Humans
From the Horse's Mouth - Interview with Trainer Experienced with Using Shock/Remote/E Collars
Invisible Fencing Systems--Testimonials from trainers about why they should be avoided.
In the USA--Mixed Messages from the APDT
Courtesy of Adam Katz: "Owner Inadvertently Misusing His Electronic Collar"
What Timmy Never Did to Lassie and In Search of Soulful Coherence by Suzanne Clothier
On Shocking Our Dogs - Just Because We Can Doesn't Mean We Should: December 18th, 2011 by Trish King
"There are a few videos on You Tube in which men put shock collars on themselves and then roll around laughing when the shock hits, and they fall sidewise. Maybe this is funny during the videoing, in a perverse sort of way, but what would happen if the shock collars were always on, and they could not predict when the pain would hit – when they took a swig of beer, or lit a cigarette, drove a car, or took a bite of food? Eventually, they would be afraid to do anything. They would be under control. But we don’t do that to people – we do it to dogs, our pets, because we can and they love us anyway."
Shock Collars are euphemistically called Electronic or E-collars or Remote Training Collars. Most pet owners and novice trainers that choose to train with shock collars do so because 1) they mistakenly believe that a shock collar is a short cut that will provide a simple, easy, fast solution to their training problems and 2) they are not aware of what they can accomplish with pain-free methods or of the harm they may be doing to their dogs by shocking them. It is my hope that reading the information presented here will disabuse people of the notion that shock collars are a "magic bullet. " Companies that manufacture and mass market these collars to the public spend big bucks promoting this idea. I have nothing to gain financially by taking one position or another and I will tell you the truth:
There are no short cuts or magic bullets for training a dog that can substitute for relationship building, skillful teaching, and practicing good habits.
To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:
A thorough understanding of canine behavior.
A thorough understanding of learning theory.
And if you have those three things, you don't need a shock collar. --Author unknown
Question: Aren’t Shock Remote Electronic collars or E collars just like other training tools in that they can be used appropriately or inappropriately depending on the skill of the trainer?
Answer: When evaluating training tools, consider what the tool is designed to do - what is its primary purpose?
Shock collars are relatively expensive training tools - much easier to misuse than to use correctly, - that are specifically designed to work by causing fear and pain, with the capability to inflict increasing levels of pain - some have as many as 36 to 100 settings. Although I have seen dogs respond to shock by screaming, yelping, and jumping in the air, I know that many shock collar trainers claim to use them at much lower stimulation levels that supposedly never cause pain. Shock collar trainers have recently started claiming that the collars feel much the same as the Tens units used in physical therapy. If a trainer claims that shock/electronic collars don't hurt, ask him or her to explain exactly how the collars work to change the animal's behavior?
Research has shown that even when used by experts, the collars tend to produce stress related fall out in the dog's behavior (often including an increase in aggressive behaviors). However, with a "shocking" lack of regard for the consequences, they are also now being mass marketed to the pet owning public.
If you are a pet owner with an unruly dog, the best course of action is to find a competent trainer who uses reward based methods.
If you are a hunter willing to explore how to train without shock, check out this book available from Amazon.com
What about Electronic Invisible Fence Systems? This is what you won't hear from those who manufacture and sell IF Systems:
An E Fence won't keep your dog safe from other dogs that may wander onto your property.
An E fence won't keep your dog safe from predators such as coyotes.
An E fence won't keep your dog out of sight or safe from potential human thieves.
An E fence won't protect your dog from passersby who may decide to tease or torment the dog.
An E fence won't keep your dog from attacking other dogs, cats, or children who may wander onto your property.
Some dogs are willing to take the shock to jump the fence; determining an effective level of shock requires a trial and error process that can cause undue stress and pain for the dog.
The system can malfunction and if that happens, it can cause severe pain and injury to the dog.
Given these drawbacks, an E fence system should be a choice of last resort, and is never an appropriate choice for reactive/aggressive dogs.
Chicago White Sox Pitcher and animal lover Mark Buehrle is the owner of two Vizlas that were grievously injured when they escaped from their invisible fence and were hit by a car. The dogs survived after emergency surgery but required months of rehabilitation. Invisible Fencing Systems--Testimonials from trainers about why they should be avoided.
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From Dog Trainer Email Lists -The following posts originally appeared on dog trainer discussion email lists and are reprinted here with permission of the authors:
Trainer's Experience With Neighbor's Dog
A couple I know down the street just gave their 14 month old GSD to a guy (recommended by their vet!!!) for one week 1(former canine officer who purported to use "positive training" and "training to suit the dog's personality."). The dog came back "trained" for $950 plus a nice new electronic shock collar. Apparently, the owners were so "wowed" by the off-leash heeling past other dogs, cats, people etc. that they forgave the use of the collar! Since returning, the dog has attacked each of my dogs on two separate occasions and now has developed a full-blown people aggression problem - all those shocks while he looked at ME walking the dogs by and reacted. You can hear his yelps from one block to the next when he reacts, and then gets shocked because he won't and can't listen to their requests to quiet.
Engineer Explains How the Collars Work
I am Jan's (Casey's) Engineer she mentioned in a previous post. "Ground" refers to the return path for the electricity. We normally diagram circuits as if the electricity originates through the Positive terminal, then through the wire to the load, then returns through the ground wire to the negative terminal. This works for flashlights, dog collars, Budweiser signs, and Nuclear power plants. Electricity flows through a circuit to accomplish the task that we request of it. Shock collars use the dog's skin for part of the circuit.
In the collars, there are two terminals that contact the animal's skin. When the circuit is activated, One terminal is energized. The "load" is the animal's flesh, and the other terminal provides the ground: return path. Note that even though the two terminals on the collar are only a few centimeters apart, the electricity follows the path of least resistance. If the skin is dry and nonconductive, the voltage in the collar is high enough so that the electricity can spark through the skin into moist, conductive tissue underneath. This tissue is full of nerve endings and quite sensitive. Repetitive zaps in the same place can leave a burn, although the damage from an individual zap is quite small, but real. When I tried the anti-barking shock collar, it left darkened patches on my skin where the electrodes had been in contact....and it hurt. I am heckuva bigger energy absorber than a bichon.
Trainer and Husband Try Out Shock Collar
Hi, I am Angelica Steinker. Dog trainer and agility obsessed. :-)
I thought I would tell this story: I bought an old shock collar from a client who used it to "fix" her dog aggressive dog. It did not "work." So we traded because I really wanted to shock myself to see how much it hurts and so on. The shock collar is an expensive model. I forgot the brand. Anyway, I put it on one and shocked myself. Mild discomfort. Nothing I would be willing to subject my dog to but nothing horrible. On two it hurt so much I wimped out from turning it up any higher. It goes to 9.
After the level two shock my arm continued to twitch even though the shock was no longer turned on. That was interesting and made me wonder about the "correction" being timed properly.
Next my husband shocked himself. My husband is a "normal" person he loves the dogs but is not obsessed. He does not know much about dog training and he never works our dogs. On level one he felt almost nothing. Two was mildly uncomfortable on three he said, "people are sick as hell." angelica
Courteous Canine, Inc. Dog School
Shock Collar Abuse and Accident -Trainer's Eye Witness Account
A local trainer was doing shock collar demos at a pet expo where my club was doing clicker and agility demos. She was using her 5 month old Jack Russell Terrier (JRT) as the demo dog.
The puppy got out of her crate when this trainer left her booth, and ran loose around the expo. A friend of mine caught the puppy and was carrying it around looking for the trainer. My friend noticed that the puppy shook hard in her arms intermittently. my friend then noticed that when the puppy shook, the red light on her collar was on. The trainer was trying to find her puppy by shocking it as a cue to recall.
The next year, at the same pet expo, we had another shock training demo. after the demo, the trainer was taking his two GSD's outside and the collar broke on one of them. the entire audience saw this happen.
The collar was burning the dog and would not turn off. the dog was screaming at the top of its lungs and bolted for the open exit door. The trainer was shouting at him to SIT! SIT! while he was trying to turn off the collar with his remote, and he couldn’t turn it off. The dog was screaming and running. and the other German Shepherd was in a total panic because he was off leash and was trying to stay in heel position with the trainer who was running after the other dog. This trainer had walked his dogs all around the expo off-leash and would shock them if they got out of position. Finally the trainer caught up to the screaming dog and grabbed the collar and literally ripped it off the dog's neck while continuing to yell SIT!
I realized I was crying and holding my Sheltie/Border collie/Jack Russell Snap, who only weighs 20 pounds, really tight against my chest as if to protect him. and I yelled really loud, "I guess electricity doesn't always work to train dogs! That's a shock!" A bunch of people laughed.
Later I was mortified that I lost it and behaved unprofessionally. But the image of those two Shepherds is burned into my mind, many months later. my heart is beating faster as I relive this, actually.
Leslie McDevitt (author of "Control Unleashed")
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The Use of Shock Collars in the Training of Humans
Shock Collars as Used in Competition Obedience: Some competition obedience trainers use shock collar training to perfect their dogs’ performance. Gitta Vaughn suggests that a better quicker way to reach those performance goals would be to start with the E collar on the owner/handler. This piece of satire (below) is dedicated to all the competition trainers who shock their dogs to get better ring scores.
By Gitta Vaughn
If the E-collar is such a miracle tool in creating reliability and flawlessness - then why don't we use it to train humans? Maybe we could speed up the training process if we used two collars, one for the dog, and one for owner/trainer to zap them for their handling errors until they are perfect as a team! You might be able to cure the owner's mistakes in one setting! What about sports coaches… they could certainly improve performance with the use well-timed electric stimulations. But why stop there? There are so many professions where we would want perfection. Do you really want to get on an airplane with a pilot who has not been trained to be absolutely reliable? Or have a surgeon cut on your anatomy with the lack of final proofing with electric shock? Bus drivers, police officers, paramedics--the list is endless. Just make sure you sell it as stimulating e-touch feedback communication. Put a trademark on it and on off you go! Somehow I suspect if it wasn't theoretical for the humans involved, there would be far fewer converts so eager anymore to subject their dogs to some meaningful communication.
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From the Horse’s Mouth
An Informal Interview With a Trainer Experienced with the Use of Electronic Remote/Shock Collars
BH: Many shock collar trainers claim that they can use a stimulation setting/level on the transmitter that does not cause the dog any discomfort. How does the trainer determine that the level of stimulation will be punishing enough to be effective without going too far and causing the dog undue pain?
Other Trainer: You GUESS! And you may be right, or you may have a trembling mass of dog urinating and defecating all over himself on the lowest setting. Granted, most times you will come pretty close…we don't talk about the times where you guess completely wrong. The softer the dogs, the more likely the chance they will be extremely sensitive…And guess what a truly dominant dog may do? He knows where the leash pops come from - he knows where that other (shock) pain came from. I have seen it a couple of times that the dog whirled around to teach that human a lesson. In a group setting, another dog who just happens to be on the around may get the blame. You don't KNOW until you press the button. It is an educated guess, nothing more.
BH: How does the shock collar trainer avoid negative fall out from stressing the dog during this trial and error process of determining the optimal setting?
Other Trainer: Well, you pray and hope for the best before you try it for the first time. To be on the safe side you start a bit lower than you think you need to, and you have to keep the environment in mind. You can't avoid fall-out as long as you don't control 100% of your environment and even then you might run into that one ultra-sensitive dog. You can minimize the potential for a wrong association, (what the shocked dog learns to fear/avoid) but you can't avoid it completely. In a lab you control the environment. In life you don't. And this is where zapping can backfire. That stranger or other dog or whatever is already a perceived bad thing. Now you add real physical pain to the mix and all the dog learns is to avoid and not to express his emotional state. One way to create a time bomb.
BH: Some E collar trainers tout their method as the best way to teach dogs basic obedience behaviors such as walking without pulling on leash. Would you recommend using a shock collar to teach loose leash walking?
Other Trainer: Having used the E-collar for avoidance training, (training dogs to shun snakes or not to chase cats or deer) which has more than enough potential pitfalls, the issue of loose leash walking is just not a big enough problem for me to be willing to deal with a much more complex can of worms…such as the clients being on their own to use it whenever and however they may see fit. I have to rely on them to take it off to prevent sores, to follow instructions so the dog does not become collar smart.
BH: OK, so what about the claims these trainers make that they can cure predatory chasing of other animals with the remote/shock collar?
Other Trainer: They don't cure poop. They just hope to put a strong enough lid on it. Like avoidance training might hold only so long when temptation and desire build up and then you need to refresh the pain and fear so they can override the desire to hunt...
Done properly, the dog will not become collar smart. That is always shitty work. If you have a collar smart dog you can make the e-collar a lifelong companion, give it enough time for the dog to forget, combine the collar with something else when that new piece of equipment (harness) is not being used, the dog thinks he is safe. How the owner maintains control depends on the owner. Do they refresh at the very first hints that the dog is merely thinking about it or do they wait till the bad behavior is in full bloom? If they see it early, usually one session will put the lid back on.
If it was true that shock could CURE it, then any other means of physical punishment would also cure it. But it doesn’t. Can't, since you are only dealing with the outward symptoms and not the inner motivation. For a soft dog with less conflict/stress it may last a lifetime and seem a CURE, but in reality it is only a question of time and circumstances… I bet at that point the dog will be even more stressed because he is most likely to anticipate the shock. If you have a toothache and take strong enough drugs the pain will go away. Cure? Marketing. Nothing but marketing. The modern human wants everything right now, without effort, with guaranteed results and preferably cheap. Fast food, weight loss, dog training. The modern human does not want the inconvenience of changing habits and lifestyles (even if temporary), does not want the inconvenience of investing time into weeks of training (how many drop out of an 8 week class?), the inconvenience of understanding basic dog behavior and basic learning theory. Smart marketing sells people what they want. It is primarily about selling.
BH: Have you ever seen that being shocked actually increase the subject dog’s aggression toward other animals?
Other Trainer: Oddly, I have never experienced increased aggression towards cat, deer, sheep etc. Strong avoidance yes. Increased aggression towards other dogs and humans I have seen numerous times.
BH: One shock collar trainer said that if she got a call about a German Shepherd that had just killed a cat, she sure wouldn’t show up with a clicker. So, what happens when instead this trainer shows up with her shock collar?
Other Trainer: I prefer my skin without additional holes and I would not bring my E-collar to the first appointment one way or another. I'd bring lots of paper, treats and a clicker just to evaluate the dog and create a relaxed atmosphere before I decide on anything. I think it is more than stupid and arrogant to walk in on your first appointment with cat blood still wet on the dog's muzzle, strap on the E-collar and go happily zapping away. It is plain unprofessional and just as dumb as her clicker example. I hope she has enough insurance because sooner or later she will need it.
BH: One of the toughest things I face in working with dog- aggressive dogs is helping the owners figure out ways they can get their dog around other dogs in controlled situations to do the counter-conditioning/desensitizing work, while avoiding letting their dog practice aggressive behavior in uncontrolled situations...So... wouldn’t shock collar trainers also need to practice repeat set ups, just as I do, in order to be sure that the dog’s avoidance response generalizes to more than one particular animal and situation?
Other Trainer: Most likely. One dog I worked using an E-collar on a cat killing issue had to go through several different looking cats before he was able to draw the conclusion that ALL cats are dangerous! Plus you most likely need different locations. Like working “Sit” only in your kitchen doesn't help in Petsmart…I have used it for avoidance training on the highest setting--I never had complete success after one session. Notice some people never leave the house without the E collar on the dog--Ah - you see that is exactly why they all claim they can fix it in one session.
BH: Yet the entire case that remote/shock collar proponents make for this training method/tool is based upon its supposed speediness, effectiveness and ease compared to positive training approaches!
Other Trainer: True, but do you really expect truth in advertising? Isn’t plastic surgery easy, virtually pain free, with no complications or side effects, no risk of death or permanent disfigurement - and thousands of people are more than eager to part with their money.
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What About Dogs Chasing Livestock?
Dogs chasing livestock is often held up as an example of an impossible problem to solve with reward based training but in contrast can be easily and quickly handled with a shock collar. Because dog that chase livestock can end up losing their homes or even their lives if someone decides to shoot them, the stakes are high, providing an additional rationale for use of the collar. Yet many trainers do manage to successfully solve this problem without resorting to shocking their dogs.
Someone wrote to ask me how he could keep his dogs from chasing cows and I passed his question along to some herding dog trainers. Here is a (paraphrased) post I got back that answers that suggests a management solution:
Note: The man who asked the question has since reported back that he has solved the problem by training his dogs to come when called and by building some additional fencing.
And here is another answer for those who want or need a training solution:
I have taught a number of dogs
to not chase sheep/chickens/cats etc.
using the following method.
Management is the key until the dog is completely safe around critters so your sister must keep the dog confined or leashed at all times. Teach a really great, fast down and deliver food to the dog when its in a down position (this is optional, but really helps to reduce the stress level of the other animals).
Find a very high value food that is easy to handle. For my whippet, it was chicken jerky - for one of our shelter dogs, it was cheddar cheese. Take the dog out where it can see the critter in question.
When the dog looks, mark the behavior with a word (or click) and feed a treat. If the dog cannot take its eyes away from the critter, retreat until it can. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
With my own dogs, I trained them about three times a week for about two hours (during my horse time).
With the shelter dog, her
prospective owner caught on to the training method quickly and worked the dog
for twenty to thirty minutes nearly every day.
With every dog that I have trained, I did the training while walking the grounds so that the behavior became generalized to the property.
"When I see a cat, I lie down and look at mom."
When the dog has mastered the "see a critter - turn and get a cookie," begin walking the dog on a long line rather than a six-foot leash. When the dog fully understands the same rule applies when 30 feet away, begin to let the dog drag the line. I would usually begin this part of the training with a tired dog, who had already been at the barn for a couple of hours.
Once the dog has mastered dragging the long line, you shorten that up to dragging the leash and then no leash.
I do not hurry to put this on a variable reinforcement schedule.
In every case, the consequences
were too great - much loved cats (and a dog who was heading back to the shelter)
and newborn lambs.
The training process takes about four to six weeks depending on the commitment of the person.
The whippet ended up getting to the point where he could be loose hunting ground squirrels in the sheep pasture with sheep and lambs all around him.
The shelter dog has been been
living quite happily with her nine cats for the past two years. She will lie
watch them eating because that behavior is still so strongly conditioned to be "a good thing." We have also used this method for dogs who want to chase cars and other wheeled things.
This technique is a prey drive interrupter. The dog stops at "eye" rather continuing through eye, stalk, chase, bite, shake, kill. It didn't eliminate the prey cycle - all dogs that have gone through this training still chase something, but not the owner's livestock and other pets.
For those who are still considering a shock collar based on believing it is an easy one-shot magic bullet type of solution, consider that one trainer describes the process more realistically as taking four weeks of time and effort as follows:
...two weeks of "dummy collar" work (putting on and taking off the collar
throughout the day,) and two weeks of working with an active collar, to achieve
the desired response (no more chasing
livestock.) The first four days of the "active collar" time was not actually
using the remote collar, but working with the dog on a long line at a distance
to teach an alternative behavior.
One dog required that I come back and do "refresher work" after 3 months, which consisted of lots of strategic exposure using positive reinforcement
and two collar corrections, over the course of 4 days.
"Short Circuit" , by Candy Kennedy : http://www.abcollie.com/articles/art17.html
*"This article explains why using shock collars to train Border collies to herd is harmful to the individual dog, the relationship between dog and owner, and to the future of the breed."
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E Collars and Snake-Breaking
Trainer (anonymous) : "An e-collar is the only method I've ever seen that reliably teaches a dog to avoid snakes."
Trainer Gabriella Ravani: E-collar snake breaking DOES NOT provide magical lifesaving results! I know personally of 3 cases where it failed. In fact, in 2 of the 3 failures -- it failed miserably.
Case #1: A friend in one of my agility classes, who is also a client of my puppy kindergarten classes…took her Jack Russell Terrier to e-collar snake aversion training - one week later, hubby took 2 of their dogs to work with him and let them out to run in a field near his job -- Dottie the JRT was frolicking, yelped, obviously bitten by rattler and despite an immediate trip to the nearest vet, Dottie died.
Case #2: An agility student of mine took her JRT to the same e-collar snake aversion training (it was a seminar, the individuals in Case #1 & Case #2 are friends and went together). Her female didn't learn that snakes were dangerous-- instead her dog learned that being in groups of people and their dogs is painful! This dog is now ruined for agility and can no longer run in agility trials, the park like setting and crowd of people and dogs were too similar to the aversion seminar setting, resulting in a dog who is a shivering wreck on the agility field. Her owner no longer enters her in trials, which is so sad as the dog still really loves class and is very talented. Owner is heartbroken as she feels she has damaged her dog for life.
Case #3: Obedience client with a Lab who likes to hike the local trails. Dog attended the aversion training, freaked out dramatically when zapped (should I say "stimmed" for those who like to pretend electric shocks don't hurt?) for looking at the snake. This dog was traumatized enough at the first station (there are 3 - sight, smell & rattle) and never registered the sound or smell at the following stations (no one knew this, the master "dog reader" never seemed to notice that all learning had stopped with the first shock). A couple of months later, the client is hiking the canyon trails and her dog starts rooting around the bushes in earnest, she goes to check out what he is so interested in and what does she see not 5 feet away (where the dog was not looking) but a large rattler -- her dog didn't know to avoid the smell and could've easily been bitten if his owner hadn't gone in his direction, seen the snake & gotten them both out of there.
I live in So Cal where the rattlesnakes are predicted to be worse this year due to our rainy winter. I review with all of my clients their options (management, training, vaccine) and always mention that THERE IS NO 100% in any training and nothing replaces vigilance around long grass, bushes & brush, a solid recall and a short leash on trails.
Great Dogs Training & Education
San Diego, CA
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About Invisible Fencing Systems
I have been doing in-the-home client training for almost 20 years. I have been doing aggressive behavior cases for about 10 years. Here are a few of the negative experiences my clients have had with this equipment:
Nice Labrador retriever male about 3 years old. Loved to greet the children as they passed his yard on the way home from school. He bit a little girl in the face. In the corner of the yard near the boundary. After a complete history and observing the dog, it certainly seemed likely that he wanted to be petted by the girl, got shocked and associated the shock with the girl...The family that owned this really nice Lab, loved the way he interacted with their 18 mo. old son. Lucky they called me in...Dog got to stay alive and in the home.
Normal male Viszla adult with housetraining issues--dog refused to go outside after being shocked with this equipment. Dog was probably put down, because owner did not believe his expensive equipment intended to give his dog more freedom could be causing the problem. Blamed the dog.
Normal male Chessy, bout 3 yrs. old, no history of prior aggression, bit the female owner's best female friend. The owner was using inside boundaries that shocked the dog if he tried to enter rooms that were off limits. Both owners were doctors with an expensive home on a golf course...husband was worried about liability issues. Husband and wife would fight over the dog...after many visits and lots of expense, I believe I convinced them not to let the dog outside (where they also had an outside system) without supervision. Believe they continued to follow my advice and dog got to stay alive and in the home.
My attitude has been that if the owner has this equipment and it has caused no harm, I will not tell them to stop using it.
I would never recommend this equipment because of the risk...We can't always have what we want in life--dogs appearing to run free without adult supervision and still be safe.
Lt. Joel Walton, CPDT
Certified Pet Dog Trainer
Positive Puppy Training Works
Labrador Retrievers for Dummies
I have seen at least 2 lovely, apparently very stable dogs, end up with serious aggression problems that I believe were totally and solely the result of their confinement in an electronic containment system. Different owners--one a Golden retriever, the other an Airedale. We salvaged the Golden; the Airedale was ultimately euthanized.
Pat Miller, CPDT, CDBC
Peaceable Paws, LLC
PO Box 3146
Hagerstown, MD 21741
Author of "The Power of Positive Dog Training," and "Positive Perspectives"
Member IPDTA, ABMA, IAABC
Member APDT, #1238P, exp 12/06
This morning I saw the usual prominent ad in the Houston Chronicle lifestyle section for invisible fences.
It reminded me of three experiences that people close to me have had with them.
The first of these experiences occurred with our next door neighbors during the time we were living in a north Chicago suburb (years before I became a dog trainer). Our block backed up to a golf course and the next door neighbors whose property adjoined the golf course got a beautiful white Samoyed male pup for Christmas. Rather than choosing a wrought iron fence they installed an invisible fence. Soon the pup grew into an adolescent and every day we heard him give a yelp/scream as he bounded out of the fence to freedom. He loved romping on the golf course and sometime ran up and stole balls. The end of the story is that the dog disappeared and when we asked about him, the neighbors said they had found a home for him with a farmer somewhere.
The second experience happened to another family member. She had an adopted Border collie mix and when they moved to an area in Virginia where most of the yards are fenceless, they installed an invisible fence. One day a repairman came on their property and the dog gave him a serious bite on the leg. He called local law enforcement and threatened a law suit. Of course after that, they knew to confine the dog if they were expecting company, but that didn’t solve the problem of what to do if someone unexpectedly came into their yard while the dog was outside.
The third experience happened when my sister-in-law’s very gentle and mellow Great Dane accidentally got out and wandered inside someone’s invisible fence where he was attacked and almost killed by two dogs wearing E collars. He required both extensive emergency surgery and many weeks of special care before he recovered from his injuries.
These three incidents illustrate very real and obvious problems and risks associated with this type of containment system. In the Holly’s Den “Behavior Modification Training Guide for Reactive and Aggressive Dogs,” I specifically warn that invisible fences are never an appropriate choice for reactive/aggressive dogs.
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Position Statement: American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
AVSAB’s position is
that punishment (e.g. choke chains, pinch collars, and electronic collars)
should not be used as a first-line or early-use treatment for behavior problems.
This is due to the potential adverse effects which
include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors, and injury to animals and people interacting with animals.
To read the full statement: http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/Combined_Punishment_Statements.pdf
Statement by Karen Overall M.A., V.M.D., PhD, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behavior
author of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals
Use of Shock Collars-Tue Dec 6, 2005
There is never any reason for pets to be shocked as a part of therapy or treatment…There are now terrific scientific and research data that show the harm that shock collars can do behaviorally. There is no longer a reason for people to remain misinformed. Let me make my opinion perfectly clear: Shock is not training - in the vast majority of cases it meets the criteria for abuse. In my patient population, dogs who have been ‘treated’ with shock have a much higher risk of an undesirable outcome (e.g., euthanasia) than dogs not subjected to shock, and I never recommend euthanasia. In all situations where shock has been used there is some damage done, even if we cannot easily see it. No pet owner needs to use this technique to achieve their goal. Dogs who cease to exhibit a problem behavior usually also cease to exhibit normal behaviors. The only data available support the idea that shock is neither an effective nor suitable training tool.
That said, it’s time we replaced everyone’s personal mythologies and opinions with data and scientific thinking. Such opportunities are now available, but are often not exploited.
For example, the statement: “ Major veterinary universities have tested E- collars since the mid 60’s when they were invented. No evidence of any damage, Physiological or psychological has ever been found.” is patently and wholly false. For the evidence re: data - see ( Links). As for the initial statement - it’s WRONG. It’s a MYTH. The specialty college (ACVB) even conducted a census a few years ago to see if we could find ANY truth to this and there was NONE. We couldn’t get anyone to say that they had - or knew someone who had - participated in such tests and studies. This pattern of behavioral repetition is representative of the danger of myth, and also of the power of the scientific method. Science tells you when you are wrong. Myth allows you to steal credibility where none is earned. That particular myth has damaged universities too long, and it has traded on the reputations of people who neither endorsed that decision, nor supported the finding, and it must stop…I have never thought we could get via electricity what we couldn’t get by advanced training and hard work. --Dr. Karen Overall
Position Statement: UK Association of Pet Dog Trainers
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), the UK's largest professional pet dog training body, is joining the fight to have the use of electric shock collars banned...
The APDT has a very strict code of conduct for its members, ensuring that dogs are trained only in a positive and humane way. Electric shock collars are totally at odds with this code, training dogs using pain and fear...The APDT
acknowledges that there is no behaviour or training problem in dogs that is best dealt with by delivering an electric shock into a dog's neck. All problems are best solved using up-to-date reward-based training methods and responsible dog ownership - following the APDT's motto of "kind, fair and effective". The APDT further recognizes that not only are these collars inhumane, but their use can give rise to far more serious problems than the ones originally being treated - often causing serious aggression or debilitating fearful behaviors...For further information contact: Carolyn Menteith, APDT Media Officer on 01932 872069
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Meanwhile, back in the USA--Mixed Messages from the APDT
One of the important issues facing APDT today is the need to establish standards of professionalism, scientific validity and quality control of the educational and marketing activities that the organization sponsors or promotes. In addition the APDT has still not established clear ethical standards regarding the training and treatment of pet dogs.
An ongoing dispute within the APDT concerns whether or not an E collar can be an appropriate training tool when used in a way that is not abusive by an experienced competent trainer. Meanwhile the manufacturing, mass marketing, and selling of shock collars on the internet and in pet and sporting goods stores directly to inexperienced pet owners is a big and growing business in the US. While the APDT remains silent about 1) the ethics of marketing shock collars directly to the dog owning public and 2) whether shock is an appropriate training tool for teaching basic obedience or for addressing problems of fear and aggression (refer to AVSAB position statement above) countless dogs in the hands of countless inexperienced owner/handlers all over the country continue to be shocked every day.
Having an open tent membership policy or encouraging members to discuss philosophical differences is and should be a separate issue from subsequently allowing members to use the organizational identity to market and promote training practices, courses, books, seminars and videos that are at odds with the organization's principles of conduct.
What is at stake here is not just another abstract philosophical/policy disagreement or political power fight. The real suffering of real animals is what makes this issue one that should drive people who care about dogs to act in ways that are congruent with protecting them and promoting their welfare.
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Here is a short excerpt taken from an article on the web site of Adam Katz in which Katz responds with advice to someone who has started training with an E collar after reading his book:
"Owner Inadvertently Misusing His Electronic Collar"
[DAVID:] Well, seems the connection was not all there on the test, and after a run out to catch the Frisbee and about half way back Dave says, "Belle sit" and she proceeds on her usual "I can go 10 feet before I actually sit (which is actually a down, but I'll get to that in a second)" and Dave hits the button on the remote, and Belle screams out in pain (seems the connection is much better now), does almost a complete back flip, drops the Frisbee and runs for the door" I let her inside and she heads for the darkest most remote place she can find.
I singled out this particular paragraph because the picture it paints of what Belle must have felt to do “almost a complete back flip” made a deep impression on my mind. To read the complete article, use this link: http://www.dogproblems.com/art30.htm
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Statement on Training Dogs With Shock Collars by Cathy Toft, APDT #63420
I thought it might be helpful to discussions of shock collars to share with the group here that I trained for 2 years with Jim Dobbs who helped Tritonics to develop and test its shock collars. Before everyone recoils in shock (no pun intended) this was back in 1995. I had just been introduced to dog training and was horrified and dismayed at what I thought was stupid, illogical anthropomorphisms of traditional dog training. When I tried to train my dogs to herd sheep, that was the last straw. In my introduction to dog training, I was told to choke, hang, yell at, hit, and throw objects at my dog to train her. There had to be a better way.
chose to train with the best trainer I could find because I knew what a
potentially powerful method a shock collar is and how much damage it could do if
you didn’t know what you were doing. I doubt that most people would be fortunate
enough to have one of the best e-collar trainers arguably in the world only a
few miles away and spend the effort I spent to learn from him. By the way, I
took much of what he taught me about dog training in general into my R+
(positive reinforcement) only training and depend on it to this day. But my
point here is that I learned from the best how to use P+ (positive punishment)
and R- (negative reinforcement) as training tools.
In a nutshell, if P+ were the only way to train a dog, I became of the opinion that a shock collar was the least objectionable P+ method. That's why I learned to use one. If a shock collar is used correctly, it seemed far less inhumane than those other ways and far more effective, which was part of being less inhumane--the punishment (pain, fear) was brief, precise, and impersonal--it was precise in the sense of being precisely timed and precisely calibrated to the dog's pain threshold.
I abandoned that approach when I was introduced to the clicker two years later, because I found that method of training just as precise, far more humane, and when correctly used, far more effective. Although *Bob Bailey states that he does rarely use punishment to train an animal, as I explain below, P+ is not a tool I would ever plan to use as the foundation of my training.
took away from what I learned about training gun dogs and herding dogs is
interesting in hindsight. What I learned is that the shock collar works best
(least bad) for dogs bred to have high pain thresholds and trained for
instinctive work for which they have a strong drive, i.e., herding and hunting.
The dogs are willing to work through pain to do the work itself, which is highly
reinforcing. The shock collar works far less well or not at all for obedience
and agility respectively. The dogs that do best with shock collar training are
those that figure out they can keep the collar from going on (i.e. trainer is
skilled and timing is perfect).
With that hindsight and first hand experience, I can now look back at training with a shock collar, like your anonymous trainer, and say the following:
1. When used correctly, shock collars are probably the least inhumane way to train with P+ (punishment) as your foundation modality.
2. To learn to use a shock collar correctly is not easy. It requires finding an expert to learn from and many months of learning how to use it.
3. Therefore JQP cannot be trusted to use a shock collar correctly ever, and thus it is a cruel tool to place in the hands of the ignorant.
4. If a person does know how to use a shock collar correctly, I would argue that even the most skilled trainer should never use it as a foundation training tool. Why? Because no matter what your skill or modality of training, trainer error is part-and-parcel of training. It's not that you're always a bad trainer...it's because training an animal always involves the unexpected and the unpredictable. You need to read an animal absolutely correctly every time, you must think rapidly/instantly on your feet, you must always have a plan for whatever arises, and you must always have perfect timing. These conditions make avoiding trainer error impossible Bob Bailey has some comments about what method is "forgiving" but I'll just say here that if you are going to make regular training errors, using P+ ensures that your training will fail to produce reliable behavior far more than will training exclusively with R+.
5. On that note, P+ (punishment) training of all kinds produces stress in animals (including humans). Individuals under stress at the very least cannot learn optimally. Yes, all learning is stressful for dogs, even that induced with R+ (positive reinforcement), but the level of stress and the quality of stress is quite different with shock collars. Dogs being trained with a shock collar can become very shut down I've seen them shake with fear. Bob Bailey has distilled this problem for trainers with his usual brilliant simplicity and insight: it's Pavlov on one shoulder, Skinner on the other. (You can hear more about this in his new DVD). He says that if an animal is concerned about its very survival, it cannot learn. We also refer to that as a dog being in a limbic state. Shock collars alone are able to put dogs into limbic states, and in that state they are unable to learn with operant conditioning (in this case, the R- quadrant).
Therefore, I concluded that no matter what my level of skill in using a shock collar, and no matter how improved that method was over old fashioned jerking, hanging, yelling, shaking and hitting, any training using P+ is ultimately inhumane and ineffective if P+ and R- are your foundation modalities. Bailey says that, although he uses P+ rarely, this is a method one never puts in the hands of a novice trainer. P+ must be used only by the most skilled trainers and even then rarely, not as a foundation tool.
For these reasons, because shock collars have the potential to inflict far more pain and fear in the hands of the ignorant and the ill-willed, the shock collar is even more cruel than the usual methods of traditional dog training when used by the vast majority of people.
If my own experience in training with shock collars (back in the bad old day of traditional dog training) gives me any additional credibility, I think I have an obligation to use my experience and knowledge to ban their use by the public and average pet owners and dog trainers.
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“What Timmy Never Did to Lassie” and "In Search of Soulful Coherence"
These are the titles of Chapters 17 and 18 in Bones Would Rain From the Sky by Suzanne Clothier. who has given me permission to talk about these chapters... here is a very brief synopsis, including a few quotes:
See the Dog
1. The late Vicki Hearne was a dog trainer, author, professor and poet who wrote a well received book describing her training interactions with her dog Salty. These interactions included witty descriptions of how she responded to Salty's love of digging holes by filling the holes with water and holding Salty's head under the water. Suzanne both quotes and paraphrases some of Hearne's descriptions--then goes on to offer a series of probing comments and questions:
If a child did something like this, might we not see that as a red flag that the child needed professional help? What happens on our journey from childhood to adulthood that changes us from children who were taught to be gentle and kind to our dogs, into men and women willing to tolerate violence, unable to recognize cruelty when we see it with our own eyes? At what point did we put on blinders and stop being able to "See the dog?"
Philosophy Vs. Practice: There is a a profound incongruence in dog training circles between the philosophy of kind treatment that gets so much lip service versus what is accepted and justified in practice --choking, hitting, jerking, pinching, dragging, gagging, biting-- (obviously, I would add, shocking dogs to this list). SC points out that traditionally dogs with enough spirit to resist such treatment have only earned much harsher punishments that may even include hanging/helicoptering --a technique that can result in serious injury or death.
"In our minds, we can pity Black Beauty Beauty, be moved to tears by the poetry in a dog's soul, and yet still ask the question, 'How hard do you hit the dog'?"
"Add a catchy phrase and a cute gimmick and no will notice the dog's ears flattening on his head in apprehension...smile and chuckle while snapping the dog's collar harshly, drop some celebrity names, and maybe quote a philosopher, and it's a safe bet no one will notice the dog's tail wagging anxiously between his thighs...the emperor not only has new clothes, he may also be working on a new career as a dog trainer."
2.The Influence of Authority Figures: This section recounts the results of a famous psychological study conducted by Stanley Milgram to test the willingness of the human subjects, students at Yale University, to follow orders to inflict an increasing level of pain on others.
The student subjects who were actually being studied were (falsely) told that they were participating in an experiment about the effects of punishment on memory and learning.
Their assigned job was to deliver an electric shock for any wrong answers by one of the people in the other group during sessions in which they believed these others were having their memories tested; unknown to them, the people in this second group were actually actors.
What made this study famous were the unexpected results: More than 60% of the Yale students were willing to follow the directions of the scientist they believed to be in charge, and to keep increasing the level of shock they delivered to the people in the other group--up to 450 volts -- in spite of what they believed to be the real "protests, pleas and screams" from their victims! Even more chilling was that the results of this study were subsequently repeated and upheld in several follow up studies. Although there was a rather wide spectrum of feelings displayed by the shockers, from minimal concern to great anxiety and weeping about the fate of those being shocked, apparently very few possessed the integrity and inner resources to defy authority.
3. Dealing with Guilt and Following Our Own Inner Lights: And finally, words of comfort for those of us with our own regrets about the past and how we can seek and find our own better selves.
"The moment we begin to look at our past using a light we acquired only recently, things get distorted. We can only accept responsibility for what we know; it is unfair to look back and assign our then-unknowing selves responsibility for what we did not understand...but we are deeply accountable for what we do know...the line between knowing and not knowing looks sharp and crisp only from a distance...up close there is a blurring that occurs...not yet a knowing but more a prickling in the soul...seek these pricklings, hunt for them, coax them out of hiding, do not fear these but honor them."
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On Shocking Our Dogs by Trish King - Dec 2011 - Just Because We Can Doesn't Mean We Should:
"Short Circuit" , by Candy Kennedy from a : http://www.abcollie.com/articles/art17.html
*This article explains why using shock collars to train Border collies to herd is harmful to the individual dog, the relationship between dog and owner, and to the future of the breed.
Karen Overall: At the July 2005 International Veterinary Behavior Meeting, held in conjunction with the AVSAB and ACVB research meetings, data were presented by E. Schalke, J. Stichnoth, and R. Jones-Baade that documented these damaging effects (Stress symptoms caused by the use of electric training collars on dogs (Canis familiaris) in everyday life situations. Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, Papers presented at the 5th Int’l IVBM. Purdue University Press, 2005:139-145. [ISBN 987-1-55752-409-5; 1-558753-409- 8]).
This follows on the excellent work done by Dutch researchers, in cooperation with their working dog groups and trainers, that showed that working / patrol dogs were adversely affected by their ‘training’ with shock, long after the shock occurred (Schilder MBH, van der Borg JAM. Training dogs with the help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2003;85:319-334)...
The Dutch Study
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Can Aggression in Dogs Be Elicited Through the Use of Electronic Pet Containment Systems?
Pressure Necrosis/Burns from E collar used with Invisible Fence System
From the San Francisco SPCA:
From the Association of Pet Behavior Counsellors:
More Recommended Reading
“Shock or Awe?" Pat Miller, Whole Dog Journal, p. 18-21, Feb 2006.
How You Can Help
If you'd like to add your name to the growing list of professional dog trainers, behavior consultants, pet owners and others who are taking a stand against the use of Remote/Electronic/Shock/E Collars for training dogs and controlling their behavior, sign up here: http://www.baddogsinc.com/noshockcollarcoalition.html
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