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“Shock Collar” Controversy

We commonly hear about stories of dogs that have been improperly trained with remote training collars, shock collars if you will. One article said, “The shock hurt her and made her afraid of other dogs and people.” We never want a dog to be in pain or to fear us. We would like to explain how many trainers do use these tools improperly and how our methods are different. Something that we commonly say and feel the need to repeat often to people is TRAINING TOOLS AND COLLARS DO NOT ABUSE DOGS, PEOPLE DO.

Every training tool has been made as a way to communicate with dogs in a way that they understand. If we are constantly just saying words to our dogs, they will not understand. They are physical creatures who communicate with each other through nips, showing teeth, head down and tails wagging in the air, and stares. They do not originally know what English or any other language means; these are just noises to them. The most common mistake that humans make is to anthropomorphize animals. This means giving animals human feelings or traits. Dogs do not regret and they do not hold grudges.

An article we recently read tried to explain the difference between the use of the remote collar to positive reinforcement when the collar is placed on a human, “So you arrive in America not speaking English and you have a teacher who puts a shock collar around your neck and trains you how to do everything by giving you a shock when you aren’t performing a task correctly. Or you have a teacher who trains you with praise, stuffed animals, a box of candy, smiles and mild corrections. Which teacher would you have the best relationship with?” While to us this sounds like a very simple answer, it is not a good example. Dogs explore the world with their mouths and that is often how they communicate. A mother may nip her pup or snarl to get him to stop bothering her. The puppy understands and is not hurt. This would be identical to a human mother telling her child “stop that” when he is bothering her. The key to all of this is the level at which each mother can get her child to stop. If you can simply ask in a nice voice for your son to leave you alone there is no reason to scream. Same for a dog, if they can show a little teeth and if the pup goes away there is no need to bite.

When we use remote collars, we are able to find the exact level that every dog responds to. We do not want any dog to yelp or cower in fear. If I can ask them to do something there is no reason to yell at them. The article also states, “So called, e-collar trainers teach a dog to come when called by shocking them continuously until they reach the trainer. Then the continuous shock subsides. Simply put, all shock, e-collar training is a dog that obeys or does tricks to turn off the pain.” This is far from how we use these collars, although it is not uncommon to find trainers out there that do use the remote collar this way.

Another point made by the same article explained that dog trainers who use remote collars do not use positive methods, “We have checked out the website of a number of dog trainers who train with shock collars. You will see claims like: No Clickers, No Treats, No Bribes, Guaranteed Off Leash, [and] Guaranteed Training or Your Money Back.” At Topline K9 Obedience we do use the clicker method, we use tons of treats, and we are often bribing the dogs. It is important that the dogs be rewarded. If you went to work every day and did not get paid, there would be no point in going to work and you would probably stop. Same with dogs, we want them to want to do what we are asking of them. We want it to be fun. The remote collar allows us to stop unwanted behaviors and redirect them to wanted behaviors as well as add reliability. As for “guaranteed off leash” or “money back guarantee,” we do not offer these things. Every dog learns differently and there is no way to know what a dog will be able to learn once in training. Instead we stand by our training. We want our clients to be happy with their dog and we will do all we can to make that possible.

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