Why are we still putting shock collars on dogs?

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There are few things that cannot be accomplished with reward-based positive reinforcement dog training. Squirrels can learn obstacle courses. Fish can learn to swim through hoops.  Dogs can read! So why is there still widespread use of shock collars for dogs?

Yesterday, GPS titan Garmin, which sells a line of GPS-enabled dog collars for hunting dogs, announced their purchase of Tri-Tronics, an Arizona-company that also makes collars of this kind. But Tri-Tronics’ main business is shock collars for dog training. When I heard about this sale, I was shocked (not literally –thank goodness). But there’s been no kind  of  public outcry–no Facebook petition.  The failure of any kind of nascent boycott movement reminded me that a majority of dog owners don’t think of shock collars as anything out of the ordinary.

After all, shock collars work. But so does water boarding.

To understand why shock collars and positive reinforcement techniques both work, it helps to have a little Behaviorism 101: Every single action has a consequence that is either reinforcing, which means it encourages the chance that the behavior will repeat, or it’s punishing, which means it decreases the likelihood that the behavior will happen again.

Reinforcement and punishment can be either positive or negative. But, in this context, “positive” doesn’t mean “good.” It just means that something is added. And “negative” means something is taken away. Everything in life results in a consequence that is either reinforced or punished. There are four quadrants:

  • Positive reinforcement: You do something and then something good happens (Cook a meal and everyone raves. Result: You’ll make the recipe again.)
  • Negative reinforcement: You do something and then something bad stops happening (Bang on the ceiling and your neighbor turns down the loud music. Result: You’ll be inclined to bang the ceiling again next time the music is too loud.)
  • Positive punishment: You do something and something bad happens (Run a red light and you get a fine. Result: You’ll be less likely to speed.)
  • Negative punishment: You do something and something good stops happening (Miss curfew and your parents take away your allowance. Result: You’ll be less likely to stay out too late.)

As a positive reinforcement dog trainer, I encourage behaviors I like by creating favorable consequences that will make my dog do what I want him to do. This works so well that it obliterates the need to utilize negative reinforcement or any kind of punishment. Using positive reinforcement, you can train animals to do some pretty amazing things. Many service dogs and working dogs are trained using only positive reinforcement. Dogs who are taught using positive reinforcement tend to think that training is the coolest thing ever. Amos imitates Sponge Bob’s happy dance every time we start to train:

Electric shock collars are a tool used in negative reinforcement: To get a dog to sit using an electric collar, you turn on the shock and only turn it off once his butt hits the floor. The behavior is reinforced because the pain goes away. Immobilizing a prisoner and pouring water on his face until he speaks? Same idea. Except we’re doing this to creatures we supposedly love. This isn’t just bad for your soul: It’s also bad for your dog’s health. Repeated shocks produce the kind of stress that will raise a dog’s cortisol level, which can to all kinds of physical problems and ultimately shorten their lives.

Shock collars can also, of course, be used as punishers: the dog gets zapped every time he attempts to jump up, or tries to exit the boundary of the invisible fence. This also can work, but oftentimes the dog doesn’t necessarily equate the shock with the stimulus we perceive. This is Pavlovian conditioning, except dogs don’t have words to tell us the connections they’ve made. The dog gets shocked for jumping up on the UPS man, for instance, and decides the UPS man causes electric shocks, not the act of jumping. Or he races towards a squirrel, goes through the electric fence, and bam. Shock! Now squirrels are bad. Often, people with electric fences have dogs that bark like mad at anything outside of the fence’s perimeter. In dog language, they’re likely saying “Hey! Humans! Stay away! There’s a squirrel out there and he’ll give you a shock!” Either that, or else it’s “Fuck you squirrel!”

We have dogs in our lives because we love them. So why would we want to cause them this kind of confusion? If my dog isn’t understanding what I’m saying or what I want, I’d rather the consequence be that I give him a treat he didn’t deserve rather than give him a shock he’ll never forget.

Defenders of shock collars like to proclaim that the shocks are minimal and don’t cause the animals any real pain; seeing the look of terror on the faces of dogs I’ve watched get shocked, I kind of doubt that. Unfortunately, dogs can’t verbally describe the sensation of having electricity zapped into their necks. But YouTube is full of quite a few humans who’ve experimented with shock collars on themselves.

Yow. I think I’m going to go invest in a map.

For a good summary of  some of the recent studies that have been done on the use of shock collars, I direct you to this nice roundup of articles and recent studies on training with electric collars.

#StopShockingDogs

 

64 Responses

  1. Darla_99_99

    June 30, 2011 1:00 pm

    How long have you been training? Just wondering how many dog reactive/aggressive dogs you’ve trained.

    Reply
    • K9mythbuster

      July 1, 2011 4:03 am

      I’m not the author, but I am a trainer.  I’ve been training for over 10 years and have had over 3,000 dogs come through my classes and private lessons.

      I’ve worked with hundreds of reactive/aggressive dogs and have found over the years that punishment-based methods, such as the use of the shock collar as either positive punishment or negative reinforcement, are not successful when used by the average dog owner and that the average shock collar trainer is not successful at transferring their timing and skill to the average dog owner, leaving dogs confused, anxious and worse than they started.

      Having started as a so-called “balanced trainer” (reward and punishment), I have never had the success in modifying aggressive behavior with punishment that I have with positive methods.

      Reply
  2. Joe R.

    June 30, 2011 1:05 pm

    You don’t touch on the proper responsible use for shock collars. I’ll agree that most people do not use them responsibly because most people are not responsible dog owners.

    We have two very well-trained dogs. They were trained with positive reinforcement and both responded very well. They know the “uhht-uhht” verbal command means stop.

    We use our shock collars as 400 foot leashes. If the verbal command doesn’t work, they get a tone. They learned after one shock that the tone precedes a shock. The shock, set properly is equivalent to a two finger, stern poke from a hand. It’s to snap them out of the zone when they are focused. It’s not for being a lazy dog owner. It’s not to punish them until they get it. It, like a long lead, its only for their safety. 

    We hike off-leash with our dogs very often and also take them canoeing with us where they’re in and out of the water, off leash. One is two years old and the other turns one soon. They have a lot of new things to experience. If it’s something they shouldn’t be involved with they’ll get a verbal command. Sometimes they’re they get in the prey-drive zone and a verbal command won’t do (usually they’re too far away for the verbal command to be harsh enough). A tone from the shock collar snaps them out of it. Since they learned the tone precedes a shock, we’ve never had to shock them. We’ve had the collars for 3 months.

    Used properly, a shock collars allows us to take our dogs place off-leash where we would otherwise need to keep them on a lead. It’s invaluable when used correctly.

    Reply
    • Lori

      June 30, 2011 2:22 pm

      I can take my dog to the same places, without a leash, and even if he is intensely focused on something- I can get his attention because I have a fabulous recall. It took a lot of work, time, effort- but I only used positive reinforcement and never had to hurt or scare him.  As I stated above- the tone is the equivalent physiologically to the shock, so bragging that you don’t have to actually shock them isn’t saying anything at all.  I’m glad you’ve had success with your shock collars and using pain to train your dog, and that there hasn’t been any fallout from that- other people may not be so lucky.

      Reply
      • Vladimir Elis

        June 30, 2011 4:04 pm

        Not all dogs are the same just like human beings. Some take long time to train, some takes less time. Just like we humans, no dog is the same, thus you need to stop that narrow minded thought process.

        Reply
      • guest

        June 30, 2011 4:53 pm

        he wasnt even bragging, he was stating. and the “psychological” damage… go hump a tree,  are you saying police shouldnt have sirens? that parents shouldnt verbally warn there kids there about to get spanked if they dont stop… its not like these collars are causing extreme amounts of pain, as has been pointed out its like a poke to the neck when used correctly. there is no way to train a dog without any type of negative reinforcement/punishment. even if its something you dont realize your doing there is some type of negative feedback the dog is receiving  when it does something wrong. as long as its not damaging the dog what does it matter the form of the negative feedback?

        Reply
        • GrandmasBoy

          July 2, 2011 2:56 pm

          “are you saying police shouldnt have sirens? that parents shouldnt verbally warn there kids there about to get spanked if they dont stop”

          Dogs =/= humans, and as cognitive as they are, they aren’t AS cognitive as adult humans.  They’re as cognitive as human toddlers.  Wanna shock a toddler into submission?  Be our guest, but don’t bitch and moan when you get brought up on abuse charges.

          “ there is no way to train a dog without any type of negative reinforcement/punishment.”

          You’re obviously an idiot who doesn’t ever watch Animal Planet/Victoria Stilwell.

          Reply
    • Patrick Minton

      July 1, 2011 12:17 am

      Joe,

      a) if the tone now works and you don’t need to shock them, why are they still wearing the collars?
      b) you honestly believe most people use collars like this? In other words, you believe that most people are NOT lazy?  I’m not sure if I love your optimism or pity your naivety.

      Reply
      • Wrj1953

        July 11, 2011 12:48 am

        Patrick,

        Learn what your talking about before you reply. The tone and shock are integrated into the same control system. In starting, you give your dog a gentle shock, (Ive done it to myself and it’s just a very small static electricity charge) and the tone is simultaneously administered. Therefore doggie gets tone and zap for bad behavior. If YOU are disciplined and zap doggie for the offense consistently, he will learn tone and shock go together. Then, with the controller, you turn shock OFF. Leave tone ON. Now you have the “shock collar” being worn, producing very effictive tones to which a smart doggie will respond to. It’s very humane, it’s life saving, and it’s loving.

        Reply
  3. Matt

    June 30, 2011 1:25 pm

    As Joe R Below points out, the proper use for the shock collars is never to actually have to shock them. As with Joe’s dog, my dog two has only been shocked a handful of times because the warning tone is all it takes to get her attention. I wouldn’t trade that piece of technology for anything.

    Reply
    • Lori

      June 30, 2011 2:17 pm

      Guess what Matt- even though you claim you only had to shock your dog a “handful” of times- EVERY time your dog hears the warning tone, it is emotionally/physiologically the SAME as the shock. Pavlov.  Glad you’ve had success with the shock collar but it doesn’t change the fact you’ve used pain/fear of pain to train your dog. Yes it works, but the ends don’t justify the means

      Reply
      • Vladimir Elis

        June 30, 2011 4:00 pm

        Lori.

        When you were a kid and you burned your self for the first ten times, you learned your lesson not to touch hot things or stick your fingers in to fire.

        Now that you have learned that lesson, your warning tone is a visual stimulation when you see a hot plate or a fire.  So its exact same pain/fear that many of us have trained our selfs with not to do something.

        Reply
        • GrandmasBoy

          July 2, 2011 3:30 pm

          But with your comment, you’re assuming that dogs are as cognitive as a human.  They are not.  They are as cognitive as a human -toddler- (most human toddlers have the brain capacity to link a stove with terrible pain;  some dogs do have the capacity to form these links, but some are less cognitively endowed).  Still, you would NEVER leave a human toddler unattended near a hot stove to begin with…RIGHT?

          Reply
    • GrandmasBoy

      July 2, 2011 3:26 pm

      …I like how it’s mostly men who’re commenting about shocking their dogs.  Thank God *normally* it’s women who give birth to and are the primary caretakers of their children (and normally, the only women who are so vehemently pro-shock are influenced by men and the irrational thinking of how “____ should be DISCIPLINED!”…or they are just dumb bitches like the Chicago Genital Shocker).  Maybe it should be the same for dogs.  Men should just have cats…cats that don’t need to be trained not to crap on the carpet.  But then again, these same asshatted men who say crap like the above are too lazy to clean the litterbox.

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    June 30, 2011 1:44 pm

    Regarding the article http://gizmodo.com/5816866/the-world-doesnt-need-shocking-collars-for-dogs, Jesus Diaz should disclose that the referenced link is his wife’s website/business.
    Also, I don’t know that the article referenced from this site is an unbiased and reliable source, since it is just a PDF file hosted on a dog training website. Of course the website owner would discourage a method that didn’t require paid dog training sessions. Personally, I prefer not to use negative reinforcement with my pets, but I can see cases where it might be necessary. I see nothing wrong with batting a kitten gently on the nose when it bites too hard. That is *exactly* what its mother and siblings do, and that is how kittens learn to play fight and become socialized. I agree that unrestrained use of negative reinforcement is likely to be counter-productive, but it doesn’t automatically follow that “shock collars are evil”.

    Reply
  5. Chi Chi

    June 30, 2011 1:52 pm

    I am thankful for this small, yet revealing glimpse into the canine psyche:

    “Hey! Humans! Stay away! There’s a squirrel out there and he’ll give you a shock!” Either that, or else it’s “Fuck you squirrel!”

    Tonight when my wife arrives from work and my dog begins barking at her, I will jump in and  join the dog by yelling “Fuck you, Amanda!  FUCK YOU!!!”

    Reply
  6. Matthew O'Neill

    June 30, 2011 3:20 pm

    What a stupid post.  

    “Often, people with electric fences have dogs that bark like mad at anything outside of the fence’s perimeter”

    Same goes for regular fences.  I’ve got 5 acres that my cattle dogs love to roam.  I can fence that in relatively cheaply with a invisible fence (which I have), as opposed to a “real” fence which would be astronomically expensive, and also limit the movement of other wildlife across my property.

    My dogs know exactly where the fence is, and it keeps them away from the road and unfriendly neighbors.

    I guess the other option would be to fence a really small portion of my yard, or only let them outside when I have time to walk them.  I wonder which they would prefer… 

    Reply
    • Alice Collie

      May 22, 2012 11:09 pm

      I think the post is more targeted at people that are lazy and quickly settle for the “electric collar” choice instead of spending some time training their dogs.

      I know of one instance for example where the owner used “shock therapy” on his dog whenever the dog “didn’t listen”.

      Reply
  7. Rob McMillin

    June 30, 2011 4:13 pm

    Strangely, predictably, the work by Tortora (“Safety Training: The Elimination of Avoidance-Motivated Aggression in Dogs, J. Experimental Psychology: General, 1983) doesn’t appear anywhere in the supposed survey of the literature of e-collars and dog training. This is of a piece with the general refusal to acknowledge that quality work is being done in this area, that e-collars are not the same thing as a taser, and that R+ training is not the alpha and omega of dog training. I forward you to my friend Janeen McMurtrie, who has a longer-form post on the subject at her blog, Smartdogs Weblog.

    http://bit.ly/jZZxNO

    Reply
    • Jo Jacques

      July 3, 2011 1:56 pm

      That’s because Tortora’s piece was not only funded by a shock collar company, but also, was not a true peer-reviewed scientific study.  If you noticed, the literature review stated in the leading paragraphs that only valid, peer-reviewed studies would be acceptable.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        July 4, 2011 2:00 am

        I checked the website for the journal http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/xge/index.aspx
        As with other such journals, there’s a link for “resources for submitters and reviewers” which implies that submissions are peer reviewed. According to a journal ranking service, http://www.eigenfactor.org, that is a very highly rated journal. As for funding, I saw on the masthead that Tortora worked for RemBehCon which seems to be a dog training service, not an e-collar manufacturer. I didn’t see any mention of the funding source. Also, as long as the research was valid and peer reviewed, it should be trustworthy. Do you know the name of the funding organization?

        Reply
  8. guest

    June 30, 2011 4:45 pm

    this is dumb. go pick flowers your fairy. my dog shits on the floor you better beleive im yelling at him and if he does it again hes getting a slap on the nose or a baby shock to the neck

    Reply
    • GrandmasBoy

      July 2, 2011 3:21 pm

      You’re an idiot who doesn’t deserve to be a canine guardian.  

      And take out your effing dog on a walk or two (or three) during the damned day.  Idiots like you don’t seem to comprehend that these are sentient, eating/shitting machines JUST LIKE YOU.

      I hope someone smacks you hard in the face the next time YOU had to hold it so long that you had to take a power dump (in the toilet).

      Reply
  9. Bluedogk9

    June 30, 2011 5:29 pm

    I’m a professional dog trainer and I could not agree more.   With all we have learned about canine behavior, I am in awe that aversive training not only persists but that there has been such a rise in use of shock collars.  Over the past few years, I am seeing a larger and larger number of dogs with severe behavioral issues developed only after the use of shock collars.  The main issue I have is novice handlers with no training experience using shock collars with dogs with fear issues.  A recipe for disaster.  Reward based training is such an easier and safer alternative.    

    Reply
  10. RealFacts

    June 30, 2011 5:40 pm

    Who uses Negative Reinforcement to train their dogs? It is counterproductive?

    Shock collards are used for Positive Punishment on some dogs that are too far away and don’t respond other reinforcements.

    Telling your dog NO is a Positive Punishment.

    How long have you been training?? “I’d rather the consequence be that I give him a treat he didn’t deserve” Seriously??? Professional trainers know how to choose the right time to give treats to avoid reinforcing bad behaviors that may become very difficult to correct

    I never used a shock collar but if used correctly they are not bad like you picture them

    This article is too Sensationalism.

    Reply
  11. Suzzie

    June 30, 2011 5:55 pm

    Unfortunately, when I had a dog that continually jumped the fence (sadly, once into a neighboring yard with a dog aggressive rottie), darned right I put in an invisible fence. Trained correctly, the dog understands where the boundaries are, and that crossing them is a big no no. After the two week training period, she never jumped the fence again. I tested the collar on myself – didn’t hurt, though it certainly does startle you. I kept it on the lowest level (of ten).

    Clicking does have tons of uses, and I clicker train all my current dogs, especially for shaping behaviors. However, clicking for “staying in the yard” is also extremely confusing. How is the dog going to figure out what you’re clicking for? This is one instance, where as long as the dog isn’t aggressive/reactive/fearful/too young/too old/too small, the invisible fence worked best. Shocking for stupid things like not sitting fast enough, yeah, that’s just idiotic.

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    June 30, 2011 6:01 pm

    @BlueDogK9: These collars have been around since the 1960′s, and in common use by members of the public, so perhaps there is some other explanation for “Over the past few years, I am seeing a larger and larger number of dogs with severe behavioral issues developed only after the use of shock collars.”

    As I mentioned elsewhere, there is a financial motive for animal trainers to claim the collars are ineffective or even harmful, and this needs to be taken into account by readers. Other than the financial motive, there is a political impetus from animal rights activists and ordinary folks who recoil at the idea of administering an electric shock to an animal, just on the face of it.

    On the other hand, we have to weigh anecdotal evidence and personal, emotionally-charged opinions against the outcomes of controlled experiments published in reputable scientific journals and other established sources, for example:

    “Instead of instilling social aversion and anxiety … animal and human research supports the notion that competent electronic [collar] training appears to promote positive social attachment, safety, and reward effects that may be provided and amplified via affectionate petting and reassuring praise. The preponderance of scientific evidence suggests that [electrical stimulation] escape/avoidance and pain reduction should promote long-term effects that are incompatible with fear and stress, making the trainer an object of significant extrinsic reward that actually enhances the dog’s welfare via an improved capacity for social coping, learning, and adaptation” [1].

    “No comparable techniques or tools currently available can match the efficacy and safety of the e-collar for establishing safe and reliable off-leash control. If minimizing the intensity, duration, and frequency of aversive stimulation during training is recognized as a significant factor in the definition of humane dog training, then the radio controlled e-collar must be ranked as one of the most humane dog-training tools currently available” [2].

    1. Lindsay, Steven R. (2005), Handbook, Ames, Iowa: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 611–612
    2. Lindsay, Steven R. (2005), Handbook, Ames, Iowa: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 586

    Above excerpt from a Wiki article on shock collars.

    Reply
    • GrandmasBoy

      July 2, 2011 3:32 pm

      “ These collars have been around since the 1960′s, and in common use by members of the public”

      So has Dominance Theory, but we now know that it is BUNK, as one of the main proponents of DT has come out against it because of updated scientific data.

      “As I mentioned elsewhere, there is a financial motive for animal trainers to claim the collars are ineffective or even harmful, and this needs to be taken into account by readers.”

      LOL…whaaaaat?

      “Above excerpt from a Wiki article on shock collars.”

      Wikipedia.  Really?

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        July 2, 2011 4:03 pm

        The original poster mentioned an increase in severe behavioral issues in the last few years due to the use of shock collars. I merely pointed out that the collars have been in use since the 1960′s. This suggests that the recent observations may have another cause.

        Regarding the Wikipedia article, the two quotes I included are not from the article itself, but from published sources summarized in the article. Also, there are numerous controlled studies published in refereed journals (as opposed to anecdotal and emotionally-driven stories) showing that shock collars are safe, humane, and effective.

        Reply
        • Duck

          July 4, 2011 4:06 am

          Possibly the cause is wider use of an easy-to-abuse technology by people who don’t know what they’re doing.

          Reply
          • Anonymous

            July 4, 2011 4:49 am

            Or, equally likely, that people are busier and confining pets in apartments without paying them enough attention. The claim here is that there is “scientific evidence” supporting a ban on these devices. From what I can see there is also evidence the devices are safe and effective being published in reputable journals and from what I can see, based on the above quotes, the latter is the prevailing stance at present.

  13. Figment

    June 30, 2011 9:29 pm

    I am vary vary curious as to how you use positive non negative reinforcement to stop a behavior?

    I have had dogs all my life, and have only ever used an invisible fence, never any form of remote shocking.  and i have been shocked my self several times when calibrating the fence.  its is startling but vary much like licking a 9 volt battery. and nothing like getting hit by 110v house wiring, which I have also experienced.  if when i was little given a choice between a spanking  shock i would chose the shock. but then that not the point.  i feel this article is written by some one who has no experience with the device or tools they are writing about.  and i am still curious how you stop a bad behavior with out the use of negative reinforcement.

    Reply
    • K9mythbuster

      July 1, 2011 3:59 am

      The answer is to be smarter than the dog.  If you use your bigger brain to anticipate the dog’s behavior, you can prevent the behavior from happening to begin with. 

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        July 1, 2011 10:42 am

        A very glib answer that doesn’t address what the person asked. You cannot possibly anticipate a dog’s every behavior, no matter how big your brain is, and you cannot be with the animal 24/7 to monitor and control it. Here are some examples: bites you on the leg, bolts out the door after a car, poops on the carpet, barks all night, chews up your shoes, chases the cat, eats a piece of chocolate, drags your pot roast off the counter top, and so on. In some cases, there is no second chance, as when a pet bolts out the door after a squirrel and gets hit by a car. There are times when the only solution is instant punishment associated with the undesirable or dangerous behavior you want to discourage, provided you are there to react.

        Reply
        • GrandmasBoy

          July 2, 2011 3:14 pm

          “You cannot possibly anticipate a dog’s every behavior…”

          Actually, you can, if you’re paying attention.  Would you ignore a toddler?  no?  Then you shouldn’t ignroe your dog.  And to your examples:

          “bites you on the leg” — Why would YOUR dog bite you on the leg?  What did you do to it to make it want to bite you?  Did you not socialize the dog correctly?  Did you not take the time to figure out what its stressors were?  Did you step on his tail?

          “bolts out the door after a car” — Your laziness to train your dog to “sit & stay” is NO excuse for a shock collar.  

          “poops on the carpet” — Another common problem that people think is “the dog’s fault”, but it often times isn’t.  Does anyone even realize how many times they need to take their dog out in a day to go potty?  Some people think it’s o.k. to take a dog out for a walk ONCE A WEEK.  And then they get pissed off when the dog pees and craps everywhere.  Seriously?  And you think a shock collar is “good training” for something like this?   It’d probably be a GREAT way of getting your dog to crap even more on the carpet.

          “barks all night”  – Again, this kind of problem can be fixed with love/compassion and the right training.  You’ll call me “glib” for not being specific, but you CAN’T be specific, because each dog is an individual.   To get it to stop barking, you need to figure out WHY he/she is barking, and for each dog, it is different.

          “chews up your shoes” — I suppose you don’t know how to train a dog to “leave it”, huh.  Or to put your shoes up where the dog can’t get to them (in the closet/there are shoe racks for this).  Our first dog chewed up a pair of shoes, but it was because he was anxious and they were in his reach.  We took the time to train him WITHOUT pain to know that shoes =/= chew toys, as well we know when he gets anxious (for some reason he didn’t like being in the big crate he was in, and the shoes were in reach, but now he loves the crate because it’s his sanctuary).

          “chases the cat” — Again, the “leave it” command comes in handy here.  No pain, no shock.  But if you have a dog with a “high prey drive”, the training to “leave it” will be longer/more intense, but it can be done.

          “eats a piece of chocolate” — Don’t leave your effing chocolate out where the dog can get at it, fool!  Just like you don’t leave onions or macadamia nuts lying around.

          “drags your pot roast off the counter top”  – AGAIN, the “leave it” command works.  Have you NEVER seen Stains the Cupcake Dog?  Look him up on YouTube.

          My point is that there are PROVEN training methods that *do not cause any physical pain* to the dog in order to make him “learn” what we want him to do.  Stop living in the Dark Ages of companion animal guardianship!

          Reply
          • Anonymous

            July 2, 2011 5:25 pm

            “My point is that there are PROVEN training methods that *do not cause any physical pain* to the dog in order to make him “learn” what we want him to do.”

            Please provide references to refereed publications describing these proven methods and showing that they give superior results as compared to e-collars, that the methods can be taught reliably to owners, and that the methods are effective over a range of animal temperaments.

          • Anonymous

            July 4, 2011 4:37 am

            This is, however, just an association for vets. Of course vets would generally submit papers to refereed publications, but recommended guidelines are not the same as experimental results. A vet belonging to the association is free to publish a paper recommending the use of an e-collar. For that matter, the statement doesn’t preclude e-collars. It just says not to use them as the first line of training.

    • GrandmasBoy

      July 2, 2011 2:59 pm

      “I have had dogs all my life, and have only ever used an invisible fence, never any form of remote shocking. ”

      Does anyone else see the cognitive dissonance in the above sentence?

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        July 2, 2011 6:49 pm

        “cognitive dissonance”

        [Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
        Vizzini: HE DIDN’T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE.
        Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

        There is no dissonance. The poster is merely stating the scope of her experience: only with automatic e-collars, not manual. The context of her question is using the collar manually to discourage an unwanted behavior.

        Nobody has given a satisfactory answer to her question, so far. Her question assumes an undesirable behavior has already happened, and she asks what an owner can do to discourage a repeat of the behavior.

        Reply
    • R+ trainer

      July 4, 2011 3:52 am

      The way you use positive reinforcement to stop a behavior is to teach an incompatible alternative behavior. It’s just as easy, and reliable, to teach a dog to turn around at the boundary of a yard because if he does he’ll get a reward as it is to teach him to turn around because if he doesn’t he’ll get shocked. Neither method is 100 percent foolproof, but one removes the risk of the dog associating the shock with something other than the boundary, or becoming terrified to go outdoors at all, or being afraid to come back if he’s left the yard.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        July 4, 2011 4:34 am

        Assuming you have a rectangular boundary around a property with a house on it, how do you train the animal not to cross the boundary using a reward? With a buried wire, there is a specific boundary and the shock marks it. Without such a boundary marker, how does the dog identify the boundary all around the yard? How does the trainer reward the dog for *not* crossing the boundary? How do you decide when to give a treat? If the dog crosses the boundary at some point in training or simply runs away, what does the trainer do?

        Reply
  14. Anonymous

    July 6, 2011 3:14 pm

    I’m shocked to learn that some people really think this is the only way to be able to handle a dog. And on the other hand I’m happy to state that the use of e-collars has already been probihited by law in several european countries (not all of them, but it’s a start)

    Reply
  15. Eggins

    July 7, 2011 2:21 pm

    Sigh.

    Ok, so first, I went looked for your credentials. You graduated from Karen Pryor’s training school. Nicely done. 

    You have not, however, put any high level title in any sport on any dog that I am aware of. You train pets. Congratulations. This does not make you an authority. It makes you a pet trainer.

    I am glad that you train pets to behave in the house and do tricks and pick up socks (or whatever the “household tasks” are). That is not relevant to my interests as a dog training however.

    When you have put  a high level title on a dog in a sport that requires distance work, intensity, and precision, we will talk. I’m talking about Schutzhund, ring sport, herding, field trials, etc. When you have a dog that you need to recall from 300 yards away or risk it getting itself killed, we will talk. My favorite breed is the Dogo Argentino – if you’ve never heard of them, look it up. There is nothing, NOTHING in the world more rewarding to a Dogo than catching a wild hog and bringing it down. If you think the promise of a food reward will call a Dogo off a pig, you’ve never met a dog like this. Even when you work incredibly hard to create a highly conditioned response, in which the dog isn’t weighing the potential outcomes of its actions (food reward vs. hunting, in this case) and simply responding before it can think, you have to understand that a dog in this state of mind will not even HEAR you. An e-collar, in this case, provides the vital opportunity to reach out and “touch” the dog.
    When you have some actual experience in the use of e-collars beyond ZAP THEM!!!, we will talk. 

    Honestly, the hysteria in this article is just sad. And by the way, the study on cortisol levels was regarding bark collars (not manually operated e-collars) and while it does raise the cortisol levels INITIALLY, long term, they return to normal – THAT very study proved that.I am an experienced clicker trainer. My dog is very operant, and I love watching her brain work in order to earn a reward. It’s one of my greatest pleasures in life. 

    One of my greatest comforts, however, is the bomb-proof down out of motion and recall I proofed with my e-collar – because someday, it could save her life.

    And the icing on the cake are our many first place ribbons in Obedience and Rally, which are the sum result of ALL my training.

    The issue with this article is the issue with nearly all articles on e-collars – lack of experience. I’m sure you retort that you’ve trained X-amount of a dogs and blah blah. Great. You’ve trained x-amount of urban/suburban dogs to have adequate house manners, basic obedience, worked on behavioral modification, etc. This is not an ignoble calling, but it is a limited one. Your base of experience is limited to pet owners, pet dogs, and pet behavioral requirements. You have no authority or real experience in this area. 
    Broaden your horizons.

    Reply
  16. Me

    April 19, 2012 4:13 pm

    I saw just two things incorrect about your article and I’d like to address them.

    Ethical trainers have taken issue with Garmin selling shock collars and are boycotting their products.

    And electrical shock doesn’t have to cause pain (and it doesn’t always) for it to be unethical and inhumane. I’ve received shocks before due to faulty wiring and plugs. It doesn’t hurt but it still feels quite awful.

    I’ve also tested shock collars on myself. On the lowest settings, you don’t feel anything so it’s pretty pointless. Turn it up and it’s not painful but still very unpleasant and startling. Turn it up further and it’s downright painful.

    It has to be unpleasant enough to get a dog to want to avoid or put an end to the shocks so it’s anything but ethical and humane and it does constitute abuse.

    There is no correct way to electrically shock a dog and there’s no need for it since there are far kinder methods and tools that you can use. And if you can’t manage to train without a shock collar then you should find someone who’s better at training than you and can train without shocking dogs.

    Reply
  17. voxleo

    May 11, 2012 10:05 pm

    Without pain, even humans would burn their hands in a fire. Without consequence, reward can only do so much to discourage bad behavior. Consider a rapist who is given money to refrain from raping but simply ignored if he fails to comply or one who is not rewarded from refraining but assured that raping will result in imprisonment and the possibility of being raped there. It is very easy to imagine the temptation of raping overcoming the desire for the reward, but the one who is assured the punishment has more to lose that is a stronger motive than the fgact that there is nothing ADDITIONAL to be gained – besides the satisfaction of acting on the desire to rape.

    A dog will have anm instinct to run that is not considerate of the modern technology and speeding cars. Will his desire for the treat override his desire to chase a squirrel in front of a car? That treat system is also foreign to its natural design, but the chase is inherent. PAIN AVOIDANCE is also a basic inherent survival cue that has a more even chance of mitigating the chase instinct. If the natural world genetically encoded dogs to be aware of traffic, it would be a survival mechanism, and the substitution of a correction that is uncomfortable or temporarily painful is a humane and necessary substitute for that genetic ignorance of technology. The correction is given so that there is an equally powerful motivation to abandon the chase which exists for the protection and survival of the dog, just as the chase instinct exists as a prey drive. The reward conditioning is a much weaker signal than the one for the avoidance of pain, and it is one that is instilled to be kinder than allowing the dog to get killed by a car when it follows a strong instinctual urge that overpowers that reward motive.

    And guess what? You can reward him anyway when he obeys, Double motivation. Do the math.

    Spare the rod = spoil the child.

    Exlude the correction = endanger the dog.

    I prefer cruelty which results in the safety of my happy dog to kind and painless conditioning that exposes to injury and death a dog that is no happier than one who has been corrected with my cruelty.

    Reply
  18. Me

    August 8, 2012 2:13 am

    It’s absolutely disgusting that people think that it’s just fine to use electric shock on dogs. I have NEVER needed shock to train a dog and neither have many other trainers. Most of the world’s most renowned trainers don’t use shock and they take on the most difficult cases.

    Reply
  19. jenny

    November 17, 2012 9:18 am

    i use one i don’t put it on the hi settings its on to i barley felt it it wasn’t a shock it was a vibration and it dose not hurt her she dosent like not knowing when it will happen i don’t use it often just when i need to

    Reply
  20. jenny

    November 17, 2012 9:24 am

    i would rather her feel a very small vibration instead of her running in front of a car i agree that on a hi setting it is painful but not on a very low setting i put it up to my own neck before i ever put it on her

    Reply

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