E-collar dog training: Would your dog choose it if you gave him the option?
Have you ever wondered if your dog would choose e-collar dog training? I spend a fair amount of time sleuthing the internet for information and opinions regarding e-collars or “shock collars” as some continue to call them.
One of the sentiments I’ve noticed lately being touted by those who wish to have the tool banned from existence is the idea that the dogs (our dogs) didn’t get to “choose” this form of training or this training tool. This statement is usually uttered in reference or testimonial that demonstrates a human subjecting themselves to e-collar stimulation for either comedic purposes or for the sake of visually elaborating on a concept. The typical commentary is: “well, the human had a choice about feeling that tool, those poor dogs don’t.”
That line of thinking got me pondering on the idea of choices for our dogs. I am curious how you feel about e-collar dog training and hope you chime into the conversation.
I’m all for giving my dogs some options, as in: do you want this toy or this one? Do you want to sniff out this trail or the one over there? But my personal outlook is that my dogs are my responsibility and as such I do make a lot of decisions for them. Here is a brief list of some of the decisions I don’t give my dogs a choice about.
What they eat.
What vaccinations they get and how often.
What dogs I trust and allow them to interact with.
If they are allowed to swim or not.
When they need to get a bath, nails trimmed or ears cleaned.
If they get to remain intact or if they will be surgically altered (spay & neuter).
Why do I decide these things for my beloved companions and not give them “their choice”? Well, I feel fairly confident I will make better decisions for them than they would make for themselves. Case in point, my dogs would probably never chose to get vaccinated or take a bath or file their nails, they would likely make some bad choices and trust dogs that they shouldn’t. They would absolutely choose to eat trash and clean up every human left over they could. And for certain, Diva, would jump in the water and swim ANYWHERE despite a dangerous current.
So does the fact that I don’t allow my dogs too many choices make me some sort of evil dictator? If it does, I guess I am guilty of raising my kids that way also. I believe in applying structure, limitations and rules that I determine to be in the best interest of all.
When my charges (dogs or kids) clearly understand the rules I’ve created they actually get more freedom as a result. And they grow to a level of independence that I feel is our responsibility to teach them to have. One of my children is out of the house, putting himself through higher education and making his own way in the world. The second child will soon be following suit. And meanwhile my dogs no longer need to be kenneled or baby gated when I am away from the house and they are calm and well mannered if they are left in anothers care for a period of time. Through the choices I’ve made for them in e-collar “training” they have learned self control and the liberties that go along with that.
I honestly believe that if my dogs could speak for themselves they would choose the e-collar dog training and the subsequent freedom it brings with it.
They get to run off leash in unfenced areas, they get to be part of the party when there is company, they get to go along on most trips and they can be in public venues without being a nuisance.
Yes, I am the one responsible for making the e-collar dog training choice for my dogs. And as a result of it I do not have to make choices to withhold their freedom because “there are too many distractions around” nor do I have to limit their exploration to the end of a leash or clipped to a front pressure harness or head halter.
So what are your thoughts? Is it appropriate that we make the choices for our dogs training tools or exactly how does this argument stack up in your opinion?
I was scared to death of using the ecollar on my maltese & GSD… but the GSD rescue was out of control! how can you try to use treat training on your 100 lb dog who wants nothing more than to drag you across the street to get to that other dog. He is not a “foody” and even simple tricks are hard to teach him because he gets fed up of treats after 3 or 4. Toys work better but not when there is another dog around. he wants NOTHING more than to play and interact with other dogs and NOTHING distracts him.
The maltese…well he was aggressive towards the GSD lol
E-collar fixed all my problems…however a word of advice. if you dont knwo what your doing. PLEASE so not go out and buy it and try it yourself. I had a trainer with a good reputation help me train my dogs. The ecollar should NOT be a punishment. It is a tool to help teach your dog to focus on you and your commands.
The first bit of advice i was given when i got the collar was:” THIS IS NOT A PUNISHMENT TOOL. WE WILL NOT BE USING IT TO TELL YOUR DOG HE DID SOMETHING WRONG”
My dogs love the collars. I take them out and they know its training time and get super excited. I still do a combination of clicker training.
when it comes to tricks.. i teach them the trick with the clicker. once they know how to do it 100% i use the collar to help them work on their accuracy & around distractions or to use tricks in combination with other commands.
i love the e-collar but highly recommend doing a TON of research or getting a GOOD trainer to help you out. It CAN be a negative experience for your pooch if you make it one. Remember..e-collars NOT to be used as punishment.
and to all those people out there who say “if your not willing to shock urself dont shock your dog”… first thing my trainer did was make me try it before i used it on the dogs. YES it is uncomfortable….in the same way that someone poking you repeatedly would be uncomfortable…but in my opinion it is not painful and I have not gotten a painful reaction out of my dogs…. most of the time they just prick up their ears or quickly look at me when i hit the button…
There is only one way to find out whether your pet
truly needs an E-collarlet him go without it. But
that is a serious gamble.
This is a very interesting blog and insight by many. Just to give a bit of background, my parent’s have owned a renowned dog training business for over 35 years that has successfully trained tens of thousands of dogs both on and off leash. Through the years they have taught me, and I now train there. We use a balanced method of training. We use plenty of treats and praise to motivate the dog when he is doing right and to teach the exercises. Once the dog knows the exercise and ignores the command we will use a correction. In the on leash training we will use either a verbal correction or a leash and collar correction. We choose the training collar based on the dog’s sensitivity level and it can be anything from a martingale collar to a prong collar. We get consistently good results with just about every dog we train, the dogs LOVE school, and the owners are amazed at what the dog is able to do by the time they are done.
For off leash, which is only available for dogs that have completed the on-leash training, we often use remote collars. We train outdoors in a city environment so safety is of the utmost importance to us. Not one of the dogs I have trained on the remote collar has become scared or fearful. In fact, they come bounding in to school each morning, and I am greeted with enthusiasm and kisses. These dogs are not working for me because they are afraid. Trust me, if thought how I was training these animals caused them fear and anxiety I would find another way. Usually, they will respond to the vibrate setting or a very low stem, one you can’t even feel on your finger. If you call that pain, then you must encounter thousands of painful situations in your day to day living. I have read over and over again why would you choose to inflict pain on your animal, when you could use all positive? My response is for the vast majority of the time the dog is able to work on a setting that merely redirects their focus (which is not painful) when they get distracted, and quite frankly I do not think it is the end of the world if the dog has an uncomfortable nano-second if it means I know I can get him back even in the most dire of circumstances. Now, just because I am comfortable using training collars and e-collars does not mean I think that positive reinforcement does not work, for those of you who use it, and it works for them, kudos. After reading the other messages on this board, I merely wanted to chime in and share my experiences. I am not trying to change others opinions on the issue, I just ask that everyone try to have an open mind, and realize that no matter how we train our dogs, we are training them because we love them, and we want them to have the best life possible
I’m pretty sure my little guy would choose the ecollar. This for several reasons.
First, it allowed us to stop using the Halti or Easy Walk Harness, both of which irritated him. His reaction to me picking up the ecollar is usually one of joy; not so much with those other devices. Second, it helped him understand what I expected from him. Third, it allowed him greater off lead freedom, much quicker and in a wide variety of circumstances. Most of all, he likes the fact that my frustration level dropped to zero almost immediately. This improved our relationship in ways I could not have imagined. Life is good.
They may be the kindest , gentlest people, and a better home environmemt for the dog than other options. They come asking for help, and when “this or that” isnt working at what point do we turn our noses up at them, tell them they are hopeless, or suggest euthansia? Do we consider breaking our “cardinal rule” for the chance that we could help them with a little more “pressure” than wed generslly prefer to use or an approach that doesnt fit into the arguments we write on ablog or computer screen, in a book, or a handout? At what point can kindness be detrimental, or do we reevaluate our definition of kindness? To me this is about much more than a remote collar, a correction, or “as little force necessary” use of +p or -r. It is a question of what help is, what forms it takes, and if there are times or situations that help may look different than what our ideal version of it be. Some will never come across situations that require such testing re-evaulations of such, and if so, good. But what is scary are the ones that do, and didnt see it because the lenses on their glasses were of a shape that creates mental blindspots. Every person who reads this may likely find themselves feeling no different than before, but when so aggressively waging war on
the use of a tool and its users we should consider these things.
Jon, You have posed some very interesting thoughts and questions. Thank you for chiming in. I appreciate how you have seen the discussion from yet another angle.
all the best,
I appreciate what you do. Thank you for your kindness. I wanted to share a little insight. I recently sat in on about 18 seminars led by veterinary behaviorists, ranging from “ALL Positive” to focusing on the positive and trying to use as little -R and +P as necessary. When going through prognosis, conclusion, and statistics, one well known and often published behaviorist described the meaning of success in training. When showing us a statistic of 60% success in aggressive behavior, she described the criteria to rate it successful in such studies. In which case if a dog bites 9 out of 10 times compared to the 10/10 average prior to training, for statistical purposes it was considered successful. This means the dog may have bitten one less time a week over the course of 6 months and that is successful treatment. Such strict dedication and adherence to one “appropriate approach” made me question such thought processes in reasoning “appropriate methods.” I had to ask myself, had the behaviorist explored options outside of her box, if she wouldn’t have been able to claim a better conclusion as a success. It seemed every other sentence was an attack on remote collar training. One study she touted, was a survey on aggression associated with certain techniques. I thought it interesting that aggression had only been documented as being seen in conjunction with a remote collar to an equal level as aggression seen in positive methods. However, this study was used by such behaviorists to argue such close correlation with the remote collar. Just a thought…
It is really such a shame. And it saddens me to again be reinforced with the knowledge that the public and others are being mislead because this type of information is being closely guarded. I hope you continue to chime in here, your voice is much needed.
In this whole discussion i have seen no discussion of drive thresholds. While marker/clicker training is my favorite way to train, the biggest concern i see with it is a dogs upper drive threshold. In some dogs with low drive, it is incredibly hard to maintain focus of long (and sometimes required) periods of time. In the hands of a skilled trainer, or an incredibly motivated owner this can be overcome. However, with some owners, they will never, despite their efforts, be more interesting to their dog than the entire world of other interestimg things to a dog. When dealing with difficult behaviors, these people and dogs will not find a solution in the marker method. On a daily basis they will try using deprivation and other drive building techniques just to maintain basic and average results, yet fail to overcome the issue that sent themm to a trainer in the first place. in other cases, certain rewards are not efficient, despite the premack principle in all its glory, to deliver when they could be the drive that tips the scale in a positive direction. We may try repeating to ourselves, “they just need to keep with it” or “they arent really trying.” More often than not, id believe these two things. But by golly, some people just wont be certain things, like a champion figure skater, a good tennis player, or even a not so horrible actor or actress. If we say,”i refuse” to so much, do we fail these dogs and owners?