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PROMOTING FORCE-FREE POSITIVE TRAINING & HANDLING

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TAKE A MINUTE: THINK BEFORE YOU SHOCK

10 Aug 2018 9:15 AM | Latecia Mills (Administrator)

Shock collars work.  That’s the problem!  Trainers and dog owners who love dogs and have good intentions sometimes use collars that deliver an electric field or current. Those may include remote training collars, containment collars or anti-bark collars.  Dogs can’t talk so they can’t tell us it hurts.  We can only see their behavior.  If they stop the behavior we’re trying to eliminate voila, we think we’re successful.  The success is rewarding.  We want to do it again to achieve the same results.  And then we do it again…and again…and again.  And we increase the intensity if the behavior change is slower or we perceive stubbornness in our dog.  It’s seductive and we often don’t see the unintended consequences. We are so excited about the successful change in behavior that we don’t see that our dogs are also telling us through their body language that this training is unpleasant, stressful and painful.  If your dog stops jumping, do you also notice the lips flicks, compressed body posture, the lowered head and flattened ears.  Do you notice the difference in tail position and yawning?  Are you watching to see if your dog is enjoying your ‘success’? 

The problem is that for any of these collars to work, the stimulus (electric stimulus) must be unpleasant or aversive enough to change behavior.  In other words, it must cause physical discomfort or pain.  So your success while using this method is only attainable through your dog’s discomfort.  Even if you don’t have to actually use the electronic ‘stimulus’ every time, the threat is what causes the continued change in behavior.  Who wants to live with a weapon pointed at them.  Not us and not our dogs.

Problems with e-collars are:

  • They cause discomfort, otherwise they wouldn’t work.  This leads to stress and fear, two emotions that make learning difficult;
  • They keep your dog guessing at what you really want while zapping them for every wrong guess they make;
  • The ‘punishment’ (remember punishment means a stimulus that causes a reduction in behavior) seems random at first so your dog gets confused about what specifically is causing the shock (is it their behavior or the context surrounding them?); and sadly,
  • Causing physical discomfort or pain to a dog can create aggression where there wasn’t any before (wouldn’t you want to fight back if something kept hurting you?) 

There is a way that is more effective and efficient and doesn’t purposefully inflict discomfort on our dogs.

Positive reinforcement training encourages behavior….good behavior.  The bad behavior is eliminated by replacing it with a preferred behavior.  Dogs love it because they’re being rewarded rather than punished.  And you’ll love it because it’s effective and fun for both you and your dog.  It’s based on scientific principals rather than old school training methods that are the result of frustration and annoyance.  Train with your brain: Be smart about how you approach a behavior problem.  And then watch your dog – he’ll thank you for it.


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