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Electric Collars used on our dogs, Good or bad.

Most canine groups want a total ban of all types of electrical shock equipment. Certainly, there is a greater preference by governments and animal welfare groups to approve Citronella compressed air equipment to the electric versions. However, what if the Citronella version does not work, what are the choices left to correct a dog. Certainly for me I have never used a shock collar but as I wrote last week, I watched one used very successfully.

There is certainly a preference for the citronella collar. Web Sites even quote test results of 80% success rate. Electric collars on the other hand only rate 50% success along with some adverse reactions, like making dogs more aggressive.

Again, for even I writing these articles on electric collars the question is am I biased. The sites that support the citronella collars are they biased too and are their figures believable.

Certainly if you look at sites that promote the use of electric collars, they claim to have great success rates whilst producing happy dogs that are pleased to work. Is there bias here and are their results similarly trustworthy. What can you believe?

I can only go by my own experience. I am always looking for new equipment or new techniques that may improve our ability to train our dogs without using pain as the enforcer. If we need, the sort of proof of the pudding is in the eating type of result then I can say that having been a competitor, steward and a judge in Working Trials, the dogs that LOVED to work always had the advantage over those dogs that HAD to work.

Look at any specialist dog training like drugs, search and rescue or explosives. All these dogs work because their training has made them ball or toy focused. They will work their hearts out just for their toy. To me this shows that non-enforcement training produces better-trained dogs. This is fine as far as it goes to train a dog by only using positive rewards.

What we must not forget is not everyone needs dogs training to this high a standard. Not every owner has these sorts of dog training skills. What we must also not forget is Society expects dogs reasonably trained and non-aggressive. The most common method of training is a mixture of positive and negative training. Handlers learn to praise their dog for good behaviour and chastise it for doing wrong. Is chastisement wrong and cruel?

The question is if we must not be cruel to our dogs when training or to use enforcement type training why can we purchase in the shops, Check (choker) Collars, Spike (pronged or also called pinch collars) half-checks, rope slip leads and all sorts of electrical devices. They all create pain to varying degrees so why is the United Kingdom government suddenly picking on Electric collars. Why not ban everything that creates pain to encourage a dog not to do this or that. Why not stop all dog training classes that use choke chains.

The government answer is two fold. First professionals want and need to use them. Secondly, society needs dogs under the owner’s control. In other words, the government are accepting that if the method works even using pain, then it must benefit and protect society in general. There seems to be some hypocrisy here regarding inflicting pain to train.

There is one other point. People do not buy such equipment simply to be cruel to their dog. They are trying to train or solve a problem. Now if these items were useless and had no benefit at all other than inflicting pain why can we still buy them? Every item has some merit if used correctly, but misused some can have catastrophic results.

Many years ago, I tried the Pinch (prong) Collar on my Working Trials Dog Lumpy and asked for my opinion. Now his heelwork was reasonable. Once the collar was correctly set and placed on his neck, his heelwork improved dramatically without my even pulling the lead. It was as if he recognised a new regime and I was now serious.

I was impressed but I could also see that if used like a Choke Chain then ordinary people could inflict devastating damage to their dogs. For this reason, I felt the collar should remain banned. Most trainers will not touch it even though it is now available for anyone to purchase.

I will always try to train dogs using positive rewards to help them learn. I prefer encouraging dogs to work but that does not mean that going to classes using check chains is wrong. I initially learnt this training method as standard. Used correctly, the method does work easily, efficiently and quickly producing reasonably trained dogs. Yes occasionally owners might in desperation or annoyance check the dog more harshly when the dog is really behaving badly, but such occasions are not the normal way they train. Is enforcement training using pain to train or is it cruelty?

In the United Kingdom, it is now illegal to smack a child, as it classed as abuse. What if your young child still keeps trying to put their hand onto a hot cooker top? What if you tell your child no and it does not respond? What do you do when you see the child’s hand nearly touch a hot ring? Do you obey the law and immediately download “How to teach a child not to be naughty” in a split second. Would you not react instinctively and smack the child’s hand knowing that the small amount of pain is nothing in relation to the pain and disfigurement your child would suffer if you obeyed the law. So is this too, pain to train or cruelty.

If all else fails is it wrong to use pain to be kind. Was last weeks example of the dog chasing bikes not receiving pain in an effort to save its life rather than being cruel. We cannot explain to the dog the consequences if he does not stop. As in last weeks article the trainer said to me “Either the dog will change or it will die.”

Cruelty means a premeditated intention to inflict pain for no other reason than to hurt. Therefore, is anyone using a choker properly and so inflicting some discomfort being intentionally cruel? The answer is quite simply no.

Banning electric collars will not make them go away so this is not the answer. Such action presupposes that the public are not capable of knowing what they are doing. Then to say only professionals can use such equipment because they know better is also wrong. Both owners and professionals would still be inflicting the same pain. Some professionals may actually be using a higher voltage. What gives the professional more rights to inflict more pain to train or re train a problem dog?

What would happen in last weeks case if the owners had tried everything except the electric collar. What could they do to save their dogs life if it was illegal to use them? If any of the equipment that gives a dog pain actually successfully changed its ways, would that not be a good thing. Would the end justify the means?

More legislation is not the answer as the current cruelty laws are quite adequate to stop people abusing their dogs. All dogs and owners are different in their skills and the way they learn. If owners are fully aware of all the available equipment and what will train or retrain their dog’s satisfactory, can they not be allowed to make up their own minds as to what is acceptable in each case.


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