By Barbara Cannon
Dog training has evolved in the last 20 years as we learn more about how dogs are motivated to learn. We now know that positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool for training. In recent years there has been the development of many kinds of technologies to help us train our dogs. Some of these new products can be an asset in positive reinforcement training, but some new technologies seem almost archaic in their design and purpose: to use pain and discomfort to motivate your dog. As force-free trainers at BAXTER and Bella we truly believe that e-collars, specifically shock collars designed to cause your dog pain, discomfort, and fear, will not only NOT train your dog, but they may also create more problematic behaviors that can be difficult to change.
Systems such as an invisible fence boundary only work because your dog is going to get a shock if he crosses a line. Manufacturers claim that these systems don’t cause pain but frankly, they wouldn’t work otherwise. Some dogs are very resistant to this pain and very motivated to run so will risk injury just to get away with possible tragic results. And what happens when the dog returns and must cross that fence again? He may choose to not come back because he has learned that crossing that boundary causes pain. Sadly, shelters have been full of dogs wearing these collars.
But that’s not all. No matter how these devices are used, be it a bark collar or a GPS, some dogs will respond to the shock with serious behavioral side effects such as fear-based aggression, general anxiety, and aggression towards anything or anyone that the dog associates with the shock. Owners have reported that even collars that startle a dog with beeping can create behavioral issues. These dogs associate the beeping with pain and discomfort and suddenly the dog is afraid of microwave noises, beeping alarms, and beeping sounds on television. The owner may not even know the side effects until after the damage is done.
Manufacturers have insisted that these collars are safe. However, one such manufacturer that makes Pet Safe shock collar-based containment systems, has been sued in California courts for making allegedly false claims about the device’s safety. Hundreds of documented cases have shown that these collars can cause severe injuries such as skin ruptures, bruising, inflammation, burns and infections. These claims may also include the emotional distress and the resultant behavioral issues that dogs experience from the use of these products.
We at BAXTER and Bella are happy to discuss some of the wonderful new training tools available on the market today for force-free training that will make training fun and enjoyable for your dog and you. We truly hope that you will avoid using any adverse tools such as e-collars. We think the price may be too high to pay.
For information about boundary training without the use of shock collars, see our previous blog here about boundary training.