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Positively SHOCKING!!!

June 2, 2008

I don’t get it… I really don’t. As you all know, I am a dog trainer and behavior counselor that uses what’s called Positive Reinforcement training methods. Just to clarify, this doesn’t mean that I don’t use “punishment”. Of course I do… but not in the same as what I call old fashioned training methods. 

“Old fashioned” methods tend to use what an animal would find fearful or intimidating – jerking a choke chain to get them to stop pulling or barking, or in one of the worst cases, an electronic shock collar to get them to stop barking (or running off etc…). All I can say right now is “OH MY GOD!!!” How does “shocking” an animal get them to “learn” anything, except maybe not to trust humans! Is this not abuse? 
Would we do this to humans for every day life teachings??? (Yes, there is something called electroconvulsive therapy for humans who suffer from severe depression and other psych related and neurological disorders, but it is applied in well monitored clinical settings using very strict guidelines…not willy nilly)
I received a call the other day from a young woman who has a “reactive” dog. She told me she tried prong collars, choke chains, squirt bottles, and physical punishment… (hmm, I was hoping she would be able to figure out on her own why her dog developed this reactivity)… Anyway, she then said her sister uses an electronic collar for her own dog – and that one of the younger kids got hold of the remote that delivers the shock. The child was having fun just pushing buttons, but didn’t realize what the device was for. Can you picture what this poor animal went through? Does this seem like a good idea for training – or for anything else? Maybe a pacemaker or defibrillator, but that would be about it. 
I’m simply shocked myself that our society 1) uses these items 2) allows anyone to buy one… You wouldn’t keep a loaded gun out in the open with children around (I hope), so why would you use something as dangerous as a shock collar…? 
Something for this inquisitive canine dog mom to ponder… 

2 Responses to Positively SHOCKING!!!

  1. Alicia says:

    Have you tried it on yourself? Because i have … at least the model I own does not hurt. but honestly, positive reinforcement does not work for everything on every dog. Sometimes the electronic collar is a great tool when used properly. There are definitely people who don’t know what they are doing, and the dogs suffer, but psychologically not having a balanced dog no matter what training method you use, is not good.

    • Joan Mayer says:

      Of course positive punishment works, I never said it didn’t. However I don’t believe in having to resort to those types of methods to motivate any animal to do something I want. I’d rather spend my time creating a relationship where the animal trusts me, while having him or her believe that I’m not going inflict pain, discomfort or use threats. If positive reinforcement techniques aren’t working, then one might want to check their training plan: timing, rate, motivation etc…

      Whether it be my dog, my clients dogs or my husband and friends, using positive punishment for getting what I want seems counterproductive. And BTW, no, I’ve never tried a shock collar on myself, nor do I intend to. I’ll leave that for movies like Jackass. ;-> I think the closest thing would be a defibrillator and heaven forbid I ever need one of those. As for “balanced” I don’t know what that means – the popular term is too subjective. But having a confident dog – one who is well socialized to people, non-human animals and situations, who enjoys spending time alone now and again, who has been taught to, and is conditioned to make behavior choices humans want is important.

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