Media around Shock Collar Initiatve

There has been some local press around the shock collar initiative that's been started.

On September 18th, 2017  I talked to Sheldon MacLeod on News 95.7 - here's is what we said:

Sheldon: This got a bit of attention on the weekend - online group campaigns against shock collars used on Nova Scotia dogs and Nova Scotia advocates - says Tom Ayers, the reporter - are looking to bring awareness to training positively as opposed to shock collars/e-collars on dogs and they are lining up against the use as some trainers say the devices are as safe as muscle stimulating devices used on physiotherapists. Here to give us her thoughts on this is a person who is speaking up and speaking out on it and welcome back to our program – Joan Sinden, Joan – thank you for doing this 

Joan: (dogs barking in background) : Oh dear, somebody must be walking by the front of my house 

Sheldon: Why is it that you felt it was necessary, and again you’re not necessarily against them as much as you are speaking up about that there are alternatives and that’s what you are focusing on, Joan

Joan: That’s right, I’m trying to build awareness around alternatives to that type of training, I’m trying to build awareness around a type of training that’s called “force free dog training” which is what positive dog training is.

Sheldon: All right, so force free, so what does that type of training look like

Joan: It’s all about training your dog - it’s impossible to make your dog worse when you use force free training, it involves asking your dog to do things in a positive way with treats and with clickers and luring and shaping them into behaviours rather than when they do something wrong you punish them for it

Sheldon: With that in mind, the people who use the electronic devices, the e-collars – they say they work, they’re not cruel, they have a multitude of talking points they say these aren’t harming the dog in any way , I suspect you’re getting some push back – you’re hearing from groups and individuals? 

Joan: Well what they want to do is to be able to use the tools that they want to use, and I’m not asking for a ban, people can do what they want with their dogs – I’m just trying to show that there’s different ways that you can train your dog and I’m trying to build awareness about different trainers in the province that don’t use those tools. I have a list on my website which is of all the different trainers in the province that don’t use those kind of tools.

Sheldon: Joan Sinden our guest here, she is a concerned animal lover here and she’s with the Nova Scotia Shock Free Rescue Coalition, supporting trainers and organizations who only use reward based practices. I’m not asking you to name names but there are some shelters that are using e-collars?

Joan: Well there are some rescues in Nova Scotia who use trainers that do use e-collars as part of their training protocols and that’s sad. It’s my belief that a rescue dog shouldn’t have that kind of training put on them because they’re already in a stressed situation and it’s my belief that those kind of devices should not be used on that kind of a dog so some rescues around Nova Scotia have gathered together to come out against them (the training devices)

Sheldon: You don’t feel a ban on these devices is appropriate. Why not?

Joan: I’m not interested in things that aren’t going to happen. The people who use these devices are as noisy as I am, so it’s not going to happen, so what’s the use in putting energy into things that aren’t going to happen . There are people out there who say “oh start a petition” and then work to get them banned – if somebody else wants to do that, that’s fine – but me personally I’m not interested in doing that.

Sheldon: Here with us today is Joan Sinden and she’s working to perhaps enlighten us and to give alternatives to – and I love how you’ve framed this – it’s not so much how you’re not so much saying “we think this is bad don’t do that” but you say these people do something we feel is good – support them, that’s essentially what you are saying

Joan: Exactly, so I have my website – and I’m not targeting the people who already use these devices, I sort of think that they are a lost cause – sometimes I think that they are part of a cult, they just believe in the devices wholeheartedly – I’m not targeting them. I’m targeting the people who are trying to figure out what is the best way to train their dog and I’m trying to show them that positive, force free ways to train your dog is the best way to go because you want to build a bond with your dog, this is the thing that’s going to be sharing your bed for the next 15 years hopefully and you want to do it in the most loving way possible and it’s my belief that the best way to do that is in a positive manner.

Sheldon: With that in mind, what kind of an uptake have you had – what are people saying to you? 

Joan: I’ve gotten very positive feedback about it, that if you’re going to go that way, then it is the best way to go.

Sheldon: Is there a case though, in your experience, would there be any case where you could justifying the use of an e-collar or a prong collar?

Joan: No, not in any way because in order for it to work it has to hurt and we can’t quantify how the dog experiences it- and they say it doesn’t hurt on the dog, well you’re not a dog, how can you know what hurts and what doesn’t hurt. They’ve done scientific studies with the collars and it does raise cortisol levels in the dogs and cortisol levels measure pain and even at low levels it does raise cortisol levels in the blood of a dog and so it has been shown – even at low levels to raise the pain in a dog so that to me is good enough. I don’t want to associate anything with my dogs with pain so I’m not interested in it at all.

Sheldon: You said the website is ?

Joan: Yes

Sheldon: Thanks for doing this, thanks for bringing light to this today

Joan: No problem

Sheldon: I agree with Joan that just simply saying that they’re bad, they’re wrong that making them illegal is unlikely to change anyone’s mind. I neither use them, sell them or promote them. I had someone who said I should put one on me – well why would I do that? Oh, to show that it doesn’t hurt, yeah, but I can take it off, I’m not a dog – so that’s how I ended up getting many many emails one Christmas time. We had an email from someone who pointed to a comment from Tracy Jessiman who said “don’t use pain to train” and she actually feels that shock collars and electric fences should be made illegal and there are advocates who feel that when used properly or correctly they don’t don’t hurt animals. “Gentle training collars” is some of the terminology that’s used. But again, stand up and say – here are groups who have success with positive reinforcement and a positive attitude and I don’t mind – my dog responds well to treats – he’s positively motivated – thank goodness. But that said, he has anxieties and we learned on the weekend that we can’t leave him at a doggie daycare because he just ignores the dogs, he just sits there waiting for us to pick him up and I don’t think any e-collar would make that any better for him, not to suggest that’s what they would what they would want to or what they would suggest. Good for Joan and the crew and what they are doing.


Another media news outlet that has covered the story is the Chronicle Herald - they had a piece in their paper on Saturday September 16, 2017

Online group campaigns against shock collars used on Nova Scotia dogs


 Animal welfare advocates in Nova Scotia are lining up against the use of shock collars on dogs, while some professional trainers say the devices — sometimes known as e-collars — are as safe as muscle-stimulating tools used on humans by physiotherapists.

Joan Sinden, a Halifax photographer, animal rescue volunteer and blogger, helped start a new Facebook group last month called the Nova Scotia Shock Free Rescue Coalition to support trainers and organizations that only use reward-based practices.

The group is not looking to ban the devices outright.

Sinden said several countries around the world have banned shock collars, but that effort has been unsuccessful in Canada. “A ban is never going to happen,” she said.

“We’re not into things that are not going to happen. “We’re just trying to build awareness, because there’s trainers that train positively with science-based training ways, and then there’s trainers who call themselves balanced trainers, and they train with what’s called positive punishment, and that’s what a shock collar does.

 “When a dog does something, that’s when you buzz them with the shock collar so that the behaviour stops. That is not a very good way to train a dog. “It just suppresses the behaviour so they become like a ticking time bomb.”

 Animal advocates and trainers say retail devices available at pet stores are ineffective, and can be harmful, but the pros say their high-end collars aren’t the same.

They say their e-collars have much finer control over the amount of stimulation an animal receives, with up to 100 levels of strength, whereas the less-expensive pet store variety might have 10.

Sinden said she has studied the same training techniques used by professionals who use e-collars, and bought a pricey one herself to personally feel its effects. “I would never put it on a dog, but I have put it on myself,” she said.

At the lower settings trainers say they use — around four to six — there isn’t much of a sensation, Sinden said. “The highest I went on myself was about 20, and I wouldn’t go above that on myself, because even at 20 it was enough of a buzz.”

Angela Granchelli, an Atlantic representative for independent dog supply companies, who has fostered numerous dogs, won’t use shock collars. Her most recent pet, a border collie from an Ontario animal rescue, has needed more than a year of positive behaviour training, but is making great strides.

“There’s no substitute to putting the time in,” said Granchelli. “Every time someone comes to the door and your dog doesn’t jump on them, that’s when you tell them ‘you’re good’ and you give them a treat.

“You don’t wait until they’re jumping on somebody and you tell them to get off and try to push them off. It’s always better to reward the behaviour that you want than to punish the behaviour that you don’t want.” The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association took a stand against shock collars two years ago, saying studies show the devices actually increase fear and aggression in dogs after the collars are removed.

 The association supports positive reinforcement training techniques and strongly discourages aversive methods.

Dr. Alice Crook, co-ordinator of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, said reward-based training has been shown to have longer lasting effects on behaviour.

“It takes more time initially, perhaps, and not even necessarily, because dogs really enjoy it,” she said. Shock collars should be avoided for the dog’s sake, said Crook.

“If they’ve got some really ingrained behaviours that you’re trying to change, it may be a little harder, but if you start with positive training right from the beginning, then through puppy socialization classes and all kinds of things . . . then they will enjoy it. They will have a sense there’s something they can do that is appropriate.”

Guy Lapierre, a Halifax trainer with Unleashed Potential and a strong proponent of e-collars, said he uses the tools on his own dogs as well as those of clients, and said the sensation is just like getting TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) treatment, a physiotherapy tool that relieves pain by stimulating muscle movement electrically.

“It’s not to shock,” he said. “It’s not like, you know, when you were a kid and you stick your tongue on a nine-volt battery . . . that kind of ‘zzzt’ kind of thing.

That’s not what comes out of the collars. “People have this perception of being shocked, but that’s not how modern-day quality collars are used. The stuff in the pet store, it is more like the nine-volt battery.” The main problem, said Lapierre, is that those opposed to e-collars don’t understand the devices pros use or how they use them.

He said he would back opponents if they were interested in getting rid of the retail devices, which he called “horrific, nasty things.” “If people are actually out there shocking their dogs, I’d be right alongside with them.

Mind you, I’d probably go at it a little different than some of what’s going on.” Lapierre said many trainers who use e-collars have become “gun shy” of talking to media, because animal advocates — who he said trainers call “haters” — often take to social media and use intimidating tactics to get their point across.

“It’s easy to get up in arms when you think an animal is being harmed, but it’s the same here,” he said. “I’ve seen cases of animal abuse . . . I watched a woman whip her dog with the end of a leash.” 

Any tool can be abused, but in the hands of a professional, Lapierre said, e-collars work. “One of the things people claim is that the dogs become dependent on the collars a lot, and they can’t do anything with them if they’re not wearing their e-collar.

“My personal dog does competitive obedience, and in the ring you’re not allowed any tools — any food, any toys, any anything. The dog needs to perform. “(My dog) is trained on an e-collar. She’s also trained with food. She’s also trained with toys. We’ve got plenty of ribbons, we’ve got plenty of titles, we’ve got plenty of highest-in-class, highest in trial — no tools.”

The trick is to use an e-collar gently and then phase it out with positive reinforcement, Lapierre said. He also dismissed the studies cited by the national veterinary association as using flawed methodology.

Lapierre said most don’t test the same collars and techniques professionals use.

Bob Ottenbrite, a trainer and owner at Lietash Canine Academy in South Rawdon, said he tried using a shock collar in his practice more than 30 years ago, and it just didn’t feel right.

“They do hurt the dogs,” he said. “The e-collars deliver an electric shock. I just think as a society, we should be way beyond that now.”

Instead, said Ottenbrite, people need to have patience and use other techniques such as giving time-outs, restricting movement, getting the dog to focus and rewarding good behaviour.