What do Advocates for shock/e-collar training say?

Dog trainers who use shock/e-collars as their main protocol for training dogs are certainly excited and enthusiastic about it.  Some of them are truthful with what they are doing - that the collars are negative reinforcement/positive punishment, but unfortunately others will tell you that they are part of a positive training protocol, which just isn't true.

Looking on facebook - when people talk about shock/e-collars, it's interesting what people say when they are discussing why they use the devices and I'm going to quote why people say they are good and life-saving parts of their dog's life - a lot of people say that they'd have to euthanize their dog if they hadn't have started to use the collars, which is too bad.  Too bad for their dogs, anyway.

Here is an interesting one:

"Dog agression is a good example on when the collar would be useful. Correcting the dog before they get into a higer energy or agressive state can really help them understand that they can't just take a situation into their own hands. Not many mnay agree, but if you can't get your dog under control and that said dog is a threat to society, children, other dogs, or a nuisance to neighbors etc, it's better to say you tried what you could before giving up on the dog. Many times the dogs catches on right away and you downgrade to just a sound on the collar and with consitancy you don't need a tool at all. You only need to just hit a correction level that stops the mind from moving forward, not send them off their feet." (I did not correct any spelling)

So - using a shock/e-collar for aggression - most trainers would disagree with this one.  You'd need to have a pretty expert level of training to make this work or else you are going to have a dog that is even more aggressive - if you don't buzz your dog at the exact correct moment - you are going to actually exacerbate the aggression and put the dog into a higher level of anxiety - and even worse - if he doesn't know where that shock is coming from - he might begin to associate that shock with whatever is next to him - so if he is acting out because he is anxious about children and acting aggressively towards them and a child is within striking distance of them - and gets shocked next to one - what is going to happen?  Not a good thing you can imagine.  It certainly won't be "stopping the mind from moving forward," that's for sure.

Another comment:

"My dog couldn't leave the yard. Vets, pet stores, walks. Yes I know my dog is reactive but it's the not smart owners on these 20ft retractable leashes, or who don't listen saying oh my dog is friendly. You really shouldn't post bias articles without knowing how products actually work. Real ones, not cheap ineffective 3-5 setting pet store ones. My dog works on a 7. I cannot even feel it until 23 and even then it does not hurt. There is no pain, it's a muscle twitch."

So I'm assuming here that she has a shock/e-collar that you can buy online or from a trainer with settings that go from 1-120 - and she is saying that her reactive dog works on a 7 - and she says that she can't even feel a buzz on herself until a 23 and even then it doesn't hurt.

There is a book written by Larry Krohn that has an interesting passage in it.  The book is called "Everything you need to know:  E-Collar Training"

On page 11 Larry says:  "Keep in mind that during these walks it is important to have the collar set on the appropriate level. If your dog works on a level six on a Mini Educator around your home without distractions then you don't want to go for your walk the remote set on a six. You may want it on a 15 or 20, or even a 30. The number is not important, the response is. You keep the e collar set on the number that your dog will respond to around real distractions. You don't want to wait until your dog blows you off to start searching for the right level. BE PREPARED FOR THE WHAT IF."

So I think that when people who use shock/e-collars tell us that they their dogs only work on a "7" or a "5" - probably they aren't giving us the whole picture - around the house, or without distractions - they are probably being truthful with us - but out in the real world - where their dog is actually being reactive - I can bet you that this person's dog's collar is not set to "7".

Another area of misinformation is when advocates for shock/e-collars say that they use "e-collars" - they would never put a shock collar on dogs - especially on a rescue dog.  And I always push back against that - I ask them - where in the stores or online do they buy these "e-collars" that are so different than shock collars?  And they say that the shock collars sold in retail stores are actually abusive - they only have settings of five or so settings - unlike collars that you buy from actual trainers or online that have settings of 100 or more so you can have settings on dogs that you can't even actually feel yourself but your dog can feel.

The thing is though - you don't know what your dog is feeling - because the last time I checked - none of us were dogs and none of us could actually interpret what dogs actually felt.  We can measure their cortisol levels - which measure the stress levels in dogs - and there are lots of studies now that do show that shock collars - even at low levels - increases their stress. Which is not a good thing - so if you have a balanced trainer telling you that "e-collars" are different than "shock collars" - they are lying to you - they are the exact same devices.

Here's another comment:

""Ecollars are often weened out of use by an owner after their dogs have learned to behave appropriately, with manners & are the most well adjusted dogs I have been around in the past 8 years."

Funny story - I was reading the timeline a couple years ago of someone who uses an "e-collar" on their dogs - they were out walking off leash with their dogs and one of their dogs was completely blowing them off - was not listening to them whatsoever - they were buzzing their dog - just giving the collar to them - and the dog was not obeying them at all - so they had to leash the dog up.  This is a person who talks all over facebook about how great the collars are - so much so that they have me blocked on facebook.  After they got home they checked the dogs collar and it turned out that one of the prongs had burned out and the collar wasn't working so the dog was not being shocked - so the dog didn't think he had to listen to his owners commands.  So much for having manners when the collar is not working or on the dog.

Another thing is that advocates for balanced training don't seem to understand what science based dog training actually is.  One person, when questioned about what positive dog training was - said that it is:

"Pure positive is treat training and avoidance.  Balanced training is discovering how a dog learns best and utilizing all methodologies of training, including positive reinforcement and tools".

This person could not be more wrong.  And any person who is serious about dog ownership and actually taking care of their dog in a loving way knows that.  There are some balanced trainers in Nova Scotia who do use positive methods to train dogs and then layer the shock/e-collars on top of that - but there are others who only use prong/shock collars as their only method to train dogs - and tell dog owners that what they are doing is positive dog training - they actually tell dog owners that the way they use prong collars is gentle and positive.

There are a lot of tools that a dog trainer can use before getting to something as highly aversive as prong and shock/e-collars - all dog trainers and dog owners have the four quadrants of operant conditioning - which I won't get into - you can google it for yourself if you don't know what that is - and I'm pretty sure the person who made the above comment has no idea what that is.

The best dog trainers in the world don't need to dip into positive punishment - which is what shock collars do.

A couple of the dog trainers in Nova Scotia who use shock/e-collars as part of their training program are really good dog trainers - if they didn't use shock/e-collars - the dogs that came out of their programs would be really good dogs at the end - and they say that they just layer the collars over solid obedience training - why they choose to use these devices is really mind boggling - why they choose to use negative reinforcement/positive punishment and not purely positive training is truly mind boggling because they seem to really love dogs.

However, there are other "balanced trainers" in Nova Scotia who can't function without the collars, and that's a problem.

Even Larry Krohn mostly uses purely positive dog training in his training protocol and says so in his book.

If the collars disappeared tomorrow, what would happen to these trainers?  Some of them definitely would not be able to function - but some of them could - the ones that could - I have to ask - why are you continuing to use them?

You can minimize people who are against the people who are against the use of these collars by saying we don't understand how they are used - but it's just not true - we do understand how they are used, we understand it very well - we just don't see the need for them - the best dog trainers in the world don't use them and there's a reason why that is - there are a couple dog trainers in Nova Scotia who are excellent - and unfortunately they feel the need to use them - hopefully as time goes on they won't feel the need to continue to use them and science based dog training will become the norm.