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Whatever Happened to Training Your Dog?




My Facebook feed is normally a fairly happy place, filled with photos of people’s dogs and wildlife. There are ads too, of course, but they’re easy enough to ignore; that is, until one like the one that came across my newsfeed today appears. It featured a wary Cavalier King Charles Spaniel having a large shock collar strapped around his neck, and boasted, “Tired of struggling with your dog pulling on their leash? Say goodbye to frustrating walks and hello to a well-behaved companion.”

 

Hoping that the collar was somehow not what it appeared to be, I clicked through to the website. There, under a tab labeled “How it Works,” I found a video. The voiceover explains, “The collar detects when your dog pulls on the leash and activates using a sound, vibration, and optional safe stimulation with a level set by you.” So, in other words, any time the leash tightens, the dog will receive a correction either by sound, vibration, or shock. What could go wrong?

 

Dogs constantly create associations between things in their world. For example, if something pleasant such as receiving a treat happens every time a dog lays on a particular bed, he’s more likely to spend time there. On the flip side, if something painful or scary happens each time he encounters a stimulus—for example, every time he sees a bee he gets stung—the dog is very likely to form a negative association with bees. Now picture a sweet, friendly dog who is being walked on leash. He sees another dog, becomes excited, wags his tail happily, and tries to go greet this new potential friend. But wait! When he pulls toward the dog, he gets an unpleasant and possibly painful surprise, which stops him in his tracks.

 

When this scenario happens repeatedly, or even once for some dogs, yes, it could result in the dog no longer pulling. It could also very well result in the dog becoming fearful of or fear-reactive toward other dogs. So, what started out as a well-temperamented, dog-friendly dog who pulled on leash is now a dog with a much bigger problem. In the video, there was also a comment about the “dozens of customer testimonials.” One could be seen on the screen describing how an overexcited goldendoodle jumped on people as they walk past, but this collar solved the problem. Really? Do we really need a crystal ball to see that this could cause a much bigger problem when the dog comes to associate the punishment with people? Or that some dogs are not going to want to go for a walk at all?

 

It boggles the mind that in this day and age, with all we know about dog behavior, the go-to for so many people is still to inflict pain in order to get a quick result. Whatever happened to training your dog? To building a bond of love and trust through working together? To rewarding good behavior, and modifying unwanted behavior through scientifically valid, gentle methods? The world has become such an angry place, with plenty of violence everywhere. We don’t need to add to it. Our dogs deserve better. _____________________________________________________________ You can find my books, seminar recordings, blog, and more at www.nicolewilde.com and follow me on Facebook @NicoleWildeauthor. My mentoring service can be found at Dog Trainer's Friend. And if wildlife photos are your thing, check out my Instagram at nicolewildeart. 

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