I have read a lot of social media posts lately on the topic of shock collars. Specifically, proponents claim that:
Modern shock collars do not cause pain. It is a mild tingle, a tickle. It is very much like a tens machine used by physiotherapists to heal people. Like the wee little pop of carpet static, the reaction is startle and not pain. This idea is substantiated with statistics. Bark collars, at 0.0003 joules are far gentler than an abdominal energizer – coming in at 0.914 joules of energy.
Here’s the problem with joules and volts. You can’t say, “This amount of shock will kill you.” It’s complicated.
For example, consider the follow three people who were shocked:
A Construction worker wearing insulated boots touches household wire feels a mild tingle.
B Homeowner standing barefoot on a wet bathroom floor touches household wire dies.
C Child is shocked with 20,000 volts and giggles. (Carpet static…it can kill you.)
Thankfully, carpet static doesn’t kill people because the duration is too short and most of the charge dissipates through the air before it reaches you. Make no mistake, it is powerful. Much lower voltage can be more dangerous. There are some generally accepted levels, in amps, from Georgia University, and it includes information on the physiological effects at different levels – such as can’t let go effect, and serious health concerns.
The construction worker had protection in the form of insulating boots. Unlike the homeowner with wet bare feet, who was a serious accident waiting to happen. And yet the volts on those two were the same.
That’s what makes this whole shock collar debate interesting and complex. Knowing whether shock hurts is a challenging question. How is shock pain measured?
Researchers involved in pain studies use amps. So I went back to lessons from high school to try to sort through the confusion. I can remember the teacher saying:
“It’s the AMPS that kill. It’s the AMPS that hurt.”
Amps are calculated using Ohm’s Law. Amps = Volts / Resistance
Think of electricity like a water hose. Volts are your water pressure. Resistance is the dirt that’s gotten clogged in the hose. It will slow down pressure. So will holes in the hose that let water escape. Amps is the “oomph” you have at the end of the hose when all is said and done. There is a profound difference between the dribble of a clogged garden hose and the gush of a fire hose putting out a fire. The blast from a pressure washer has got to sting, but I’m not about to volunteer to try that out. Really, it doesn’t matter how much water is going in the hose. It’s about how much oomph is coming out.
That’s what Ohm’s law is about. You have power going into a wire. Maybe some dissipates into the air. Maybe there is some resistance, something getting in the way of the current like skin or hair. Maybe the wire is high quality and really lets that current flow strong. These impact the amount of amperage.
If you have all the information, the voltage, the way the product is made and the resistance, then you could do math calculations. That’s a bit tricky and presumes that the information is readily available.
Or, you can look it up.
How many amps hurt? Amperage, at this level is usually written in milliamps, or one thousandth of an amp. Researchers involved in pain research, often use shock to cause pain. For example, they shock subjects and measure how much pain the individual can handle. Then, they might give pain medications, re-shocking the individual to see if the drugs were effective. The following is a list of pain thresholds taken from a sampling of pain studies.
Painful would mean, “It hurts.” Threshold means, “The subject absolutely cannot take anymore.”
|Sensation||Level in Milliamps (mA)|
|Painful||0.15 – 2.0|
|Threshold (can’t take anymore) Study 1||0.5|
|Threshold (can’t take anymore) Study 2||0.90 – 7.35|
|Animal tail twitch studies||0.2 – 0.8|
Why do we have pain thresholds for animals? Pain medications are tested on animals. So researchers need to know how much pain an animal will tolerate. These are tail twitch studies.
How many amps do shock collars deliver? It’s a tough number to find, but a few retailers and pro-shock education sites do offer numbers..
|Source||Level in Miliamps (mA)|
|Shalke Study||800 – 1250|
|Website sales site||20|
|Shock collar education site||7 to 40-80|
Shock collar proponents state that modern electronic training systems are gentler than older versions. Christiansen and Shalke are older studies. I’ll concede that point and remove them. How do shock collars stack up against the pain research numbers in a graph, using milliamps?
Do shock collars hurt? It’s a complex question.
Where amps are concerned, all I can do is work with the numbers that are publicly available. I can chart the numbers from pain studies. “This many amps hurt.” I can look up the number of amps in shock collars and chart them. Then I can look up other devices that are often compared to shock collars.
Let the numbers do the talking. Of course, I’m always open to more data. Heck, I’ll even wear one. But for now, these are the numbers. If 2 milliamps can pain during a study, then how can 7, 20, 40 or 80 feel like a tickle? What do the numbers say to you?
Update: June 11, 2013
Radio systems references the amps on “modern” training collars. It directs people to a study that claims that the collars run from 30 to 80 mA. These numbers are from a report, direct from the manufacturer. (Page 3) Another section of the same report, references 100 mA. As with all the other shock collar data, taken from a pro-shock reference.
Update: July 3, 2013
I welcome additional statistics, and have openly stated I would like to see data from the shock collar trainers and sales reps that have commented. Some said they were contacting the company directly. See below in the comments. Nothing yet and not surprised. Still open to getting the full range of amps on collars under a variety of conditions. Dry, wet, salt water.
I wouldn’t personally use a shock collar on an animal. When I was a kid my mother bought them for a couple of our dogs who were barking and at risk of needing to be rehomed due to neighbour complaints. My sister and I used to dare each other to touch the live points with our fingers, and boy, they really used to hurt. It wasn’t pleasant at all, and that wasn’t on our necks, it was on our fingers! My view- there are better ways to train- I use clicker training with great success on my dog. Also, my mother’s dog quickly learnt which the live collar was, and would just bark when the live one was off, even with the dummy collar. Too clever for that. Positive methods deal with the cause, not the symptom..
In humans, 15-20mA is the “can’t let go” threshold. 30mA is typically lethal. I can’t imagine that it’s significantly different for dogs. Too much of the biology is the same. The numbers you’ve posted are likely all wrong.The Shalke study 900-1250 mA? Given that the typical skin resistance of a human is tens of thousands of ohm, that would mean (for a 1250 mA jolt and 20K-ohm resistance) more than 31kW! To give you some idea of how much power that is, the typical home water heater uses two heating elements – usually about 5500 watts each. The typical electric skillet uses about 1200 watts… so a one second “jolt” would be the equivalent of turning the frying pan on and holding it against the animal for about 26 seconds. In short, you’d probably set the dog on fire.
5-20mA is a lot more reasonable.
The Schalke study is listed there with a click through. It lists 1.25A, converting to mA is 1250. With a resistance of 500 Ohms. Peak is 700V. At the time I wrote this, I had a couple people with electrical experience review the conversion to make sure I did it correctly.
If you read further, you’ll notice I said that for the purpose of looking into this, I removed the Schalke study because it used old equipment. I referenced numbers that were part of a shock collar manufacturer’s material. The company making these states 30 – 80mA. Still well over what you had indicated as being reasonable.
My neighbor just put an electric fence around my yard being a pasture is on their side. This was yesterday and all day today my medium size dog is going on as if she has gotten hurt. Trying to find out what amps can hurt her. Not saying she got hurt by the fence. She is only out to “potty” or with us and we are not aware of her touching fence but we don’t see her every minute.
Pain is very individual. Is there any way you can barrier/fence the area so there is not chance she runs into the fence?
where the collar yourself hit yourself with the maximum “vibration” if it hurts you. then its cruel to put it on an animal
The vibrate mode only has one level, and it feels like a cell phone vibration. I’ve worn the collar myself, around my neck, and shocked myself at the highest setting, far beyond what I need or would consider using on my dog. The highest settings are definitely very unpleasant and, as I said, I would not use the collar in that way with my dog. But to say that the lower settings, which impart very little stimulus, should not be used because the highest settings are too severe is silly. It’s like saying you should never reprimand your children if you are not willing to beat them severely, i.e., it’s dumb.
They’re often/usually used in a negative reinforcement capacity. When using negative reinforcement, you never has to go past that one step where “I would rather avoid that”. Any more is unnecessary because you get the effect as soon as you step across that line.
Ex: Music you dislike.
You might be more likely to engage in headphone buying behaviour for kids in the house if they listen to music you do not like. (Or other avoidance behaviour – going out, not inviting them over – you avoid it.) The volume only has to be high enough to – tick you off really. You don’t need to me MORE ticked off. Just enough. That whole intensity thing is very much a part of the sales process of negative reinforcement – “You only need to do it on minimum levels.”
What if someone made your behaviour conditional on things that grated on you? “If you do the dishes, I’ll turn off the music.” Nice or not nice. Or controlling you with what you dislike?
Regardless of level, as soon as you go into negative reinforcement, no matter how good you are, you need to experience the aversive in order to learn to avoid it. Even well mannered dogs must feel what they dislike/annoys them in order to learn the behavioural requirement to get away. To me, that makes negative reinforcement a very unappealing option. I have no desire to apply an aversive to an animal so that it learns how to turn it off and thus do what I want. Then moving that escape behaviour gets moved to avoidance.
Wonder how annoying things in life are that are in that zone of aversive. Not “that bad.” Presence of an ex-spouse? Loud obnoxious music? Dropping water faucet? Feeling cold or hot or wet?
No, you don’t need to be overtly painful to trigger negative reinforcement. That does not mean that irritation is desirable.
Then don’t use anything other than positive reinforcement. If you obtain the results you want by this means, that’s awesome. If it’s a philosophical, ideological point with you that not even the slightest negative stimulus is allowed because it equates to torture, then I accept that.
Because our dogs are so well trained and so ridiculously happy, we are often approached for advice about dog training. I actually recommend that people try positive reinforcement only first. If it works for them and their dog, that’s awesome. But when, invariably, they come back weeks later and report that they are seeing little or no real progress I suggest they try other approaches, always with the emphasis on communicating and teaching the dog what you are asking for rather than adopting a punitive approach. Every single time I offered such advice, and it has been often, I have owners going out of their way to thank me, effusively, and tell me how much better their relationships are with their dogs and how many wonderful things they can enjoy doing together now that they are working together and understand each other.
It has been my experience that dogs who understand what you are asking them to do tend to do it willingly, and they love the positive feedback for doing what is asked. And its easier, faster and far more effective to communicate with multiple modes of dialog. That is, using positive and negative feedback, pushing and pulling (gently) in the direction you want to go together. The goal is always to have the richest, most mutually enjoyable life together, and because we’ve opened our minds a bit we’ve been able to give our dogs the types of wonderful experiences we never dreamed possible before.
So, to each his own.
Oh, and it’s the vibration that has only one level (we actually use a tone instead of a vibrate now). The shock has adjustable levels, but the lowest levels are all we use (right around the point where the dogs can just begin to feel them–you don’t have to yell, just talk to your dog). And we always spend weeks to months teaching the dogs the meaning of the commands first. Terrible, I know, but the dogs sure do enjoy the benefits of being well trained, and so do the owners.
They spend weeks with little to no results – and then go running to you.
Then you spend months teaching commands before using the collar.
Well, gosh darn glad they gave both options equal opportunity. Couple weeks of positive reinforcement should be compared to months of prep work then additional how long with corrections?
Sounds to me like a biased comparison and exaggerated promises. I have yet to see that miracle “better trained” dog.
Oh, and just to be clear. I don’t train other people’s dogs. I may recommend a trainer, or the people may elect to train themselves (in which case I give them some advice). They’ve usually spent months trying to train their dogs with other trainers and while their dogs may know the meaning of some commands, and will do what’s asked some of the time, the dogs will often ignore the commands when they are really needed or wanted (like in a dog park, for instance). Usually, once the collar is introduced it takes a few sessions. Sometimes only one or two sessions. It’s not a miracle, you still have to work with your dog to solidify the bond and establish good communication.
But if it’s just a bunch of biased opinions and exaggerated promises, and positive reinforcement only is the universal solution to training, then you don’t have to worry because everyone will eventually stop using anything other than positive reinforcement only trainers. The flow seems to be in the other direction where I live, though.
I don’t know where to put any more clients. Maybe I should franchise. If I could shut down for a couple months and build a bigger place, I’d fill it 7 days a week. Which is why I’m not wasting my time going on pro-shock collar sites and telling them what they ought to be doing. I don’t have time.
And Tom, do your dogs still wear shock collars?
Generally, no. We sometimes put them on if we’re going off-leash hiking in an area with lots of deer, bear, etc., or somewhere we don’t know very well, but we almost never have to use it, and then usually just with the tone (like a beep). I wouldn’t chalk it all up to the collar, though. The collar is just part of the training process.
Which is exactly how negative reinforcement works. As long as the animal continues to practice the avoidance sequence, it assumes it has avoided the aversive. The desire to avoid facing the aversive keeps the dog avoiding. It’s the rush to “phew” avoid it before it gets you.”
The beep is like an anti-clicker. Beep = shock. Higher order conditioning where the beep takes on the meaning of the shock. So beeps have a negative conditioned emotional response.
People are free to use them. So long as people own up to how they work. The beep is conditioned to mean shock. In the same way a click can mean a treat.
You’re making the beep aversive. Then using it.
Own up to it, but please don’t make it seem like the beep is some little helpful warning. Conditioning gives it meaning in the same way the jingle of a choke collar means “leash correction.”
You can go as low as you want in terms of something being aversive. It’s just like a nagging spouse. Nag nag nag – nag nag nag – please make it stop. Lack of intense pain does not make something soft and fuzzy. I don’t nag my husband. I don’t nag my dogs. That is exactly what continuous stim under negative reinforcement is. “Please make it stop – what do I need to do to make it stop?”
So, Tom you still have to threaten your pets with the possibility of a shock should they not do what you wish. If your dogs were properly trained and not just practising avoidance, then you would not need shock collar at all. If you can’t do that, then when in doubt as to whether they might run off, your dogs should be on leash therefore avoiding having to threaten them into behaving. It seems that despite all the evidence to the contrary (and boy,is there a shed load of it available for anyone who cares to read) and the endless conversations on this blog, you still believe that you are being a kind and a caring owner. If you wish to stay in denial that is your prerogative, but quite simply you are just fooling yourself and anyone which wishes to listen to what you have to say.
“…To use a shock / choke chain / prong collar as an effective dog training method you will need:
1. A thorough understanding of canine behaviour.
2. A thorough understanding of learning theory.
3. Impeccable timing.
And if you have those three things, you would not need to use an aversive tool. Dr. Ian Dunbar…”
Vet/Behaviourist, Dog Trainer, Internationally acclaimed Lecturer in Training and Dog Behaviour.
You can find strong opinions on either side of this issue, and I would agree that to successfully train a dog using any method (including positive reinforcement only) you will need those things listed. But if positive reinforcement only methods are so much less demanding and more successful, where are all the good trainers using this method (they are often derisively called “puppy trainers” around here).
Seems that positive reinforcement only trainers rely more on demagoguery against other training methods than the effectiveness of their own to get business. And, from our own experience, when their techniques fail to get results they lay all the blame squarely on the owners, and make them feel guilty about letting down their dogs. It’s a clever psychological ploy, really.
I know many, many people in the dog park who have been through positive reinforcement only training with their dogs and only one pair of border collies is well trained. The other owners certainly wouldn’t trust their dogs off-leash. Why is that? One dog was just killed when someone left a gate open and the dog ignored the calls of its owner, bolted into a nearby street and was hit by a car. This, I am confident, would never happen with our dogs…because we care enough to ensure that it doesn’t.
Tom, i agree with just about every word you wrote. we had our dog professionally trained at a 4 week boarding session with both positive reinforcement and e-collar training. what a difference it has made in all of our lives for the better. we are also starting to train with a prong collar for walking since i’m partially disabled due to knee replacement and unable to manage the remote quickly enough. if he were to dart out at something as all dogs will on occasion, i can control him and not be dragged, because he stops. excellent posts.
I knew Ian years ago when I lived in California and took some classes with him. He’s a great teacher, but I have one problem with this quote. Those three things are also required to be an effective trainer using non-aversive methods, probably even more so. What most positive trainers don’t acknowledge is that it is complicated and difficult method to learn if you want to go much further than sit and down and come if there isn’t something more interesting to do. I haven’t met many pet dog owners who don’t revert to waving a cookie in front of the dog’s face within a month or two of taking a class. I love the creativity clicker training has brought to the world of training, but I also suspect the message that anything that uses aversives is abusive has contributed to the plague of badly-behaved pet dogs.
I cannot speak for other people. I have always been an advocate of “if you want to do something, do it right.” I do go into depth with my clients. I don’t hide that teaching is a skill. However, and this is a HUGE however.
Balanced trainers or those who use force often say that the complex things I write about or teach are hard. And they say that it’s something that shows that positive reinforcement is easy.
Whether I’m talking about conditioned emotional responses, overshadowing, blocking, behavioural momentum and more – they see that as “see – positive reinforcement is hard.”
The thing is, all of these things apply to all methods and all quadrants. The trainer who uses aversives and tries to make the case that it’s easier because you don’t need all this stuff, and knowledge probably shouldn’t be training a goldfish. Because you do. I used to use corrections. I don’t make a moral judgement on that. I have never used the word abuse.
If a trainer is trying to claim that you can skip information and it’s easier by using aversives, then I will very clearly say, they are incompetent because you absolutely must know these things using ALL quadrants. Force is not easier. If it were, those prongs would be off the dog faster than my fading a food lure.
Do you carry insurance on your home despite the fact that you have taken all precautions and have no evidence to suggest that the home is at risk? Do you hike with your dogs off-leash?
And when you claim that I am not a carrying owner, that is where I draw the line. My wife and I center our lives around our dogs, spend most of free time with them, and care as much about their health and happiness as we do our own.
You may have some ideological objection to the way we train our dogs, and we may believe you are depriving your dogs of a full and truly happy life, but at least we don’t make ignorant judgments about you and your caring for your dogs.
Like I said, we very rarely put it one and only as insurance. And then we almost never actually use even the tone. I understand that what the collar communicates is that the dog is doing something other than what I want and it is saying “no”. Since we have no way to intellectually define the word “no” to a dog through advanced literacy (say, a dictionary) we use the fact that the collar’s mild shock is an aversive and, as such, it communicates “no” at a visceral level. Just like you define “yes” with a treat or something positive but you don’t have to give the dog a steak, just a tiny morsel.
Being able to say “no” (with a mild correction) and “yes” (with praise or a treat) is more effective than only saying “yes” and pathetically trying to bribe your dog to do what you want (even though the dog is only doing it for its own selfish reasons) all the time. And from what I’ve experienced very few dogs can be bribed into doing what you ask all the time, or even most of the time. Own up to it, the collar is quite simply an effective training tool if used properly.
Do you ever bribe your dog with treats after the initial training phase? Do you carry treats with you when you hike through the woods off-leash?
Do you only say “yes” to your kids? Do you never indicate that anything they do wrong is wrong, you just ignore it or whip out some cupcakes to have them do something else instead? Do you never reprimand, only reward, your kids?
Who’s pathetically bribing? Bribing isn’t positive reinforcement training. If that’s how you do it, then no wonder you need a shock collar.
Please show evidence that using a correction is more effective.
If my timing is right, I can use extinction on a DRI or DRO schedule. Do I reprimand my kid? I certainly would consider that an emergency, not teaching. If my kid says 3×4=13 I’d say “check the back of the card” or “try again.”
I do not have to slap him, eh eh him, or make a point of saying he is wrong.
Let’s please not compare badly done positive reinforcement training with anything. I’m not sure why you’d compare badly done anything with badly done anything.
And I put effort into not having a hand obsessed dog. No, I don’t carry treats. It’s the benefit that comes from strong mechanics, diversity of reinforcements, consistency and creating tertiary reinforcements.
It’s ironic how sensitive you are to others mischaracterizing what you do. You can dish it out but can’t take it.
You’re speaking based on your opinion. Many pet parents do NOT want to go this route, and when they have tried EVERYTHING else and do NOT want to send their pet away, they don’t tend to want to over do anything let alone harm their pet. I was once like you…. then we got our Olivia. It’s been 2 years, thousands spent on training and other positive reinforcement crap that did nothing. I wouldn’t hear of it…. now I wish I would have tried this sooner. Don’t assume I’m someone or something I’m not. God forbid you ever have to be torn as I and my family were. When you get to replace the Lord in His current position as judge, then preach your opinions.
I don’t know whom you’re speaking to Kimberly, but I have not seen anyone attack you or assume anything about you. As someone who grew up in the church, I know we are admonished not to judge. However, we were also taught that everyone is tested. If you feel the need to defend your actions, it’s not me who you need to defend them to. How you choose to react to difficult situations in your life is your business.
However, I won’t have anyone here admonished into silence via “guilting”. I am truly sorry if you used rewards and it failed. I cannot tell you why that happened other than to say that if the behaviour you were trying to increase didn’t, then you didn’t use positive reinforcement. You just thought you were. Positive reinforcement is defined by it’s affect. If nothing changed, then nothing was reinforced. It’s possible you were given bad instructions. It’s possible you didn’t follow instructions. Or maybe you should have been using classical conditioning.
I can’t say what went wrong. But I absolutely can speak out and warn people about the side effects. You know what, I think if Jesus were around, he’d warn people about side effects too. After all, he drove the animals out of the temple with the money changers. Historically speaking, this practice involved substandard care to animals. Driving the animals out ensured they were not mistreated. Jesus spoke up about animals. So I don’t get why I or anyone here would be guilted into silence in a “how dare we” sort of way.
Of course, when after spending enormous amounts of time, lots of effort, and large sums of money on Positive Reinforcement Only (PSO) training and it doesn’t work, it’s never all the trainers you paid that failed — it’s you, the owner. You always did something wrong and couldn’t quite get the techniques right. And thus you, not the trainers that made off with your money, failed your dog. Don’t fall for the psychological ploy where the PSO crowd tries to redirect blame for the inadequacies and limitations of their methods onto you. If PSO trainers believe so deeply in their methods they would guarantee their results, not transfer the blame for their failings onto you.
And training is not always just trying to increase desired behavior, which can be well accomplished with rewards of various types. Sometimes its about decreasing undesired and intolerable behavior, where you must communicate to the dog that this behavior is wrong. And before my point is twisted into a call for torturing your pet, I agree that shock collars are often abused and misused as a form of punishment rather than a tool for communication. Often the sound or vibration modes are best and least objectionable to the dog; then you can avoid using the shock mode altogether. One of my dogs is far more disturbed by the “beep” sound than she is by a mild shock, however, which she isn’t put off by. The “beep” worked best for my other dog. Both are very happy and well trained.
Finally, there is no substitute for spending lots of time with your dog, interacting with patience and consistency and forming a strong bond, but that takes time.
Tom, I’m not sure how you can say it’s “always” the owner’s mistake. You can clearly see I said, “It’s possible you were given bad instructions.”
Of course decrease behaviour is part of training. That’s what differential reinforcement schedules do. I’m sorry if no one ever taught that to you.
So all of the PRO trainers that Kimberly, I, and others have tried are all giving “bad instructions”? How many PRO trainers does one have to pay before you are guaranteed proper instructions? Results? Is it impossible, in your mind, that PRO is not well-suited to some situations? I can definitely say that incorporating a shock collar, with a good trainer and proper instruction, has been much more successful for us.
We tried differential reinforcement, and no doubt it works for some dogs and some of their unwanted behaviors, but it didn’t work for our dog and her behaviors, which were admittedly extreme. We tried several trainers/behaviorists and spent much time and money without results. You have to cut bait at some point, or maybe trainers can institute a policy where they only accept payment upon successful achievement of agreed upon goals.
Our experience sounds just like Kimberly’s, and we also regretted not trying other training techniques sooner due to our misapprehensions and misconceptions. Our dogs are probably the biggest beneficiaries, though, as they get to hike and play off-leash a great deal, and they absolutely love it.
The dog training industry – involving all quadrants – is unregulated. Where a high school dropout can set up shop. In that type of environment is it reasonable to assume that some have more marketing than knowledge? Very likely.
That is a reflection of the industry, not individuals. It is my experience that trainers involved in all quadrants of training often cannot properly separate out their classical and operant conditioning. Those are BASICS.
I always err on the side of “tell me exactly what you did.”
Unless you want to spell out the issues and the plan, I simply cannot comment on “I tried positive reinforcement and it did not work.”
That’s like saying I tried exercising and it did not work. Of course it works. But failing to adjust portions can sabotage exercise. So one can keep ranting and saying, “It doesn’t work for me.” Or one can say, “This is something that works, WHY didn’t it work for me.”
I can’t make the choice for you to look and ask why. And no, positive reinforcement is not the culprit. But if you want to put it out there that your neighbour’s high school drop out can be a behaviourist because they said so…and that is a problem. Have at it. I agree that is wrong. In that environment, people are bound to get bad advice.
I just tested the amperage for a new doc collar. On the lowest setting it hit a high of 0.22 mA, with fluctuations down to 0. On the highest setting, it hit a high of 0.75 mA, fluctuating down to 0. I tried both the high and low settings on myself – they were both pretty uncomfortable and to be honest I couldn’t notice the difference.
Don: Do you mind me asking how you tested it?
I really am interested in trying to understand why some humans are willing to use shock collars and so convinced it is ok. I have never used them nor have I ever considered it. I have not even been tempted for one moment by shock collar users descriptions of their perfectly behaved dogs. Actually, I realize they aren’t perfectly behaved since it has been described that you need a warning shock, and then the stronger shocks for when the dog doesn’t listen. Do they hurt? I think they do, and shock collar users do admit they hurt although they gloss it over so they don’t sound that bad. But they won’t quite admit that they use pain to train their dogs.
But why do some humans insist on using them? Partly I believe it is because humans probably evolved using pain to control the animals as we started to domesticate them. At one point in history, probably thousands of years ago, humans did need to use pain to control the animals in their care. Plus I believe humans don’t have much of a problem with hurting animals or other humans for that matter, it is in our nature. Humans hurt other beings and quite easily justify it to themselves. We love the idea of control, especially control over an animal that could easily kill us. Getting another creature to submit to our dominance over them is a rewarding feeling for humans. For some people, how they achieve that isn’t important.
From all the responses I have read here, the most important thing is to have a well behaved dog. One you can take anywhere, let off leash and one who will do as you command the instant you command it. If a person has to hurt the dog, even just a little, to achieve that goal, that seems to be acceptable. That is partly in our nature – to hurt another creature and justify it.
I would like to think human beings are a more intellectual version of what we were thousands of years ago. We don’t need to hurt our dogs to get obedience. There is no behaviour we need from our dogs that is so urgent we need to systematically and deliberately hurt them to make them do it.
I just spent a day at a dog event for the public. Only one dog was wearing a shock collar, but when I asked the owner if she’d like to consider a less harsh alternative if one were available that could help her, I was met with a diatribe of how I didn’t know what I was talking about and the collar only “vibrates” – the language that is being used to obfuscate what’s really happening to dogs when they wear these collars is being accepted hook, line, and sinker by dog owners who just want the dog to “stop” doing whatever. In every puppy class, instead of asking “How do I get my puppy to know to have a soft mouth?” I hear, “How do I stop my puppy from nipping?” We are, sadly, a correction-focused society, and more than the language itself needs to change. It needs, just as has become the norm with drinking and driving, for example, to become simply unacceptable to hurt dogs to train dogs.
Many e-collars collars have a vibrate mode. It’s works just like your cell phone. It’s not a euphemism for an electrical shock or an attempt to obfuscate what is happening; it’s an accurate description of what the the collar is doing when used in this mode…i.e., vibrating. So the person was actually correct, you do not know what you’re talking about.
Actually, many trainers that use shock collars do use the term “vibrate”, regardless of the setting. Others use things such as tap, buzz, stim, correction, etc. Some even use the word “click”, referring to the handheld remote, further confusing people about actual clicker/marker training. I have yet to hear one actually use the word “shock”, regardless of setting.
Loren, the collar we originally used did have a vibrate mode (like a cell phone). We try any collar on ourselves before we put it on our dogs. I strongly suggest everyone that uses a shock collar try it on themselves (bare skin on the neck) before using it on their dog as they are not all the same. The collar we currently use has a tone (a “beep”) in addition to the adjustable shocks, and the tone in combination with low-intensity shocks works extremely well for us. We only use the collars now when on off-leash hikes and the tone, at most, is all that we have needed once the dogs had been trained.
The trainer we used, after several unsatisfactory experiences with “positive reinforcement only” trainers, was very up-front about using a shock collar, had my wife and I try the collar first, encouraged us to be a part of the training process, and gives full refunds if people decide at any time that the training is not for them. I think our trainer just called it a “shock”. The trainer’s group is by far the most popular in the area, by the way, it is fully booked for many months out, and everyone I’ve met that has gone through the training (dozens by now) was extremely happy with it. I’m not saying it’s the only thing that works, but it worked best, by far, for us.
I’m not proselytizing, just saying we were very happy with the experience and the results. We trained our newest dog with the collar ourselves and it worked out wonderfully. There are good/effective and bad/ineffective dog trainers of all types, so I strongly encourage everyone to be involved in the training process, and be a strong advocate for your dog if you are uncomfortable with the training regimen. And try a different approach if you aren’t seeing results after a reasonable amount of time and effort. If training with positive reinforcement only works for you, and allows you to achieve the results you’re after, then that is awesome. You need look no further, then.
I am currently having very painful discussions with multiple people because their dogs are exhibiting severe aggression. All the dogs were trained through multiple levels with well known trainers who incorporated shock collars of various types. These dogs are a danger to the community and members of the family now. Some will probably end up dead.
I’ve worn a bark collar. Hurts like a son of a gun on low. The burn lingers for a good 15 minutes.
Effectiveness is not the only measure of a method’s success. Risk and side effects should weigh into our decision.
I’ve known many dogs that were trained with shock collars and are happy, well-socialized, wonderfully trained dogs without any signs of aggressive tendencies. I’ve known other dogs that were once playful, albeit overly energetic, that became aggressive when their owners (mis)used shock collars to zap them when they were playing a bit too rough. I’ve known many dogs that were very aggressive and never wore a shock collar. I’ve known dogs that were wonderfully trained using only rewards. I’ve also known many dogs that after working with multiple “positive reinforcement only” trainers are poorly behaved and almost completely unresponsive to their owners commands, and many of them end up dead, too. I try not to generalize or draw over-broad causal inferences. Every dog is different and training technique varies. I think it’s important that owners think through what their training needs are, research carefully what their options are, critically evaluate their experiences, and be very involved in their dogs’ training.
By the way, we, too, recently tried a bark collar for one of our dogs and found it to be too strong, even at the lowest setting. “Burn” seems like a loaded term to describe the sensation; it felt more like a very strong muscle twitch to my wife and I. We exchanged the bark collar for a training collar that we already had experience with and liked.
I agree wholeheartedly that risk and side effects should weigh into the discussion when it comes to deciding on a training program. But what is needed is factual, honest information rather than concentrating only on the worst-case anecdotes and emotion-laden language. I’ve already mentioned this, but before we tried training with a shock collar we were very much against them and extremely judgmental of those who used them. We were desperate for a solution short of drugging our dog with Prozac (a common recommendation in our case) after everything else to that point had failed (i.e., several trainers and a behaviorist). At the urging of a close friend who we trusted, and much research on our own, we tentatively tried the collar and it worked out wonderfully for all of us.
I also think that success, or results, should weigh heavily into the discussion, though. After all, the reason why people go through the process of training their dog is to achieve a well-trained dog. I recently read another of your posts about becoming a re-crossover trainer and it triggered an observation: most people I know who trained their dogs using a shock collar first used positive reinforcement only trainers, and almost everyone I know who used a shock collar for one of their dogs used it for every dog after that. It’s just one person’s observation, but it made me think. Instead of demonizing shock collar training in order to dissuade people from trying it, wouldn’t high rates of success with positive reinforcement only training be a more constructive way to dissuade people from trying alternatives?
My BC is 1 year old now, and we start going into public schools this week. Scratching my head wondering how much “better” we can go. (Given that you can’t even take a therapy dog test until a dog is 1 year old.)
I won’t disagree that some dogs are born with aggression issues. It’s about rate of risk. See, it’s easy to find examples of good or bad in any method.
Like a prescription pill – do many people experience mild side effects? A few people? Are there serious risks? What percent?
I could give someone a sugar pill and a good number of people would claim to be happy and satisfied with the results. You can get testimonials for anything. Best to not buy based on testimonial IMO.
I have zero doubt that someone who has not had any training in the proper implementation of a shock collar (I don’t like euphemisms: an animal isn’t harvested on a hunt and a dog isn’t stimulated or tickled while training with an e-collar) will create a traumatic experience for their dog if they just strap the collar to its neck and expect miracles while pushing the button when the dog fails to carry out a command that it doesn’t understand or receives poorly timed shocks and has no idea why it is happening or where it is coming from. Zero doubt. That said, the notion that shock collar training inherently creates dangerous dogs with behavioral problems is objectively false. Bad training and bad stewardship create dangerous dogs and the tools are immaterial. The whole point of the shock collar is exactly the same principle as the leash; when the dog is tethered you are in positive control (if you are worth your salt, anyway) because the dog is not only physically connected to you, but psychologically as well. In other words, after the dog has been trained on the leash it understands that when the clasp is clipped to the d-ring on his collar the human on the other end can prevent him from running off and can project authority. The shock collar is exactly the same, only the distances that your shock collar covers are measured in hundreds of yards instead of inches as is the case with your leash. That’s the whole point. A shock from the collar can definitely be a psychologically significant positive punishment for a dog, but that isn’t the the utility of the collar. The utility is in being able to “touch” your dog at the very moment you need to do so regardless of whether or not the dog is within arms reach or at the end of a leash. At any rate, if you want to see an example of numerous dogs together in one place that are extremely happy, love their jobs, love their humans, are good citizens and the polar opposite of a menace to society, you should attend a retriever field trial or a retriever hunt test. Every single one of those dogs was trained with a shock collar from the time he or she was about six months old.
So, let’s think about this then. Way back in the mists of time, when there was no such thing as a shock collar, and the world was a better place for it, people managed to train gun dogs to do their job. Hmmmm, I wonder how they did it? Plus there are hundreds of trainers who do not see the need to use a shock collar to train a gun dog and somehow, against all the odds, they manage to do it too. And, I will repeat what I said to Tom. If you need to keep a dog on a shock collar, so that you can threaten it at any point you wish to, then your dog is NOT trained. It doesn’t know it’s job. If it is liable to go off when it shouldn’t, then it is clearly NOT trained. Shock collar training is the lazy way to train a gun dog or indeed any dog. That’s another simple fact. People who use shock collars are not willing to put in the time and effort to train a dog properly. You can quote all the happy dogs you like but the evidence available for you to read says otherwise. A dog on a shock collar only complies because it is being threatened with pain if it doesn’t. It is practising avoidance, plain and simple. It’s not about being able to “touch” your dog. Wow, that’s a euphemism for giving it a shock that I haven’t heard before. I shall have to add that to the list.
Cleo, I will leave you with this quote.
“…To use a shock / choke chain / prong collar as an effective dog training method you will need:
1. A thorough understanding of canine behaviour.
2. A thorough understanding of learning theory.
3. Impeccable timing.
And if you have those three things, you would not need to use an aversive tool. Dr. Ian Dunbar
I think positive reinforcement only training is a relatively modern invention and most likely wasn’t used to train those gun dogs of which you speak. You are making the false assumption that if they didn’t use a shock collar they used your technique. Isn’t it possible, or even likely, that people trained with cruel and severe methods back then?
And you are deliberately missing the point to engage in demagoguery. The shock collar may not impart pleasure, but it’s not pain that is used (or should not be). Again, the point is simply to communicate “no” and not to harshly punish. Just like you may reprimand your children and that is not the same as beating the daylights out of them.
If you need a treat to get your dog to do what you ask you are only bribing it, plain and simple. The dog is acting purely out of self-interest and that is not, and should not be mistaken for, obedience.
Do you use a leash? If so, your dog is NOT trained. Our dogs do not go where they shouldn’t when off-leash. Come and see and we’ll compare dogs on a beautiful hike together.
If a dog is avoiding discomfort – that is self interest too. I know multiple “balanced” trainers whose dogs have killed other dogs. They are very hush hush about it.
In the middle of a full day of reactive/aggressive/fearful dog sessions. Pffft on the whole puppy thing.
All my dogs except one have been feral rescues. Big, strong dogs.
I have my first Border Collie and yeah – easy by comparison. But I’d put all purebreds into that “easier” than what I usually work with.
And I know many positive reinforcement only trainers who only give dogs indigestion.
When dogs that have been trained using positive reinforcement only kill other dogs, and they do, is the positive reinforcement only training to blame?
There are positive reinforcement based books on gun dog training from the 1800’s. It pre-dates Skinner.
What 1800s positive reinforcement ONLY books are those? And do you think that is what most gun dogs were trained with? I seem to remember many, if not most, positive reinforcement trainers complaining about the cruel techniques used to train sporting dogs in the past. I guess now all those techniques are great. Let’s go back to them, huh?
Motivating your dog to work with rewards is not the same as coercing him to offer a behaviour to avoid pain. Working for rewards is not the same as working to avoid punishment. Rewards are fun and feel good, punishment is exhausting and the desire to work to avoid pain will cease.
A trainer can be very skilled at doling out punishments, and offering rewards. Whichever method is more effective and who ever has the better trained dog is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that shock collars hurt, to whatever degree you want to admit, they hurt, and since a dog can be completely and reliably trained using a reward system, it is unethical to use pain to train.
What if you are trying to address an undesirable behavior that is self-rewarding, much more so than your treat? The dog routinely chooses the bad behavior over the treat.
Funny, our dog tired of rewards quickly but “got” the e-collar training almost immediately. What was exhausting was working with our dog for months, for several hours every day but not all formal training, and seeing no significant progress with problem behaviors.
I recommend that people use a high-quality e-collar and try the collar on themselves (on the neck) to gain an appreciation for what it feels like. Each caring and loving dog owner can decide for his/herself if it is unethical.
I recommend that people try the collar on their neck, passing the remote to someone else who will teach them a behaviour/stop a behaviour with zero verbal communication on what that behaviour is, or what level starts to feel “painful.” For example, I could teach my husband to take his feet off the couch. I decide what level to set the shock at based on any physical reaction he might have. I can only speak to him in a foreign language that he does not understand. That would better approximate the reality of what a human would have to do with a dog. You have to figure out the level. You do not hold the remote. You have to figure out the behaviour.
What do I do if the dog is refusing the food? First, I’m not sure if you mean “food treat” or if you’re equating all reinforcements with treat. If you mean “food treat,” then I’d start by saying I don’t just use food. I have a plethora of options. If the dog likes something, I can use it. (Tug/fetch/pee on a tree/go run and play). A dog is working for “treats” all the time. The question is whether I see those and use those. So, things like sit before going out the door. Having the door opened is a “treat.”
Second: Is the “treat” one the dog wants? Always a good question to ask. So many people make their “treat” choices based on what they assume the dog wants. Not by looking to see what the dog wants. My do loves plastic bags. So I braided a tug out of a plastic bag. He thinks it’s fabulous. Free and zero calorie reward. No, he cannot have it unless I’m playing with him. Not safe.
Third: Is the dog stressed and turning off food? That’s a dog that is over threshold.
Fourth: Is the dog sick in some way? 50% of dogs with behaviour problems have medical problems.
Fifth: Owner allows escalation of food rewards. “He likes liver. I’ll use liver. He is bored of liver. I’ll get chicken. He’s bored of chicken. I’ll get steak.” Poor thought process on how and when to use various food treats.
Sixth: Poor execution of increases in difficulty. “My dog can sit on command in the house but jumps on the neighbour.” Well, can the dog sit on command in the yard? Can the dog sit when you come home? Put a kindergarten kid into grade 8 and ask “I don’t know why he’s failing” is what some people do.
Seventh: Training sessions too long and no breaks. Dogs learn faster with breaks and short sessions. Overdo it and yup, stuffed and not motivated. Like wondering why most people aren’t excited to do 100 algebra questions. You don’t need to do 100 algebra questions. Probably only need to do 10 well.
eighth: Control the trigger. How many people work on things like cat chasing and expect nothing of the cat? How many people allow strangers to pet their jumping dog and then try to stop the dog from jumping?
Ninth: Your dog has you figured out and knows exactly when you will reward them. It is not the food that is boring. It is that the owner is predictable. Use a random number generator, especially for the smart dogs. I put multiple dogs on random numbers in class on Saturday. They went for distracted to intensely focused in minutes. People are predictable. Smart dogs figure it out. Smart dogs get bored with predictable people. This one I completely credit the ex-crotch ripper for. This was the lesson he taught me.
If there is anything I know it’s that when R+ fails, step one is listen to the dog. They have a lesson. They are “correcting” something that you don’t realize you are doing.
If you were to be fair, the you would also have the do it using the way many do: Teach your husband first to get his feet of the table, using lets say a beer, giving him one when he takes his feet off (or luring him off). Then put a command to it. When he reliably takes his feet off in varying places, but one day decides the game he is watching is better than the beer and doesn’t take his feet off (like a dog, he is not a robot and one day may decide what he is doing is worth forgoing the beer), THEN the collar correction comes into play. Of course you will also have spent time teaching him the collar is a correction which is coming from you (be it by pairing it with a negative marker the dog already knows means they “missed”, or however you choose to do so). Now THAT is a far more common use to them now a days (barring some we refer to as “collar cowboys” and I’m sure you know who I mean).
LOL – true. Although I suspect with that protocol I’d create a very different behaviour. When he heard footsteps, he would take his feet off the couch (getting better at not getting caught) and then demand beer for having his feet of the couch. That would frankly stink for me! Then I’d have to tip toe around trying to “catch him in the act” and I’d turn into that crazy wife trying to prove his feet were on the couch. Reasoning with him would also stink because he’d be drunk.
So, we just bought one of those coffee table ottomans you can put your feet on. Could have also bought a lay-z-boy and he’d never sit on the couch again. 😉
LOL Well that is one way to deal with that (sounds like us with a certain Mali bitch and socks, just easier to make sure socks are always taken off in the closed bathroom!)
One of the most common uses for ecollars is off leash control – I would argue then (in this parallel LOL) why is your husband unsupervised “off leash” 😉 I suppose a better parallel would be him climbing your fence to go see “the other woman” (kidding!).
There are some who would do the same as above but without the command so they could in theory set the dog up and reward or correct as needed. Personally I’d go your route for a “minor” infraction such as that and one easy to modify purely by an environment change.
I have an issue with the above: no one has ever coerced a dog to offer a behavior in order to avoid pain. It doesn’t work that way. Positive punishment is only useful for negative reinforcement which is only useful for the extinction of undesirable behavior. In other words, you can’t really teach a dog what is right with the shock collar, you can only tell him what is wrong. Any dog training begins with building desirable behavior, which only happens through “motivating your dog to work with rewards”. There are plenty of canine occupations that don’t require anything else, but I submit that there are others that do require “proofing” before the dog has a full skillset. Furthermore, fair consequences don’t damage a dog’s trust or crush his psyche. To the contrary, a dog that has successfully navigated his training is a self-assured, confident animal with a soul no less noble than a service dog that has never endured any hardship.
Not to quibble Cleo J., but you’re mixing terms. A back collar or electric fence would operate as positive punishment. (Add the icky thing to reduce behaviour.)
In training, you use negative reinforcement. That’s a continuous shock (stim or whatever people want to call it). That is turned off when the dog complies. A human example of negative reinforcement is nagging. Nag nag nag nag…keeps going until the kid/spouse does what you want. When they do, you stop nagging.
Same idea with shock and a few other methods. “Come” shock…hold, hold, hold…dog turns to you and steps toward you, turn off the shock.
Yes, you absolutely can teach a behaviour with shock.
Extinction is nothing happening. The behaviour disappears because nothing good or bad happens.
Research has shown a few things with negative reinforcement. Yes, when animals learn how to avoid the shock or other aversive, cortisol levels stay low. The shock has to be controllable by the dog and predictable. Or it messes up the dog.
However, if the dog is prevented from obeying, that’s when you’ll see the stress surge.
I’ve worn a bark collar. Hurts like a son of a gun. There are various ways to use them.
That’s a gross generalization. I train much differently with the collar. First I teach our dogs the commands and generalize them to various situations with positive reinforcement (treats, toy, and play for rewards). This takes several weeks, sometimes longer, until the dogs are quite reliable, but they are still either indoors or on a long training leash. Once our dogs know what the commands mean I work them into normal, everyday activities, like hiking or a game of fetch, instead of focused training sessions. Interestingly, I’ve found that our dogs seem to enjoy following commands when they are a part of an enjoyable experience. At this point, though, they will still blithely disobey a command on occasion when something interesting has their attention. In other words, they are not obedient, just educated.
To achieve reliable obedience we introduce the collar while still using the training leash. On the collar, we use a tone (a “beep”), and low levels of shock. For the shocks we begin at a level that is just barely perceptible to the dog. Then, when we give commands, the first one is as before with nothing added. If we have to repeat a command, we simultaneously give a beep. If we have to repeat a command again, we issue a very low shock. In theory we escalate the level of shock up to a certain threshold, but we rarely get beyond two levels since we can guide the behavior with the leash and can gently coax the desired behavior. Lavish praise when the dog does what was asked. We do this in various different scenarios for several weeks until we are rarely, if ever, using the collar.
Then we continue off-leash, once we’re comfortable that the dog is about 100% reliable. Eventually the collar is no longer used at all. Two common mistakes we avoid are: (1) scolding a dog for not initially obeying a command, but eventually complying; (2) punishing bad behavior. Complying with a command, even after repeated, increasingly frustrated and loud requests, is always a good thing…lots of praise, excitement and happy talk. It is never, ever a bad thing to come to one of us, even if the dog did something very bad immediately beforehand. Only good things happen when commands are obeyed…even when they are initially disobeyed. We also don’t use punishment for bad (unwanted) behavior. Instead, we issue a command where compliance requires that the dog stop behaving inappropriately, with punishment for non-compliance and reward for compliance. This doesn’t always work, though.
With one of our rescue dogs, her reactivity on leash was so extreme and frenzied, and her behavior so deep-seated, that we were at a complete loss. E-collar training gave us a tow-hold on the problem, some measure of communication, but the only things that worked beyond that were gradual and proper socialization, lots of healthy exercise and fun activities, desensitization and counter-conditioning. It took over a year of time and effort. One issue that cost us a lot of time and frustration was that her barrier frustration was misconstrued by several trainers and a behaviorist as fear aggression. All I can say here is that if you make the commitment to help a dog with serious behavioral issues you really have to learn to observe, analyze and understand her behavior. We were ignorant but we educated ourselves. Not as ignorant now, and still have lots to learn.
We didn’t magically transform the dog into a goofy, inherently trusting cuddle bug; she is still a wary, independent-minded dog with guarding instincts, she just acts appropriately now. Don’t expect miracles, you aren’t going to change inherent personality traits. And if the challenge is too great, then work to find another, more appropriate home for the dog. The first adoptive family that returned our one dog felt awful and guilty about it, but we think it was a wonderful and generous thing they did for her. Before she was confined to the home or a room. Now she goes to the dog park for 1.5 hours almost every day, gets to go on lots of off-leash hikes, gets plenty of walks, and plays with her beloved little sister all day long. It took many different approaches, but her transformation all began with e-collar training; nothing we tried before that led to any progress.
Yes Tom, I know that many trainers add in food/toys and lines. I just kept it simple to address the point that you “can’t” train a dog to do anything with shock. Yes you can. It’s often done without the food/toys and lines by some.
I can’t comment on why you might have not had success unless you have video of yourself training. Which BTW is something I often do on myself. It’s not an insult. Just part of the process to check for tight mechanics on more challenging skills. Little details can make a huge difference.
Our opinions are informed by different experiences, that’s all, and I respect yours. And no offense taken, by the way. I’ve described our situation here at length so I won’t repeat all that. And, just to clarify, we’re not professional trainers, just people who didn’t want to give up on a very difficult dog, opened their minds a bit, and learned that some of our uninformed opinions about e-collars were wrong.
I would like to clarify one point, though. When I describe what I call teaching the meaning of commands, what I see the dog learning is that the trainer has made a request and offered an incentive to choose a certain response, but the dog is free to decline that choice in favor of another without consequence. The goal here is simply to teach what the request means. For some dogs and some situations this is enough.
I would describe “obedience training” as teaching the dog that the request is really a command, you really want them to comply, and you’re really not suggesting that they should see it as a choice. The dog is learning that you are attaching a lot of weight to their complying and so should they. We use the e-collar to help the dog reach this new understanding by indicating that not complying is something we don’t want. We only want the dog to comply.
Ultimately, the choice still belongs to the dog, and there is only so much you can ethically do about that, but in my limited experience, once our dogs understood that we were telling them and not asking them to do something, they got it and willingly, happily comply. Our most recently adopted dog got it in one or two sessions with the e-collar, which we barely even got to use. Our dogs even seem to associate obeying commands with greater freedom, better and more interesting play activities, and more enjoyable outings, like long, off-leash hikes. It’s all part of the fun.
Or you could create a tertiary reinforcement. 😉
FWIW, There are certain skills where I do give choice. (Tricks). Really, it’s for my own amusement and the amusement of others. Ribbons. Same idea.
Recalls and such, I do want consistent and reliable behaviour. I don’t drag behind my dog and say it’s the dog’s “choice.” I may use positive reinforcement, but I have standards I work toward and eventually expect.
Quibbling over terminology isn’t verboten by any means and this is, after all, your blog. Now, I understand what you are saying about negative reinforcement and I concede that you COULD install behavior that way, but I think that would be inefficient and the risk of a sensitive individual having a cripplingly traumatic experience is just too high. The pressure you exert during force training will be a lot less if the dog already has the behaviors built. The way I look at it, force training is about removing what the dog would rather do than his proper job, not teaching him his job. By way of illustration, having a dog without recall proficiency trained to recall by burning him off of other options MAY work if you have a pretty tough individual, but if you’ve already taught him what “HERE” means you can proof him against doing something that motivates him more than the hotdog in your pocket, sometimes in a matter of minutes, by introducing the collar. HERE command followed by anything other than prompt recall gets a quick nick and repeat of the HERE command. A sharp dog will pick it up immediately; he gets that he’s still tethered to you even though there isn’t a leash. A more stubborn dog may take a few sessions, but it’s less traumatic than Cesar Milan alpha rolling him would be. I’m just trying to express that there isn’t cruelty or brutality inherent in the shock collar and I think that if you spent some time with, for example, a good retriever trainer learning how to properly apply one then you may change your mind… Maybe just a little bit.
I don’t recall accusing trainers of cruelty and brutality. What I did discuss is how we think of pain. I’ll say again that a bark collar on low hurts a LOT. I wore one.
Negative reinforcement – the stopping of something the dog dislikes is commonly used in MANY training scenarios. Not all of which use shock. Ear pinch for retrieve is done this way. Pressure/release. Some fear avoidance conditioning exercises. (If you’re good, you can move away from the scary thing.)
I choose not to use any of them for many reasons.
But I’ve never said it was due to brutality. It has to do with the nature of how negative reinforcement works.
But off topic for this blog (on pain). If you line up a dozen shock collar products, how do you determine, “Is it painful?”
Some of them hurt like a son of a gun. I don’t think that we should say that we ignore “what is pain” because “some” people use treats/toys a long line and minimal levels. Because others…don’t. At the very least it begs the question of why SOME products hurt like a son of a gun on LOW.
So proponents of the use of shock collars say they don’t hurt, they barely feel them, yet they need them because their dogs didn’t respond to positive rewards, although that doesn’t really make sense – who doesn’t respond to rewards? Anyway, you need to step it up and use the shock collar but it doesn’t hurt, in fact it is barely felt – so how is it working? I would think a dog would feel a lot more motivated by the pleasure of a reward than with barely feeling an electric shock.
These are just my observations from having gone through an e-collar training course with our dog.
With e-collar training the dog is motivated by both the pleasure of the reward for doing what is commanded and the discomfort of the shock for not complying with the command. So it uses both positive reinforcement and positive punishment, and you’re correct in that dogs generally choose a reward over punishment once they understand that the command presents this choice. Dogs do not respond to YOUR rewards when the alternative to what you want your dog to do is self-rewarding and more desirable (or when acting out of strong instinct, like a prey drive).
The discomfort of the shock only needs to be high enough to make disobedience of a command seem not worth it. For most commands in most situations it quickly becomes unnecessary, but initially it helps teach because you can communicate (with very low shock stimulus, or even just a vibrate) both what is the correct response AND what is incorrect; in other words, a command is a command and not a request. The dog must be taught what the commands mean beforehand, with positive reinforcement in an area without distractions, and the collar is for teaching obedience to the command in all situations.
Shock collars are not a form of positive reinforcement just because the dog is wearing a shock collar and gets a reward instead of a shock. I don’t believe dogs choose rewards and punishments. Humans do that, and dogs aren’t humans. Dogs simply behave in ways that gets them what they want in the moment. Positive reinforcement training is about teaching a dog to offer a behaviour that gets them what they want. Once a dog has a solid understanding of a behaviour,( and I think humans have a hard time recognizing when a dog truly does understand a cue/command), and the cue for it, they shouldn’t need anything more than the cue, either a word or a signal, to get them to do it. If a dog doesn’t obey your command, it isn’t him who needs to be corrected, it is the human who needs to correct what they are doing.
The problem I have with shock collars and your description of how they are used, is that I completely disagree that dogs choose to behave “badly” and despite the punishment, I disagree that there is ‘bad’ behaviour, and I disagree that dogs are disobedient. I think the mindset that dogs should “obey” my “command” instantly is a dangerous one for the dogs because that leads to justification of shock collars. Dogs are not disobedient – that is a human trait. I think it is unethical to use a shock collar to use pain to force a dog to be obedient when they are clearly painful as Yvette has so clearly shown in her post. And because a dog who really does have a solid understanding of a cue for a behaviour will perform the behaviour without pain.
Thank you for the reply. I’ll take your comments point by point…
Your right, shock collars are positive punishment while rewards are positive reinforcement. The dog receives one or the other depending on whether he/she executes the command. Dogs generally choose rewards over punishments…it’s an easy choice, except when doing something other than obeying the command is more rewarding than the punishment for disobeying or instinct takes over.
Positive reinforcement does teach by giving something that the dog wants. But dogs may also want something else more than what the handler is offering and fail to obey the command. For example, a dog may fail to “come” for a treat when he/she would rather chase a squirrel. The dog is getting what it wants most, and that may be something other than what you are offering as a reward.
We will just have to disagree over whether dogs can be disobedient. What would you call it when a dog knows what is being asked by a command and deliberately does something else that it prefers to do? Compliance with some commands (e.g., “place”) is not very important to me, but it is essential that I be consistent in having her obey or she will get mixed signals (I just don’t ask for unimportant behaviors often).
On the other hand, I need my dog to obey certain commands 100% reliably (e.g., “stop” and “come”) to keep her safe while hiking and playing off-leash (there are cars, bear, cliffs, barbed wire, aggressive dogs at the dog park, etc.) since she doesn’t understand those dangers…she’s just having fun. You consider it unethical, I consider it to be responsible…we’ll just have to disagree again.
I would say that we almost never use the collar anymore since our dog is basically 100% reliable if she is within earshot (out of earshot we just use vibrate and a hand signal). She actually seems to enjoy obeying commands while running through the woods and has even “invented” a few new ones that we weren’t even trying to teach (e.g., “back”, which is like come but she only needs to get closer to us, not return all the way; “hold it”, which means stop and wait for us).
Well Tom, I would suggest, as I said before that if you can’t teach your dog a recall, a stop or a solid sit without recourse to a shock collar, then you just aren’t teaching it properly. If you want to get your dog to stop chasing things then one of your options is to use Premack principles.
Years back I had two GSDs. One of the GSDs really did have a mind of her own. However, I could get both dogs to sit, down, and stay across the other side of a field from me, with just hand signals. I didn’t need to use a shock collar to do it, Oh, and by the way, I wasn’t even a trainer then and didn’t know even a teensy weensy bit of what I know today.
A recent You Tube video showed a guy, using a shock collar on his neck. He was shirtless. When the shock collar was turned up high, and activated, all his upper body muscles contracted. Do you think that this doesn’t happen to a dog?
Someone else here said she tried it on her thigh and though she claimed she didn’t really feel it, her thigh muscles were sore for a day afterwards. If this happens to a human, then it happens to a dog. Therefore the dog is STILL being punished after the so called “training’. A good trainer will understand that if you use aversives to train a dog then the punishment should be severe enough to stop the unwanted behaviour either the first or second time you use it. If you have to continue to use it, then the punishment isn’t working and it becomes abuse. In my view if the dog has after effects from the shocking, then apart from causing your dog pain that one time, it continues and therefore this constitutes outright abuse, plain and simple. You have no way of knowing the after effects of when shocking your dog.
Your reply is typical of those people who are just too lazy to train the proper way and who have to constantly justify using pain to train a dog. Your reply carries no weight with me.
I’m not trying to convince you of anything, my point in posting was just to clarify some misconceptions. And, I know, I’ve heard it all before, everyone who tries positive reinforcement only training and fails is just too dumb to understand, too lazy to execute, too impatient for results, doesn’t love their dog enough, etc. The only being whose judgement I care about in this is my dog.
I agree 100 percent with Genevieve. As a positive trainer, that is my perception. Plus of course, positive training works for EVERY dog. To say it doesn’t is not true. If it isn’t working, either the trainer is not proficient or if the owner is using it, the owner has not enough understanding of the principles. I really cannot imagine actually causing pain to my dog simply because she doesn’t do what I want. I cannot conceive of it. I also cannot conceive of the mind of someone who professes to love their dog but thinks that if the dog doesn’t do what they want, it’s OK to hurt it. For me, that is an abomination. What sort of trust does that foster between dog and owner?
I suggest that anyone who thinks that a shock collar is OK, puts one on their own neck and gives someone else the remote. Ask the person with the remote to order the person wearing the shock collar, in a foreign language that they don’t speak, to undertake a task and shock them when they don’t understand. See how that works.
I don’t use pain, fear or intimidation to train a dog. I don’t need to. Nor should anyone else.
How do you know that positive reinforcement only works for EVERY dog?
Again, the dog must understand the commands. The collar is used to teach obedience to the commands that the dog already knows. We need our dog to do what WE want, which sometimes conflicts with what SHE wants.
Not everyone (very few of the 100s of dog owners we know) involves their dog in their lives to the extent that we do. It is very rare that our dog is not with us for even a few hours, and we want her to experience plenty of off-leash hiking and play, which she absolutely loves (the look on her face when she’s running around in the woods is one of the greatest joys of our lives).
But in order for her to go with us almost everywhere and run around off-leash where we live and hike (we’re near a major metropolitan area) she has to be completely under our control. The training we used to accomplish this does not resemble what you describe, and when we earnestly tried what you advocate for months we did not get good results.
If you observed our dog I think you would agree that she accepts the trade-off between the training and the life it opens up to her. If I felt that she did not benefit immensely I would not have bothered. Again, her judgement is the only one that we care about.
“…If you observed our dog I think you would agree that she accepts the trade-off between the training and the life it opens up to her. If I felt that she did not benefit immensely I would not have bothered. Again, her judgement is the only one that we care about…”
You have absolutely NO idea whether your dog “accepts” a trade off of being shocked as opposed to her freedom. You also have no idea about her “judgment’. You cannot possibly make either statement. Your dog has no choice in the matter. She does not have the choice of being on or off leash. You either keep her on leash or you let her off. You decide that for her.
I am willing to bet that you have no idea either, how to read your dog’s body language or how to understand what she communicates to you. If you did, then you would not make such a comment. Saying that she accepts a trade off is the interpretation that YOU put on your treatment of her, in order to justify, once again, shocking her. If after months, she is STILL wearing a shock collar and you are still shocking her then it is not working and it has become abuse, plain and simple. You are not teaching her anything. I cannot reiterate this enough. if positive reinforcement training is not working then either you are not undertaking it correctly perhaps because you don’t understand it, or if you are using a trainer, then that trainer is not capable of teaching you how to undertake it correctly. I am a giant breed person and I have trained huge heavy rambunctious dogs that have had no previous training. I did that without using anything other than positive reinforcement.
You know what? I would rather keep my dog on a long line than use pain to make her come back to me. You could do that. Your dog would have just as much fun. Probably more, without the constant threat of being shocked. Human beings hold the assumption that it is their right to dominate the animal world and make them do what humans want them to do even if it causes them pain. Well, not this human being. This human being’s 20 week old giant breed puppy will never know what it is to be spoken to harshly, let alone be caused pain in the name of training. . I am her whole world and it is unthinkable that, as a responsible, caring and compassionate dog lover, I would ever do anything to physically hurt her. I would never abuse the trust that she has in me. However, some people it seems, don’t have that sort of moral compass.
As I said, I’m not trying to convince anyone, just clarify some misconceptions and inaccurate statements. We each try to give our dogs the best, fullest and most wonderful life possible. We all have different ideas about what the ideal life experience is for each dog and how to best achieve it by balancing the various tradeoffs.
I wouldn’t judge your dog handling or reading skills without observing you or pretend to know your dogs’ reactions and feelings without directly observing their behavior. We see our dog enjoying off-leash play, hiking, and even walking and I could never deny her the obvious fun she has. She’s obviously ecstatic and it’s clearly one of the highlights of her life.
Maybe there is something wrong with the positive-reinforcement-only trainers in our area, because even their own dogs are not very well trained. It’s very amusing to see them handle their dogs. So it’s not just OUR inability to master their techniques.
And if positive-reinforcement-only is so much better than e-collar training it should drive the e-collar trainers out of the market and you won’t have to demonize e-collar training anymore, right? Well, the reverse is happening here…big time.
Heck, we were almost as against e-collars as you before desperation caused us to try it, and we were prepared to cancel the session the moment we became uncomfortable with how it was going. Granted, our dog had some anxiety at first, as she did with positive reinforcement training, but now we consider e-collar training one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Our dog rarely wears the collar anymore, by the way, and we use it mainly for getting her attention (with the vibrate) when she can’t hear us in the dog park or while hiking. She was pretty rock solid with her commands almost right away. We were in utter disbelief at how quickly she responded.
Aren’t you dominating your dogs by subjecting them to the life that you think, but could not know, that they want?
My mother, a senior citizen with two artificial hips does not accept the trade off between off leash dogs and her mobility. Regardless of the level of training, letting a dog off leash in a public area scares the crap out of people, especially those that need to get out for rehab walking. They are unstable and the sight of an off leash dog is terrifying. In public areas, it’s also illegal.
Before someone tells me that they always call the dog off early, that is just a pile of nonsense. The off leash dogs on shock collars are usually charging through underbrush next to paths, darting out onto the path and scaring the shit out of people. Possibly because the off leash dogs go out of sight and the owner cannot call the dog off before it scares people to the point of feeling unstable, hobbling with a cane or walker.
Would suggest a fenced off leash park. No need to trade off the rights of anyone.
We are very sensitive to other people when we have our dog off-leash. Our previous dog was very aggressive towards other dogs, and we were (and still are) angry and outspoken when we see people with their out-of-control dogs off-leash. We actually don’t like it when people let their dogs go up to anyone, or anyone else’s dog, without permission.
We also know a few very well-trained off-leash dogs whose owners are in complete control and we are happy to see those dogs playing and getting exercise off-leash (not tethered to us relatively slow and lumbering humans). We never let our dog run near people. Believe it or not, she comes immediately (and happily) when called, every single time, and that is without using the collar.
We do visit a fenced off-leash park for at least an hour almost every day, year round. But we also like to take our dog to play fetch once or twice a day, which we can’t really do in a crowded dog park (she still chases the ball in the park, but it’s just not the same with all the other dogs competing for the ball). Also, three drives to the dog park every day is a bit much.
There are some public areas where dogs are allowed off-leash if the owners can demonstrate control of their dogs and earn (also pay for) a permit. I’ve always felt that this is a good way to balance the rights of dogs and others. I don’t think your unstable mom would be trekking through the fields where we are.
But my sister-in-law that is terrified of all dogs due to a severe dog attack would be. I find it interesting that some that expect dogs to follow the letter of the owner’s law (because it’s dangerous and rules are how we keep people and dogs safe and could be a nuisance to people in the community), like to break actual leash laws (even though off leash dogs negatively impact the well being of people in the community and serve as an example that politicians use to put more unnecessary laws on dog owners.)
Sorry, but you won’t convince me. If your dog is off leash in a public ON LEASH area, then I think it’s wrong.
I’ll admit, I am conflicted about this myself. I am a stickler for rules and laws…I even drive the speed limit and come to complete stops in my car. Unfortunately, I live in a densely populated area with very few dog parks, no yards to speak of, and only shared green space where I can play/exercise our dog and she absolutely loves to fetch. I understand that there are those with cynophobia, others who have reactive dogs, etc….so for fetch we go to the far end of fields where nobody is within at least 50 yards and we’ve trained our dog to have perfect recall.
For hikes we go out into the state and national parks and we keep our dog fairly close (that’s what our “back” command is for) and leash her when we cannot see far enough ahead to be sure we won’t come upon anyone by accident while off-leash. It’s not right, but neither is confining the dog to a leash in my opinion. Imagine how unhealthy kids would be if we confined them like we do dogs. I think a good compromise would be to have scheduled off-leash times in the parks so that both the dogs and those who want to avoid them can enjoy the parks and keep out of each others way.
To save you the trouble of replying, I’ll admit that I’m wrong…but my dog loves me for it.
So once you have used rewards to teach your dog a command or cue for a behaviour, presumably this was a fun and enjoyable process, and the dog knows the cue well, now you introduce a painful sensation to get him to perform the behaviour? I think that would destroy the dogs’s desire to want to perform the behaviour out of a sense of pleasure. Now all of a sudden the dog gets an unpleasant sensation for doing that behaviour when he used to receive a pleasurable one? No dog should be made or forced to offer a behaviour, even one he knows the cue for. I think that is part of the difference in the mindset of shock collar users verses non shock users.
genevieve, I sincerely appreciate your efforts to understand my side, even if you do not agree with it.
The goal of the e-collar training is not to force your dog to do the command, it is to provide negative feedback when he is not doing what is asked. The dog gets an unpleasant sensation when he fails to do what is asked and a reward when he complies. Dogs initially fail to perform the command reliably, and sometimes the stimulus doesn’t get them to comply or correct. That’s fine and no big deal. In those cases you stop and start over again. It takes time to teach that a command is not to be viewed as optional, but it is amazing how fast the dogs I’ve known progress.
You are teaching the dogs to be obedient to the commands, and not just to do them when it fits their agenda. Or, maybe it is better expressed as making your dog’s agenda fit yours so that he willingly offers the behavior because he understands that is what you want and he’ll be rewarded for it. I will also say that it is also important to develop the proper relationship with your dog where he willingly accepts you as a fair, consistent, trusted and affectionate leader. The goal is the same as with other training methods, though: have your dog willingly and reliably do what you ask.
If your dog doesn’t reliably do what is asked he is not obedience trained, which may be perfectly acceptable depending on your situation. We don’t need our dog to be trained to the level of a service dog, and we don’t go that far in the training. But solid obedience to a handful of commands opened up new and wonderful worlds for our dog, ones that she would not get to experience if she was not well-behaved and reliably trained. Now she is so easy to manage in the dog park every day and with our several cats, gets to play fetch every day and hike off-leash regularly, goes for long walks every day, and accompanies us to most places we go.
I can imagine that dogs who are very independent, dominant, and/or have deep-seated psychological issues would be much more difficult to train in general and perhaps the e-collar would not be appropriate in those cases. Maybe efforts should be made to find a family situation for them that is a better fit, or maybe they should not be companion dogs. The e-collar is not a magic wand, it is only one useful tool among many that are available. Again, I’m not a trainer and I’m just explaining what I’ve witnessed with other companion dogs and what we did to train our dog.
Again, I appreciate you hearing me out.
I know where you’re coming from Tom. I’ve used corrections. I know how it’s done.
Shock collars absolutely are not appropriate for dogs with behaviour problems. It says so in the manufacturer’s warnings. They also say that the product can trigger aggression to people and animals that are near the dog when shocked. (Shock collar material…not my opinion.)
As a side note, there is no such thing as a dominant dog. The word dominance is often used incorrectly as a personality trait. It actually describes relationships.
Long discussion, perhaps better suited for another blog. In a nutshell, you can be submissive to your kid when it comes to new technology. You could be submissive to your wife in terms of cooking. You might be dominant in terms of plumbing. (Sorry about the stereotypes…)
When the kid was younger, you were probably dominant in terms of electronics. But they got better, and surpassed the teacher.
Not a fixed trait. No dog IS dominant. Not a description or trait like “social,” that describes the dog at most times.
Which is also why some researchers in the field refuse to use the word “alpha” anymore. Dog trainers messed up the meaning too badly.
i’m not going to debate the manufacturer’s warnings but you can’t paint all dogs with one brush. there are many examples on youtube of trainers using e-collars and prong collars to great success on dogs with behaviour issues, including aggression. our trainer has saved a beautiful 1 y.o. g.s. from euthanasia by training with an e-collar and prong that was sent to her by the OSPCA. when they found out she was using the prong they asked for the dog back but then surrendered him to her. he is now beautifully trained and re-homed. the original owners returned him because he was “too strong”. check out youtube videos by jeff gellman, Solid K9 Training. he is amazing and shows his results. there are loads of other balanced trainers showing results.
It depends how trainer’s use the collar. Shock collar trainers disagree with each other on use. Some use it as Tom described. Others use it as Negative Reinforcement. For example, you press the continuous shock button. You hold it. You say “come”. You keep holding the continuous shock button until the dog turns to you and starts moving toward you. Any action except coming toward you gets shock. Which BTW, is why dogs trained with shock can look “happy” seeing their person as the person is associated with the cessation of pain. “Thank doG I found you cause for some reason when I run to you the pain stops.”
Warnings in the material from the manufacturer state that shock can trigger aggression toward those standing next to the dog. It also says that the product shouldn’t be used on dogs with anxiety or aggression.
It’s like what we used to do with leash corrections back in the day. Use food. Reward the dog for right. Then do a beat the buzzer type game. Say sit. Give 3 seconds. Correct if not done. Dog learns it can “turn off” the correction by working fast enough.
It’s very rewarding to the owner/trainer because the dog does very quickly learn to get their butt in gear. That being said, the effects are not permanent and many dogs just get higher pain tolerance with time and it just stops working. That escalates the amount of correction required. Speaking as someone who used to do this, but no longer does.
Dogs generally associate corrections (be it shock or leash corrections) with something or someone in the environment. It’s called learning preparedness. Pain is usually caused by something in the environment. So if we feel pain, our brain can connect the pain to something “out there.” It’s the superstitions I was talking about. I’ve seen a lot of them created over the years by really good trainers that applied the corrections correctly. When I did it to one of my own dogs, it was a pretty pivotal moment where I started asking why I was risking creating other problems in the process of teaching obedience. I think a lot of trainers that stop using corrections either saw a dog develop a phobia or did it themselves.
Many trainers who use shock or leash corrections know fully well of these problems. For example, there’s a book called something like, “Adventures of a Freethinking Dog.” Writer uses shock. Writer says he knows that dogs learn to associate the collar to their owner because owners are usually nearby. So he hides out of sight when giving the shock to prevent the dog from associating it with him. But that doesn’t stop the dog associating the pain with something else.
I’m not convinced that you can 100% get rid of all those possible side effects. We tried when using corrections. Dogs still developed superstitions. You just can’t predict which dog will react badly.
Ohhhh. Yes. Like the “say uncle” game. Where one person tickles, or does something unpleasant to another and demands the person say “uncle” to make it stop. Yeah, that is a fun game – I bet lots of little kids feel so much pleasure when they say “uncle”.
A person can misuse treats, they can misuse a shock collar. There is a correct and effective way to use food rewards, there is a correct and effective way to use a shock collar. The thing is a shock collar is meant to hurt, even though it has a vibrate or low shock setting, they do go up high and i presume anyone using a shock collar is willing to use the higher level. No matter how you package it, a shock collar is meant to correct a dog who has exhibited a bad behaviour or failed to exhibit a correct behaviour. That is my problem with shock collars, they are not meant to induce pleasure. Not the shock part. Working to avoid a shock is not pleasant. Food rewards are pleasurable in their original intent. That someone can misuse food rewards is not the point. The point is that shock collars do hurt,were intended to hurt and that is why it is wrong to use them on your dog. If a dog isn’t obeying your cue, you must look at other reasons for why that is happening. Hurting your dog is never necessary. There is no justification possible for hurting your dog to train behaviours.
That is quite a big difference between pain studies and the mA on a shock collar. Why does the mA on a shock collar have to be so high? How was it even determined what the level should be when manufacturing these collars? I guess now I am interested in how these stupid things even came into use…
People who argue for the use of shock collars go round in circles with their arguments in an effort justify their use. “My dog is conditioned to the collar”. “. My dog is happy when he wears the collar”. “My dog has 100% recall with his collar”. None of which I believe. I think shock collars were designed to hurt, that is how they worked- as a painful punishment to decrease unwanted behaviour. Now we are told new shock collars don’t hurt, or just vibrate. They are simply used to interrupt or “communicate” information to the dog, even though they have various settings. Why have settings that go from vibrate to maximum shock?? Well, are they supposed to deliver an uncomfortable or painful sensation or not? Fess up users of shock collars.
Someone could similarly advance the argument that +R-only trainers are obsessed with demonizing e-collar training, with deliberate mis-characterizations and false equivalences with torture and abuse, because they are threatened by the effectiveness of e-collar training.
No one has to demonize anything considering that since this blog was written, not one proponent of shock collars has been able to state how many amps their device is producing. The fact that some have a 0 or 1 setting does not mean that they don’t have a 20, 50 or 100 available for use. It says a lot to me that users are not able to give that answer immediately.
As for the “tickle” references. You can call it a “tickle” all you like, but even tickling can be torture for someone that is ticklish. The act of laughing (looking happy?) does not mean the recipient is actually happy. Perhaps people should start questioning on whether someone that looks “happy” actually is.
I have no doubt I could take a shock collar and “teach/get” my husband to clean the bathroom. I could get my kid to learn math. I could do a lot of things with shock. Pretty sure I’d end up divorced pretty fast. Pretty sure, when my kid grows up he’s never visit. The thing with dogs, they never really have the chance to divorce their owners.
I don’t have to demonize anything. I know that I want my dog to respect me. I can control a dog’s body with food and force. As long as there is an element of force (starvation/pain/fear) where the dog NEEDS to obey, then all I have is the dog’s body under control. It’s like those people that say, “You will respect me.” Perhaps people nod and do what they are told. In their mind they are thinking, “Heck no you jerk.”
The only way I know if a dog respects me in his brain is to take pressure off and just ask.
Tom. The day that I change from being angry at people who think it’s OK to hurt a dog in the name of training, to being threatened by shock collar trainers, is the day that I give up my profession as a dog trainer for good. The only reason I speak out against shock collars is because they HURT and as I have repeated ad nauseum there is no need to hurt a dog in order to get the dog to comply with what you want.
I do not speak out about them because I am threatened by shock collar trainers. If you sincerely believe that, then you have not understood a single word of what I have been talking about all this time. If that is the case, then I am really sorry for you.
They don’t hurt. They hurt like hell. I just wore a bark collar set to low. Son of a gun it hurt.
And of course I would love the opportunity to get one of those 1-100 remote trainers to wear.
Shock hurts. It doesn’t just hurt. It burns for a prolonged period after the fact. About 15 minutes later. It keeps burning and irritating and burning and irritating.
I am it a trainer. I am not threatened by shock collars. I have nothing to lose if people use them or not. I am a dog owner who knows it is wrong and unethical to hurt your dog just to teach him something. The dog is not controlling the shock, the human is. I am not threatened by the so called effectiveness of shock collars, the dog is. People who think they need shock collars really misunderstand dogs and how they learn and view the world and I feel very very sorry for those dogs who have to wear painful shock collars. The only thing that keeps people using them is the denial about the pain. Can you explain to me in the face of some of the numbers Yvette has presented, just how you can possibly view shock collars as anything but painful? The dogs’s reaction doesn’t count because dogs can endure more than we realize.
This is in response to the several posts above, and you’re all missing the point again. The ignorance must be as deliberate as it is painfully obvious.
The point is not to hurt, torture, intimidate, abuse, and/or strike fear into your dog, as you insist on characterizing it. The point of using the e-collar is to provide mild negative feedback when the dog fails to do what you ask, in addition to the positive feedback you give when the dog does what you ask. It is not about teaching the command, it’s about teaching that commands are to be followed…i.e., obedience. After a short while the dog knows what to do, and what not to do, and just does what’s asked reflexively. After that, the main reason to use a collar in certain situations is to quickly get the dog’s attention when he/she is at a distance and/or unable to hear.
And, I know, +R-only trainers and advocates are the only people in the world who are capable of understanding dogs, who are dedicated enough to train dogs in the only proper way, who know what all dogs need to be mentally and physically healthy, who can train any and all dogs because they’ve (somewhat) trained a few, and who are privy to their inner thoughts and desires of all dogs, even the ones that they have never observed. Got it.
Not missing the point. I can use a vibrating collar – actual vibrate not shock set to low – to get a dog’s attention at a distance. I can use other things too – like my voice, a whistle….
A shock collar uses current. And not one proponent will give me the range of the tool they are promoting.
A shock collar is not just used as punishment. It is also used as negative reinforcement. That is one of the applications of the continuous feature. You give a command. You press the button. You hold the button until the dog complies. Ex) “Here!…shock…hold…shock…hold…you’re running to me? Turn off the shock.”
It is also used to teach things like stand and halt. Particularly found the picture of the dog with a shock collar on its groin to be … interesting. On the people against the banning of training tools. Who group of people that are for the use of such tools and not one person objected.
There are words and then there are actions. The actions I see are not matching with the words you are saying. As long as I see people advocating for shocks on groins, then nope, I don’t have to demonize anything. People can make up their own minds. I just point out what I see. I will not stay quiet about those types of uses, or the fact that people who promote the products can’t tell me how many amps their product is giving off. You sell it, you should have that answer at your fingertips.
Yeah, shocks to groins. That’s what we’re all talking about. Is there a rhetorical fallacy (here, a straw man argument) you are not willing to resort to in your effort to avoid a serious dialog on the subject of dog training. You’re ridiculous.
First time I read it, was on a police department training list. Actually rather common. Why not talk about it? Why not talk about how those trainers say, “It’s just a tickle…”
It’s always “just a tickle” and “only as a last resort”. Everyone that uses shock says that.
So, how many amps would you use? Still waiting on that.
Bark collar I work on the LOWEST setting was no tickle.
Here’s the link…and the chatter from the trainers who seem to me to think this is normal. Heck, you can even put a shock collar on a dog’s tail. 432 Members in that group. Not one objection.
If you find that objectionable, then perhaps instead of speaking out against the restricting of some tools, you might want to lend your voice and say they need some type of restrictions.
Tom, I have seen photos of puppies who are in training to be assistance dogs, with shock collars around their neck AND round the groin area. I have seen a photo of a gun dog with a shock collar around it’s neck AND around it’s groin area. It happens. It is disgusting. It is akin to torture. If you haven’t seen these photos then you haven’t looked very far because there are plenty of them around. I imagine you wouldn’t want to look anyway.
What gives us the right as humans to torture an animal in this way? Tom you can diss us positive trainers all you like. You can call us stupid and call us jealous because in your ignorance, you think we are threatened by shock collar trainers. I am not threatened by someone who is too lazy to learn how to train a dog properly.
We don’t care what you think of us.
What we are is people who actually give a damn about the dogs that we train. We are people with morals and a code of ethics. We know that we are doing our best to stop dogs from ending up in shelters because their owners can’t cope with the behaviour and we do it in a kind, and humane way. We see dogs that people bring to us because their owners have used punishment based training including shock collars and their dogs have developed aggression to other dogs and to people. They sadly find out a bit too late how much this can mess up a dog.
We are also people that can sleep at night because we know that no dog that has gone through OUR hands has known what it is like to be shocked, jerked, hit, alpha rolled, terrified or traumatised by us.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘mild’ negative feedback. That is the same as calling a shock a ‘tickle’ – I think it is delusional. If the point of the collar is to provide mild negative feedback, then why do they have dials that increase the level of shock? Because sometimes you do have to hurt your dog to get him to listen and that is unethical.
Look at the numbers Yvette posted and please tell me how you can claim there isn’t pain when much lower levels of milliamps did cause pain. None of us knows how painful the shock collars are to the dogs. But many people have tried them out and say they do hurt. Forgetting about the pain for a moment, they are +P which is not needed at all for dog training.
I do not believe there is any justifiable reason to use shock collars. None. I do not subscribe to the notion that the perfectly behaved dog is justification for using shock collars. I don’t care how obedient a person’s dog is, HOW a person trains their dog is much much more important that WHAT their dog is trained to do.
Shock collars hurt. Shock collars are +P. Two things you don’t need to use to train your dog. Dog’s depend on their human’s to provide food, water, shelter keep them safe from harm. Hurting a dog with a shock collar is not keeping them safe from harm.
I understand that in your mind there’s no difference between a very mild shock and the electric chair. It’s black and white. Got it. Is there a difference between giving an occasional treat as a reward and stuffing your dog full of junk food until it is a bloated, unhealthy mess?
Please quote for me where anyone said anything about an electric chair? If you’re so concerned about junk food, low quality food and such, perhaps you should discuss your concerns with some of the makers of shock collars. We all have different ideas of what is healthy food. Seems to me, some of the grocery store pet food (that I would NEVER feed a dog) have quite happily engaged in partnerships with shock collar companies. You should do something about that to ensure that people who buy shock collars aren’t being encouraged to buy food that falls below the standard of “good healthy food” that seems really important to you. And you should really talk to the companies that make shock collars about their treat lines. Some of them fall far below what I would ever consider giving to my dog.
You should absolutely go complain to companies that do that. Might lead to fat dogs that eat junk.
There is no difference between a “mild” shock and a hard one, especially when it is constantly pointed out to me that a strong shock is only used when needed, and that the mild shock is a predictor of possibly a stronger one to come. There is no difference because +P is in use, whether a mild or strong shock is used. Stuffing a dog full of junk food is not +R training. So yes, there is a difference between training using food rewards and stuffing your dog. One is a training method, the other is just stuffing your dog.
True Genevieve. Stuffing a dog is not training.
That first sentence should read, I am not a trainer. Just to be clear.
All very interesting. I have tried my shock collar on myself. The surprising thing is that certain areas of the body registered different levels of pain even though the collar was at the same level. I figured it was because there was more muscle cover in an area; acting as resistance. What I could not even feel on my thigh, made me dance like a banshee at my inner wrist! I would argue that the same would be true for the dog. I tested my theory: my own tail twitch study if you will. Yes! After I tried it on myself! What I found was my lean 24″ high and 45 lb dog reacted to a much lower level. My boxers didn’t even register! Never got acknowledgement from them until it was three levels higher than with the lean dog. Tried it on my friends AB. He didn’t register at all!!! Not even at the highest setting! Her Great Dane was the same. She returned her collar because it didn’t work on her dogs. No reaction at all!! Yes! It was working. Put it in my thigh and was sore for a Day. So my thought is that it depends on the musculature of the dog’a neck. As muscle clearly operates as a strong resistance to the signal. I used my ecollar to train my boxer where the limit was while he played with other dogs. He was always good with me nearby. Soon as he was out at the park and away from me, he would get more and more intense. I put the collar on him and set it at the level that got a twitch from him. Every time I saw him getting too excited, I pulsed the collar. It took three separate pulses. He wore it for a week. But I never had to pulse him again after those three pulses on the first day. Of course I had my timing down pat and was clear as to what the limit was. We don’t go around touching hot stoves because we know it doesn’t feel good. We don’t necessarily know how hot the stove may be but we don’t chance it because we know what the worst possible scenario is. Now my boxer plays nice with everyone and he knows to get too rambunctious is not in his best Intetest. For training at a distance…best invention ever IMHO. I would definitely NOT use it on lean/small dogs.
Appreciate that you’re honest enough to say, “Yes, it can hurt, and maybe not good for some dogs.”
Have you ever tried the collar on yourself after soaking in salt water (like the ocean or salt water pool?) I’m not suggesting you do that. I’d expect it to hurt. Water is a good conductor. Salt water is an even better conductor. But if you’re the type of person to try things, was wondering if you tried it while wet and salty.
Just FYI, I tried the collar under water and as I expected it reduced the sensation. Water is a good conductor (salt water is even better) and the water constitutes a circuit parallel to the skin. More current may flow, but it flows primarily through the water (the path of least resistance) and not the skin. At lower settings I couldn’t even feel it once the electrodes got wet.
Why would anyone shock their dog while the dog is under water?
A wet dog, that is not submerged with a barrier of fur (assuming you’re not that hairy on your neck unless you look like ZZ top).
Same principle, no? I’m assuming you mean using the collar while the dog is wet. What electronic phenomena are you supposing comes into play?
You’re saying the current is discharging through the water that is surrounding your submerged arm. (Assuming arm). If you were damp, you’re actually surrounded by air. The water is sitting on your skin.
Which is why when measuring amps you get a range based. It’s calculated based on the resistance of skin under various conditions such as wet skin or dry skin. That is how it is possible to calculate the range of possible amps. Let me see if I can find a quote from one of the studies in how it was done.
Sorry Tom – what I was thinking was partly in a study (where they calculated range on a shock collar). But was also thinking a construction safety worksheet on electrical current.
Shalke study (linked on this blog) did calculations based on the range of skin resistance.
Worksheet on mA and safety can be found at:
And yeah – calculations are complicated. Which begs the question as to why anyone standing in a store (or online) would be satisfied with the answer of “we can’t calculate that.” I get that collars have a 0 level…off. They also have the high end. Why not demand to know “how high does this sucker go in mA?” How high is too high? A shoulder shrug, to me, is unacceptable. I don’t like, “Trust me….”
Thanks for the link to the study. Please note that the study is “for a 60-cycle, hand-to-foot shock of one second’s duration.” That is completely different than a very short shock pulse between two electrodes about an inch apart on the skin. What they are talking about in the study is basically a shock where you touch a live household electrical wire with your hand and your feet are grounded so that the current flows through your body, from hand to foot.
If you are wet, say with your bare feet in water, you have decreased the resistance between your body and ground allowing more current to flow through your body. The water is in series with your body, forming a single path for current to flow through, and the better connection with ground decreases the total resistance of this circuit allowing more current to flow. This is different than creating alternate path in parallel with your body which doesn’t affect the resistance of the path through your body.
I’m not an expert on this, and I don’t know what the circuitry of the collar is, but many of you will be happy to know that I’ve been shocking myself dozens of times at various levels and with different applications of water, and did not feel a noticeable difference in the sensations. I think this is because a properly fitted collar already makes a good connection with the skin.
I think a way to adjust the upper limit on a shock collar would be great. For example, one would find the lower limit where the specific dog just barely perceives the electrical stimulus, then set the maximum level some factor or increment above this so that you can never accidentally go above this threshold. Some standard, agreed-upon measures for “strength”, whether it be typical current or something else, would also be very helpful. I would appreciate all these things and believe that consumers should be informed. On this we can agree.
Tom, I didn’t say it was the same. And yes AC and DC is different. Now, is a collar AC or DC? I don’t know and it’s not like you can look it up on the box either. You can take AC and convert it to DC and vice versa so when people say, “Well, this is low volt and just a wee little battery….”
It is possible to convert that charge and store it to increase strength.
I’m not saying a collar does or doesn’t. All I did was look up listed mA of various products. I didn’t calculate anything. And I looked at, “Would that be considered painful if used on a person?”
If there is insufficient information on what levels products go to, just like I can’t say how high it goes, then a user of collars can’t say, “Shock collars don’t hurt.” They absolutely can. I wore a bark collar last week and it hurt on the lowest setting. What I found interesting was that I felt the burning sensation for a good 15 minutes after the shock. None of the electrical numbers take into consideration individual pain tolerance. It doesn’t take into consideration the way the body reacts to pain and discomfort. Sometimes, sensitivity increases, sometimes it decreases because the brain releases opiates to counter the effects of pain.
Assuming that it’s not painful to a dog is like me saying that a TENs machine at 11 is not painful. Some people find that excruciating and can only handle a 3. Some people would say I’m a wimp because they can go up to 30.
Or, perhaps it’s like saying that I really don’t mind when people speak their mind. Doesn’t bother me one bit. So, based on my experience, others should tolerate the same level of “free speech” that I tolerate. I’m okay…you should be okay.
Thanks for writing this. This brings up another important factor. You wrote that you were “sore for a day” after shocking your thigh. Well, the disobedience doesn’t last all day, obviously. Yet the dog will be sore the entire day. That doesn’t make sense and according to effective behavior modification, this is abuse since the lasting aversive effects of the shock will just continue on without a behavior to change.
Great blog Yvette!
What it comes down to is if the collar doesn’t feel shitty (pain or not, if people really want to debate the numbers) it’s not going to work as a negative reinforcer (or positive punisher). It doesn’t work to train a dog if it isn’t aversive.
As for the argument of using it on low levels – Yvette poses a great question, why give the option of a shock beyond a ‘tickle’ if no one ‘in the know’ uses it at any higher level? And, if I recall, last time I shocked myself on a low setting it felt disgusting. Yes, low level isn’t painful, per se, but it feels horrible. I would describe it as having my tendons plucked like a harp string. Something that I’d work to avoid, for sure.
Also consider conditioned aversives – if the so called ‘tickle’ doesn’t work and the shock is turned up periodically in order to obtain a response (high distractions, adrenalized dog, etc), that ‘tickle’ comes to predict a painful shock. Emotionally, not any better than a painful shock itself.
Just want to address you last point based on my experience with e-collar training. The goal is to teach your dog that he/she controls the collar by complying with the command or choosing not to. The ‘tickle’ is a reminder that the dog has a choice to make and that the consequences for not obeying the command is a slightly stronger negative stimulus. When done correctly, the ‘tickle’ doesn’t come to predict a painful shock because your dog controls what happens.
The remote for the shock collar is in the hands of the human, so it isn’t the dog who controls the shock, it is the human.
Considering how full our jails are, and how busy our police departments are, I don’t think that consequences do serve as a very effective deterrent for bad behaviour, and that is for humans who actually do decide between good and bad behaviours and whether a bad behaviour is worth the punishment. I don’t believe dogs to that. (Maybe Yvette can write a blog on what we know about how dogs choose behaviour) Actually at the moment a behaviour is chosen, it is for a reward. Punishment may come later, but the reward for the behaviour came first. Yelling at someone is rewarding. Barking and lunging at other dogs is rewarding for my dog, even if I shock him to make him obey my command to stop, he still performed the behaviour that was rewarding.
If all it takes is a benign, insignificant ‘tickle’ to remind the dog to obey the command, then why wouldn’t the cue for the behaviour work? And why aren’t shock collars made with only the “tickle” setting?
The dog controls whether I use the collar or not. I don’t do it indiscriminately. You teach your dog the commands and also that he/she controls the collar by obeying the commands or not.
All I can say is that using both positive consequences (praise or treat) and negative consequences (shock), depending on whether our dog obeys the command or not, worked wonders for us and our dog where positive reinforcement only did not work for us. I agree, though, usually the dog is doing what is most rewarding to him/her, which may conflict with what you want your dog to do.
I’m not arguing that all it takes is a benign, insignificant “tickle” or that it never involves some discomfort or minor pain. Often it only takes a tickle because the dog learns that the consequences become worse (shocks increase in severity up to some limit that is dog-dependent) each time he/she fails to comply with the command. After a very short while you rarely need to use the collar, and almost never above a “tickle”.
That’s abject denial of reality. The dog does not go get the collar and put it on. The dog does not choose to put on the collar. The dog does not make you apply the “tickle” or the shock. The dog doesn’t control your actions here. YOU control the collar, Dog responds to negative stimulus.
By that logic the dog also has no control when performing the desired response to your command, so why reward them for it? Are you really saying that dogs cannot learn from both positive and negative consequences of behavior and learn to associate consistent and predictable consequences with those behaviors?
The dog controls their own behaviour. They don’t control if I give a treat, do a leash correction, use a shock collar or do nothing. Those are my choice. I can never control what choices anyone will make or what they think in their head. I can only control my own actions and hope I make the right choice and they do what I’d like them to do. So, I can ask my husband to take out the trash. I can smile and ask. I can nag and ask. I can nag and demand. I can yell. I can do lots of things. He may take out the trash. He could say no, in which case I could ask again, beg, do it myself, ignore it, yell, get all passive aggressive.
He may eventually do it or not.
What I can’t control is his brain. When he does that garbage, he could think nothing of it. He could be happy to help out. He could think I’m a total hag and might be waiting for the day our kid grows up so he can divorce me.
We all control our own actions. My husband does not control mine. I don’t control his. I don’t control my dog’s actions. I influence them. Hopefully I don’t trigger a negative mental reaction.
What makes you think the dog chooses his behaviour based on whether he will be rewarded or punished for it? How can you be sure he will always work to avoid punishment? Why aren’t shock collars widely used on cats?
I believe it for the same reason I believe that dogs will often perform for a treat…I witness it first hand. I believe our dog works to avoid punishment because she complies with our commands even when she would very much rather do something else (she is very successful at avoiding punishment). We do not take cats with us wherever we go and so we do not need to manage their behavior in all of these strange and possibly dangerous environments; cats have very different needs than dogs.
I saw a woman with her dog visiting in a hospital. The dog had a shock collar on and the lady kept clicking it. The dog wasn’t even doing anything that I noticed. She probably did it to keep him quiet and calm, although I would suspect the dog was feeling anything but calm. If this woman felt the dog needed a shock collar in order to handle being in the hospital, then the dog shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
I think shock collars rent used on cats because humans wouldn’t get away with it. I dont think cats would tolerate shock collars. We would find out in a hurry how detrimental they are to the mental well being of an animal.
How do you know what she was doing? Did you ask her? There are probably a lot of people who think we’re using the collar when it’s on our dog and she responds to us so well, but we rarely us it.
I see people giving their already overweight and under-exercised dogs a steady stream of treats to keep their attention on walks and in stores. Because some use treats in an inappropriate and unhealthy way does that mean that treats during training is bad?
Apparently, e-collars are used on cats (see below) to keep them apart from dogs when they don’t get along. We used gates until they learned get along, but this was not perfect. Took almost nine months of socialization and constant supervision to go from mortal enemies to affectionate friends.
Or perhaps the owner has finally decided to monitor food intake – getting out – with their overweight dog and they are faced with derogatory glares that make them want to go home. Or perhaps the dog is hypothyroid and they are sick of the derogatory glares of people who don’t understand the disease. Or perhaps the dog is on steroids for allergies and owners are sick and hurt by the derogatory looks and stares. Perhaps for the first time ever a trainer has suggested healthier food choices and the is starting on its journey toward real food and exercise.
Always easy to point out the “fat” dog and not show empathy or support…isn’t it?
Then why would they be actively feeding it so many treats? I wasn’t pointing out the fat dog, that I have empathy for, so much as their irresponsible owner who is constantly dispensing the treats.
Our dog was an absolute, uncontrollable maniac when we first adopted her. We experienced plenty of derogatory stares while trying to walk her and get her exercise. That didn’t phase us as we were focused on our dog.
So, again, how did you know what the woman in the hospital was doing? Or were you just assuming the worst?
You are assuming that “treats” are like the human equal to cupcakes for kids. My kid thinks a peach picked from the tree is a “treat.” I think fresh spinach from the garden is a “treat.” Actually, so does my kid.
You are equating good tasting food with junk. Which is a sad commentary on where food in our society has gone. Perhaps what we need is more people who are aware of what a “treat” should be. Yummy, healthy, worth the work.
That instead of obsessing about the food we eat we embrace food as something wonderful to be celebrated. It gives us life and health and can be delicious.
Where dogs are concerned, I would welcome if more people embraced the idea that dogs can have “treats” that the dog loves and are part of a very healthy diet. I do not want to see food paranoia and weight image issues transferred to our dogs. I don’t know why anyone thinks they have to shove junk in a dog’s body to “treat” them except that our diet has taught us that treats = junk.
As for uncontrollable maniacs, there’s a reason I write about “Kipper the ex-crotch ripper.” If there is one thing he has taught me – I really don’t need physical punishment to fix a crazy dog. Those early rough days I wondered. But there was no need. R+ works, even on the tough dogs. While I personally could set aside stares, I am fully aware that most owners feel horribly embarrassed and need support. That look of pity can drive someone who is trying to quit. That is not something I would want to do to anyone.
You’re just rationalizing your ill-treatment of animals by gorging them on unhealthy junk food…er, treats.
I’ll tell the organic butcher you think his product sucks.
Interesting how you have the butcher painfully slaughter poor, innocent animals so that you can bribe your dog with bits of their flesh. If the treats aren’t unhealthy garbage food they don’t work. There is no such thing as a healthy treat. That’s the whole philosophy of +R training, to compel your dog to do your bidding by tempting it with morsels of delicious junk food and to deprive your dog of more independent, off-leash, outdoor activity so that it desperately craves your affection to fill the crushing void in its life, which you interpret as love.
And, yes, one example involving a single dog with one issue establishes the rule for all dogs, everywhere, and with all types of issues. Socrates would have been so impressed by how far we’ve advanced the field of logic.
We didn’t give up on our dog either. She was a complete mess who was given up by her previous owners due to a slew of behavioral issues. The +R-only trainers had no answers, misdiagnosed the problem behavior, and one recommended Prozac to rid us of the problem behavior. We eventually solved almost all her issues, and now she is a great companion and goes with us on all our adventures. We used various techniques to address the different issues, but e-collar training was the key that unlocked the door for us. One issue left, leash reactivity with a few dogs.
You’re funny. One dog with one issue? Hahaha. One issue. Funny. You have no idea how many issues my dog came with and it included him pinning fully grown adult dogs by the throat while he was a puppy. And he also went after cats. Which kind of sucks considering we had a 14 year old senior dog and a 20 year old cat.
Sorry, I really can’t agree that your results are satisfactory because I just enjoyed a walk with my dog and kid. We were on a nice nature path and he wore his body harness. I have zero concerns that my dog will react aggressively toward anyone. No drugs in case you want to throw that at me. No herbal remedies. No homeopathic relaxation device. I didn’t use any of them at any time. Not even a reaction when a bunch of rowdy teens came unexpectedly around a corner as it got dark. It certainly didn’t take me 9 months to deal with cat introductions. My trained cat comes into dog classes. The ex-crotch ripper is so good with other dogs that he mentors the foster puppies and does rehab with dogs that have problems – gently with zero aggression. Not that I have a problem with baby gates, but I don’t have any up in my house. As for my dog, I can’t recall the last time I gave him a treat during normal daily life. I have given him treats for working with reactive dogs. He helps dogs like yours that have issues. If he has to fix other dogs, I have no problems giving him treats for working his tail off. He has full run of the house, with the cat. Life is good.
I would not be personally satisfied if my dog was reactive on leash. Aggressive dogs should not use shock collars. It says so in the warning material. That explains why you walk your dog off leash. No leash reactivity if there is no leash eh?
Yup – I eat meat. I am a firm believer that there are fates worse than death. I go well out of my way to buy local, humanely raised and butchered meat and free range eggs. If it makes you feel better to eat store bought veg that has been shipped from who knows what country, fields worked by people who work for next to nothing. Wait….local farmers use migrant workers too. Cheap labour. Men that leave their families and come all the way up from Mexico just to make enough money to support their families. Of course, if it’s a vegetable it must be kind. Who cares about those migrant workers. You should try eating lots of quinoa. Vegetarians love it. It’s really nice. Of course, the supply has increased the price to the point where people in producing countries can no longer afford to eat the one grain that used to feed their families and they are now starving. Being vegetarian does not make one kind or humane.
Nah, I have no desire to trade my results for your results. When your dog is an uncle dog to other dogs with problems – no longer reactive when on leash – feel free to let me know. Until then, there is nothing motivating me to abandon what I did in favour of what you did.
Yvette, it is interesting how smug you are when it comes to any training success you might have had and how dismissive you are of everyone else’s successes when they were accomplished without your one-and-only approved approach. I guess the only way to defend your training dogma is to invalidate everyone else’s conflicting experiences and accomplishments. I know you can’t open your mind to the possibility, but there are more than one effective and humane ways to train a dog.
Our dog wasn’t aggressive, she was reactive due to over-excitement and barrier frustration. Maybe you should refrain from diagnosing other dogs’ issues unless you observe their behavior directly; it’s unprofessional and you are likely to be wrong. Our dog is not perfect but she walks beautifully on a leash now, and gets at least one hour-long walk a day, and we can take her just about wherever we go. We also take her to the dog park for an hour everyday and let her off-leash to get more exercise and because off-leash play and hiking is what she loves to do. We achieved a near complete transformation in one year, and we’re very proud of that.
The whole butcher thing was meant to highlight your moral relativism. I eat meat, too. There are those who are as religiously opposed to, and intolerant of, meat eaters as you are of balanced trainers, though. The critical comments about “treat trainers” were meant to show you and your ilk how your comments sound to those you attack with junk science, ugly accusations, and falsely equating their use of a tool with some of the more repugnant examples you can find when they disagree with you. I basically copied what was said to me in other posts and just changed a few words to redirect it back. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
As for cats and dogs, our main issue was with a stray cat we adopted at about
the same time we adopted our dog. Neither the dog nor the cat were well
socialized, let alone with the other species. The cat was pretty wild having
lived on the streets for her first year before we adopted her. Our other two
cats, who were well socialized with dogs, were much easier to introduce (a few
weeks, at most). All or our pets get along and love each other now, though. We’re pretty proud of that, too. Again, maybe you should refrain from judging unless you know what you’re talking about, eh.
I’m not asking you, or anyone else for that matter, to abandon what you are
doing if it is working. I’m only recommending that dog owners keep a somewhat open mind if what they are doing is not working and they are seeing no real progress; but I also advocate against doing what makes you
uncomfortable. If a problem behavior is not being resolved and it is important to correct, don’t give up without trying other approaches and reputable trainers but, again, do not go beyond what is reasonable and you feel comfortable with.
I’m not endorsing any abuses that take place with any training tool, including
treats, which I see abused quite often; but our experiences with e-collar
training were nothing like what is being portrayed here, and it worked very
well in our situation where other +R-only approaches that we tried for months
did not. The result is a happy and obedient dog who gets to fully enjoy life.
We’re proud of our dog and ourselves for this accomplishment. Our minds are
always open to better ways, and we learn more almost every day, but there is
no doubt that what we did worked exceptionally well.
It’s unfortunate that arguments about dog training, like the one here, have
devolved into a nasty war between those who share a common purpose, to improve the lives of dogs, which is fomented by those who can tolerate no deviation from the narrow approach that they subscribe to. Perhaps they lash out at good-hearted and dedicated people because those who would really mistreat dogs, along the lines of what some have described here, don’t care enough to waste their time arguing about or explaining their actions. Many caring dog owners need help with their canine companions, not self-righteous lectures from those who cannot help them.
Let me get this straight – if someone disagrees with anything pertaining to a tool you use, they adhere to a narrow minded approach, lash out. So what you are proposing is that anyone who disagrees with anything you say or do should shut up? I shouldn’t say that I think products should clearly state amps ranges on the outside of the box? I should zip it if I say that I think there should be a maximum value they go to? I shouldn’t say warnings should be on the outside of the box? I shouldn’t say it’s ridiculous that under the laws of many jurisdictions it’s okay to put a shock on a dog’s groin and I think that is wrong?
If I have used balanced in the past, and found the success rates are far lower than newer methods I use now, I should shut up about that too? Might risk offending someone?
If I see very public force trainers doing things and the dogs are screaming, I should shut up about that? It’s legal so let it be?
The way I see it Tom, here is where we’ll have to disagree. If you see someone shoving food and treats into a dog’s mouth until the dog is obese, I want you to go to the SPCA and complain about it. It is wrong to hurt a dog regardless of which side of the training debate we stand on.
The major difference between your complaints and mine is that what you complain about is already illegal. In most areas, it is illegal to allow your dog to be significantly obese. SPCA officers can write orders to see a veterinarian and have the dog placed on an exercise/weight loss program.
What you dislike is already illegal and banned.
Putting a shock collar on a dog’s groin and turning it up to “11” is not banned in most areas.
Really, nothing you said offended me. You keep trying to make it sound like I somehow have easy dogs or easy scenarios. Now your cat was new. Mine was 20 at the time and declawed (done at a time when it was very common for it to be done and I wouldn’t do it now). I know what we worked with, you don’t.
But I can understand how it might make you feel better to think that those who have success with R+ must have easier situations. I know that is not true.
One thing I’ll absolutely defend is your right to freedom of speech. Say whatever you like.
I thank you for pointing out the lack of rules for this blog. Have posted rules in a newer post clarifying what will and will not be tolerated from this point forward.
Sorry, I have to keep replying to this post since I can’t reply to the replies below.
I do not disagree with your criticisms concerning possible misuses or abuses of e-collars. I applaud your efforts to draw attention to those abuses. What I disagree with is your equating these acts with all uses of e-collars in dog training and using them to discredit e-collar training in general.
I don’t want anyone to “shut up”; I want an intellectually honest discussion about the subject. If I see someone actively abusing a dog, causing real physical harm, I would stop it immediately (with physical force, if necessary) and call the authorities. On the other hand, some extremists consider any aversive training technique, no matter how mild, to be abusive, and that I disagree with.
I don’t care if others disagree with me, that’s opinion and we’re each entitled to our own. But you can feel that applying an aversive is wrong without having to falsely equate using very mild electronic stimulus with inflicting howling pain. In one case it’s opinion, in the other you are simply wrong as there is a real difference.
If you are equating your relationship with your dog and that with your spouse we are on different planets as far as pets are concerned. My wife and I set the rules of the house together, the pets follow our lead and privileges must be earned through obedience and good behavior. Sounds strict, but the house is really harmonious and happy. Since all the pets are good, they basically earn free reign.
The “foreign language” comment is puzzling. I’ve said this repeatedly: we teach our dog the meaning of the commands first with +R, and once she understands what is being asked we teach her to obey the commands when given (i.e., obedience). We are fair and consistent and do not hurt or intimidate our dog.
I’m not trying to say you had easy cases or that your successes are not real. I’m saying you’ve had limited cases. My experiences are undoubtedly more limited since I’ve only owned about a dozen pets. I’ll even stipulate that you can deal with every possible situation with +R-only given enough time. But then you are not servicing everyone’s neighborhood because I’ve seen nobody like you in any place I’ve lived and I’ve looked hard, tried several, and can only think of a few people whose dogs were well trained this way.
I loved the enumerated list of dog training insights. I’m not sure I would have appreciated their wisdom earlier as much as I do now, after having to work through many problems on our own by really thinking them through. I love the final sentiment in particular: if something isn’t working then figure out what you, the handler, are doing wrong. In our case we had to figure out the root cause of the behavior, over-excitement, and work on it in scenarios where we naturally controlled the object of our dog’s maniacal fascination.
We couldn’t control the other dogs etc. that our dog was crazy to get to, for example, but we could control her fetch ball and my interaction with her when coming home from work (also things that triggered her highly excitable state). We taught her “settle” under these situations where we controlled the rewards and it is transferring quite well to other situations. Now we let her greet dogs (reward) on-leash if she “settles” (and if the other owner is willing to wait a few seconds). If she doesn’t settle, we move on (negative punishment).
Where I live, many dog owners adopt non-puppy rescues that may have deep-seated issues and few dog owners that I’ve known are willing or able to put the type of time and effort into training their dog that it would take to analyze every problem and devise an effective +R solution, assuming that’s possible. So these folks are reliant on trainers, and there aren’t many good ones around in my experience. As a dog owner, not trainer, who knows many caring people with dogs, I would say the real need is for efficient, effective training that deals individually and hands-on with dogs and their owners.
My problem with e-collar training in general and my reason for using a foreign language are very similar.
When you teach or communicate, as the teacher you assume that the message you sent was received and understood as intended. If I say to my husband, please go buy buttermilk, I am pretty confident that 10 minutes later I’ll get a call from him. I’d bet there is a good chance he’d come home with butter AND milk. I see it with dogs all the time. People assume, “My dog knows sit.” The dog really doesn’t. They have learned a gesture, a facial expression, a pattern.
To be fair in assessing how a shock collar feels, you probably shouldn’t shock yourself. You should pass the remote to someone else and say, “teach me something.” To be even more accurate, the commands should be in a foreign language because dogs and people don’t speak the same language. IMO it increases the chances of communication errors and assumptions. Even better, that behaviour should be one you would not naturally do. Obedience is very much contrived by people. Dogs don’t bark sit commands at one another. So, someone should teach you to do something unnatural that you wouldn’t do in the course of a day.
You can’t ask the dog, “How does that feel?” So, if you’re wearing a shock collar, the other person should have to decide the level based on your natural body language. Will they get the level right? How will that level feel over time? What hurts today may be okay tomorrow and vice versa. If the pain is unpredictable, pain sensitivity increases. If pain is predictable, the brain releases opiates. Those levels need to be readjusted continuously. Which I don’t really see people doing. They set it and leave it at the level they felt was right. And, that is why electrical muscle stimulating machines have a safety that reverts the machine to zero when it shuts down. The new ones do. You could be okay with an 8. Machine turns off for 5 minutes. Flip the switch and that 8 can put you through the roof.
I have not seen this mythical trains at the lowest level after using food. I’ve seen two things. Shrieking dismissed as just a startle. I’ve seen the low level “later on in the training.” Those first “higher bits” are not shown. I’ve sat in on many classes where people claim that “last resort/lowest level” and I have yet to see it. Everyone claims that. I see trainers that overbook their classes and jump to corrections because of chaotic overbooked classes. That is not the dog’s fault.
My “limited” experience is more than a decade of working as a trainer (no day job…it is my day job) and working with multiple rescues. It’s what I do all the time. I used Kip as the example because that is my dog. He is just one of many, many dogs that I have worked with. I work with tough – tough dogs. Prior to that, I worked with other trainers using a balanced approach.
But my main concern isn’t even a moral one. You’ll notice I don’t actually tend to play that card. I have seen far too many dogs develop superstitions tied to corrections.
You know what, I don’t think R+ will work for every dog. Any trainer that claims they can get those types of amazing results is lying. 50% of behaviour problems have an undiagnosed underlying medical condition according to research. So – any trainer that has results that seem really awesome is full of it. That goes for shock, prongs, R+ … everything. Sick dogs act badly. No one should be able to fix them all.
There are shock collars for cats – indoor boundary systems. So the one use I’ve heard promoted is…
If you have a dog that is aggressive and dangerous toward cats, you put a shock collar on the dog AND the cats. That way they all have their areas. Based how I heard it explained, the dog is shocked for crossing into the cat area. The cats, that are being threatened by the dog, also get shocked if they go into the dog area.
The whole “The dog decides if I use the shock collar” does not sit well with me. It reminds me of parents that spank and spouses that hit. “I wouldn’t have to hit you if you just…..the choice is yours and you control whether I have to slap you.”
The person giving discipline decides yes or no. It is always that person’s choice to hit, slap, kick, shock, pinch….or reward.
Consider how some dogs act upon an approaching thunderstorm. They instinctively seek out areas that are grounded. According to Mercola.com, “It’s an established fact static electricity fields build up during storms and some animals become statically charged.” Dr. Dodman, founder of the Tufts’ Animal Behavior Clinic believes that some animals endure actual static electric shocks during storms. We know that it is not simply a matter of fear of noise, as rubbing anti-static dryer sheets on their coats helps many dogs. Do you know any people who do this before a storm, so they might remain comfortable? How can we confidently say that dogs just experience a “tickle”? And if I tickled your dog, would he stop immediately in his tracks and let that squirrel go? Shock collars can only work if they cause serious pain.
And every time they experience static shock during a storm, one would wonder if the dogs have been taught to view this as punishment. And they’d be in serious distress being corrected, in their minds, for they not what.
LOVED this Yvette! It’s so refreshing to read “science-y” stuff in such a clear and simple way. Thanks for advocating for our dogs.
um …. lobsters don’t feel pain?? wow that’s right up there with the cock fighting guys I saw on tv who claimed it was okay to fight roosters ‘cos they are “fowl” … not animals …”fowl” … and they don’t feel pain.
And dogs have thicker skin than humans and therefore don’t feel pain?? Okay then …whatever helps you sleep at night!!
And fewer pain receptors in their brains?? is there scientific evidence to back that up?? I guess believing that gives people licence to abuse dogs 😦
I’ve had a shock collar zap me (on a low setting) and it damn well hurt! And I’ve personally seen 2 dogs with holes burned into their necks from the conductor prongs on the shock collars (in this case bark collars). In one case the collar was mis-firing and shocking the dog for no reason.
And even if it is a “tingle” … why do you need it? What is the purpose?? You can train quite effectively and humanely without an electronic collar.
The fact is …. if the collar didn’t cause some kind of discomfort it would not work as a reinforcer (correction training is based on negative reinforcement > the unpleasant stimulus is removed when the dog performs the desired action)
Sorry, I just don’t see the point in using these devices. Makes no sense whatsoever.
Thank you Yvette for a well written and for me, easy to understand explanation of pain threshold and how to relate it to shock collars, tens, and tasers. Will happily share this information with friends and clients alike.
GREAT post, Yvette. And thank you for both your research and your ability to back up your assertions. The science is there. And denying it doesn’t change it.
Knowing the amperage is all well and good, but is it really necessary when finding a dog’s working level is basically doing a tail twitch study geared to the individual dog.
1) start at the lowest level for the collar (and you should be using a quality collar with lots of levels) when the dog is relaxed in a quiet situation.
2) increase the level one at a time until you observe something that tells you the dog felt the nick – a blink, an ear flick, or something like that. You are looking for a very minor reaction, without distress. If the dog reacts at the first level, you are not using a sensitive enough collar for that dog.
3) Some people use this as the dog’s working level. Some back down to the previous level and use that. Either way, you are not using a level that causes that dog pain.
How would you factor in hyperanalgesia and hypoanalgesia.
Sorry, no you can’t just do a “modified tail twitch” at home. A tail twitch is done with the tail in a restraint. A light detects the tail twitch. Which is important because it’s not uncommon for dogs to walk around without even a limp after getting shot. They are in extreme pain, but mask the pain well. The dog has so much damage it need an amputation…and yet …. not able to read that in body language. Reading body language with precision isn’t a matter of looking for a blink. (Which by the way, research has shown is not a reliable indication of pain.)
The purpose is not looking for an indication the dog is feeling pain. You are looking for an indication the dog noticed the nick. When setting a working level you don’t decide a specific thing you are looking for – you are looking for any indication that the dog noticed the sensation.
If a dog has a bullet lodged in its leg and doesn’t even limp…survives in the wild no problem. When brought into rescue, needs an amputation due to the damage done to the bone and there are no signs of physical impairment, how do you propose to standardize that response? I’ve had at least 6 tri-pods with that type of history in my classes in the last year.
How do you accurately assess ability to detect anything when the brain produces natural opiates in response to mild discomfort? Dogs essentially dope themselves in response to discomfort so they can carry on. Please advise how you measure the opiate levels to ensure an arbitrary, subjective observation is accurate?
Please don’t call it a nick. Please call it what it is. A shock. Calling it a nick tries to gloss over what you are doing.
Oh please. You are in denial.There is no point in a shock collar if it doesn’t hurt. Just as there is no point to a choke or prong collar if it doesn’t hurt. Doesn’t hurt = doesn’t work. That’s the whole idea. People who have no ability to train a dog using +R methods have to resort to pain. Simple.
Oh really 🙂 Actually positive only training for all dogs is a myth. I have owned and bred dogs for over 40 years. I had a short gap away due to illness and when I started again clicker training was all the rage. I did several very expensive courses with top trainers and set about training my lovely GSD with positive only methods. The result was a dog who is hard to live with, very bright and very focused on getting what she wants. Do I think this reflects on my ability as a positive only trainer? No. Her son and daughter were trained with a mixture of positive training and compulsion and have turned out to be much better balanced dogs. I work the daughter my partner works the son.
With the daughter I found that she wasn’t responding well to my “wrong” feedback. I switch to an e-collar and used it on a very low setting, pairing the tone with the lowest setting she could feel. At this level, I can’t feel any sensation on the back of my forearm but I can feel just feel a small tickle on the underside of my forearm. I used the pairing 3 times, then switched the stimulation to tone only. Her response to tone is slightly more marked that that of the low stimulation. With the low stimulation her eyes flick. With the tone her ear flicks. She responds to the tone well and in a round of work which took about ten minutes and was broken up with play I had to use the collar once to say “pay attention”. Do I think that is cruel? No, I think it is a great training tool which gives me the ability to correct in a way my dog understands.
I used to be anti e-collars but after having a Golden Retriever who could go from docile pet into a manic hunter within a second I resorted to a collar to get a 100% recall. It worked well and with this dog the buzzer was more effective that any stimulation as she didn’t feel the stimulation until the level was about 30 % of the collars capacity. I was scared (then) of using that much so trained her on the buzzer only.
When we have nice little pet dogs we assume all dogs are like that. Some people like strong working breeds who may need more compulsion to train them. Don’t criticise them until you have owned their dog. Your dog may be willing to recall from that rabbit that is running towards the road for a sweetie but not all dogs will. Your dog may give up his toy for you for a food swap but what if the dog won’t? What will you do then?
One of the puppies I bred went to a pet home where they wanted to do lots of training with him. He came back to me because they couldn’t stop him holding and tugging the lead. 2 positive trainers offered advice and none of it worked. When he came back at 20 months he was so strong I couldn’t hold him either. 5 minutes on the prong collar quietly sorted the problem and he now has a chance of a good life. Did the prong collar hurt him? Well I have used it on me with all the strength I can muster and it doesn’t hurt my arm. It’s action feels different though and so it stopped him pulling against it. If they had used this on the dog when he was younger he would still be in his original home.
The tide of dog training has to turn to a more balanced approach otherwise more and more dogs will end up in shelters. Dogs need to know the boundaries and the boundaries need to be set in way way that is right for that particular dog. A weak or timid dog needs very different handling to a strong character. I am sure there are badly designed e-collars out there. A decent one will cost £200-300, mine cost nearly £1,000. Don’t lump them all together and assume e-collar trainers like causing pain to their dogs. Maybe it is the other way round and the dog likes “conflict” with its owner. Dogs are dogs, not fur babies and need to be treated with respect and understanding.
I’ll tell Kipper the ex-crotch ripper he’s a wimp and easy. No, really. He was so easy to love when he grabbed onto men’s crotches, biting, pulling and tugging. My son found that he was such an easy puppy and appreciated having his junk bitten.
He was such a joy when he pinned dogs by the throat. What a puppy. My dream. Not.
He could climb to the top of bookcases by the time he was 5 weeks old. Nothing was safe or sacred. He could open crates, climb out of ex-pens and open doors. When adult dogs tried to tell him off, he went at them harder.
Kip was psycho dog. All that is past us.
The myth that people who chose to use mainly R+ (I do use timeouts) only pick soft dogs…not true.
But I will tell you, I had to be open to the feedback Kip gave me. He is the type of dog that shows you in no uncertain terms if your technique is off. We have a choice to listen to those dogs or not. I am grateful to him because he is absolutely the best teacher I have ever had.
I didn’t say people who use main r+ choose whimps. I use MAINLY r+ myself but choose an e-collar over using time outs as I don’t like using psychological abuse 🙂 What I can’t understand is why you allowed your puppy to behave as you describe in the first place.
No, you said some people like, “Strong working breeds,” with the unstated implication being that other people…those who use R+ pick soft, weak, timid…ergo wimpy dogs.
Please re-read the previous post. Did you notice it said 5 weeks?
He came to me like this. At 4 weeks of age. I was bleeding within an hour of him arriving. It was a necessary separation from a feral/roaming litter.
We didn’t “allow” anything. We fixed it. Please do tell me what I did wrong. Where I stand, proof is in the pudding. I certainly wouldn’t put a shock, prong or choke on a 4 week old puppy. I used a body harness, just in case you were going to throw out the head halters are abusive. Didn’t use that either.
Psychological abuse? I’ll make sure I tell the dogs that do the the “yelp..play nice or I’m not playing” the memo. But if you think you could have gotten better results…please do advise how you would have corrected a 4 week old pup.
Anyone who chooses an shock collar (please stop using the word e-collar and name it for what it is) instead of a time out is lazy. You would rather hurt a dog than give a time out. A time out should not long enough to be termed as “psychological abuse” if it is, then you are doing it wrong.
E-collars are Elizabethan collars. Growing tired of the word use changes, the marketing of pain to be less painful. “I’m not hitting, I’m touching….I’m not kicking, I’m tapping…..I’m not shocking, I’m tickling.”
For the record, tickling sucks.
My my, it appears from your comment that you have to use an awful lot of “tools” to get a dog to do what you want; shock collars, prong collars etc.
Teaching a dog to walk on a loose leash isn’t hard. I don’t need a prong collar to achieve that. Mostly with my method, it works in just a few sessions. Sometimes it works even faster than that. I recently taught a huge young 80 pound lab to walk nicely beside me in about 20 minutes. His owner (a well built woman) had been pulled off her feet by him on numerous occasions. Sure, I used +R to do it. I did it in the first place for my own benefit while I was boarding him. I didn’t tell the owner. After he went home, his owner emailed and asked what I had done with her dog because he was walking so nicely with her. She wasn’t using treats so the myth about the dog only doing it for the treats is blown out of the window in that scenario. Not a prong collar in sight. Or a shock collar. Oh, and actually my own breed is a giant breed. I also deal with a lot of giant breeds Try forcing a giant breed dog, especially a Mastiff to do what you want with +P. I think you will find that it does not work.
Positive doesn’t mean permissive and it is true that positive trainers may use negative punishment (-P). However, negative punishment does not involve using an aversive to make the dog work to avoid punishment, usually pain. -P involves removing something the dog desires or likes, maybe the chance of playing with the ball (if that is what you are using as it’s reward) or of getting the treat.
Oh and you use the prong or shock collar on your arm? How brave of you. Try it on your neck and then see what difference it makes. if a prong collar or a shock collar wasn’t aversive it wouldn’t work. There is absolutely no getting around that fact. It is an undeniable truth. To deny that is to put your head in the sand.
Dogs do need to be treated with respect and understanding. That is why I don’t use pain, fear or any sort of intimidation to train a dog. However, you show a complete lack of respect and understanding of dogs if you think that dogs might like to “conflict” with their owners. That is anthropomorphising because anyone who understands dog behaviour knows that dogs do not think in this way. That’s akin to a client saying “I think my dog pees on my bed to get back at me”.
One last thing. Psychologists claim that people who mete out physical punishment normally do it because it does something for THEM. That goes across the board whether it is to animals or to people.
Not only try it on your neck. Pass the leash or remote to someone else and have them tell you what to do in a foreign language. When you are so stubborn and fail to do as told, they should escalate the level of pain. There is a difference between knowing when the correction is coming because you are DIY, and when someone else is in control of it and won’t/can’t give you a head’s up.
Technique matters. I find it interesting that people who fail with R+ have two choices. Improve technique or blame the dog. If that was a kid, and the kid’s teacher at school wasn’t getting results, people would go to the teacher.
“What are YOU doing to help the child?”
Easy to see the onus is on the teacher when one is not the teacher. Can tell a lot about a person’s confidence when they take responsibility for the lesson on themselves.
Well said 🙂
Right back at ya’. Very valid point to say an arm is not a neck.
Yvette, are you saying that ecollars (and you don’t specify brands or models and seem to refer to the remote and bark collars interchangeably) have more output and cause more pain then a taser which is used to immobilize fully grown men? Some thing must be very wrong with your numbers or the sources or how you’re interpreting that data, because that would suggest that every time a dog receives a signal/stim from an ecollar or a bark collar they would be dropping to the floor convulsing and immobilized for at least a few seconds, which obviously isn’t happening.
I think you are also being very selective and obviously biased with the information you are presenting suggesting that these high levels of output are the only ways ecollars are capable of administering their charges. Dismissing the fact that when used on low levels they do in fact feel like a tickle only makes you sound absurdly and irrationally biased which only takes away from the credibility of the rest of your article. I thought the research you were doing on this was very interesting and I was eagerly anticipating your results but it’s highly disappointing that you would choose to present these numbers in such a highly irrational manner.
“Modern shock collars do not cause pain. It is a mild tingle, a tickle. ” You are responding to this statement with your data, but that statement is half the information. That statement needs to include the condition of “when used on a low setting”. It is a fact, they do when used on low settings feel like a tingle or how ever you wish to describe the sensation, any one with a pulse can find that out for themselves, there is no data needed. Turn the dial up, and again, this is fact, they do absolutely cause pain on the higher settings and any one with a pulse can find that out for themselves quite easily. If you are suggesting that some one told you that statement and suggested it applies all collars all the time under all conditions, then you are displaying equal amounts of intelligence by validating that statement in responding to it with the same level of selective rationality. I had a much higher opinion of you prior to this. I did not expect you to twist facts and present selective bits of information just to write a sensational piece the way you did here. I can fully understand those who are against the use of ecollars and many of the points made are extremely valid and I support them, but you loose me when you make such irrational claims just to make a point.
If you have data and numbers you want to give me – I’ll look at them. The taser falls in between the low and high numbers I obtained. You can click through the embedded links to see them. Which fits in with your point. A shock collar, at a low setting, is not as strong as a taser. The chart shows that.
When I found old, really high numbers, I kept them out of the chart. It would look worse if I put those high old numbers on the chart.
The taser has a range of numbers. I used the higher ones. That favours the shock collars. It would look worse for shock collars if I used the low values.
Tens units had a range. I used the higher values. Tens units actually go from zero up. So I used peak amps. That would benefit the shock collars.
In other words, imagine that chart with really high shock values, low taser values and low tens. I do have numbers to support that, but I chose to overcompensate and use these numbers to be MORE fair.
Then I didn’t include the pain aversion levels (0.04mA), nor did I even touch on duration. “How many amps cause pain if that shock is continuous?” That is even lower. And yes, trainers do use shock collars like that. Continued shock that stops when the dog does the right thing. Another step I took to compensate.
Perhaps, what is interesting is the question, “Why are amperage listings so difficult to find?” Perhaps the bias being demonstrated is in the companies that insist on using joules. I think that is a fair question. Why joules? If the products are so mild, why aren’t the amps posted on every product spec out there? The public has the right to know. They have a right to make a comparison themselves. I don’t think most people have the ability, or access to manufacturer specs to be able to calculate the volts, resistance, amps…and to know how to factor in skin conditions or the product specs. (Diodes, capacitors, wire type….)
You have numbers…by all means send them. If some collars operate below pain threshold (I suppose many have a zero setting), then why do they also need a high setting unless they’re expecting someone to use it?
Your reply is spot on Marta! The can not be considered research with such a bias towards e-collars. Very sad…
How do you know exactly that on a low level setting, the dog feels only a tickle? Yvette’s point is that the mA are much higher even on a low setting on a collar, than that used in a pain study. If shock collars weren’t designed to work through discomfort, they would only be made with a vibrate setting and that is all.
I had a collar that had a vibrate mode and a shock mode. My dog had a strong negative reaction to the vibrate mode, but not to the shock mode. Remember, you have to let the dog define punishment and reward. My dog defined vibrate as being a strong aversive while the shock was a very mild aversive.
Our dog was terrified by the clicker. It was a very strong aversive for her. She would tuck tail, hide and shiver whenever we tried to used it. How can we know that other dogs are not similarly affected, only not to such an obvious extent, and that clicker trainers are not torturing their dogs in exchange for a treat. According to the +P-only crowd we cannot know what the dog experiences, right?
If I saw a dog that was cringing and appeared to be scared of noise, I’d advocate for that dog as well. I’d encourage rehab for a dog that had anxiety issues. What a crappy life to live being afraid of noises.
But by the logic put forth here on the part of the +R-only folks, how do you know that other dogs who don’t display outward signs of this aversion to clicker noises are not adversely affected? According to you folks, you can’t possible deduce what dogs are experiencing by observing their reaction. Maybe clicker trainers are unwittingly torturing dogs, they just don’t observe the suffering.
Thanks for your concern, by the way. Our dog is fine with noises since we threw out the clicker. Her fear was probably linked to the unpleasant experience of having gobs of treats fed to her while at a clicker training session, which she wretched up in the parking lot outside. And, as usual, you avoid the questions as the answer would expose your twisted pretzel logic.
Sure you can crazy things with “clicker” training. For example, I saw video of a shock collar trainer doing shock – treat … shock – treat. Used the shock instead of the clicker.
The act of using food does not make one R+ or kind. So I’m not sure what “twisted logic” you presume that I have. But I’ll call out a person using treats just as fast as I’ll call out someone using pain if I feel the dog is showing signs of avoidance.
The difference is that shock as used the way most trainers say to use it is something the dog should avoid.
Treats and other rewards when used the way most trainers say to use it is something the dog wants to get.
If I wanted to fear monger, I’d point to the examples of average Joe people that do crazy things with shock collars. That picture of the dog with the shock on its groin was posted to a group that has well known dog trainers on it. I would not characterize them as being in the extremist group. These are people that have businesses in various communities. I know people in that group. They all say the same thing. “It’s just a tickle.” The shock used as a clicker is from a well known training franchise that uses and sells shock collars.
The lack of amp range listed on products (which other electronics products such as TENS/Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) do list on their machines despite changes in frequency, wave form, duration etc. The maximum output can be listed in amps and would vary from manufacturer to manufacturer – product to product. In contrast to dog shock collars is a Spinal Tap debate of “but mine goes to eleven…this one is better because it has more numbers. So it’s better.” I don’t really care if they start at zero – the question is how high do they go. Each manufacturer should spell that out clearly. There is a point where we should ask, “Exactly how high do some of these go and why?”
If you say that you only use the low setting and if you say that is all you need (and frankly, I have no met anyone that only used the low setting except the low vibrate for a deaf dog), then why do we have them going so high? Why is it okay to put a shock on a dog’s groin, tail…and who knows what else. A dog is not a remote control car. Dogs are living beings.
I’d be the first to agree that many tools should have warnings. I think products that spray ethanol and coolant into a dog’s face (carrying agents) should have that right on the outside of the package. I think that retractable leashes should have use warnings on the outside of the package so people can read it before buying. I think shock products should list output and warnings on the outside of the box. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to having an information page on proper and healthy diet with a clicker.
That’s what I see as the difference between how you see things and how I see things. I don’t actually have any issue with warnings on products regardless of the product. On the OUTSIDE of the product, clearly marked. I took the numbers on amps from PRO_SHOCK information sites. While you’re all upset because THIS post is about shock collar numbers that I researched and drew comparisons from, I have a general disdain for the lack of consumer information on dog training products in general.
Great post – thank you! Very enlightening. You can’t argue with science! It always amazes me that many folks using shock collars to train will do so without any basic understanding of the tool they have chosen. If you work with electricity, you should understand electricity. Another couple of factors to consider…
1 – Normal Serum Iron levels in a dog’s blood (46-241) are typically higher than that of a human (26-190). Iron conducts electricity. What feels like a “tingle” to a human can be quite painful to a dog.
2 – Hydration levels. Water conducts electricity too. Therefore, a setting on an ecollar may produce a “tingle” at a given time but if the dog is subsequently more hydrated, that “tingle” can then become a painful shock.
Bottom line, WE can’t KNOW what it feels like for the dog but the numbers don’t lie and there’s a good chance it feels bad.
Helen Del Bove, ABCDT, CPDT-KA
Smarty Paws Dog Training
Yup – a lot of factors affect resistance. And wait for my upcoming blog post on pain. So many things impact how pain is felt. If you’re going to use force, then you better IMO understand pain. Otherwise, you have no business using it. (Same with shock. Agree with you a million percent.)
Well said Helen.
Do you know what the circuitry of the shock collar is? Is it a simple voltage source or a current source? Or is it something else? Do you know what the waveform of the electrical signal is, whether it is DC or AC, what the pulse rate is, the pulse duration, etc? All these factors make a significant different in the perception of the stimulus.
So….you can’t say a tickle is a tickle. Glad you finally got that. Glad you realize that a continuous shock at a “tickle” affects the duration and can change the pain perception. Manufacturers should put that on the box. People who advocate for the product should DEMAND that information be there.
Again, dodging the questions. The point was that you would not know how to interpret the information about electronics because you do not know enough about the subject. I would like to have some standardized and pertinent information to help choose appropriate products. But I can understand the reluctance to putting out bits and pieces of information that would not help consumers but would be seized upon by uninformed zealots out to demonize the products.
Reblogged this on Lady Chauncey Barkington III's Finishing School For Dogs and Other Beasts and commented:
An awesome blog on shock collars by Awesomedogs. VERY worth reading.
I’m not sure of the point exactly. While the mA is much higher that does not necessarily equate into more “pain” for the dog. They have thicker skin and they probably have less pain receptors in their body so they may not feel pain the same way we do. Their brain is filled with olfactory receptors and probably a mess of other things so pain receptors may not be as plentiful. Does a lobster feel pain when it is in boiling water-or in this case getting shocked: no it will not. It does not have the capacity to feel pain.
While the data is interesting it would have been nice if you would have posted data relative to the number of pain receptors in the brain that dogs have-which is likely less than our brain. That at least would have made it a little less sensational, but I”m not sure you wanted that.
1 – Lobsters and crustaceans do feel pain. That is why many chefs keep lobsters in very cold water just prior to cooking. They are put into a forced state of hibernation where they don’t even eat. They cook so fast, they don’t awake and feel the pain. Plus, there’s a fair bit of research starting to come out relating to the seafood industry and animal pain. Fish feel pain too. The lobster study was electric shock by the way.
2 – Tail twitch studies are done on a variety of species of animals. That is why I included them. To be fair. Of course, if dogs don’t feel pain like people, then the “put the shock collar on your arm” would be invalid. Don’t want dog/human pain levels compared. Don’t have humans test the product on people’s arms. Can’t have it both ways.
3 – Dogs don’t have thicker skin. All mammals have 3 layers of skin. Many breeds of dogs have thinner skin than humans and require special care. Some dogs have 0.5 mm thickness of skin. Humans 2-3 mm. Averages for people. Some dogs have thicker skin. Ranges on different parts of the body.
I did mention that I didn’t think it was all about amps. Will write about pain research soon. Really very interesting.
If I wanted to make shock collars look bad, I would have left Christiansen and Shalke in the chart. Imagine how that would look.
1. the chefs might “think” the lobsters feel pain but they do not. They do not have the capacity nor the pain sensors to feel it. It is biology. Do you think a chef knows better than a biologist? How the “pain” measured in the lobster? Whatever it did in the study you are referring to was a reflexive action, not pain induced. They simply do not have the receptors in their brain. Visit PubMed for peer reviewed articles about it.
2. You are saying that twitching means pain? The entire body, animal and human is run on electricity. Twitchy is an electrical signal that tells the brain to move a muscle….a twitch. It is not an indicator of pain, only of electric signal. I have no idea what you are trying to say with the rest of that paragraph. I think people, and by that I mean the average joe, put those things on their arms just to see what is happening. Who “tests” a collar on an arm? That is like the idiot that put a shock collar on his neck and shocked himself to “feel” what the dog is feeling. This is the definition of apples to oranges.
3. all skin is not made alike and lack of pain receptors makes a difference. Pub med or similar database for peer reviewed journals.
BTW I just sent an email to Dogtra asking about the amps of my collar. I will let you know how hard it was to get that information (from your reply above)
If you’re referencing the old 2005 news stories in the paper….then yes I am aware of those studies.
On the other hand, the newer studies have looked at lobsters and scientists have come up with very clever ways to determine if non-mammals feel pain.
For example, they can induce pain, get an avoidance response. Then they give pain medication and see if the lobster’s response changes when on pain meds. If the pain meds “work” the assumption is they feel pain. Which is not reflexive. It means the pain meds are working on their nervous system. You can look it up. Who cares how lobsters feel pain if we’re talking mammals?
Who tests a collar on their arm?…. I would assume the people who read to “test the product on your arm to see how it feels.” I’ve read that hundreds of times on various social media posts.
Would suggest you look up tail twitch studies. Seems to me, you’re suggesting that dogs are a freak of nature and can tolerate far greater shock values than humans, rats, monkeys…and all the species that have been tested. Wow. That must be why new drugs and therapies are tested on animals. Because they are so different from us, that they can survive … no enjoy … larger quantities of shock. But, if no one has studied “how much shock is pain for a dog,” using a tried and true pain study, then no one can claim they don’t hurt. It could hurt worse. But don’t worry, I skewed all the data for the chart in favour of the shock collars….to overcompensate for my bias. I can absolutely add those other numbers.
Make sure they send you the specs for dry dog, wet dog, has been in salt water. And the amps on dogs with differences of skin thickness. And the amps for each and every level that is on their make and model.
Veterinary pain guidelines…notice the reference to comparisons between dog/cat and human pain.
Click to access dogs_and_cats_2009.pdf
The pain threshold are similar between dogs and humans.
Click to access PainAssessment_JAVMA2002v220p313.pdf
Crustaceans feel pain
Click to access study.pdf
Pain in fish – not a reflex. Responds to morphine.
If, at the very least, this blog post causes the full range of amps in multiple products to be discussed..then great. Although if find it disturbing that anyone who uses these products wouldn’t already know the answer to the question, “How many amps, under what levels and under what conditions that interfere with resistance.” I can’t wait to see the change in amp levels from a dry dog to one that swims in salt water. Because we all know that salt is an extremely good conductor. Salt water reduces resistance thus increasing amps. Please do share those salt water numbers! I’m absolutely want to see those numbers!
I took the amps from pro-shock websites. Can post print screens if that’s easier.
Yvette, Bravo on your factual, scientifically supported responses. You keep hitting the ball right out of the park! Interesting that this commenter states opinions and perceptions as though they are fact with no actual studies or science to support her beliefs. THIS is how dangerous misinformation is perpetuated! Thank you for doing the work and knowing the science so you can continue to accurately refute opinions with facts.
Studies are really important. We can’t dismiss new research because it doesn’t fit with what we believe. You can point out a well reasoned issue. But, just disagreeing because is a bit like a 2 year old stomping their food. “I’m right!”
We all make mistakes. Science keeps us honest. Otherwise we still believe that dogs and cats can’t feel pain. There are people that still think that!
And yes, I genuinely want the full range of amps from everyone. Low to high. Dry, wet, salt water….I’ll add something. I want to know what resistance levels they use in their calculations.
I’m not holding my breath. If the mA were low, I suspect we’d see it in the marketing material. But who knows…right?
You have answered yourself here why collar companies do not use amps on their site: Too many variables, which affect resistance, and therefore amps to be able to accurately list the amps that will come for ever dog and every situation. Joules, volts will not change. Most collar companies, and certainly most trainers, will acknowledge that the collar will be felt differently in different situations (in particular, hunting dog trainers whose dogs are often in and out of water, etc).
You can’t have it both ways, arguing that they should include amps on their site, but then when someone offers to ask for amps from a company start listing variables (and I’m sure they could/would provide a couple, but then you would come back saying “ok but what about this senario?” and the cycle continues). That is why it isn’t there!
It’s a bit like for eg the miles/gallon on a car dealers website. It’s an average, and “your results may vary” depending on how you drive. In this case, the joules/volts won’t likely vary but the amps will. In the car scenario, if there were a consistent way of stating it (some other unit of measure), you can bet that would be what they would list.
Stephanie: Volts = Resistance x Amps
Volts are tied to amps. Volts mean “how much energy at the start.” Which doesn’t really matter because electrical appliances are built with resistors, capacitors and diodes that change the charge. Where the dog is concerned, the question is “How much electric shock is going into the dog?” That is amps out.
Joules tells you “how much work is this thing doing?” which lets you calculate watts. Which is “how energy efficient is this appliance.” That is why you see watts on appliances when they are new. They tell you how energy efficient the appliance is.
While it might be interesting to know how much power a shock collar sucks, how energy efficient it is, and how long the batteries might last, it doesn’t tell you, “How much is going in the dog.”
That is amps. Not volts. Not joules. Not watts.
Exactly. And given that Amps = Volts / Resistance and that resistance will vary based on a bunch of factors in collar use, it’s impossible to say “why don’t they put the amps on the collar websites” and have that reflect what the dog will feel or how much amps are actually getting to the dog (and therefore try to use that as an argument they are “hiding something”). It will be impossible to gauge that with any accuracy given the wide variety of situations and dogs the collar may be used in and on. As mentioned, ask any hunting trainer (or really any ecollar trainer who has any knowledge and skill) and they will tell you the level used will change based on the conditions the dog is hunting in (freshwater, saltwater, land). So your argument that it is because the manufacturers MUST be hiding something isn’t holding up. The reason it’s not put up is because it isn’t really useful in the collars operation. At best they could put up an “average” but then again, still not really any more useful beyond comparing the relative “power” of varying collars.
Where did I say that the “shock collars must be hiding something?” Very interesting that you should say that though.
I would say, “I wonder why shock collars do their charts in joules when I don’t really care how energy efficient the collar is aside from how many batteries will I need to buy.”
What’s the point of that?
It is completely possible to get a range. Done in the pain studies.
If the shock collar manufacturers say they “can’t” tell you how many amps…then I find that very scary. How can you not know and still sell it?
Yvette, as Stephanie said, you can’t know how many amps because you do not know the resistance of what the electrodes are connected to. All the collar can do is provide a potential difference (a voltage) at the electrodes — it cannot deliver a specified current. The amount of current that flows between the electrodes depends on the resistance of what they are attached to. For example, if you leave the electrodes in air and push the button then no current flows, and if you put a conductive material between the electrodes the amount of current that flow between the electrodes is equal to the voltage / resistance of the material.
So the reason you can’t get an answer to the question “how many amps” is because your question is ill-posed. You have to specify the resistance of what you are attaching the collar to. Even then, the sensation felt is dependent on more that just the amperage. It also depends on variables such as duration and waveform.
Tom – yes you can approximate the resistance of dog skin. It was done by the pain researchers in the study. That can give an approximation.
It’s not “can’t.”
Actually I read some research recently (and I wish I could find it again) that says a lobster feels pain for approximately 36 seconds after being dropped in boiling water. There is absolutely no need to do this to a creature. If you must eat it, then kill it first before putting it in the water.
By all means provide the research you are using to make this claim about fewer pain receptors and the thicker skin. Dogs are a stoic species. Doesn’t mean they feel it less only that they show it less.
If you are going to claim the article is sensationalism, then refute it with science not just your “belief” that dog’s feel pain less.
Actually, we don’t know if they feel it less or just show it less. Canine stoicism applies to chronic pain. Many wild animals don’t show chronic pain to disease or injury because being perceived as weak increases their danger of predation. I have terriers, which are well known for their stoicism, and they have startle reflexes to sudden stimulation (positive or negative) just like any other animal, or person. The exception is if they are in a state of high arousal and I think that is because they don’t notice the stimulation.
If you read the blog I wrote on pain, you’ll see that animals release natural opiates in the brain in response to pain.
They self medicate. Simple observation is not a way in which you can determine “is the dog in pain.” It is just as plausible to say that the dog released opiates in response to shock because it was more painful. It’s a survival skill. If you’re in pain and you have to carry on, your body compensates.
There is research to show that a lobster will feel pain for approximately 32 seconds after being immersed in boiling water.
The point is that in pain studies, where they determine the level at which pain is felt, which is 0.2-0.8, is very far below the numbers found on shock collars which are 7-40-80 for modern shock collars. 0.2-0.8 mA caused pain. I can’t believe you are trying to deny that 40mA doesn’t cause pain.
The problem with this is that I have felt shock collars at the level I used them (and quite a bit higher), as have many other people. I have let dozens of people feel them (on hands, legs, arms, necks, etc). I used to go to a dog park that didn’t have fences and my dog wore a shock collar for his own safety. If a person asked about what was on his collar I explained what it was, how it was used, and took it off and let them feel it. Dozens of people felt it at the level I had it set. About half of them couldn’t feel it at all, and none of them thought it hurt. I don’t know why this doesn’t seem to align with the pain studies you cite, but I trust my own observations.
Yes Lynda but people trying out the shock collars firstly aren’t dogs. Secondly, if you think that the dog doesn’t feel it sometimes (because a person doesn’t) then why are you using it? What’s the point?
Most importantly, if you are using it for the reasons you state, why haven’t you taken the time to teach your dog a solid recall so that you can call him back to you if you think he is in danger? Why hasn’t he got a rock solid “sit” or “stay” so that you can shout it to him at a distance he will sit or stay whatever he is doing, should you think he is in danger of going off? Training this really isn’t rocket science and it only takes consistency and perseverance. If your argument is that your dog just won’t do a recall or a distance sit/stay no matter how much you try, then my reply is to keep him on leash or you are not trying hard enough. I would rather keep my dog on a leash than cause him pain. I would rather walk him on leash and give him other mental stimulation (which is just as tiring to a dog than a walk) to tire him out than use a shock collar.
I am very sorry to say that my answer to your comment is that you are using the shock collar in place of training your dog properly because it’s easier not to bother but to shock the dog instead. I believe your are doing your dog a dis-service.
Because they are dogs and no dog is 100% reliable (nor is any being). One of the most reliable dogs I ever knew (not mine) was killed by a car in one of those one in one thousand instances. Her owner and she were walking a long way away from any road when a jack rabbit popped up under her nose and she couldn’t resist chasing (I once read a study that indicated in a state of high arousal senses like hearing may actually shut down – no I don’t know where to find the study now). She ran across a road, not even a heavily traveled road, and was killed by a car. My friend was devastated. So excuse me if I want to have a backup way of communicating with my dog.
You assume he didn’t have a good recall and that I didn’t train it carefully and positively, both of which are wrong. He probably had a 95 – 98% reliable long distance recall. In years of going to this park he got nicked at a low level two, maybe three times. The level was just enough to remind him to listen when he was unusually distracted and he came running back cheerfully. His tail was up the whole time – it never even bobbled, which was a good indication with him if anything bothered him or he was feeling less than confident. When at the park I recalled him frequently, praised him, and released him back to play. He would also do a reliable stay in the midst of a group of playing dogs. I didn’t teach him a distance sit – I used a halt command.
I could have kept him on leash, but I’m sure if you asked him he would have much preferred to get to run along with an occasional nick (even if it had caused him pain, which I don’t believe it did). We went to the park not because I needed to wear him out (I ran him alongside a bicycle regularly, and training tired him out mentally) but because I loved to see the joy he had in running and playing with other dogs.
He was one of the happiest dogs you could ever meet and people, including experienced dog people, always remarked on what a great relationship we had.
This exchange started with this statement, “the point is that in pain studies, where they determine the level at which pain is felt, which is 0.2-0.8, is very far below the numbers found on shock collars which are 7-40-80 for modern shock collars.” I question that or suggest that there is some aspect of the technology that isn’t being considered because I didn’t experience the pain that I should have supposedly felt, and neither did anyone else who tried it. So saying that doesn’t count because we aren’t dogs is irrelevant. If it is above the pain threshold we should have experienced it as pain. Canine physiology is not orders of magnitude different than human physiology. As a scientist, when something doesn’t fit, I don’t just keep reciting the results of another study as a sort of mantra and I don’t discard my own observations/experience. There is obviously something else going on here.
The numbers for the shock collars were the only ones I could find online from pro-shock pages. They don’t represent a full range of mA under a full range of situations. I’ll assume they start much lower. At what point, I don’t know. Do they go higher? Maybe. It didn’t express a range. It expressed samples of numbers that were posted publicly.
So you’re disconnect between what you feel (shock on the lowest of the low settings) might not be represented because the amps are not easy to find. I suppose, they all start at zero. Why they go up to 80, I don’t know.
As for letting a dog off leash and using a shock collar instead. While you may feel the dog prefers it, I can tell you that my mother, post hip replacement was terrified of all off leash dogs regardless of training. Being unstable on her feet, trying to get her rehab walking in, the sight of an off leash dog was enough to get her looking for a place to grab for balance. It’s not very considerate to have a dog off leash, even if on a shock collar, because it scares other people. Even people who like dogs.
I for one, can’t stand driving past a dog that is off leash on the sidewalk. They zig and it scares the crap out of me.
Sheer terror in others. A leash is a sign of respect to other people. It says, “I care about your feelings.”
Oh please! As I said, I was using it at a dog park. It was only partially fenced, which is actually why I preferred it to the completely fenced parks. The people there paid attention to their dogs. I don’t walk down the street with my dog off-leash and I don’t suggest anyone else do so.
I haven’t re-read all your posts. I just read the one you just posted. You said park. Not dog park. My mom walked along a path through a park. The people who let their dogs off leash at the park were terrifying to her. She wouldn’t walk through a dog park.
I probably got confused because you said you could have kept him on a leash. I’m not sure why anyone would keep their dog on a leash in an off leash dog park. I would be concerned that the leash would get tangled as other dogs rush up.
Not going to argue about where you chose to use your shock collar as obviously you know the layout and I do not. If it was a park – park, I would say use a leash. If it’s a dog park, then I suppose it’s your choice. But the numbers didn’t represent a full range. Which might be why you feel a shock collar could be set lower. It very well might be. Which begs the question as to why there aren’t limits on the level of pain they exert.
I apologize for getting annoyed. I described it as a dog park in an earlier post in this immediate thread. It was a legal dog park and the boundaries were well-defined, but it was only fenced on two sides.
I said I could have kept him on a leash in response to Leosrme’s post immediately before my post.
I really can’t get into what the range limits should be. It’s not my area of expertise and not the way I used the collar, or the way anyone I know personally uses them. But I do know there is a range in sensitivity among individual dogs (and people) and that in situations of high arousal (like a hare or deer popping up right in front of a dog with a high prey drive) it can take a significantly higher level to even get noticed and you might want that option in an emergency. Yes, at high settings, it is painful, though it feels more like a severe, though brief, muscle cramp than a shock.
BTW, the setting I was using was not the lowest possible one. It was the lowest setting at which I could observe a reaction that indicated he felt something. The way to find a working setting is to start at the lowest and raise it one setting at a time until you see some sort of reaction, like an ear flick. You are not looking for a pain reaction. I think his was the 3rd setting, but I don’t remember for sure.
I’ve worked with dogs that had bullets lodged in their legs and they didn’t even limp. They needed a full limb amputation. The dog’s ability to mask pain is quite possibly one of the most concerning aspects of using pain IMO. You can say “they’re fine” all you like. The ability to measure pain is not within the realm of casual observation. The brain releases opiates in response to consistently applied pain.
I would urge you to consider that you really do not know how anything was perceived. Perhaps consider that your dog’s brain is self medicating, releasing those natural pain meds into their body to reduce the sensations they feel.
It is something that happens when pain is consistently applied. Ironically, the more consistent (better training chops?) the more likely the dog’s brain will self medicate to the correction. If you think you’re good at using shock collars, if you’re consistent, then your dog is the one that is likely to self medicate. Predictable pain = body numbs the pain.
You can keep saying you know it wasn’t that bad. Truth is, you don’t know.
I’ve seen dogs shriek in response to shock. I’ve seen many dogs break through the shock fences.
Manufacturer’s warnings say you can’t use it on dogs with anxiety issues and behaviour problems. Says it can trigger aggression. When you eliminate all the dogs that have issues, you’re left with the easy dog. What good is it as a tool anyway?
Your reply bears absolutely no weight. Get a good recall or keep the dog on leash! Why would you want to use such an aversive when you could train the dog properly? What is the point in it. If you are so afraid of your dog running into the road, then don’t take the dog there!!!! I am sick and tired of people making excuses for using such a terrible aversive on their dogs when there are other things they could be doing.
PLUS and this is VERY important. If you use the shock collar in the presence of other dogs then you run the risk of your dog associating getting an unpleasant stimulus with other dogs. Then you end up with a dog aggressive dog. Have you thought about that?
Also, don’t call it a “nick” use the proper term. It’s a shock. Plain and simple. People who try to use other terms like “e-collar” and “nick” and “tickle” or “stim” are in denial. If it didn’t hurt then it wouldn’t work. Why would you want to use positive training on your dog, and then use a shock collar? Oh, I am so done with this conversation. Really. I just am.
I’ve seen plenty of on-leash dogs zig-zagging all over the place and lunging at people. When walking our dog, many other dog owners just let their leashed dogs trot right up to us (dog leading the way, of course) assuming we want the dogs to meet.
Leashes are no substitute for training of dogs and their owners. Leashes don’t necessarily signify respect or caring for others. They are usually necessary to have any semblance of control over dogs that would otherwise bolt off oblivious to their owners.
I advocate against letting dogs charge up to others without permission. The difference being that when I drive down the road and see an off leash dog, I have no time to evaluate if the dog has been trained. I can only see leash/no leash. If a dog is well trained, it will walk nicely despite the leash. I applaud people that put the time and effort into leash training.
Agree 100%. We always wonder what the point is of not having the leash on if it is just trotting next to you anyway. The other advantage of a leash is that if another dog gets free and charges, you can control your dog and get her behind you to protect her or prevent her from potentially biting the other dog (never good no matter the circumstances).
Yvette, YOU are awesome. I’m so glad you explained this and gathered the numbers that are available. (Having looked at a lot of shock collar documentation, it’s amazing to me that an electronic device can be sold without disclosing the technical specs, even in most cases the battery voltage!) I have measured the output of a collar in volts (and found that the different settings correspond to voltages that rise non-linearly), but have never published it because knowing the voltage is not enough, as you say. The non linear thing is interesting, though. Settings 1, 2, and 3 rose by small increments, then the next increment was like 4x as much as the others. And no way for the user to know that!
If you permit, here is a YouTube video of a science teacher doing some experiments where he personally touches the charge side and the ground side of a Van de Graaf generator–set at 200,000 volts. It’s in a kids’ classroom but the teacher is great and it’s a good introduction to some basic concepts that are actually quite relevant to shock collars, such as that charge exits something pointy more quickly than something blunt. Hence the pointed leads on the collars.
Here’s the video. Thanks for this post.
” It’s in a kids’ classroom but the teacher is great and it’s a good introduction to some basic concepts that are actually quite relevant to shock collars, such as that charge exits something pointy more quickly than something blunt. Hence the pointed leads on the collars.”
One reason that comparing shock collars to tens units doesn’t really fly.
AWESOME TEACHER!! Having a motivated, and engaging teacher like him is such a gift. I had several of them. Those kids will never forget as he showed them, engaged their replies, and reinforced the topic.
I as a child lived in France where the electricity is 220 volts, I plugged in a lamp once that has a crack in the cover, thus I was touching the wires, I took a huge jolt of 220 v, it hurt like hell, and it was years before I would plug in anything again.
I have always been interested in those people who are shock collar trainers, would they use the collar to train their children? Likely not, or the children would be removed by CPS.
Comparing house wiring with electronic collars shows that you didn’t read or understand the article. If as a child you had almost drowned in the ocean, would you then decide that a glass of drinking water is dangerous?
At it’s lowest setting, my e-collar is imperceptable to most people and dogs. If you watch a skilled trainer working a dog at low levels, only the dog and the trainer will know when the button is being pushed – you probably won’t be able to see any reaction from the dog to indicate he’s been “shocked.” That’s because at that level it does not feel like a shock.
Good – then they should ban medium to high settings.
And of course, you’re compensating for the hyperanalgesia and hyposanalgesia? Or are you just assuming the dog isn’t reacting because there was no reaction?
A skilled trainer would never need to use a shock collar. Just sayin.
If I watched a trainer using a shock collar on a dog, I certainly wouldn’t consider that trainer to be skilled at all.
If I watched a trainer plowing treats into a dogs mouth, I certainly wouldn’t consider that trainer to be skilled at all.
I would advocate against any trainer that suggested plowing treats randomly. Frankly, I do talk about misuse of treats often. Do you get out there and talk about the misuse of shock collars?
I was just painting everyone on the other side of the discussion with the same worst-case brush, like you do.
I have not done worst case. I pointed to posts and groups and material by well established trainers and groups with well known trainers that use shocks. If I wanted to go worst case, then I’d go to the video of dogs that are screaming.
A skilled trainer would never have to rely on bags of treats. Just sayin.
I would advocate against relying on a bag of treats. There are plenty of reinforcements to choose from in this world. No need to rely on food alone or stay with it once the dog learns.
Treats were never designed to hurt a dog, whereas shock collars were designed and intended to be used to coerce a dog, through pain, to perform a behaviour. Only now do proponents of shock collars change the name to “e-collar” and say they have settings so low the dog barely feels it. Not buying it. They were meant to hurt and they still do hurt. Doesn’t matter how much. Using any level of pain is unacceptable treatment of dogs.
You said you only use the shock collar when the dog doesn’t obey after he knows what you are asking of him. Maybe you should read Yvette’s post which asks her readers to consider whether their dog really knows what is being asked of them.
Whether the intention is good or bad, too many unhealthy treats are bad for a dog. And if the person doling them out does not know what they are doing it can lead to behavioral problems. Some say that those succulent treats are not that unhealthy and that not enough are used to result in dietary problems. I’m not buying it. If the treats weren’t meant to be ultra-yummy gobs of tasty junk they wouldn’t work. Doesn’t matter what marginal level of nutritional content they may have or how few are dispensed, using any unhealthy treats is unacceptable treatment of dogs. It makes me sad to see those unhealthy dogs, desperately groveling for treats from an emotionally stunted owner who believes that their dogs life is fulfilled only by the owner’s smoothering affection.
I can’t speak for everyone, but we use the e-collar to teach obedience to commands that the dog already knows. We do not compel our dog under the threat of painful punishment to do something, we provide negative feedback at low settings. We first teach our dog to reliably perform the commands in an environment relatively free of distractions. Then we slowly add distractions and correct her when she does not obey the command (she gets two freebies and a vibrate before the lowest level of electrical stimulus is used), and we praise her when she does what is asked. We never let her fail beyond a certain point as we could guide her into doing what we wanted with a long training leash, then praise. She “got it” almost immediately, though.
There were times when our dog was a little more set on doing something else (something dangerous to her or that would negatively impact someone else or their dog) and we used a moderate level of shock to prevent it. I distinguish shocks from low-level stimulus because they are experienced very differently. At the highest levels, which I tried on my own bare neck, the sensation is again different as it mainly contracts your muscles, which is a painless but weird sensation (I think it would be very similar to those electronic abdominal exercisers, only quicker).
I’ll try to find the post you mentioned.
You can insult me, as the writer of this blog all you like. But insulting dog owners are being “emotionally stunted” is not tolerated here. I have the greatest respect for owners that are working with their dogs.
Any more bashing of owners will not be tolerated here.
I fully expect better out of people who profess to be professional dog trainers. This is not a warning to any one particular individual. This is to everyone.
Dog owners generally are kind people, doing their best. They NEVER need to feel like the professionals that are taking their money look down upon them.
Anything that I perceive as being hurtful to the average pet owner – insulting their intelligence, motives or mental health will be removed.
It’s very interesting that you should react that way to that comment as I was mimicking the type of nasty, unwarranted personal attacks that the +R-only crowd levies at those who don’t see things their way…and especially those who use e-collars. Calling them all abusers, accusing them of torture, equating their actions with spousal battery, and assigning to them the most disgusting and evil of motives. That’s all OK with you, I guess.
So where is your moral outrage when the ugly insults and personal attacks are directed towards those who love their dogs just as much as you but who hold different opinions as to how best to provide their canine companions with the most fulfilling life possible? There are plenty of examples of these repulsive accusations here…ones that I was mirroring…yet you are either silent on these or egging them on.
Nope – the only thing I’m blocking are the attacks on average owners outside of these discussions, or anything that strays into hate speech based on race, religion, sexual orientation or health/disability.
The average owner “out there” does not and should not read that some professional dog trainers think and speak of dog owners in a derogatory way. It is counterproductive to drive people away from professional advice by speaking ill of the people who need help.
I will uphold the right of free speech on both sides. If someone feels that shock collars are abusive and should be banned or regulated, they are free to express that. In some areas of the world, they are banned and subject users to animal cruelty charges. Discussing people’s feelings about whether a product is or is not abusive is an appropriate conversation. If you want junk food banned – be my guest. There’s plenty of legal measures trying to ban junk food. Totally within your rights to communicate your desire to rant about or ban food or convert people to being vegan….or whatever your intent is.
Yes, shock collars were banned in Wales, UK some years back.. There has been at least one prosecution. A recent study by DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) a UK government body which also involved shock collar manufacturers concluded that shock collars were harmful to dogs and that positive training yielded better results. So surprisingly, even the manufacturers concurred with that study. There is controversy now about whether they should be banned in England. So, Tom, a government body AND a manufacturer of shock collars agree that shock collars are harmful to dogs.
These studies were completed at the University of Bristol (which is renowned for research involving animal welfare) and the University of Lincoln which has for many years conducted studies into animal welfare.
But you know what, Tom, people like you, if they can be bothered to read any of these articles will still be living in denial and saying that they don’t hurt their dog and that a shock collar is absolutely necessary for their dog’s freedom.
I could cite a lot more articles about the recent study. This study has reverberated around the dog community in the UK and in North America. I expect you must have seen at least something about it, unless you have not watched TV, or been on the internet or never read a newspaper.