“Don’t be a dick to your dog. He’s a few years of your life, but you are all of his.”
I saw this quote on Facebook today and I finally found something that encapsulates everything I’ve been trying to say about shock collars, choke chains, etc.
This is a scary post for me to write. “Training collars” are a huge hot button topic for trainers and owners alike. If you want to see a venomous, heated argument that gets really personal really fast, just ask for opinions on these devices on any internet forum. I’m admittedly nervous about angry people attacking me, defending these so-called ‘training collars.’ But, I decided that even though I was scared, I wanted to write this article anyway.
I can cite numerous long-term studies that show how awful these devices are and how they frequently just mask bad behaviors instead of fixing them. But I’m not going to do that today. This article is about my opinion and about how I see the relationship between humans and dogs.
When it comes right down to it, I do not care if these punishment devices work or not. I don’t care if they work long term. I don’t care if they work short term. For me, it’s a matter of ethics and compassion for another living creature. Defenders of punishment collars will say that they end up giving the dogs more freedom because they are better trained. I disagree with that premise in principle because you can train a dog without punishment methods, but let’s say it’s true. Maybe the dog IS better trained. My question is: At what cost? Accomplishing compliance from your dog because they are afraid you’re going to hurt them is not something I’m ok with. I never ever want my dogs to be afraid of pain.
I want you to take a minute and think about this training situation from the dog’s perspective. You’ve been taken from your parents and siblings. Taken from all the friends you know and placed into a strange environment. The non-human creatures you’re living with don’t speak a word of your language. It’s physically impossible for you to speak their language so you can only communicate through gestures. They seem cool and give you dinner at a regular time and give you a place to live. Things might be ok. That evening, you see another human walking down the street. Another human! You haven’t seen one of those in a while and you get really, really excited. You start shouting, “Hey! Over here! Hey! I’m a human too! How are you!! I haven’t seen another human around these parts!” And then suddenly, a wave of pain courses through your body. It’s gone quickly, but it was painful and alarming. You start to wonder just how safe this new home really is.
Cautiously, going away from the window, you realize you need to pee. You find the toilet (Yay! they have one!) and just as you’re sitting on the toilet to relieve yourself another wave of pain generates from your neck and courses through your body. What in the hell is going on here? This is a very dangerous place to live. Better be careful.
How does that make you feel? Thinking of it like that? Yes, the dog will start to learn the correlation between barking and pain and peeing inside and pain. But WOW. AT WHAT COST. The cost of feeling safe. The cost of feeling happy. Now, instead of finding joy they are searching for pain avoidance. From the owner’s perspective, the behavior is better. The dog may even seem happy most of the time! (Because quite frankly, that’s just their nature.)
Wouldn’t you rather teach your dog to pee outside because it’s fun and causes delicious treats to happen? Or, would you prefer to teach your dog to pee outside because it’s physically painful to pee inside. BOTH options get you the end result you want. Why on earth would anyone pick the painful choice?