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Monday, December 9, 2013

Hammering Home the Point

Okay, before I go on I'm going to warn you that this is going to be yet another post about dog-equipment "discrimination". I personally don't advocate anything specific, or shun anything specific, so I have no real skin in the game here. So, why does it grate my cheese so thoroughly when people dis things like prong collars? Why can't I just let them have their point of view and get on with it? Well, simply put, I love dogs. I mean, they are the best people I know, and they deserve our love and respect. Does that sound incongruous to you? The fact that I love dogs and still have no problem with things like prong collars? Well, if you have any kind of foresight at all, it shouldn't. Quite plainly, by adhering to a singular training mindset and vilifying tools that, used CORRECTLY, have legitimately useful applications for some dogs and promoting your narrow viewpoint, calling all others cruel, you are KILLING DOGS. I have a real problem with that.

Don't believe me? Guess what, many experienced rescues (I don't mean folks who love dogs and have been doing rescue for a couple of years, I mean folks who have really seen it all) would agree with me. I have seen perfectly lovely dogs put down because some a**hole "trainer" couldn't expand their thinking enough to work with the dog in front of them. They were too interested in proving their own theory, and the dog simply didn't "fit". I have seen it over, and over again. My own personal (service!) dog would probably fit into that category for being nothing more than he is: A perfectly normal working-line dog. I really like the prong collar info that these folks put out: Bad Rap . I think the comments are pretty great too. Worth a read! Here's another one from Doberman Rescue Unlimited, a great rescue who 'gets it'.

It's such a divisive issue and it shouldn't be. Folks post pictures like this:

And then they use them to prove that these "devices" are cruel. Oftentimes injuries like the one seen on the poor pupper on the right are chalked up to "burns" from a "shock" collar. Guess what? That isn't even a possibility. Injuries like this are (in my experience) most often caused by folks who use underground fencing and never take the collars off the dog. The injury is caused by the incessant rubbing of the contact points on the dog's skin. INCORRECT use. For the record, I detest underground fencing on many levels, and am regularly flummoxed by the number of people who think "shock" collars are cruel but have no problem at all with underground fencing. What IS that? Incidentally, as soon as you say the words "shock" collar you are pretty much just highlighting how very little you know about they work. I hear someone say "shock" collar, and I know the rest of what they have to say is coming from emotion (and attempting to work on emotion), and has nothing to do with education, logic, understanding or experience.

The applications for prong collars are many and varied, and I believe well-covered in the links that I posted. Perhaps my favoritest-ever electric-collar use that I've seen was in working with a deaf dog. For her own safety, she had never been allowed off leash unless she was in her own fenced yard. Her world was consequently very small. Her trainer started working with her with the electric collar, using low-level stimulation as a reinforcer (replacing the clicker), and the vibration setting as a come command. Her first hike in the woods was a very emotional and joyful experience!

The anti-folks like to label and tell horror stories. They like to cite worst-case-scenarios and misuses as proof that certain tools are cruel. They post pictures and misrepresent the facts to prove their point. They say things like "A dog's neck is very sensitive" (It isn't, or they would tear each other up just playing...duh!). As long as we're posting pictures, here are some from "humane" training tools:
And here's some good reading from the same blog: Dogs in Training

I understand that life "in the books" and in the bubble is a beautiful place. There is always support, dogs always want to do the "right" thing and there is always plenty of time and space to get things done the "right" way. But in the real world, outside the bubble, people don't have endless resources to surround themselves with training help. They have dogs that need exercise RIGHT NOW and don't have spaces of their own that they can control. In the real world, folks with tough dogs aren't getting support, they are getting blamed by "trainers" who aren't familiar (and don't want to be) with their dog's confident and determined mindset. The problems never get solved, the owner feels like a failure and back to the shelter the dog goes. That is the reality outside the bubble.

If you love dogs, then ask yourself: What's most important here? If you are a trainer, look at the dog in front of you. Look at the family. What does this dog and his/her family need to be successful? What will keep this dog's needs met, and keep him/her out of the shelter? If a family needs to be able to walk their dog down the street calmly and right now, and you are teaching them to "be successful" in the driveway because that's all your limited training theory will allow, you have failed.

Before you scrunch up your mind into a little tiny knot of very-specific training theory, remember that at the end of the day, dogs are individuals and they simply don't all respond the same way. They just don't. Have enough respect for their being-ness to understand that and take individual need into account. The happiness and success of the dog and it's family should be the real goal. Always.

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