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Posts Tagged ‘electronic collar’

dare e-collar

I have started e-collar conditioning with Dare this week. This process is not cruel, and it involves no punishment.

What it does involve is her learning that very low static stimulation, which I can barely feel, can be turned off if she comes to my side. This process started on a long lead, and now she is doing it off-leash.  Eventually, this low level stimulation will be used to proof other obedience commands.

We are using the Einstein Mini Educator. Her working level, the level where she can feel the stimulation, is at a 6.  The stimulation levels go from 1 to 100.

People hate on these collars because they can definitely be used as a harsh aversive, and yes, they can be used to hurt the dog.  This way of using lower levels of stimulation to proof obedience, though, really isn’t more aversive than a gentle tug on a leash.

So hate these tools all you want. They are effective and are not abusive if used correctly.

 

 

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If you watch this clip, you can see several things.

First of all, the trainer makes no claim that his methods will reform this dog into a dog that will never fight other dogs, and when you see the dog enter the room, it absolutely is on the hunt. She is looking at other dogs that way many dogs look at squirrels.

Some pit bull strains have a had a deliberate selection for this sort of behavior. It’s not all in how you raise them. They absolutely will throw it down to get to another dog and kill it.

That’s why these training techniques, which include the judicious use of the electronic collar, are effective.  This dog is being trained so that whatever drive she has that makes her want to kill other dogs can be managed, and she can have a life.

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for dog training, but it is not the only way to deal with them.

The foundation of getting this dog under control was set through this session. It will take lots of work and dedication to keep her safe.

Contrary to what people may have thought about my views on this blog, I was never opposed to electronic collars. I was opposed to using them to inflict unnecessary pain on a dog.

After dealing with several pit bulls in my professional and personal life, I can say that many of them do need a firmer hand than most people are willing to give them.  Some of these dogs, once they know you mean business, will absolutely give you their all.

But you have to give them fair and clear leadership signals. You cannot let them walk all over you.

So if this type of dog is going to be popular (and they are very popular), owners and trainers are going to need all the available tools to deal with their behavior.

Electronic collars are now made with so many features and stimulation levels that they are quite humane devices. There are countless trainers doing wonders with them. There are also quite a few jagoffs who are using them for abuse, but we should not punish those good trainers because of bad ones.

About ten or fifteen years ago,  positive reinforcement only became an idea in the dog world.  Positive reinforcement isn’t a bad thing. It’s a great way to teach stylish obedience. It’s also great for teaching commands.

But this good idea took on a sort of unreasoning fundamentalism.  People would often point out that polar bears and orcas could be trained with positive reinforcement alone, so why not dogs?

Well, the problem with that logic is that orcas and polar bears aren’t walked down city streets. They don’t really live in civilization. When they are in captive situations, the public has almost no access to them– and for good reason.

Anyone who has ever walked a dog on a public street knows fully well that many people believe a dog on a public street is public property that must be approached and talked to, regardless of whether the person walking the dog happened to have been in hurry or not.  Can you imagine walking a positive reinforcement only trained polar bear down a street and have some well-meaning stranger walk up to pet it?

Obviously, that won’t ever happen, but we expect dogs to behave with such extreme composure and control.  Most dogs will be able to handle it well, but the dogs that don’t may require different training tools and methods.

And we should, as open-minded individuals living in a free society, be accepting that it’s going to take a lot more than giving a dog treats and ignoring unwanted behavior to make certain dogs safe in public.

If we can’t accept that reality, then we really must accept the consequence that lots of dogs are going to be euthanized for their behavior, because they do require other tools and methods to manage their behavior.

I am not knocking the great strides that have been made in modern behavior modification and training techniques that have come from positive reinforcement/rewards-based training. Those methods are the absolute gold standard in making well-behaved pets.

But they are not the solution for every dog or for every problem dog.

To say otherwise is to be a bit dishonest.

If you’re going to train dogs, the rule of thumb should be to learn as much as you can from as many people as you can, and never stop learning.  An open mind is as useful as an open heart.

And that’s where I come down on the great dog training debate as it exists.  Too much heat has been exchanged by both sides and not enough light.

The truth requires more nuance and understanding than our social media culture can currently handle at the moment. But if you really want to know things, you can find out.

Just keep that mind open.

And for the record, I have trained a dog using an e-collar at low levels. She got so many treats and praise while doing so that she gets quite excited when I pick up her collar and put it on her.  She knows the fun is about to start when that thing comes out.

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shock collar

Starting in July 2020, electronic collars will be banned in the Netherlands (that’s the country a lot of Americans call “Holland”).

My views on electronic collars have shifted. I have never been in favor of an electronic collar ban, but I have questioned why so many people in dog sports were eager to use one.

Reasonable people can disagree on training devices.  I have used a prong or pinch collar with very driven dog, but after she learned that she could release the pressure from the collar by walking closely, I switched to a fur-saver. Both of these tools are targeted for banning as well.

The thing about bans is that it takes away the right to disagree, and it places the law above experience and judgment, and I have to confess my own ignorance about modern e-collars. It wasn’t until I began looking at the work of competent e-collar trainers, especially Larry Krohn, who has a wonderful Youtube channel that teaches you how to use one these devices humanely.   The way he uses these devices is like having a lead on the dog while it’s off-leash, and using quite low level stimulation, he can get the same results as if the dog were wearing slip lead or a fur-saver.

The modern e-collar is an aversive.  It is used for positive punishment and negative reinforcement, but it can be used humanely and safely.

In a country like the Netherlands, there is a very strong tradition of walking dogs off-lead in the countryside.  The same goes for most of Western Europe. Most of Western Europe has banned e-collars, but it seems to me that this is setting up a real conflict between dog owners and wildlife and between dog owners and farmers.

Dogs will chase ungulates. It’s sort of what they evolved to do. If you let dogs go walking in the countryside off-leash, they stand a real risk of getting after deer or worrying sheep.

It is possible to train a dog a recall or a leave-it when it sees a sheep or deer without an e-collar. However, these tasks require quite a bit of skill, and with some dogs, it can be impossible to break their prey drive. Prey drive is intrinsically rewarding to cursorial predators like dogs, and it is often hard to find a reward that can exceed the internal reward a dog gets while chasing ungulates.

Yes, you can use the Premack’s principle to teach a dog very reliable recall.  There are many skilled trainers who can teach a dog a solid recall without an e-collar.

But that’s not what I am here to debate. What I am here to discuss is that we are allowing one side of the argument, often fueled by animal rights extremist logic and rhetoric, to ban a tool that others contend is essential in their trainer program.

And some dogs need a very strong aversive to proof their recalls and to punish bad behavior. E-collars, used properly, seem to be the aversive that would cause the least amount of harm and still do the job.

These dogs are not going to have good lives in much of Western Europe, where they can never be allowed off-lead. In most Western European countries, allowing the dog some off-leash running is considered vital for all dogs, so these dogs will have to be kept in a way that many would consider cruel.

And when it comes to breaking dogs off of chasing livestock and game, the aversive really doesn’t have to be used that often.  So the dog gets to feel a shock on its neck, but it gets a lifetime of running off-leash and coming when called.  The dog gets to engage in its innate running instincts, but it gets to do so with the highest levels of its safety and that of any potential quarry.

So whether you like e-collars or not, banning devices should cause quite a bit of alarm. Many people don’t like e-collars, but lots of people use choke chains and pinch and prong collars. Those can just as easily banned as well.

And while we’re in the business of banning things, we often aren’t thinking of the greater good or by nuance.  Bans do not do nuance. They are the end of a discussion, a discussion where people on both sides might have learned something.

These devices are getting more humane, not less. They have many lower level and even vibrate-only settings on them.

And yes, they can be abused. You can abuse a dog by feeding it too much, but no one seems to want to legislate how much one should feed a dog each day. You can abuse a dog with flat collar if you leave it on a pup and never take it off. The collar for a young pup can become embedded in the maturing dog, but no one wants to ban putting collars on growing pups.

So instead of accepting that different people will use different tools, we like to assume the worst of the corrections-based dog trainers. In Western European countries, those assumptions are leading to real folly.

I do plan on getting a decent e-collar, and I will be using it as humanely as possible. I see a use for them, and they can help me give my dogs a better quality of life.

But that choice has been taken out of the hands of Dutch dog owners, starting next year. I’m sure they will manage, but I think there are quite a few dogs in that country that will miss out on having a chance to run loose, simply because they cannot be trained to leave game or livestock alone without a clear aversive.

 

 

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