Normally I write blog posts with the focus being on what to do. Today’s will be a little different. Yesterday I was at the park with my kids and off in the distance I could see a “dog trainer” treating a dog very poorly. I was very far away but I could see the dog’s body language clear as day. The dog’s head was as low as it could be and tail tucked as far as it could be between the legs while walking next to this guy. What was happening? This “trainer” was in the process of trying to teach the dog to walk without pulling. If the dog left his side the dog received a shock. As I was trying to play with my kids, I saw the dog start to drift away from the guy and then I heard the dog release a scream as the shock was delivered. Again, I was very far away- probably 100 yards away. So many thoughts raced through my brain when witnessing this. One being, how can someone take money from people and claim to “love dogs” and treat them so poorly? Another thought was, how unfortunate this situation is for the dog and the dog’s people. These people hired this “dog trainer” to help with training and they’re watching their dog be treated so poorly, all while this guy is blabbering on about how this is the only way. Shock collars work by delivering an unpleasant shock. These “trainers” will often call them e-collars, static collars and other names. Often they’ll say that it doesn’t actually hurt. Well, it’s pretty obvious that it hurts when a dog screams after receiving it. Furthermore, in order for a device to change behavior, it must either produce something a dog enjoys or something a dog wants to avoid. Obviously no animal is seeking shock, which means that they work by delivering something unpleasant. Shock collars and other types of collars that work this way have some unwanted side effects as well. Dogs are always learning by way of association while they're learning by way of consequence. What does this mean? This means that it's likely dogs will be afraid of the environment they're "learning" in and anything in it. If the dog mentioned above left the "trainer's" side to investigate a person or a dog and received a shock, it's likely that the dog would associate it with the thing they were trying to investigate. This means the next time they come across it, it's likely they'd be fearful. Fear leads to fight, flight or freeze. None of these are good for our dogs. If you're hiring a trainer and they're trying to teach your dog this way, just know that there are better options that are way more fun for you and your dog. Oh, and by the way, these better options don't come with negative side effects. Reward-based training is the way to go.
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