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E-Collars, not to be confused with Elizabethan collars, are a type of training device that can send shock, vibration or even spray to the wearer. Many like to call them shock collars.
image from google
Shock collars were originally used the 60s to train hunting dogs, the amount of shock were rather strong, which was necessary in a way as people wanted to minimize the chance of the dogs not responding. For example, getting the dog to return, to stop chasing after the wrong target, to let go of prey and so on. As the years go by, shock collars were being redesigned to cater to regular dog owners that wish to have their pet dogs trained to listen. The size of the collars were reduced to fit smaller breeds, shock levels customizable, vibration and even sprays are being incorporated into shock collars these days.
So, is it wrong to use shock collars?
Are they really good as those users like to claim, or actually bad as positive trainers like to label them?
I’m going to just share my opinion based on my experience with dogs over these 15 years. I fall in the age of negative training in dogs so i was exposed to this quite a bit, however it was also at the point where positive training were started to be introduced in Singapore, so in a way i got to experience both negative and positive training. I am a person that like to explore ways and methods to do something even if the results are the same, then i will judge for myself the best option and share it with others. Sometimes i'd even be unsatisfied with a method and coming up with my own to solve cases.
So if you are thinking that i am biased because i am leaning towards a certain side of training, i am not. Shock collar, Choke chains, Prong, Head collar, Slip leash, you name it, i've even attended shock collar course by a renowned trainer from the US and had no trouble passing with flying colours, well that was years back but my memories of these are still strong and good.
Some like to debate that shock collars are not painful, some are just vibration, some are customised to low level. Well, the purpose of shock collars, no matter if its vibration, shock or spray is simple, it is to surprise the dog. Why surprise the dog? Because dogs react well to them, simple. If a dog is doing something wrong, a little (or a lot) of shock can surprise the dog, then it will be more cautious when making the same mistake in future. Or in another scenario, which a lot of shock collar trainers like to say that "normal user don't understand", this shocking/vibrating surprise can be held for as long as the owner require until the dog doing something right, then the surprise will cease. I prefer to use the word surprise as there are classes where i need to educate owner on training methods and tools, some owners will start attacking on the word 'shock' as their past trainers told them that "NOOOO, it isn't shock!!!!" If you want a good example, Surprise is something that is largely used by the popular Cesar Milan.
Note: If you are getting pissed off here, then i'd suggest to stop reading as it could get worse from here on.
Shock collars in my opinion should be the last resort when all else fail. Positive reinforcement aside, it should be placed right after choke chain if it fails, and FYI i really dislike choke chains. Many trainers these days uses shock collar for obedience training, from competitions all the way to basic obedience. Yes you heard it - Obedience, "Sit", "Down", "Wait". I'm not saying it is ineffective, shock collars are highly effective when used right, the results are really quick. I can train any dogs off leash using shock collars within 2 weeks, that is how effective it is. But there's always a price to pay for it, which is the feelings of the dog. To have a dog do command and surprise them when they are not performing is just sad, can you just imagine how your dog feels when it is eager to work for you, and then feel punished just for not doing it as fast as you expect? You can just achieve the same result using reward and have a happy dog, of course you need to give them some time.
If you are wondering why treats work slower than shock collar, think of it this way, would you be more willing to stop a behavior if i give you ice cream, or if i spray lemon in your eyes? Pain is something that can overpower reward, it is also part of a dog's instinct to react stronger towards pain. Now there's another risk to consider when using shock collars, so let's use the ice cream and spraying lemon comparison again - other than those that would behave when lemons are sprayed into their eyes, there are also those that can turn aggressive on you when they feel threatened. This is something that is applicable to dogs, and dogs are much more sensitive than us humans, their bodies are made to fight when required, which would be what you've seen in the post i linked. In that post, there were trainers arguing that the user did not do it right and could've shocked the dog at a high level. This is true in a sense if the user was really using high power on the shock collar, but that doesn't mean that the dog would not attack if the level was lower, if the dog could be this aggressive then it would've probably bite but using lower strength depending on the level of surprise inflicted using shock collar. Well in my opinion, this still doesn't explain the fact that using shock collar for obedience is the best way, the purpose of basic obedience is to make the dog enjoy following and listening to the owner, not inflicting constant surprise to them till they submit. In all shock collar training, even for low level stimulations, you can always see that their tail and ears movement are constantly twitching, that is a sign of fear towards the electrocution, no matter if their tails/ears get back to neutral after that. Just go have a look at those videos and you'll get what i mean.
Many shock collar trainers will not be happy with my post, but i've done my job to share my opinion using neutral views. They are probably in their 40s and above and had been using shock collars for decades. I'd say that they need to understand the world is always changing, advance science is helping us understand dogs better and we need to constantly upgrade ourselves if we really love them. I can go around telling people i could have their dogs very well behaved within a week and get lots of customers, but i don't. There's a reason why i ask clients to give their dogs time be it Board + Train or Private classes, i don't like to push dogs to excel just because their owners don't have time. If they need a month, give them a month, if they need a year, so be it. You should be enjoying the procedure, then your dog will also enjoy your company.
My view is that the goal to training dogs is for them to respect you. If you need shock collars to make dogs listen even for simple things like obedience, then that is considered forcing, not training. Short cuts always have a risk.