This article originally appeared on FidoseOfReality.com as Pain to Train: The Reality of Choke and Pinch Dog Collars
Today I choked my co-worker into doing what I wanted him to do. Last week, I saw a lady on the bus pinch another lady because she would not stop talking. Both of the above scenarios sound disturbing because they are. Yet, every day in this country, a certain contingency of dog owners are training their dogs by choking, pinching, or shocking them. The reality of choke and pinch dog collars is all too real, especially since I walked into a scenario involving them over the weekend. The Reality If you’ve ever had a puppy or a dog who pulls while attempting to walk them on a leash, you know how frustrating it can be to change that behavior. After all, who among us doesn’t want a dog who comes “ready made” and knows how to walk properly without yanking us down the street? Like all things in life that require nurturing and training, it just doesn’t work that way. Why Do I Care Every week, my spouse and I take our dog for a “Mommy and Me” night of fun. We visit our local PetSmart store as part of our festivities where our dog, Dexter, can get some sniffs and we can seek out some bargains for retail therapy. We generally meet other dog parents and engage in conversation. Imagine our glee when this cutie pie crossed our path at our local store: As he attempted to come towards my dog and engage in some play, his attempts were quickly thwarted by the contraption on his neck. A pinch collar. My heart sunk and my stomach sickened. One of three scenarios could have played out. Which of the following would you have done?
- Say nothing about the collar;
- Get angry about the collar and express it to the lady;
- Attempt to educate the lady and offer alternatives to the pinch collar;
“Is your dog a puller?” I mused. “Yes, he is crazy. He pulls all the time. I have his Mom and Dad, and they were pullers, too.” “He is beautiful,” I continued, “and you know, there are some other ways of….”Off she went. Right in the middle of my sentence. She did not want to hear anything further. At first, I had no idea what just happened. “She doesn’t want to be told of anything else that might help her dog, Carol,” my spouse shared. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish for the lady to have a pinch collar on so I could stop her forward motion just to educate her on the topic. From Whence I Came I’ve trained two dogs in my lifetime with everything from house training to trick training and how to walk without pulling, the latter of which I did so with positive reinforcement, a mesh harness, time, and patience. Choke and prong collars are designed to punish dogs for pulling by inflicting pain and discomfort. They can cause serious physical and emotional damage and over the years, I’ve met folks at the dog park and veterinary office whose dogs suffered for their usage. “I’ve had dogs all my life and never had to use these collars or any pain inflicting tools,” dog mom Nancy Brisebois says. Upon showing dog mom and pet miniature artist, Lucy Maloney, the photo of pinch collar on our Cocker friend, her reaction is, “Seriously a pinch collar??!! I hate anything causing pain. People need to learn to train a dog with love!” There are those who will say their dog learned from a pinch or choke collar and that their dogs are not scarred emotionally or physically. I am still against their usage: Positive reinforcement is the key to any healthy relationship. Inflicting pain to get one’s way does not make it right. In fact, animals who are exposed to the pain of choke and/or pinch collars are exposed to a gamut of physical injuries. Some of these include, crushing of the trachea, esophageal bruising, asphyxiation, skin and tissue injury, and even brain damage. The Pros Speak Out I am not an expert dog trainer nor am I a professional veterinarian, so I asked those who are what the deal is with pinch, prong, and choke collars. Andrea Arden of the famed Andrea Arden Dog Training School, is currently on Animal Planet’s hit shows Dogs101, Cats101, Pets101, America’s Cutest Dog and America’s Cutest Cat, and was the trainer for Underdog to Wonderdog and The Pet Department, FX’s Emmy award winning daily show. “I am not a fan of tools to teach that are based on inflicting pain”, she shares. “Not only do I not want to cause pain to animals because I adore them, but I also don’t think this is an effective route to learning. When in a state of stress (which would presumably be induced by pain) an animal is less likely to be open to absorbing and retaining information. One need only imagine themselves in a classroom where there was a threat of pain by the teacher to understand why this scenario is not ideal.” Instead, she recommends positive training and gentle tools. By doing so, dogs will not experience negative side effects such as stress, fear, and aggression. Famed dog trainer, Laurie Williams agrees. Williams is a canine education specialist, dog behavior counselor and trainer for over 25 years. She is the owner and Director of Training and Behavior Counseling at Pup ‘N Iron Canine Fitness & Learning Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia. According to Williams, dogs, and all animals for that matter, will repeat or not repeat behaviors for one of two reasons :
- to be rewarded with something they want or desire; –OR–
- to avoid something they don’t want.
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Copyright of this article (2015) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.