Monday, November 1, 2010

Following up with my post about a local vet using a shock collar trainer

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post that included discussion about the fact that Petworks over in Dartmouth had enlisted the use of an "Unleashed Potential" trainer to do their obedience training classes at their facility - and that company very proudly advertises their use of shock collars as a training tool - something that positive trainers will tell you is the most aversive - and the case can also be made for - abusive - tools, you can possibly use.

How would you like to walk around with a collar around your neck that at any time you have absolutely no control over - you have no idea when it's going to happen - the collar suddenly sends out a shock that takes over your entire body - you have no idea when it's going to happen, and what you did, or may do that caused it to happen - is not a fun idea (to me anyway) - and that's what shock collars do.

People who like "e-collars" would say that's entire over simplification, and it's not a shock, it's just a "buzz" - whatever....

There's no doubt that aversive training DOES work - but it's got to be done EXACTLY correctly in order for it to work - and that's the problem - if it's done incorrectly - and so many times it IS done incorrectly - that's what causes the problems. With positive training - at least you don't completely FUCK the dog up. With aversive training - you can really hurt a dog.

With tools like prong, shock or choke collars - they DO work - but if you use them incorrectly - you can make a dog that is very dangerous.

When I very first got Daisy my rottweiller - way back in 2003 - when I didn't really know better and was still figuring things out - I put a metal choke collar on her - she was a horrible puller.

And when she had that choke collar on her - she did not pull - AT ALL. When she was previously on her chain (she had been chained out 24 hours a day for the first 3 years of her life) she probably had had a choke chain on at some point - so she had learned the hard way that pulling on a choke chain HURTS. And to not puill is better.

That is the point of aversive training - you are only supposed to have to do the painful thing a few times - and then the dog GETS IT - and then the painful thing stops - and you don't have to do it anymore.

But when aversive trainers are bad or incompetent - that doesn't happen - and you have to keep hurting your dog - and that's where the problem lies. You have to keep on choking them, or electrocuting them, or pinching them, or hanging them - because your trainer hasn't taught you prooperly - because they don't know what they're doing - so they can't teach you to use the tools properly - and that's where everything gets fucked up and you end up abusing your dog - over and over.

And that's why positive training is just so much better than aversive training - because it really is so much easier to ignore the bad and praise the good. It might take you a little bit longer - but personally - I'd rather fuck up at "ignoring the bad and praising the good" than fucking up at when I'm giving my dog an electric shock. But that's just me.

There will always be companies like "Unleashed Potential" - because there will always be people who have highly reactive dogs - and that company gives them a tool that almost immediately makes the dogs lay down flat on the ground - why does the dog lay down flat on the ground? That's a question for you to ponder.

I had responses back from both Petworks and Unleashed Potential - and I wanted to post them here so that they could get their voices heard on the subject too, for what it's worth - so here they are -

Janet Chernin wrote to Petworks requesting a response, and this is what she got from owner Rick Swinimer: "Thank you for your input and your vigilance in this area. We agree that the use of adverse stimuli ( shock collars, prong collars, etc) are not desirable methods of dog training and that in the absence of positive reinforcement o...perant type conditioning are particularly repugnant and undesirable. We do not employ or endorse any such methods in our puppy socialization and obedience training. Petworks employs Dsquared Dog Training for our puppy classes and all materials and class content have been approved by Petworks and continues to be based on positive reinforcement operant conditioning methods. We have always based our training and all interactions with pets throughout our organization on positive reinforcement protocols. This will always be our approach. We would never allow any adverse methods to be used at our facility anymore than we would tolerate physical abuse or rough handling of pets or people in our facilities. Our policy manual clearly states this is grounds for immediate dismissal.

It is my understanding the trainer from Dsquared Dog Training has received some training from Unleashed Potential in positive reinforcement techniques including marker training, clicker training, positive handling, etc. That is the extent of the relationship and not more. I note that the information on our website regarding the trainer and Unleashed Potential is inaccurate and will be changed. Derrick Davis represents his own company , Dsquared Dog Training, at our facility. As you know, likely from your own experience and training, trainers receive training themselves from many different sources. Hopefully they take the best of those techniques and employ them successfully and humanely in a positive fashion with our pets. I believe Derrick is doing exactly this and is in line with our philosophy of positive reinforcement techniques. This is not negotiable here at Petworks.

and this is a response from Unleashed Potential's Ted Efthymiadis

Thanks again for posting our videos from the Unleashed Potential website. Every time you post about our company, we seem to get busier and busier. Stepping into the strictly positive methods with Petworks was a pilot project, and with this drama some have created, we will no longer be doing the petworks stuff. I'm glad to have this happen now, so that we can go back to really focusing on our UPK9 clients and growing that part of our company. Our trainer is still in talks to continue with Petworks because the current clients have been vary happy with out food training programs. If he continues, it will be on a basis separate from UPK9. You may not agree with some of the methods we use, so once again, I will invite you to come out and train along side us to see it first hand. I would actually love to meet you all, I love dogs just like you all do. Feel free to contact me to set up a time to see what we do. Once you have seen it first hand, then you can say whatever you want about it.... Best regards. I Love the haters... they just encourage me to become an even better trainer. Ted - UPK9 Halifax.


  1. Well, I for one, for the past 8 years, have lived with the negative effects a shock collar can have on an animal.

    Our miniature pie-bald dachshund, Oskar came to us at the age of two, full of fear, aggression, dominance issues & also a resource guarder. His previous owner felt the need to send him to a trainor who used an electronic shock collar - complete with a remote - so he could be zapped from afar - for "correction". Yeah....ask me how that has worked for us!

    It has taken us the better part of his whole life to - re-program him...and I could write a book on that.

    To this day....the high frequency of the cordless phone when it rings...will send him racing out of the room room or to the basement in fear.

    That is what a shock collar has done to him.

    It matters not the size of the dog who has this method of cruelty used on them, I hope I live long enough to see shock collars banned.

  2. ThreeDogsLong:
    Let me be the first to say, who ever did damage to your dog using a shock collar is an idiot, who should not have the right to use one.

    Shock collars and remote collars are two different things.

    Shock collar have one purpose, high levels of electronic stimulation, to hurt your dog for doing something bad.
    Remote collars, can also be used for that, however they can also be used at very low levels. So low we can train puppies using them.

    I have attached a video of me using a remote collar to build speed, focus and drive for a ball.
    I stimulated my dog over 200 times in this video. Please note, the dog is happy, obedient, and willing to work.

    Shock collars suck, remote collars, with the best training, can take dogs to an entirely new level, without negative effects.

    Unleashed Potential.

    P.s. I would love to see Pets Unlimited and Walmart stop selling shock collars.

  3. I quote - "Shock collar have one purpose, high levels of electronic stimulation, to hurt your dog for doing something bad.
    Remote collars, can also be used for that, however they can also be used at very low levels. So low we can train puppies using them."

    Ted - there is no difference between the two, only the varying amount of pain inflicted. You stated, remote collars can also be used to hurt. The onus is on the "user" not to do so.

    You will never convince me that this type of "stimulation" produces happy & obedient dogs. I have three happy & obedient dogs....never once had to use a device to acquire it.

    I will never use or advocate the use of shock or remote collars.

  4. I do not own a dog and will not for a long time until I have a lifestyle that will allow for me to care for one properly (I work long days and odd hours). As an outsider looking in on the world of dogs, their owners, training, etc. I don't see how the use of phyiscal "abuse" if you will (collars, hitting, etc.) can be condoned by any trainer. How is it that some people can train a dog, even ones with some real baggage, without the use of such methods? How does the fear of being zapped, hit, choked or worse create a loyal, devoted, loving dog? Are these methods employed due to laziness on our part? Do we want a quick result to have a perfectly behaved family dog instead of taking the time and patience to work out the issues, reinforce the positive and correct behaviour? Forgive me if my questions seem naive, but I just can't see how this type of "training" can be beneficial for dog or owner.

  5. This comment is from Marjorie - who was having problems sending in the comment - so she asked me to post it for her -

    "I'm sorry, but to me there is something very sick about using electric shock , remote collar or not, that is what is it is to "build speed, focus and drive for a ball." Fetching a ball should be a stress free joyful experience. If you want the dam ball that bad go get it yourself! These people that say they "Love Dogs" and then bully them with these devices are very misguided.

    I'm really appalled that someone would use these devices, but to use them for that purpose is just plain shameful. Some people can take competitiveness to such extremes."

  6. I do find it interested how none of you commented on my video, I wonder if any of you even watched it. Every time I welcome people to come out and train with me, or when I post videos, no one can say anything wrong with my training, and none of you will come out and see it first hand.... Interesting.

    Every story has two sides.

    If any of you can honestly show me how I'm shocking, zapping, abusing my dog, or clients dogs into submission. Then please show me this. It's just not the case.

    In fact my clients think just the opposite.

    I endorse plenty of other training methods, including food training, which we do with EVERY client.

    It's easy to get down on me, being the front man. Just don't think for a minute, the police dogs that keep our streets safe are not trained with a balance of punitive and positive methods.

    Have a great day.

  7. I did watch the video...and let's be clear...just so we clear - are not training police dogs! I wouldn't come & watch you or your methods first hand, watching the video was enough.

    Just as you are entitled to your opinion....I am entitled to mine. If you chose to use your method of trainig & have a following of loyal subjects who do the same, that is your business. I don't have to condone, approve, use or like it. My choice.

  8. I guess I'm having problems with the commenting function of the blog today, because someone else is having problems commenting so I'm going to post their comment as well - which is -

    "One thing I would ask is if the e-collar is nothing but a communication tool, would he use it on a Grade 1 student? A young child? Has he ever learned anything new - maybe even something he has no aptitude for? In another language? Would he want to be taught with the help of an e-collar? With someone else in control of it?
    Indeed most police dogs are trained that way, but there are people that don't. Steve White, cop with the Seattle Police Force K9 unit for 30 years, trains with a normal buckle collar, and stated at a seminar that since they've embraced positive reinforcement vs. positive punishment and negative reinforcement, the tracking dogs' false positives have gone down big time - meaning that the dogs make fewer mistakes.
    Just because a professional applies shock collar training doesn't mean it feels any better for the dog."

    I personally find that comment interesting - the bit about us human's wearing the e-collar to be trained for something that we don't personally have an aptitude for - so say someone is trying to teach us how to program a vcr - but we don't have the instruction manual - and everytime we get something wrong - we get a buzz for it - is that going to make us learn how to operate the vcr more quickly? Or is it going to just make us frustrated and pissed off at the person who's giving us the buzz?

  9. ThreeDogsLong:

    You are however commenting on my methods, and the use of remote collars as a whole.

    I do train dogs for other applications other than pet use.

    This summer I took on a very serious Belgian Shepherd from NewYork who was about to be killed for his aggression. He attacked many people, and put his owner in the hospital with serious bite wounds.

    Fast forward a few months, he was fully rehabbed, and was shipped last week to a trainer in Texas who will be using him for several tasks, including drug detection.

    If this dog was able to be trained using 100% positive methods.... I would have given it a shot, but in the first 10 days I had the dog, all he wanted to do was attack me.
    For over a week he refused food.
    This all happened before any training had happened, so this can not be blamed on me using punitive methods which made him aggressive.

    Every month I rehab some very serious dogs, full rehabs, and keep many dogs from being killed.

    If you would like to meet the dog I have now you are more than welcome to. He put his owners girlfriend in the hospital, and attacked seven people over the years. He's going home tomorrow, 100% rehabbed in 30 days.

    Remote collars have many uses, aggression and police use are just some of them.

    Don't blame the tool, blame the idiot who doesn't know how to use one.

  10. I wasn't going to comment on this but I would like to point out a few things. The science of punishment and the use of shock collars is quite clear, even the wikipedia on shock collars references several scientific studies bemoaning their use - you can have many numerous negative effects with this type of training - and none of those happen with positive training. Why anyone would want to risk the negatives is really beyond me.

    In regards to some of Ted's posts - There are many Police K9 trainers that do not use force - Steve White is a great example who you can google. Just because a dog doesn't take food doesn't mean you need to resort to shock collars in his Rehab. Most fearful or aggressive dogs I see will not take food from me initially either.

    I know if I was learning something from a stranger in a strange country, I sure wouldn't want him putting a shock collar on me, and we shouldn't want to do this with our dogs either.

  11. "I'd rather fuck up at "ignoring the bad and praising the good" than fucking up at when I'm giving my dog an electric shock."

    You and me both. Positive punishment training scares me because it is so easy to get wrong. I'd rather accidently reward my dog for something she did wrong then accidently hurt her for something she did right.

    Besides, positive reinforcement methods actually teach the dog first before putting all these behavioural expectations on them.

    Just my opinion.

  12. Tristan, are you serious?

    For every 500 Police K9 handlers who uses punitive methods, you will find 1 handler who who doesn't use them.

    I had a K9 handler refer me a client just last week.....

  13. Tristan:
    Please train this police dog using only positive methods.

    Best regards.

  14. Anonymous2:55 PM

    I love how people who believe shock collars are abusive in teh wrong hands seem to think these same wrong hands are capable of training through positive reinforcement

    ANYONE who can train a dog through positive reinforcement understands more than enough to use aversive training via shock collars. Personally, I've used both, and both have their place. One dog in particular comes to mind. I spent a LOT of time training him, and he was 99% good, but on occassion he'd bolt. You could see it coming, you could literally see him contemplating the temptation to run with kowing he'd be punish when caught (time out, scolding, nothing physical), and then off he'd go. ONE SHOCK was all it took for him to realize we could reach out and punish him beyond physical reach. We NEVER shocked him again, and he never disobeyed again