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Dog Training Methods vs. Jargon

July 13, 2012

This story inspired me to write about some of the common jargon an unassuming person may hear when looking for a dog trainer. As with anything that creates controversy, or allows for multiple opinions, dog training is right up there on the list of hot topics. There are a colorful spectrum of opinions on it. The point of this blog post is to help you decipher exactly what is happening before, or when you sign up with a trainer that may be using methods that did not originally line up with what you thought. I would also hope it would bring awareness too. The situations below happen frequently and are more than unfortunate. Your dog deserves better and you deserve better.

Shock collars

What they are commonly called instead to potential clients:
e-collars, remote collars, electronic dog collars

All are synonymous for a shock collar. An electronic shock is administered to your dog by the push of a button that you control. You can change the settings to make the shock more, or less intense. People with very little to no experience are told to go out and buy a shock collar to continue their training and to use it when the dog does something they do not like. People have a hard enough time rewarding dogs in a timely manner that is understanding to the dog, I can’t imagine what it must be like for the average dog owner doing this. I’ve seen what this has done in the wrong hands. The reason it is popular is because it makes the dog obey in an almost robotic fashion.

Some companies market it as a “tap on the shoulder” to your dog, or a vibration to get their attention. That is simply not true. The settings are lowered when they allow an apprehensive person to try it on themselves and turned up as soon as it is put back on the dog. We have seen burn marks on the necks of dogs that have been shocked repeatedly at a high setting. I’ve spoken with vets who have refused to treat dogs that trainers have brought in with these injuries from their abuse (without the owner’s knowledge).

I was speaking with someone the other day and she joked with me that she was corrected when she was talking to a gentleman walking his dog with a shock collar. The person sternly said, “No, this is a remote collar!”. The person was sold on words that were shared with him. It made him upset when someone told him he was using a shock collar. A simple change of words made the use of a shock collar acceptable to him.

Taken from a website of a company that puts shock collars on puppies and fearful dogs, their message states, “Happy and confident dogs trained positively.” If an unsuspecting person was browsing, it sounds pretty good, don’t you think? In the pictures, you see a collar that looks a little bigger than usual and a handler carrying what looks like a remote control, but may not recognize exactly what it is. This is where an unsuspecting person with good intentions can put their dogs in bad situations.
Prong Collars and Choke Collars

The biggest problem I have with these is that people use them improperly and often fit them incorrectly. Maybe you’ve seen it at your local pet retail store, prong collars so loose they are hanging off the dog’s neck, a choke chain so tight that the dog is pulling its owner all over the place and choking itself repeatedly (and it isn’t working on the leash pulling either!). I would hope you haven’t seen it, but prong collars can also puncture the skin (see picture) and leave holes in a dog’s neck when improperly fitted and used in a forceful manner/correction. Again, the average dog owner does not have fast enough reflexes, nor is experienced enough for this type of tool when there are far better alternatives available that do not pose a risk to your dog.

That being said, a Gentle Leader can cause damage to a dog if it is worn improperly or is not fitted. Please feel free to contact us with alternatives to prong and choke collars. We’d be happy to speak with you. Prong collars and choke collars go directly hand-in-hand with leash corrections. *Just because a trainer is using a metal collar does not mean they are abusing it, but it can go downhill fast in the wrong hands.*

Leash Corrections

What they are commonly called instead to potential clients/clients:
“a pop” on the collar, a snap

Forceful jerks to your dog’s neck are justified by bad advice and zero facts, “What a mother dog would do to her pups to correct them..”, is often said to a client. The biggest problem with this is how out of control it can get in a hurry and how ineffective it is. A “pop” turns into a forceful jerk, which can turn into increased violence rather quickly. Human beings have tempers and our dogs frustrate us sometimes. Allowing and accepting this type of behavior to punish our dogs is unacceptable. If a “trainer” is freely giving these corrections in front of you, imagine what they may be doing when you aren’t present! That brings me to my next and final point.

Boot Camps

“Get a Trained Dog in 20 Days, Guaranteed!” We’ve all seen it for people (hello crash diets), but of course these quick fixes are advertised for dog owners too. Many companies have you drop your dog off for one week or more with little to no information about their methods. People are drawn to the quick fix and don’t realize that their dog is getting beat, smacked, hung and shocked when it doesn’t do what they want. Does that mean all places that advertise these services are like that? Absolutely not, but be leery of companies that guarantee results and quick fixes.

A few ways to avoid the above problems:
-do your research
-attend/observe classes to check the behavior of the dogs in class, the tools used and the instructor’s methods
Are the dogs acting like robots, or are they happily listening to the next task at hand?
-ask questions
-if you feel uncomfortable with any method used on your dog during a training session, speak up about it and stop it
All too often we assume that the “professional” knows best and we avoid what our gut is telling us when we are feeling uneasy.

This is simply scratching the surface to what happens daily in the dog world. Dog training has come a long way, but we still have much progress to make. I hope that this post has been helpful and informative to those of you who are seeking help for your dog. We encourage you to look into science based, positive training methods that do not involve force. To learn more about that, click here. If you’re curious about studying the side effects of shock collars and the other aversive methods above, go here. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email us.

Post Written By: Laura Neiheisel

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About Austin Dog Zone

Austin Dog Zone formed in 2011. We offer dog training for all breeds and temperaments. We are committed to staying up-to-date on the most current scientific research available for dogs regarding both behavior and wellness. Our methods are effective, dog-friendly and family friendly.

1 Comments to “Dog Training Methods vs. Jargon”

  1. April Johnson says:

    Thank you, Laura for more great information and another reminder of just how important it is to listen to and trust our instinct. I too read the heartbreaking story about the puppy sent off for a quick-fix puppy boot camp. It is my hope & prayer that Puppy’s humans are finding the right help for him now. It’s so sad that some of us learn this lesson in trusting our instinct by putting our loved pets at risk. I’m truly hoping this article helps avoid that risk for many! Thank you again!

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