Two dogs I met recently were wearing shock collars. The reason, I was told, was because the collars “stopped them doing things they shouldn’t.”

These two dogs were taken to a poor quality dog trainer and he somehow convinced them that natural behaviour is wrong and aversion collars would train the dogs to get it right. Take a moment here and ask yourself how many things are wrong with this so far?

Here’s my take on it:

  • These dogs are being punished for carrying out their natural behaviour, for being dogs.
  • Someone is selling their services as a dog trainer, simply to put collars on dogs, which is not dog training. Showing someone how to use a remote to shock or spray their dog takes no skill.
  • The behaviour may have stopped but fear, anxiety, stress and even pain has begun.
  • A breakdown of trust has occurred between a dog and their human and will continue to occur for as long as the collar is used, or even for the rest of the dog’s life.
  • The dog’s self-esteem and emotional well-being is adversely affected.

Aversion collars are not good. They may give the desired result. They certainly had for these dog guardians, or so they thought. They may even change the behaviour, the dog may simply carry on through the aversion, making bigger shocks necessary to achieve the same result. Or it might work for a while then stop working altogether.

Many behaviours can be temporarily stopped by using aversion. A lot of behaviours can be halted by introducing unpleasant consequences to an action, this is true. Yet the long term results will always, unfailingly be negative, because punishment based in misunderstanding is always negative. Yet in the dog guardian’s eyes the collar wielding trainer has done their job.

Training dogs is not about results at any cost, nor is it about stopping the behaviour instead of assessing and modifying it.

Dog training, canine coaching and any canine consultation is about stepping into the dog’s mind and looking out through their eyes in order to understand why they are behaving a certain way. Then carefully communicating to the dog what we would like them to do instead. Finally making the change worthwhile to the dog, not just to the people around him.

Canine consulting is about realising that dogs are here with us and do us a great service by simply existing. We owe them understanding, not blind correction, in return for their flawless friendship and humble happiness that they experience, just by being in our lives. Choose your trainers carefully for dog’s sake.

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