Humane either benefits or side effects are poorly

Humane or Inhumane? Dog Training
Tools and Methods

There is no “right” way to train a
dog, however the view points on the correct tools to use or the correct methods
to use vary between person to person. My view on the training controversy
between tools and methods is that if they are used correctly and humanely,
there is no harm to them. However, many people would disagree to the statement
that certain tools, such as prong collars and shock collars, are humane. People
may also disagree that positive punishment can be used to help training, and
there are many trainers who do claim to not use positive punishment. The
methods and tools to train a dog can vary from person to person, but what are
the harms to using them and why are people for or against them?

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            The most controversial tools to use
for training are the prong collar and e-collar/shock collar. Starting with
shock collars, people are very divided as to if it is cruel to use or if they
are used correctly, it can be an outstanding tool. A shock collar is a special
device used for training that uses an electric shock to deter a dog from doing
a certain action or behavior. According to an article by Lumontod, he did some
research on this product and concluded five things. First, there is still a
lack of research on the pros and cons of these devices. Secondly, all the
studies showing either benefits or side effects are poorly designed. Third,
there is a way to use the dog collars with no harm brought to the dog. Fourth,
when a dog is harmed, it is usually due to inadequate use of the collar or poor-quality
products. Lastly, it is still better to train dogs without the use of a shock
collar (Clarke, 2016). While shock collars may be looked down upon, there is a
safe way to use these collars with absolutely no harm to the dog. Those who are
against shock collars tend to claim that “dog trainers wouldn’t use a shock
collar on themselves” (Clarke, 2016). However, dog trainers do test the shocks
on themselves to know exactly what the dog will be receiving. If you are not
familiar with this device, leave it to the professionals who are trained to be
able to use them correctly. Using a shock collar wrong can cause long term harm
to the relationship of the owner and dog and, it can hurt the dog depending on
how high the shock is. So, overall, the pros of using a shock collar are that
they can be safe to use and incredibly effective. Pro-shock collar people argue
that these collars do not produce enough shock to cause pain or harm to the
pet, and with adjustable options, shocks can be avoidable all together. On the
con side of shock collars, these people claim that they are cruel and painful
for the pets. Con-shock collar people would rather use positive reinforcement.
They also worry that using this can cause fear for their pet, which would ultimately
cause more bad behavior. According to experts, if you are going to use a shock
collar, you should test the device on yourself to know exactly what your dog is
receiving (Clarke, 2016). There was a study done in the United Kingdom in 2014
on the psychological effects of using a shock collar. According to this study,
they observed distinct changes in behavior, which included sudden changes of
posture, tail position, and vocalizations (Cooper, 2014). What this study ended
up concluding was that the immediate effects of training with a shock collar
would “give rise to behavioral signs of distress in pet dogs, particularly when
used at high settings” (Cooper, 2014). Shock collar training, according to this
study, did not result “in a substantially superior response to training in
comparison to similarly experience trainers who did not use shock collars to
improve recall and control chasing behavior” (Cooper, 2014). In the end, this
study concludes that you do not need to use a shock collar to improve the problems
at hand. The results of another study done in England shows that a low proportion
of owners choose to use shock collars (Blackwell, 2012). It’s also said in this
study that “more owners using reward based methods for recall report a
successful outcome of training compared to those using shock collars” (Blackwell,
2012). Although it’s based-on preference, there are other forms of training
that are less aversive that you can use unless this is a last resort.

            The next controversial dog training
tool is the prong collar. The prong collar is a series of chain links connected
with each other with the pointed end facing the dog’s neck (Turner, 2012). When
the prong collar is used proper, it can protect the dog from trachea damage
from when the dog pulls excessively with a normal collar. The prong collar must
be fitted appropriately to ensure it does not hurt the dog. It should be placed
high on the dog’s neck, and all extra links should be removed so it fits
snuggly (Turner, 2012). Although this tool is beneficial if used correctly,
many of the people who are against prong collars argue that it can create
irreversible damage to the dog (Garrod, 2016). Another reason is that there
could be psychological effects. People argue that dogs wearing prong collars
tend to be in a submissive posture or showing fear (Garrod, 2016). For people
against these collars, seeing a dog that looks to be in fear gives them the
fuel they need to argue against it. While it shouldn’t be advised for someone
to use a prong collar without proper training on how to place it and use it, it
overall, can be a great tool to use when you are completely out of options.

            Moving on from controversial tools
to controversial methods of training a dog. This is seen through the
controversy of Cesar Millan training, positive reinforcement only training, and
people who use positive punishment in their training methods. Cesar Millan is
most widely known as The Dog Whisperer. Millan’s training philosophy is centered
around pack leadership (D, 2014). Millan uses different techniques that
overstress and shut down some dogs. Some examples of these techniques are
finger jabs, alpha rolls, and intimidating stances and language. According to
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, “Millan’s methods are based on flooding and punishment.
The results, although immediate, will be only transitory. His methods are
misguided, outmoded, in some cases dangerous, and often inhumane. You would not
want a dog under his sphere of influence. The sad thing is that the public does
not recognize the error in his ways. My college thinks it is a travesty. We’ve
written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training
back 20 years” (D, 2014). However, for some dog owners, even if it may be aversive
for their dogs, they may just be happy that the dog is starting to behave after
these techniques have been used. According to Laura McGaughey, “While (she)
does not use nor agree with Millan’s methods, she does believe it is a platform
for (animal trainers) to educate people, and open the door to harmony and
respect between them and their four-legged companions” (D, 2014).

            “Harsh aversive stimulation is
fraught with problematic secondary effects and is detrimental to the
relationship between guardians and their companion animals” (O’Heare, 2007).
While positive punishment is looked down upon by many people, some people also do
not realize that some of the things they are doing is still considered positive
punishment. People who shame positive punishment don’t realize that it’s highly
unlikely to be able to train a dog without using positive punishment. While
using positive reinforcement is always a preferable approach, sometimes you need
to scold a dog to teach them what is right or wrong. According to Alexandra
Santos, “harsh aversive stimulation includes any application of a stimulus to
an animal then behaves to escape or avoid, which stimulates significant emotion
reaction and punishment-associated problematic secondary effects, such as
aggression, social disruption, and counter control” (O’Heare, 2007). While
using positive punishment at inappropriate times can cause these reactions,
positive punishment can also be used as a helpful tool. Use positive punishment
when it is needed and at the degree it is needed at, but it needs to be timed
correctly or the dog won’t have associated it with what they did wrong. This is
part of what Millan’s approach is to dog training. Millan is a self-taught dog
behaviorist with no formal training or certifications. This leads in more to his
beliefs of how we should teach the dogs based on a dominance theory. Millan
relies on the old view of wolf packs and the past understanding of the hierarchy
within wolf packs.

New studies have found this
information to be no longer credible, meaning that wolves don’t have the “alpha”
or “beta” rankings as most people believe they do. Ian Dunbar and Nicholas
Dodman, both veterinarians and behaviorists, have a few concerns with how
Millan uses a punishment-based dominance approach to dogs (Sheaffer, 2015). “First,
wolf behavior in the wild does not translate to domestic dogs. Second, dogs are
afraid of certain things that can’t be cured by a single session of intense
exposure (flooding method). Not long after this exposure is over, the dog’s
fear will return and most likely even more intensely. Third, using finger jabs,
alpha rollovers, choking, and leash-pops to gain compliance from dogs is not as
effective as positive reward training where the dog voluntarily preforms the
behaviors requested. Fourth, the approaches used by Mr. Millan can be abusive
and inhumane. Last, some of Millan’s techniques are unnecessarily dangerous” (Sheaffer,
2016). While Millan’s methods can be inhumane or abusive, he does have one
thing going for him, as stated earlier as well. He has brought awareness to the
fact that dogs with behavior issues need to be addressed to a trainer or a
behaviorist (Sheaffer, 2016). This has promoted the concept of dog behavior to
the world, and some behaviorists are grateful that he has done this, which
means more dogs can get help and be saved. Even Millan himself says that’s what
keeps him going, “A vet will suggest euthanasia, but I know I can make that
unnecessary” (Holland, 2016). However, Millan also claims that “the cases I
work with are cases most professions won’t touch” (Holland, 2016). Which begs
the question, if he isn’t licensed to do it, what makes him think he will be
able to help more than a professional? Discrediting his work isn’t the goal
here, sure he’s helped save some lives and sure he’s probably helped train some
unruly dogs, but what gives him the credibility to claim this is the best approach
when he isn’t certified to do what he does? Millan seems to have his heart in
the right place, “I always say that I train people and rehab dogs. Dogs that I
work with have been made terrible by their owners” (Holland, 2016). However, there
can be better ways to approach these dogs than the method he uses. Owners seem
to appreciate it more because it seems to be “fast-acting.”

            So, what’s the opposite of Cesar
Millan’s approach? Positive reinforcement only training. Whole Dog Journal
states that “Today, in many areas of the country a dog is at least as likely to
be enrolled in a class with a trainer who uses positive methods as one who
still employs old-fashioned choke chain or prong-collar coercion” (Miller, 2007).
While many people do realize that we should discover kinder, gentler methods to
train our dog, some people also believe that positive reinforcement only
training brings the results of a dog who works and think cooperatively with the
owner as a team, rather than a dog who only obeys commands (Miller, 2007).
Those who do not agree with positive reinforcement only methods claim that the
dogs are too spoiled and out of control with this approach. Positive trainers,
in response to this, say they will use a negative punishment as opposed to a
positive punishment. However, some trainers also believe you can’t tackle all
behavioral problems with only positive reinforcement and negative punishment.
This makes sense because, negative punishment is taking away a stimulus, but in
some cases, you can’t take away that stimulus unless you catch it right away.
But you shouldn’t disregard that positive reinforcement should always be your
first approach. If you can stay away from ruining your relationship with a dog
or hurting the dog, then why wouldn’t you? While positive reinforcement only
sounds very pleasing to the ear, it seems like a far-fetched idea because the
littlest things that some people might not think as punishment is positive
punishment. For example, stopping a dog from running out the door by blocking them
or shutting the door, which then causes the dog to run into something. You are giving
a punishment by shutting the door, which those who believe to be positive reinforcement
only may say they won’t do that to the animal. So, if you only do positive reinforcement,
which is better? Letting a dog get loose into a street or shutting the door in
it’s face? Those who claim to be positive reinforcement only would more thank
likely choose not shutting the door in it’s face, but, with the risk of a dog
getting hit by a car, is the punishment worse than what the outcome could
potentially be?

            In conclusion, there are many
different methods and tools to use for training. While they may be controversial,
there is no “correct” way to train an animal. If you are using the tools
correctly and using some of the methods in a reasonable way, then I don’t think
that you are being cruel to your pet. While some people view the shock collar
as a horrible and cruel tool, I believe that if you use it appropriately and
humanely it can be a great tool to help train, however it also wouldn’t be my
first choice in tools. Same with the prong collar, if it is used correctly it
is a great tool, however, I would personally prefer to try and exhaust all
other options, like gentle leaders or harnesses, prior to trying a prong
collar. In terms of Cesar Millan, I can see why people may think he is an amazing
dog trainer, but without any accreditation besides his TV show, its hard to think
of him as a reliable resource. His ways are stuck in the past and he needs to change
them up to include more positive reinforcement and less of the flooding technique.
However, TV has probably swayed him to continue doing what he is doing for an
interesting show instead of using actual techniques that a professional would use.
Overall, training has no right or wrong way to do things, but more of a morally
right and morally wrong way of doing things. If you are being humane with your animals,
then who’s to tell you to change your methods if they work for you?

 

 

 

 

 

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