The Right Tool for the Job
Helping you know what tools to use for training your dog
People often ask: “what tools do you use or not use?” The short answer is simple. I use all tools at my disposal, dependent on the dog and the situation at hand.
Now, for the longer answer. I won’t rule the use of a particular tool in or out. What I will rule out is the misuse of a tool or abuse of an animal. For instance, I really don’t like chokers. But, I have found some dogs, a very few, that they were the right choice for. So, for those dogs, I used them. I use e-collars all the time. I stand by this statement I recently made on social media…”when used properly, there is no more effective and humane tool in a trainer’s toolbox than an e-collar”. To understand that statement, you must read the first three words with emphasis.
Any tool can be abused. I grew up on a farm. We routinely worked on stuff. And we routinely abused tools. We beat on wrenches with hammers until the wrench broke and then fussed because it broke and skinned our knuckles. Was the tool bad, or the use of the tool? Leashes, food, all sorts of collars, clickers, etc. all have their place. To use the tool, one should understand its use. The “why” is what is really important here. Our tools should give us a way to clearly and effectively communicate with the dog. In order to train a dog, they must be able to understand what we want them to do and not do. Different dogs, different environments, and different lessons require different tools.
We shouldn’t fear any tool. We should respect them enough to learn about them. I was recently visiting with an old veterinarian friend. He was asking me about some clients’ dogs with behavioral issues and what the first steps to resolving the issues might be. When he was done, I asked if he had a minute or two to answer a couple of questions for me. My preface was simple. "Don’t candy coat anything because you know me. This isn’t about me. I need honest feedback, period". He said OK, so I proceeded. Holding up a pinch collar, I asked “How many injuries have you seen caused by these, total with proper or improper use?”
Without a second’s hesitation, he answered “none, never seen an injury caused by one.” So, I continued, “what about e-collars, or shock collars?” He immediately stated “A handful. Collar necrosis from the collar having been left on too long, allergy to contacts, movement rubbing a little raw spot. But, that’s about it.”
“Ok”, I said. “So, what about other collars. What causes the most injuries you have treated?” Again, without hesitation, he said “Regular collars…Flat buckle collars. We treat embedded collar injuries a good bit. I’ve also treated my fair share of neck injuries from dogs pulling on them extremely hard. And a few larynx injuries from the same kind of thing.”
Honestly, the answers were pretty much what I expected. I know from my own experiences, I had seen basically the same thing. Next time you have an opportunity where there are an abundance of dogs,
just sit back and watch…and listen. See dogs lunging on a flat collar? Hear their breathing being altered? (that’s called stridor).
So, I’ve been thinking about it lately. All the hoopla over this collar, that collar, this tool vs that tool. It made me wonder. As long as we trainers (and owners) are not abusing an animal, and we are giving the customer the results they needed, why would folks make such a stink about it? I believe the answer is as simple as this. They do not understand the tool and it’s proper use. E-collars have come under a good deal of scrutiny lately. Primarily, because people don’t get educated on the proper use of them. Long gone are the days of strapping a shock collar to a dog and shocking them at high levels until they
responded as the owner wished. Just for the record, I never did that. The e-collar is a language that must be taught to the dog. Generally, we don’t teach behaviors with an e-collar. We use the collar to reinforce the behaviors we’ve already taught and to teach the dog, what we say matters at any distance. I’ve seen tons of problematic and confidence lacking dogs helped greatly with the proper use of an
I care little to nothing about arguing the issue of using tools. I do what I do for one reason. I get results. Safely, solidly, and without breaking dogs, I get results. One of the most abused things out there are food bowls. Look around, much like us, our dogs have become obese. Causing a multitude of injuries and health conditions. Is that not abuse? You decide. I take the stance of, every tool has its
place. They should always be used with the animal’s over all welfare in mind.