Are Electronic Collars A Welfare Risk To Dogs?
A recent peer-reviewed study explained by Science Daily analyzed how electronic collars used to correct undesired behaviors effected a dog’s anxiety and stress levels. The dogs stress levels were measured by cortisol levels in their saliva and by observing calming signals such as sniffing and yawning. Behaviors that were addressed included chasing livestock and poor recall.
Misuse – The Biggest Threat With Electronic Collars
The trainers in the first study did not use the collars within the recommended guidelines from the manufacturer. We’d like to claim that many average dog owners are not very likely to utilize these collars exactly as the instructions said due to their desired for improved behaviors quickly or simply a lack of understanding about how sensitive dogs can be without showing obvious signs of discomfort.
The second study, which included over 60 dogs, used the collars as directed by the manufacturer. This resulted in less stress than the first study, but did not eliminate all anxiety. They consistently showed more tension and less engagement with the environment than those in the control group.
Ultimately Electronic Collars Are Unnecessary
The study concluded that there are more hazards with electronic collar training than with consistent positive reinforcement based training. The risk of side effects due to electronic collar training increases if the guidelines from the manufacturer are ignored. Ultimately, we must understand that most normal dog owners cannot be trusted to have the correct understanding of timing and intensity levels that most pros still have yet to master; therefore, making this tool risky and unnecessary.
Lead author Jonathan Cooper, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, said: “e-collar training did not result in a substantially superior response to training in comparison to similarly experienced trainers who do not use e-collars to improve recall and control chasing behaviour. Accordingly, it seems that the routine use of e-collars even in accordance with best practice, as suggested by collar manufacturers, presents a risk to the well-being of pet dogs. The scale of this risk would be expected to be increased when practice falls outside of this ideal.”
May She Rest In Peace And Happiness: Sophia Yin
It was announced this afternoon that Dr. Sophia Yin has passed away. We are overwhelmed with shock and sadness as we process this news. She has played a critical role in the modernization of dog training. Her Facebook profile shared this picture to announce this unfortunate news:
Over the years, she has been a strong role model for veterinarians and dog trainers alike. She shared her knowledge and skills with thousands of teachers both in person and online. There is no doubt she increased the quality of life of many, many animals through the demonstration of her veterinary handling videos and resources.
She will be dearly missed and will never be forgotten.
Dominance in dogs is something that is constantly debated among dog trainers.
Recent research suggests that dominance should simply be used to describe one animals relationship with another and not as a type of behavior. Conflict resolution is something that all animals must come to terms with in order to survive. Injuries caused by unnecessary fighting between individuals of the same species is detrimental to the species survival. Dominance and submission relationships are critical to keeping peace between members of the same family. Click HERE for a link to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statements on Dominance.
David Mech, the original researcher who coined the term “alpha,” now retracts his statement about wolf packs competing for alpha status. He now states that wolf packs are similar to families. The “alphas” are usually the parents and the subordinates are offspring. Dominance is simply a matter of “respecting your elders.”
Dominance Is Expressed To Keep Possession Over Resources
When one dog has possession of a resource such as food, a mate, water, or comfort, they can express their dominance over other animals to keep that resource. Keeping possession over resources is a critical survival skill that is necessary to all animals. If an animal is unable to keep possession, then they will likely perish or go through severe hardships. Unfortunately, just because a dog is now usually located in a home with ample resources doesn’t mean they will stop guarding their possessions. Clients often fail to understand this and are quick to label their dogs as dominant or submissive when conflicts occur.
How do you explain dominance to your clients? Share in the comments below.
Using food in training is your best option to create social, confident, and obedient dogs for your clients.
Many modern dog trainers utilize food in training. While food is an incredibly practical way to motivate dogs, it serves another important functions when it comes to the dog’s confidence. Simply put, food has the power to change how an animals feels about certain situations.
In the article “Preventative Counterconditioning…because bad stuff happens” by Awesome Dogs, the trainer uses an unexpected life event as a chance to countercondition her dogs before they get a chance to make an emotional connection to the situation. Her neighbors were having a huge and loud party and she took the opportunity to feed her dogs chicken. This ensured that the dogs made a good, positive association with the experience before they could decide for themselves.
Proper socialization should occur in this manner as well. Its important to help the puppy learn about their environment and teach them that the world is a fun a safe place. Socialization will occur either way so you need to step in and make sure they are creating positive connections with their discoveries by using food in training. In other words, this is also a form of “preventative counterconditioning.”
Chicken Is Powerful
Food has the power to change a dog’s emotional reaction towards stimuli (people, dogs, and other possibly scary things). It is easily deliverable to the dog’s mouth as they observe their environment which makes it an ideal tool to use in training. Granted the dog is not over threshold and too close to their feared trigger, food can help teach a dog new behaviors while creating positive associations and connections in their brains. Just like when people eat their favorite comfort foods, those “feel good” chemicals called endorphins are released in the brain. That warm fuzzy feeling is then paired with the dog’s trigger to make a new connection – “that scary thing makes awesome stuff happen, maybe it isn’t quite so scary anymore!” Basically, food has the power to make the world less scary for any dog.
For many owners and trainers, verbal markers are utilized first and foremost before a clicker. While a verbal “yes” is effective, it doesn’t quite beat out using a clicker for precise communication. In the article “Amygdala: the Neurophysiology of Clicker Training” by Karen Pryor, it explains how the clicker is interpreted slightly differently and more effectively than verbal markers.
Clicker Training Research
The brain functions in such a manner that sharp, sudden stimuli is interpreted more quickly and through a different pathway than normal every day sounds. This allows the animal to have a quick reflex response to potentially dangerous situations. The click is considered to be a sharp, sudden sound which is processed quickly through the amygdala before the cortex (thinking part).
How It Relates To Learning
Fear responses that have been conditioned are also established in the amygdala. This allows animals to quickly understand what is dangerous in the world and avoid similar situations in the future. Scary situations are quickly stored in long-retention memory.
Karen Pryor and her colleague, Barbara Schoening, hypothesize that clicker training establishes “similar patterns of very rapid learning, long retention, and emotional surges, albeit positive emotions rather than fear.” Essentially, clicker training evokes strong happy emotions from animals while being interpreted more quickly than verbal markers could be.