Rescue Promoting Balanced Training
Daniel Audet: Recently there have been a few Blog Posts with regards to shelters and rescues criticizing, verbally attacking and trying to damage the business of Balanced Trainers.
This post presents a rescue that is doing the opposite in that they actually promote Balanced Training and even use controversial tools such as eCollars.
The rescue being featured is Dog Karma Rescue based in Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada. It is owned by Guy Lapierre. Here are Guy's words telling you about his rescue...
Guy Lapierre wrote: When I am out with my dogs I routinely get compliments about how well behaved and obedient my dogs are and if I'd be interested in training their dogs to be the same. As the conversation starts I inevitably get asked about their e-collars. I find most people to be very open minded and a very intelligent conversation continues. This is most likely a result of the struggles they’ve had with their own dogs and the fact that their story is often similar to mine. As a result, they are open minded enough to listen as they are seeing proof of the results with my very happy and obedient dog.
Unfortunately, there are many people that are not as open minded and that is the reason I am writing this article. I routinely get attacked on the internet as do many of my colleagues and it is completely unfounded and largely due to ignorance and an unwillingness to hear any other opinion than their own. It typically ends in an internet version of a mob mentality and a bunch of cyber bullying – not unlike the kind that parents complain about today in regards to their children. I’ve seen adults make death threat posts on e-collar discussion threads - it seems the apples don’t fall very far from the trees. Regardless, I feel that it is important to discuss the collars and educate people about their use so when asked, I will refer to this article so everyone can easily get my opinion and know where I stand on the subject and why.
You won’t see any references here to studies because I believe that all studies are funded with one goal in mind; to further the opinion of the ones funding it. There is no such thing as an independent study. Studies cost money and no one does them for free out of the goodness of their hearts. They are all funded by someone and that someone is only funding it to further their agenda. If anyone thinks there is such a thing as an independent study then they are extremely naive, in my opinion. Here is a great article about many of the flawed studies on e-collars and why they are flawed. I believe Daniel Audet at "Balanced Trainers" said it best, "It is impossible to do a fair study. Proper use of an eCollar involves reading a dog and continuously adjusting levels. That falls within the realm of art and begins drifting away from pure science."
I owe any success I’ve had with dogs to my trainer, Ted Efthymiadis at Unleashed Potential. In my opinion, my relationship with my dogs would be very different today if I hadn’t found Ted and I am constantly reminded of the way it used to be when I see owners trying to “tame” their dogs when they are out with them. I hired Ted as my dog trainer and went into it with an open mind because I had exhausted every other avenue to that point. It has been the best experience of my life and I wish it could have happened much sooner.
Positive Only Training
I’m a huge fan of positive training and it is a large part of how I learned to train a dog with an e-collar. This fact surprises a lot of people. Most people have this preconceived vision of the collars as medieval torture devices known as “shock collars”. A modern day, quality collar that is used properly is the furthest thing from this preconceived notion. So if I’m a fan of positive training why do I use an e-collar? In my opinion, positive only training doesn’t work in all cases. I've found that a balanced training approach is a much better formula for success with a higher success rate. And, the e-collar is just one tool in a balanced training approach. I am also a fan of prong collars and I will say "No." to a dog.
Here is a great video explaining the difference between positive only and balanced training by Tyler Muto, a dog trainer that I've grown to respect immensely. My belief system is very similar to his.
The training program with Ted is a lifelong program where you can bring your dog to weekly group classes forever – even after your dog is fully trained. The trained dogs help socialize the dogs in training. As a result, I see new dogs in class on a weekly basis and their owner’s stories are almost always the same. They’ve been to several positive only trainers and their dog still has issues. In many cases, the trainer kicked them out of classes because of the dog’s behavior and have recommended the dog be euthanized. It isn’t only trainers, some have heard the same recommendation from their vets. A few weeks into the training program and the same dog is obedient and social. It literally brings me to tears to think that if the owner had followed the advice given, the dog would be dead and it touches me deeply because these stories echo my own.
Proper E-Collar Training
The people against the collars are trying to get them banned and I’ll be the first to admit that like any tool they can be used incorrectly. Food is a tool used in training and I've seen many dogs abused with it and are extremely overweight. I believe there are many e-collars on the market that should not be sold. In my opinion, there should be standards placed on them where the levels should have a diverse range of intensity and they should only be sold through qualified trainers.
All obedience training begins without the e-collar and food is provided as the reward. Once the behavior is learned a word is associated with that behavior like come and sit. The e-collar is then introduced to add the physical touch to the mix and is delivered along with the verbal command. When a dog starts an e-collar training program the collar is calibrated to them so that they just feel the sensation on their neck. It is set just high enough for them to notice it but where it does not agitate them. They then start to associate the basic commands like come, sit and place with the physical sensation of the collar. With each command they get a nick from the handler to let them know that we are communicating with them and they are to perform the command. Once they perform the command they are released by saying, “Break.”. No collar stimulation is given on a release command and they are rewarded with food.
Once they know the basics and have been conditioned to the collar being a positive experience, it can then be used to correct the dog. That usually begins with leash training. The dog is taught to heel at the same level they learn come, sit and place but if they leave their heel they are nicked a notch higher than normal so it provides a little agitation, a nagging effect if you will, until they fall back into their proper heel. This is done with guidance from the leash to show them where their heel is expected to be. They are praised for staying in a heel so when they do it correctly they are rewarded.
This same technique can be used to correct other unwanted behavior. The levels that are used are ultimately decided by the dog. Rather than complicate things for the average dog owner with all the behavior quadrants and theories, the training I learned used the term motivation and keeps it simple. Use whatever “positive” motivation required, usually food, a toy or affection, to reward the dog when they behave properly and use whatever “negative” motivation required to get the dog to stop the unwanted behavior. So the level starts out just a notch above the positive command level they have been conditioned to and becomes a nagging nick to motivate them to stop. Once they stop the unwanted behavior the nicks stop. The level on the collar can be increased in small increments dynamically to only the level that is required for the dog to be motivated enough to stop. For most dogs that isn’t very high. My e-collar goes from 1 to 127 and this is why I advocate collars with a wide range of levels. Keep in mind that throughout the training we continue basic training with the original levels to reinforce the collar’s positive association. It is a very balanced approach and the e-collar has the advantage of remotely communicating with the dog where other techniques can not. When a dog gets distracted they tend to tune out the vocal commands and their attention can easily be regained by the physical sensation the collar provides - even at a distance.
Once the dog has been trained it is up to the owner if they wish to continue using the collar. Like any training tool, food for example, it can be phased out over time.
When we bring dogs into our rescue we assess them and use whatever balanced training approach we feel will work best with the dog. If an e-collar is used as part of the training we phase it out before adopting the dog out for two reasons: We do not want to add the additional cost of the collar to the adopter and we do not promote their use unless the handler has been trained properly to use it. If the adopter wishes to be trained in this regard it can certainly be arranged, however.
For my dogs, I will always train them using an e-collar because I believe it to be the best training tool there is. It is the most versatile tool and can build a foundation for the dog that is dependable and I can continue to build on their base training because the more they learn the happier they are. Every time I grab their e-collar off the hook on the wall they come running, sit perfectly in front of me with their tail wagging and their eyes lit up with excitement.
In conclusion, it is obvious that I am a fan of e-collars but only when they are used properly. I would support a movement to regulate them as I discussed but I will fight the ban of them with everything I have. I refuse to sit by and watch one of the most versatile dog training tools get a bad reputation because of ignorance. I’ll agree to disagree with anyone and everyone is entitled to their opinion but that ends when one of my colleagues or I are personally threatened, slandered, or accused. I simply won’t stand for it. I stand up for myself and what I believe in. I won’t be bullied by those that have a difference of opinion.
"Just because you're offended,...does not mean you're right" ~ Ricky Gervais
If you wish to see the training in action, here is a video of me training our namesake dog, Karma.
If you wish to read an article on why balanced training is a better solution, follow the link below. It talks about the narrow mindedness of some trainers and rescue groups ultimately being responsible for dogs being put down. It is called a A Silent Killer and was written by Tyler Muto.
Here is an article that discusses a hidden reality in the dog rescue world that I've personally been privy to and is one of the major factors in our decision to start our own rescue. It is called Plan B - Kill the Dog by Roger Hild.