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Monday, August 19, 2013

"In case of squirrel, break glass"

 "Whoever says that dependable compliance from this or that dog is not possible to achieve without punishment, isn't saying anything in particular about the dog, but rather is ascribing this to his own level of competence."

I never really had strong feelings about pinch collars until recently.

Well, If you are referring them to "in theory"  I hated them. In the online world I'd condemn them, generally because they were used to train everything including simple behaviors, with punishment. Which I found amateur and lazy.. I was pretty nasty to trainers who promoted them, admittedly. Now I simply know they aren't bad people, they just don't understand a better way to train. One thing meeting trainers has taught me, is that there are a TON of unskilled people taking peoples money, and kinda just winging it. All the while thinking they are masters of their craft. Its kinda scary, to be honest.

  But anyway....In real life with real people and real dogs they didn't seem too evil, benign even. I'd generally ask if they have to correct the dog on it, and if they'd say no, I'd move on and leave it alone. The dogs were still smiley and happy to see you. If an owner is happy with their dog they aren't going to change the tool. Since the owners I would meet using them were not correcting/ yanking their dogs with them, I didn't really see much harm. They were more of a "power steering" tool for small handlers with big/strong dogs. They were a "in case of squirrel, break glass" sort of tool.

Then my secondary opinion of them began edge toward my original, gut feeling about them.

I began to see reactive dogs in private settings more often. In classes, you don't have much time to dive into deep discussion about all the little details like you get do in a private session. In a class you're worried about keeping the reactive dog functional and making the other owners feel safe. Not interview them at length.  The facility doesn't allow "training collars" so unless you directly ask the owner, you wont know if they even own one. Private lessons are different however.

 I'd say 75% of the reactive dogs that come see me in a private setting are being walked on pinch collars. Private setting means either they were kicked out of group class, or where deemed too reactive to even attempt being in one.

 About 20% are being handled on flat collars and the last 5% on head collars or harnesses (the head collars usually means they've seen another trainer who was over their head and used it as a band aid. I find clients don't really find that tool on their own)  If the reactivity is described as "appearing suddenly" that percentage using pinch collars hovers in the 95% range. With the issues generally appearing shortly after the collar is introduced. In fact, while discussing it, I've had numerous owners admit they wondered if the two were connected.

I'm not saying that a high percentage of dogs on pinch collars will develop reactivity. Though I admit I wouldn't be surprised if the number was substantial. What I'm saying is in my experience most of the created/learned reactivity in adult dogs (vs present from a young age/inborn) seems to be associated with the use pinch collars and just neck collars in general.

First thing I do before any training is put the dog in a harness. I use harnesses over head collars because they are lock and load. You can just put them on and use them, no countercondtioning necessary.  If the dog is stronger than the owner, we use a no pull type harness. If the owner is still uncomfortable, we discuss and occasionally use a head collar.

  The point being that  I have witnessed large numbers of dogs calm down substantially and pretty much instantly just by being put in a piece of equipment that's not on their neck.

So simple, yet so different.

Sadly, the training to go with it is neither intuitive or fast. Its a shame so many people unintentionally ruin their dogs view of the world, so early on in the dogs life.

Well, I guess that's what I'm here for. :)

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