BlogPaws: Be the Change Update
I wanted to let everyone know that plans for my Be the Change idea are underway, and I’ve taken your concerns and questions to heart in how the coalition structures educational and giveaway ideas. If all goes well, we may be ready to roll out officially in the next 4-6 weeks. Since that’s a bit down the road, though, I wanted to write about my sense of these issues.
Intent in Dog Training
I absolutely agree that the intent of the person matters.
At the same time, many people turn to more punitive dog training methods without fully understanding the strategy or the possible ramifications. Maybe they’ve seen it on TV. Maybe someone they trust recommended it. Maybe they haven’t had to train a dog in a LONG time and don’t know that things have changed.
I plan to write about it more later, but for now let me just say that I’ve had THREE separate friends ask me in the last 6 weeks or so about using a shock collar. In most cases, someone else has recommended they go the shock route, and they either call or email me, which gives me a chance to weigh in and offer ideas and perspective.
These are people I like, trust, respect … and with whom I’ve done side-by-side volunteer work in a couple different arenas. In other words, these are people who, in general, share the same worldview and values.
And, yet … frustration drives them toward shock collars.
(I’d also argue that their expectations of their dog’s current capabilities based on age, breed, or amount of training don’t align with reality, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
So, can I impact people who knowingly and with a true intent use punishment or harsh methods with their dogs? Probably not. I don’t intend to engage that demographic.
Can I maybe get some alternative information out there and try to raise awareness among other people? I hope so.
Blaming the Tool
While I LOVE a good analogy, being the literary girl that I am, there is a big difference to me between a shoe someone wears while kicking a dog and any kind of pain-inducing dog collar.
The shoe has another purpose.
A dog collar designed to hurt, surprise, or startle a dog does not. (And, yes, having a fearful dog has greatly changed my thinking on this.)
Indeed, any dog training tool can be misused. That’s why we’re working to find dog training partners so that anyone who receives one of our humane collar prizes also has access to professional help and instruction on their use.
Slip Lead Here, Choke Collar There
Honestly, I have no issue with slip-style leads being used in the vast majority of performance dog scenarios — conformation, agility, etc.
In fact, we own a British-style slip lead (made from rope). It’s just SO much easier to lasso Lilly before or after an agility run this way.
So, yes … there is a vast difference between someone who knows what’s what using a slip collar vs. someone who only sees it’s “choking” potential.
That said. I’ve actually stopped using Lilly’s slip leash in public, unless we’re in an agility setting because few people get/see/understand the nuance there, and I don’t want people who see me and Lilly in public to think it’s one thing when it’s something else entirely.
My Friends Who Shock
I’ll be clear about this. I indeed do have friends — yes, friends … people I like and respect — who use shock collars. I do. Sometimes it’s for field training of hunting dogs. Sometimes it’s an insurance policy against rattlesnake bites or dangerous encounters with wildlife.
In some cases, it’s a bit like religion or politics where it’s better to agree to disagree. In other cases, I know someone has:
- The scientific and dog training knowledge
- The dexterity and timing
- The temperament to use one well
Knowing what I know about how FRUSTRATING some of these dog training issues can be, I’m fairly confident in saying that few people have this combination that, in my mind, at least, sets up situations where shock collars have the potential to be used as humanely as possible.
Still … I think getting shock collars out of the hands of even a few people is worth it.
My One Shocking Experience
I’ve written before about my ONE experience with using a shock to break a bad habit in a dog. If you’d rather not click through, his name was Cody. He’d been returned a couple of times to the shelter for jumping even 6 foot fences. He continued his wayward ways with us.
We ran a “hot” wire across the top of the fence because he had to hook his elbows first to clear it. He took one shock to the armpits and NEVER jumped the fence again. Maybe I was lucky. It was a long time ago before I really knew anything really about dog training.
When Lilly became a creative escape artist as a youngster, we went a totally different way to break that habit, including providing enough at-home adventures so that she didn’t go off seeking her own fun.
(If you’re wondering, I’m no fan of invisible fences and the shock collars that go with those because I know too many dogs who take the hit and keep on running and because they don’t keep out other dogs. In our rural area, there are a number of roaming, marauding dogs, and I’d rather they stay the heck away from my dogs. Call me old fashioned, but I like real fences.)
The Big Be the Change Question
I could have focused all my efforts on the Be the Change efforts on what I have going over on my Dog Food Dish blog for K9Cuisine.com. Promoting donations of pet food to community food banks or animal shelters/rescues via Dog Food Action Day is an idea with which I suspect few people would quibble.
Maybe I should have stuck to something easy and less potentially controversial.
But, when Lynn Haigh (famous for @frugaldougal and the Twitter PawPawty) asked, “What one thing would you change in the dog world, if you could … ?” saving even a few dogs from punitive collars topped my list.