It's an interesting situation. You see a perfect dog being handled perfectly without any apparent tools or a leash or a fence or food. You want to know more -- no, you want your dog to know more! And you are willing to do what needs to be done to get a dog even half as nice as this dog you are seeing. So you contact the training facility, talk to the trainer, and get all signed up for classes. You find out you have a list of things you need before class starts. One of the things on the list is a training collar. You wonder what it is, especially since it's so expensive! But you want that perfect dog and you did commit to the classes, so you order all of the things the trainer told you to get. When they arrive, you do as your new trainer told you to do and you pack them up for the first class session. When you arrive at your first class session, your trainer explains to the class that the way the trainer's dogs have learned so much is with the help of this training collar. Now it's time to teach your dog the same way. You put the collar on the way you are instructed -- your dog looking at you a little funny the whole time. You tell your dog to sit, your dog continues to look at you funny and does not sit. So your trainer tells you to push a button on the remote device in your hand. Your dog yelps and hides behind a chair. So much for class tonight! Your dog is too upset to work at all.
Contrast this situation with another class. The trainers' dogs in this class are just as well-behaved, just as accomplished. The only extra equipment needed in this class is a small, plastic noisemaker and some treats. You get to class and the first thing you do with your dog is click the noisemaker and give your dog a treat. Pretty simple and the dog loves it! Next your trainer tells you to click the noisemaker and give your dog a treat when she looks you in the eye. Again, pretty simple and the dog still loves it! Now we are going to teach our dogs what the word "sit" means. When your dog sits, click and treat. Light bulb time!!! Your dog looks at you and thinks "aha! when I put my behind on the floor after she makes that sound, I get a treat!"
There's an old proverb that says (this is my paraphrase), "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." Using positive reinforcement clicker training, we are teaching both ourselves and our dogs to fish! Once we know how to communicate with our dogs AND our dogs know how to communicate with us, think, and learn -- we have set up our dogs to continue learning and growing throughout their entire lives.
That's why we support the initiative to "Never Shock A Puppy." Through this campaign, monies will be raised to purchase dog-friendly collars and harnesses for dogs in Colorado during their "No Choke Challenge" in November 2010. But it's not all about the money. It's about spreading the word that training shouldn't hurt, shouldn't result in a dog hiding behind a chair, or being forced to do something. It's about telling people that training is about relationship, about building the bond, about learning together.
I know there are many people who use training collars. This is not about arguing training methods. You use yours and I will use mine. This is about showing dog families that there are ways to train dogs that do not involve force or pain or special equipment. Will your dog behave the same way with or without his training collar? If not, then can you truly say your dog is trained? I have well-trained, social, engaging dogs who have amassed many accomplishments (and will do it all on any collar, harness, or "naked"). Those aren't important here. What I am most proud of is that I have thinking dogs -- dogs who work out problems for themselves, dogs who offer to help in their training by showing me different behaviors, dogs who want to work day after day because it's fun and it's rewarding. I have been there and done that -- I have trained with training collars and I will never do it again. The results I see from positive reinforcement clicker training are far too good and my dog's well being is far too precious to ever go back.
If you feel compelled to do so, please support this cause (and not only through donations -- there are lots of ways to help) and Be the Change for Animals!