In the light of a recent study stating that – unsurprisingly – electronic training collars present a welfare risk to pet dogs, The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) was delighted to hear American Kennel Club Vice President Gina Dinardo speak out in favor of positive reinforcement training methods in an interview with Fox News on 13 Sept, 2014.
“There are better training methods than using shock collars,” said Dinardo. “Shock collars can cause stress, distress, sometimes pain. Used inappropriately they can prevent dogs from even being receptive to other training methods in the future. In a worst-case scenario the dog might become aggressive. So we believe in using positive reinforcement… Using those methods has been proven by thousands of trainers hundreds of thousands of times to be effective not only for teaching basic commands… but even advanced obedience and agility.”
This was music to the ears of every single dog trainer who tirelessly advocates for the use of positive, humane, scientifically sound training techniques over aversive, abusive and inhumane methods that favor shock and have no scientific foundation. So it was hugely disappointing that, in the aftermath of Dinardo’s interview, the AKC was quick to send out a statement from Executive Secretary James Crowley contradicting the Vice President’s comments.
Instead, the AKC apparently believes that: “when placed in the informed hands of professionals, e-collars are an appropriate and effective tool for training dogs that are not only well-behaved in the home but also competitive in the field,” according to Crowley.
The conflicting viewpoints have caused disbelief amongst the force-free dog training community; the PPG and its members are dismayed that the AKC is, in fact, condoning the use of inhumane training methods for dogs after all.
PPG member Deb Jones addressed her frustration directly at the AKC with the backing of her professional organisation.
“I am extremely disappointed that the AKC is attempting to retract the statements made on Fox and Friends about using friendlier and less painful training methods,” said Jones. “In your attempt to placate those who regularly use shock devices you have now alienated those of us dedicated to positively based force-free training techniques. Your spokesperson was articulate and clear, and sent a very good message. And now you are trying to backpedal, which is too bad. The fact that your 2001 policy suggests that shock devices are appropriate to treat dog aggression goes against all scientific knowledge and common sense as well. Maybe the AKC should stay out of training issues if this is what you have to say.”
It is the position of the PPG that effective animal training procedures lay the foundation for an animal’s healthy socialization and training and helps prevent behavior problems. The general pet-owning public should be educated by organizations and associations to ensure pet animals live in nurturing and stable environments to better prevent behavior problems. In tandem with this effort, it is the position of the PPG that the use of electrical stimulation, or “shock” or “e-collars,” to train and/or modify the behavior of pet animals is not necessary for effective behavior modification or training and is damaging to the animal. For the purposes of this statement, electrical stimulation devices include products often referred to as: e-collars, training collars, e-touch, stimulation, tingle, TENS unit collar and remote trainers.
Numerous countries have banned electrical stimulation devices, and the PPG’s official position is that electrical stimulation can play no part of effective and ethical animal training. Studies and the experience of the PPG’s membership finds that training and behavior problems are consistently and effectively solved without the use of electrical stimulation devices. Evidence indicates that rather than speeding up the learning process, electrical stimulation devices actually slow down the training process, cause stress to the animal, and can result in both short-term and long-term psychological damage to animals.
It is the position of the PPG that all training should be conducted in a manner in which to encourage animals to enjoy training and become more confident and well-adjusted pets. All PPG members should encourage and use positive operant and respondent training methods, both personally and professionally. Further, the PPG and its members actively eschew and recommend banning the sale of electric stimulation devices and all related training and control aids to be used as any part of an animal training or behavior modification protocol.
Read the PPG’s full Position Statement on the use of shock in animal training here.