Aversive Training Information

This week the Kennel club posted about their wish to ban E collars.

I wholeheartedly support this.  I was shocked, there were many posts supporting their use and criticising the Kennel Club for posting it.

E- collar cause a shock, or vibration when a button is pressed to stop whatever behaviour the dog is performing at the time. They do work BUT, you must take into consideration the impact of this type of training can have on animals.

Reward-based training (reinforcement) increases the likelihood of behaviours occurring again.

Aversive training (Punishment) decreases the likelihood of the behaviour occurring.

This has been proven due to years of tests by Pavlov, Skinner and many more great psychologists.

Any tool that adds something that the dog does not like is aversive, punishment training. There is a reason why it is effective.

An animals survival instinct is to avoid anything that causes them stress and fear, that hurts or are unsure of. It is what saves the lives of many animals subject to predators. It is an evolutionary product for all animals.

But this is the reason why they should not be used.

The scenario

Your dog has an immense prey drive and will chase anything that moves. You live near farmland and you are afraid that they may get shot should they chase the sheep. You have tried training recall with food but it has not worked. Someone has recommended an E Collar, it’s brilliant works quickly. so you get one and you put it on the dog.

The dog

A dogs genetic predisposition is to chase has been passed down via thousands of years of domestication from a subspecies of grey wolves.

Genetic behaviours are hard-wired in the brain and are likely not to be a choice made by the dog but a drive to act.

Not all dogs have the same genetic makeup despite breed, (although the breed is certainly a factor). Therefore there will be a variety of factors when dealing with prey drive.

Your dog sees a sheep and off he goes. Then all of a sudden there is a feeling on his neck. Oh my, what’s that? I don’t like that at all and he stops (Survival instinct kicks in).

But what is also happening is a fight or flight response which is another response that is natural and the dog has no control over it. Adrenaline and cortisol flood the dog’s system and he will react. The response comes due to the E Collar causing unnecessary emotional fear-based training.

The dog will learn very quickly that if I chase the sheep then that horrible, painful feeling will occur so I will avoid doing it. (Behaviour has decreased).

People have justified their use of using the collars as ‘its only mild discomfort’, ‘it doesn’t affect them’, ‘my dog is fine’.

Any piece of equipment that adds something (positive in learning terms) which affects behaviour must have an impact if it didn’t it would not make any difference to the dog chasing the sheep why would it?

Whatever has added whether it be physical force, verbal, collars, headcollars, prong collars, slip leads, choke chains must have an unpleasant impact on the dog for it to affect the behaviour.

If it were a mild discomfort, how can it affect genetic behaviour which is not a choice for the dog to make? It can’t and it won’t.

I’ve even seen a comment where people have said their dog loves their collar!

If this is the case then let’s go back to the start. Reinforcement increases behaviour. If they loved it the behaviour would increase!

What is most likely happening is that the dog is displaying forms of displacement behaviour attempting to avoid the colour being used ( this is another fight or flight response called flirt or fool).

So if you ever consider using an e collar please give me a call. I can certainly help you with your dog. Please do not use any aversive product.

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