Positives and Negatives of Dog Training Control Tools

>> 12/11/09

Occasionally the difference between training management and restraint/control is too quickly confused. Using commands and hand signals, with leads or food rewards, to entice desired action is training management and often uses positive reinforcement techniques. Using choke or 'no-barking' collars, electronic enclosures and comparable devices is for effective restraint/control and often uses negative reinforcement.

Restraint/constraint isn't needfully a negative factor. Dogs by nature want and look for social continuity in which someone is the alpha (leader); and in any human-dog pair the person has to take that position. To relinquish your role as the leader (alpha) will mean destruction of belongings, potentially unhealthy circumstances for other pets and people, human conflict and an unstable dog. The question is how best to acquire compliance from your dog.

Choke collars were developed to lend a hand in securing restraint. Dogs, exactly like humans, can be very different from each other in make up. Some are by personality more assertive or perhaps slower to get the picture. For ones that don't perform constructively to a regular leather or nylon collar, a metal correction collar can provide an additional hindrance to lurching ahead and jumping up types of behavior.

The immediate negative is that when correcting collars are used inappropriately - as is all too possible - they can give you results you didn't want and also be potentially unhealthy. Choke collars fit only one way and when correctly fitted should make allowance for a one to three fingers distance between the neck and the collar; three fingers for bigger dogs, one finger for smaller. By and large a collar two inches longer than the circumference of the neck will be ok.

Used inappropriately, by-the-way, choke collars can chafe the skin - resulting in wounds that scratching will make worse. They can also inadvertently compress the trachea. A quick jerk and then loose lead isn't harmful, however in accordance with its purpose it does create unpleasant pressure. But for dogs that persist in trying to resist the leash this device may not be enough to do the job. Generally, it is not approved of, especially for smaller dogs.

Prong collars are less menacing than they look, but - in this trainer's view - have almost no positive properties. The only positive aspect of the construction is their restricted diameter - they can only choke down so far. Nevertheless, an animal with such a determined predisposition to pull that prongs don't give him a second thought requires more than a quick fix consisting of choking and poking. That type of critter needs dedicated attention and behavior modification management.

Halter collars, which encircle the neck and the snout, but don't hamper panting or impair drinking, can give further restraint. The downside is they don't assuage biting if that's a problem. If biting is not a concern an ordinary leash and collar, or perhaps a chest halter might be preferred.

For assistance with those dogs that carry on in barking long after the purpose of barking is gone, consider an electronic No-barking collar. Barking is an ordinary and natural response to possible menacing events and is also used to signal distress and gain attention when one becomes isolated from the communal pack. But, for reasons we don't completely understand, some animals bark continuously or at the drop of a hat.

Behavior modification equipment that discourages barking comes in several varieties, most notable noise and shock. Noise collars create an abbreviated, displeasing sound that diverts attention and tends to deter constant barking.

Shock collars initiate a minor but startling electric shock that can be repetitive and persistent during prolonged or obsessive barking sessions. Fair and balanced investigations of their effect draw mixed conclusions, on the other hand. As with prong collars, any dog who is a candidate for one would also profit from an attentive, professional trainer.

Now and then quick fixes are appealing and worthwhile... until they become replacements for more constructive (both to trainer and dog) long-term management. Making the effort to understand how to access your dog's focused attention and cooperativeness without disproportionate reliance on control equipment is better. The usual effect is happier trainers and more well adjusted dogs.
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