I saw a post on Face book yesterday that riled me to the core. The picture was of a prong collar used for correcting a dog with the universal sign for bad/wrong/no next to it; the circle with a slash through the middle. There was a picture to the right of a dog with holes in its neck. The correlation the poster wants the viewer to draw is that using prong collars on your dog puts holes in your dog’s neck and therefore is abusive. The post said “please share so we can ban these horrible collars”. Anyone with half a brain would know that this collar was put on the dog and never removed as the dog grew. Now, you might first assume that a neglectful, bad person did this. Or….this dog could have been on the streets for a long time as he grew; a runaway perhaps. We’ll never know because the dog lover that posted the picture did not give us any details.
At first the photo upset me even though I knew to make an interpretation different than what was intended by the poster but, nevertheless, I hate to see an animal suffer. Overnight I got to thinking about it. I wanted to write this blog entry so I knew I would have to return to the ugly image and look for details, of which I found none, as I mentioned. Then I decided to read all of the comments. To my surprise a few rationally minded people spoke up to say exactly what I would tell you. When used properly, these training tools can be harmless yet effective in controlling unwanted behavior when other measures fail us. The other commentators spoke emotionally without experience or knowledge. One claimed she trained over 6000 dogs and never once needed to use a prong collar. I question her standards for a “trained” dog.
Oh believe me, when I started out in this business I was high and mighty. I hated all devices that would be placed in the category of correction or negative reinforcement. After six years of trying to do the right thing I stopped letting the outspoken emotions of others effect me and I started to think for myself. My training suddenly became wildly successful when I added corrections, proper corrections, to my positive reinforcement methods.
So, what I want to tell everyone today is, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Neglectful and abusive incidents don’t mean a very effective training tool should be banned. As one of the commentators of the post mentioned, as a vet tech, she has seen more leather and nylon collars embedded as well as harnesses as a result of dog’s growing into them, literally. Should we ban harnesses too? Well, I think we should but that’s for different reasons.