Why using prong collars, check chains and e-collars is not a great idea

 

The usage of these training tools is based on using negative reinforcement and positive punishment if the dog displays an unwanted behaviour.

Negative reinforcement focuses on applying an aversive stimulus (tightening of the check chain, prong collar or vibration/shocking of the e-collar) until the behaviour stops. Positive punishment focuses on applying short and painful aversives to stop an unwanted behaviour (jerking the check/prong collar or applying a shock with the e-collar).

 

The truth is, if the dog doesn’t know what the correct behaviour is that we would like him to display, he is most likely just going to be confused why the aversive was applied and why it then suddenly stopped again. The usage of aversives is likely to cause fear (of the aversive being applied) in dogs and they may generalize this fear or associate this fear with other stimuli. For example, the dog was walking on leash when a dog across the road appeared. The first dog started pulling and barking at the other dog (for whatever reason, fear or excitement). The handler applied a jerk on the check on prong collar (or shock on e-collar) and the dog just got more scared of the aversive which is why he may stop the behaviour, but he may also connect the aversive with another dog appearing which could cause other more severe behavioural problems.

 

The problem with methods that include aversives is that the aversive stimuli needs to be strong enough so that the removal of it is seen as a relief. Unfortunately most dogs become too fearful and frightened when such an intense aversive is applied and may either go into shock or learned helplessness which may sometimes look like a “well-behaved” dog but mostly is a shut-down dog. A lot of owners aren’t able to apply an aversive at such strong force (mainly because it is cruel and no-one wants to hurt their dog). As a result a milder aversive is applied which may make the dog stop the unwanted behaviour in the interim, but often becomes tolerant of the aversive at that level which results in the aversive needing to be increased for the same response (stopping of the behaviour) to repeat. This may end up in the aversive becoming stronger and stronger and the behaviour still occurring.

 

Modern studies have shown that the training with reward based methods engage the dog’s brain and make learning much faster and easier for the dog. Even when the dog displays unwanted behaviours it is possible to retrain the dog to offer other behaviours instead.

 

In addition to all of the learning risks involved in using these training tools, there have been numerous cases of physical injuries that have been caused by their usage.

 

Why would you risk it?