Friday, September 24, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
For this week’s post, and in the spirit of the Never Shock a Puppy blogging campaign, I’m going to make a confession. Specifically, if there was ever a day that I might have been tempted to use a choke collar, prong collar, e-collar or otherwise take aversive action with my Golden Retriever, Allie, that day was yesterday.
We were taking a long walk when my normally politely walking Golden girl got an attack of the zoomies. Such “attacks” generally result in her running crazily back and forth, picking up the biggest available stick, inadvertently whacking me on the backs of my legs with that stick and/or attempting to use the leash as a tug toy. I understand why she engages in such behavior: she’s working off excess energy (she hadn’t been for a run for a couple of days) and is also trying to get me to play with her. Most of the time, I can deal with such behavior with total equanimity. She’s seven years old, so I’ve had plenty of time to learn how.
Yesterday, however, was different. I’d had a crown put in at the dentist earlier that morning and by the time Allie and I set out on our walk, the anesthetic had warn off and my jaw was aching. The very thought of needing to deal with Allie’s acrobatics was, shall we say, unwelcome. And I’m only human: just as parents sometimes talk about giving their misbehaving kids a good swift kick (without ever seriously considering following through), at that moment, I was tempted to give Allie a good swift jerk of the leash. Fortunately, I knew I didn’t have to.
I knew that all I had to do was to just stand still—which is exactly what I did.
Just as experts suggest that a person stand still if a dog tries to pull ahead and make like a sled dog on a walk, so is the same non-move a good way to deal with a Golden Retriever’s zoomies. Sure enough, after a minute or two, Allie stopped acting like a crazy girl and settled down. At that point, I quietly asked her to “walk nice.” We then continued on our way, and after a few sedate paces, I gave her a treat. A few more equally sedate paces earned her another treat. We made it home without further incident, and she was dozing next to me under my desk as I typed this post.
I’m glad I didn’t have the equipment that would have allowed me to give in to those aversive impulses. I’m human enough to admit I might have gotten a moment’s satisfaction from ‘teaching her a lesson.’ But I’ve learned enough to realize that in such instances, the best—and certainly most humane—way to respond to a dog’s misbehavior is to not respond at all. Put another way, in order to have a positively well-behaved dog, one has to commit to being a positively well-behaved owner.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
As should be abundantly clear by now, I'm all about training using positive reinforcement. That means I favor giving dogs rewards for when they something right over using aversives to stop dogs from doing something wrong.
Not everyone--including people I admire and respect--agrees with me, though. Many people believe that correcting a dog through the use of aversive devices should be part of a trainer's and/or dog owner's tool box. That's why I've joined a number of other dog bloggers on an 8-week campaign called "Never Shock a Puppy." This campaign aims to raise public awareness of humane alternatives to one such device: the electronic collar.
The electronic collar aims to correct unwanted behavior by delivering a shock that can range in intensity from a mild vibration to a truly painful jolt. The idea, of course, is that the dog will associate the behavior being corrected with getting the shock, and thus refrain from repeating that behavior. Over the next few weeks, my fellow bloggers and I will discuss other, more dog-friendly ways to deal with such behaviors. We'll also keep you posted on social media promotions and a boatload of great prizes associated with the campaign.
In the process, we hope to raise $2,500 for the Humane Society of Boulder Colorado's No-Choke Challenge, which will include lots of media outreach and other events in which the gorup will give away humane training tools to people in the Boulder area who relinquich their electronic, choke or prong collars. The donations will enable the organization to buy about 165 of those humane training tools.
For more info, check out the Never Shock A Puppy website. And, in the meantime, enjoy the above YouTube video of this year's Doritos Super Bowl commerical, which went a long way toward articulating the reasoning behind opposition to electronic collars.