Why I don't use e-collars or prong collars as a first resort any longer

Updated: Jul 5

I started off my "professional" dog training career as an e-collar trainer. Before that, I was part of the positive reinforcement (+R) group, until I saw how great e-collars could be when used correctly. Unfortunately, most of the time they're not used correctly. They are used, especially by the companies that get "results" fast for problems like aggression and reactivity, incorrectly and can often cause more problems than they fix.

This is not to say that all dog trainers that use e-collars are bad. I know several trainers that train with e-collars and are great at what they do, but this post is about why I don't use these tools any longer as a first course of action.

Used incorrectly, prong collars and e-collars can be used to punish the dog for showing signs that they're uncomfortable, over stimulated, over threshold, and they can eventually quit showing those signs. Then, instead of the dog giving you a heads-up that they're going to do something, the dog just reacts. Badly. I've seen it happen, and I've heard a lot of stories from other dog trainers about dogs that no longer gave cues before reacting.

Do e-collars have their place in dog training? I honestly don't know any more. I often- very often- wonder if I created more problems with my own personal dog, Tyr, by using an e-collar, or if he's just genetically predisposed to some of his behaviors, or if I've helped create them in some other way. What I can tell you, is that instead of correcting him for resource guarding, we're going to work on counter conditioning.

At this point in my career, I'm jaded on e-collars. As pet owners, we need to work more on understanding our animals' behaviors and why they do what they do, and instead of trying the quick "fix", try to work on the underlying cause of the behavior.

Animals do what is rewarding. Your dog counter surfs? That's because he gets great things when he does it. We need to learn how to teach our pets better instead of trying to take short cuts that, really, just end up creating more issues.



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