I don’t know about you, but anytime I hear a dog training product described as “revolutionary,” I get worried. And for good reason. Have you heard about the new “revolutionary way” to walk your dog? It’s called SimpleLeash, and it is guaranteed to work on “dogs of all sizes and temperaments.”
What’s the revolutionary idea? Your dog gets a shock if he pulls on the leash. Ah, but it’s not called a shock. I couldn’t find the word shock anywhere on their website. No, no shocks here, just a “harmless correction stimulus,” that intensifies the harder your dog pulls. There is simply nothing for the owner to do, the collar automatically does it all! Thus, the SimpleLeash. “You literally don’t do a thing except hold the end of the leash.”
Well, maybe one more thing, like scrap up the puddle flattened on the sidewalk, the one that used to be your dog, and carry it home repeating “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” over and over again, as if it would help.
Speaking of sorry, I apologize for being so blunt. But oh dear, oh dear, will there ever be an end to people making money off of inhumane training methods? Here are some of the things a dog could learn from this collar:
1) Walks are dangerous. I will do all in my power to pee in the back bedroom and never go out again.
2) Every time I pull toward another dog I am injured. Using my doggy brain and able as I am to associate 2 things together, it is obvious, even to knucklehead here, that other dogs are dangerous. I’d better start growling and barking at them to keep them away.
3) Ooops! I tried to pull toward the hedge to poop in a good place and got shocked. Pooping bad. Okay, I’ll hold it as long as I can. She can walk me for an hour, but by golly, I’m holding it in if it kills me.
On their website, the owners of the business explain that they are dog lovers, ones with some labs (based on the photo) who could not be trained through “professional training, treat training, clickers, choke collars, those collars with spiky things… and the leader that goes over the nose.” Wow. I’ll grant that teaching a dog to walk politely on a leash is harder than things like teaching a sit or a lie down, but my goodness, those must have been remarkably difficult dogs. After working with these virtually impossible dogs, one owner one paired up with a brother-in-law and came up with SimpleLEASH.
Could it ever work to teach a dog not to pull on a leash by shocking her when she does? Sure. Of course. Sometimes. You can stop children from mouthing back by slapping them on the face too, but that’s not where the story ends. Stopping a particular behavior with force, especially one as primal as a shock, usually has a raft of side effects that aren’t so pretty (see above to name a few). This is why it’s a good idea to talk to professional trainers and behaviorists before one promotes a product that can have serious side effects. And why it’s a bit dodgy to say that one “firmly believes in positive reinforcement training” and offer a collar that would give a dog a high level shock for bolting away from you in fear if a car backfired. It also helps, if you are going to refer to Pavlov on your website, that you understand Pavlov’s greatest accomplishment was discovering that the conditioned stimulus (the bell that signals food is coming, or in this case the sound that says a shock is coming) gets the SAME reaction as if the food did come, or the collar did produce a shock.
I just hope that people new to dogs aren’t overwhelmed by the seduction of this “Simple” and “Unbelievable” and “Brilliant” device. It’s a shock collar, and one that can deliver its highest level shock when a dog is terrified of something, under attack by another dog, intent on peeing on the right instead of the left of the light post because that’s where any dog would want to pee but their owner can’t smell anything so has no clue why it’s so important…. and on, and on.
Here are three things we need to teach dogs what we want when they are on a leash. Yes, some dogs are harder than others, but really… it’s not rocket science.
TRAINING: Check out my Teaching a Beginning Heel video to teach a dog to stay by your side. It’s the top video on the page I’ve linked to. Also, see The Puppy Primer for getting a young dog started, and Family Dog Training for step-by-step exercises to teach a dog to walk beside you on a leash. Does it take some time and some skill. Yup, of course it does. It takes time and some skill to learn to drive your new car, to figure out how to program your DVR and to learn how to talk to Aunt Sally without bringing up the horrible things she said about Uncle Paul that last Christmas. Just do it. If you like being with your dog and you learn the basics, it’s fun. Really fun. You did get a dog to enjoy doing things together, yes?
DEVICES: I’m the first to agree that it takes a while to teach a young dog especially to not pull on a leash. No one walks a young horse through a crowded stable yard with the expectation that he’ll follow along quietly without a halter on while you’re doing your other training. That’s why I used a Sensation Harness on Willie when he was younger when I was walking him in town or to the vet’s. It’s one of the body harnesses that attach in the front — my favorite tool for controlling a dog while you teach him to stay by your side (and walk at the undoubtedly boring-as-death pace of an adult human on a walk.) Another good brand to consider is the Easy Walker by Premier. Some brands fit some dogs better than others, you’ll just have to see what works best for you. These harnesses work very well for small and medium dogs, but if you have an especially large or strong dog, you might consider going to a head collar, like a Gentle Leader or a Snoot Loop.
YOUR HEAD AND YOUR HEART: You can’t teach a dog to walk by your side without engaging these. Your head needs to know that walking side-by-side isn’t something dogs do naturally. Just because us primates do it doesn’t mean our ‘best friends’ understand the concept, or want to play along once they do. Your heart needs to know that your dog is a good dog, really he is, and he is just being a dog if he tries to pull to sniff where the squirrel just peed. He doesn’t need to be hurt and scared just because he wants to sniff something, does he?
AND YOU? What are your tips for people with dogs who pull? With new dog owners with enthusiastic puppies who haul them across the lawn to the neighbor.. the one who hates dogs?
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Rain! Not much here, but still, I now have faith that it can rain, and that it might sometime again in the future. We actually got very little here, only a half an inch, while friends 6 miles away in one direction got an inch, others the same distance in another direction got 2 and a half. Go figure. It’s going to be brutally hot and humid this weekend though, so Willie and I are going to take advantage of a slight cooling off today and go up the hill and work sheep. Wheeee! We’ve done it so little I barely remember his whistles. (I actually went to the car to remind myself how to whistle his signals at the trial on Sunday. All of a sudden I felt like, “Wait! What does it feel like to whistle Come Bye?” (Which means go clockwise around the sheep in herding speak.) Barbie, get ready, here we come.
And more good news: no watering necessary today for the first day in… how long? Don’t know, I’ve lost count. I’ve mostly watered the trees and my perennials, it’s really been a kind of a triage operation. Here’s my primary flower garden that I have kept up with watering. It’s starting to fade, but still colorful and brings me so much happiness. The grass right around it is bountiful, the grass farther out is the color of potato chips. The botanists say that much of the grass that is brown isn’t just dormant, it’s might actually be dead. I don’t care so much about the lawn, but I am truly worried about my two acre pasture up the hill. It’s convex (with a hill in the middle and tends to be pretty dry anyway), but only time will tell if our little bit of rain came soon enough.
And here’s Calico, finishing a stretch when I woke her up from a nap:
Beth with the Corgis says
Yowza! That collar is a HORRIBLE idea. My father used to field-trial pointers from Walkers, and shock collars are used (or were anyway) as a part of training in some circumstances. He is not anti-collar in all circumstances (and I might argue that there are cases where they may be the most humane solution, as opposed to a dead dog, say). HOWEVER he always said he’s seen more good dogs runined by novice handlers with collars than anything else. You whistle the dog in, no response, hit that button, and what you dont’ realize is you hit the button just as the dog turned towards you (or as the dog was steadfastly holding point on some game) and now you just trained your dog to never come to you agan (or never hold point again). This device just beats that 100 fold. What a horrible awful idea. Your dog goes to back up from a screeching child, your dog gets shocked, your dog learns it’s bettter to stay still and maybe bite than try to back out of scary situations. Holy crow. I am beyond shocked (no pun intended).
Dena Norton (Izzee's Mom) says
What a dreadful idea! I’m a fan of a simple leash-wrap for helping smaller or weaker handlers walk a dog that is not yet fully trained. (Leash-wrap = wrapping the leash once around the dog’s body and tucking it back under itself, being careful where you wrap around males.)
Donna in VA says
The earliest “no pulling” tip I learned and liked was just the dead stop when the dog got in front and the leash started pulling my arm forward. Human not walking means the dog goes nowhere. Repeat as often as needed. He’s an attentive dog and settled down pretty quickly, he was 4 years old when I got him. Eventually I started adding a verbal “wait” when I wanted him to slow down, stop at a crossing, and so on. When we were learning the off-leash heel, I used “wait” if he forged ahead, and I added “keep up” (said like you would say “hurry up” to a human) if he lagged.
pibble lover says
The biggest problem with stimulus collars of any sort is exactly what Beth said above me…timing. I fully admit that timing and scheduling were the hardest things for me to learn to do well as I learned to train dogs. Novices are notorious for ill timed rewards AND ill timed corrections. Plus, we all know that corrections if used at all, are used to proof an already learned behavior. This type of device is totally putting the cart before the horse! Put one of these things on a very handler soft dog and for me it would be like watching a train wreck in slow motion with no way to stop it. It’s potentially worse on a sharp dog. Agh! it upsets me too to see marketing like this.
I thought ‘normal’ ecollars and invisible fences were bad enough, but that device is insane, nothing but an implement of torture. Every time you leave the house, anywhere you go, you are conditioning the dog to fear things. And imagine what happens when it is held by somebody who is already in the habit of jerking on the dog’s lead, which is likely if they bought this device – the dog gets shocked intermittently even when it isn’t pulling … Just awful.
I can’t help but remember that one of my dogs developed serious problems (reactivity, fear of walks) which I think in part were due to me just using a no-pull harness, let alone one of those things.
My young spaniel pulls on the lead and screams whenever she sees a bird. Every day I go out with her with my pocketful of sausages and my clicker and we work on it, one bird at a time. There are an awful lot of birds to practice on, I get very tired of having my arm yanked off, and we’ve been doing this for six months already. But she is improving. Sometimes stuff just takes time!
How HORRIBLE – like you, I used a harness on my border collie x when he was young, but as he grew he learnt to walk on a (reasonably) loose leash. Harnesses and head collars help 90% of young (and not so young) dogs. With an emergency about turn (like the one you teach for leash aggressive dogs) to handle that dog hating neighbour, the oncoming off leash dog, or a cat running across the road, most dogs can be safely walked.
To be honest, I would rather be pulled off my feet than use a shock collar for walking!
Calico is beautiful, and obviously still friendly. How lovely to be able to have a cat.
Oh my goodness! What a hideous idea! I’ll be mentioning this in my puppy class this weekend in case owners happen to hear about this thing down the road so that they know what damage it will really cause. In their FAQs they mention that dogs under 6 months shouldn’t use it and that gee, it shouldn’t be submerged in water. Thanks Trish for the specific examples, those are going to come in handy for explaining the science in an owner-friendly way of why this is so awful to do to your dog (aside from the obvious of course!).
That product idea makes me feel literally ill. I can never understand how people who claim to be “dog lovers” can, in the same breath, support shocking (excuse me, correcting with humane stimulus) their dogs in that manner.
I taught my 71 pound Doberman, Elka, to walk nicely on a leash using a clicker and treats. Sometimes a toy. Flat collar. Now a harness (EzyDog chest plate) as well. No choking, no prong collar (collar with spikey things? Really? And people will give this company money because they’re clearly so credible). Yes, it was frustrating at times. Yes, it required a lot of consistency and attention on MY part. She walks like a dream now, though, and I’m so proud of her.
Leonard Cecil says
The shock industry never uses the words “shock” or “pain”. They pretty words like “stim”, “nick”, “tap”, “stimulation” and more. The “impulse” of “static” only “gets the dog’s attention”. Yet when you read the hand books, you know if you’ve set the “stimulation” too high, if your dog panics. Why panic? from a simple “nick”?
I got tired of all this and wanted to see for myself, what it feels like, bought a couple of used shock collars on eBay. After convincing myself that they are SHOCK COLLARS and they hurt, I wanted to see if I was just a wuz or if other people felt the same way. I talked to medical doctors and vets who assured me, that with the exception that dogs don’t sweat, the basic physiology of the throat of a dog is little different than that of a human. So how do dogs experience SHOCK? We can’t know. We can ask them, but they aren’t telling.
So I’ve devised 2 experiments that I’ve carried out with 7 human volunteers:
1) each volunteer tried out a shock collar laying on the palm of the hand, strapped to the hand (contacts having more intense contact to skin, muscle underneath), strapped to the arm and strapped to the throat as instructed in the handbooks, such that it remains high up on the throat (meaning with some pressure) yet such, that one can shove 1 finger under the contacts. They gave themselves shocks and rated them on a scale of 1-10. 1 being “no problem” and 10 being “stop immediately”. We used a PetSafe Deluxe 10 level system. We determined, that each persona had their own individual tolerance level and the films made of the experiemnt showed, that no two people showed the same physical manifestations of the shock. Some showed no reaction but could only tolerate a couple of levels. Others yapped at every strength, but took it up to the limit.
2) The same 7 volunteers experienced a 10 minute training session in a language they couldn’t understand (turkish). there was a prescribed set of behaviors they needed to learn. +R (praise was used when they “got it right”. +P was used to stop unwanted behavior. -R (shocking until the desired behavior was carried out to completion) was used to train speed nd decrease latency. These too were flimed and these films are now being examined by 2 psychologists.
Here is what has been published (Experiment 1) of these experiments. Nr. 2 will also be there as soon as I can get these analysis back. http://www.auf-den-hund-gekommen.net/-/experiment1.html
When we adopted our dog, she had been a starving stray, and would try to chase after the bunnies we saw on our walks like her life depended on it (because obviously before that, her life had indeed depended on catching a rabbit or two). I am so thankful her throat wasn’t injured because I was ignorant at the time and just had her in a regular collar and not a harness. I can only imagine how our developing relationship would have been completely ruined if she had been shocked by her collar! When we adopted her, she was fearful of just being outside (or perhaps, more accurately, fearful of not getting back inside), even though she was never left out there alone. Now combine a general unease of being away from home with her desperate survival instinct to chase a rabbit so she wouldn’t starve to death, and add a painful shock to the mix. I could have ended up with a mentally disturbed dog instead of the wonderful companion I have today.
Later, with continuing ignorance (and a useless obedience class), I tried choke collar corrections to train her to walk by my side. Mostly I think this just annoyed her (I didn’t pull hard), and didn’t really teach her anything except that I was annoying. Finally, through her TV show, Victoria taught us how to turn the other direction when our dog pulls, and this has been the most effective technique.
to Leonard Cecil – thanks so much for going to that effort and then posting your information here. I find it absolutely fascinating. Also, I think your volunteers are pretty darn brave. I wouldn’t do it. (And a dog is not given a choice.)
Margaret McLaughlin says
OMG! Now what?
I am a big fan of front-clip harnesses, & have found they work well even with my 60lb Flat-Coats & my shoulder replacement. Slight learning curve with Lia, who initially tucked her rear & rounded her back, realized that didn’t work, & walked normally within a couple of hundred yards. Nina has worn one since she was a baby, & has never had an issue. I have used Gentle Leaders with quite a few service dog puppies, & found them most effective on hard-headed, obnoxious dogs. I have never met a dog who actually LIKED them, & have found some very ‘soft’ dogs, including my almost 13 yo Lab, Elly, who would shut down completely while wearing one. True, she didn’t pull. She also didn’t wag her tail, twitch an ear, or make eye contact. She was fine & happy in a pinch collar (before front-clips were available) on pack walks, even tho’ i found it embarrassingly un-PC.
I think the front-clip will work in almost any situation, & have not yet found a negative side to it. Nina doesn’t pull, because pulling has never worked for her. She has no negative association with collar pressure, & doesn’t resist if I need to hold her collar.
The other good thing about f/c’s? It’s close to impossible to misuse one & hurt the dog.
To Leonard: Applause and kudos for doing this research and getting some facts rather than making claims based on guesses. One comment I would make, however, is that receiving a graduated series of shocks is a different thing than receiving one shock ‘out of the blue.’ The effect could go either way: one could be habituated to increasing levels of shocks such that stronger ones didn’t feel as intense as they would have by themselves, or one could be sensitized such that a higher number, say #8, would feel worse after receiving shock levels #1 through 7. Which way it goes depends on experience and temperament as well as who knows how many other factors. But I love that you are asking the question, yeah for you.
And yeahs for all of you who have someone how managed the impossible and trained your dogs not to pull on leash without electricity! Imagine that!
I would love to forward your blog to the vet that endorses this!!! Ugh ugh and ugh… hate quick fixes!
I’m not a dog trainer, and I’ll admit that I am not the most diligent of people when it came to training my dogs to walk on leashes, but I have to completely agree that this use of a static shock for leash training is going to cause much more problems than it solves, not to mention making something that should be enjoyable for a dog a negative experience.
I’ve had the greatest success with simple chest harnesses, like the Sporn brand. I have an English Springer Spaniel and a Border Collie. Do they still pull on walks? Sometimes, generally at the beginning of the walks, but the harnesses negate them choking themselves. Generally though, after about 5 – 10 minutes of the initial “OMG We’re WALKING and I must smell EVERYTHING I pass” phase, both of them calm down to a loose leash and are happy at a medium walking pace. The only quirk is that the Springer is plenty content to keep even with me, but my Border insists on walking in front. Still a loose leash, but he is happier if he is ahead of me, turning back his head to make sure I am still behind him. LOL. I’m sure some trainers may think that I’m doing it wrong – but I see it as an acceptable compromise, and in my thoughts, the walk is supposed to be fun for them. I couldn’t imagine using a shock leash on them, especially the Border (he’s sensitive and has his quirks as it is – I don’t need to add to it!).
That being said, I do have an invisible fence on my property, but only because the sub I live in (semi-rural) does not allow fencing (which I’d prefer). FWIW – I’ve never had any problems with them with the fence, because both of them learned very quickly about the tones that the collars give off, and each of them have only received a static shock correction once. There are times now when I can have them outside with me w/o the collars on, and they will stay in the correct areas. At least with the invisible fences, the dogs can retreat toward the house after a correction and no further shocks would occur, whereas with the leash (it appears), any movement that results in a leash tug in any direction would give a shock.
Thanks for talking about this – I am going to forward this info to one of my trainer friends so they are aware of it and can educate their students.
Beth with the Corgis says
I did want to add that I have some concerns about the head halters. My first concern is that to a dog, every dog I have seen wearing one clearly hates it. And they hate it much more so when they are trying to interact with other dogs. That makes me think that the dog feels it compromises his communication in some way. I have seen dogs well-conditioned to the head halter try to paw it off whenever they meet a doggy pal.
My second concern is with the direction of force. While it is true that people have been leading horses and sometimes cows by halters for a very long time, you lead a horse with the hand under the chin. Anyway pressure is either down on the poll, or back across the nose (pushing the head towards the chest in the direction it naturally bends).
The position of force applied to a head collar on a dog is not only up and back, but wrenching. Whenever I see one I wince thinking about how it must feel. I’m not convinced of the “gentle” part of the heading. Perhaps for a tiny person walking a very large Great Dane, but for an average-sized person walking an average-sized dog…. I have seen dogs much happier in prong collars than in a gentle leader. In fact, I have seen lots of happy dogs in prong collars and not seen a single happy dog in a head halter.
As for shocks, I don’t think electric fences are the best choice, but they are the only possibility for a lot of people and I don’t think they are inherently unkind. You can turn the shock level quite low. I know shock collars are used in rattle snake aversion training at a high setting, and if I lived in an area where rattler interaction with dogs was commonplace I would certainly consider it. I’ve seen them used to help car-chasers and again if all else has failed and the life of the dog is at risk, then they have a place.
But THIS use is horrible and counter-productive and I hope that the developers come to see the light. I trained loose-leash walking off-leash, in a basement, using treats as a lure and then fading the lure. Step two is let the dog drag the leash, going back to the lure and fading it. Step 3 is holding the end of the leash. Step 4 involves repeating the process (from Step 1) outside in a secure area. Easy because you remove pulling from the equation, and since dogs find pulling strangely rewarding it speeds up training to not have the leash.
Great article! Been working with Chelse with my young dog. Your ideas make so much sense. Thank you!! I will not shock my dog. There are other “wiser’ methods to use.
Debbie Jacobs says
It will sell. Unfortunately.
We’re rehabilitating a seriously damaged dog with plenty of fear aggression and bad habits. I can sincerely sympathize with the lure of the quick fix. Heaven knows I’ve longed often enough for a magic cure for Finna. That said, this is an absolutely appalling product. The idea of using something like this on my dogs makes me feel physically ill. I know that what will be best for Finna is patience, consistency, time, patience, clear and appropriate expectations, patience, positive training, patience, patience and of course patience. As I told the trainer we’re working with, “it will take as long as it takes and we’re not in the market for quick fix bandaids but for actual healing.”
With my well socialized, confident dog, Ranger, we taught him not to pull in what I describe as two weeks of hell. If he put tension on the leash we stopped and no forward progress was allowed until the leash was slack. We both hated walks for those two weeks but today I can hand the leash of this 90lb dog to a toddler and the toddler can walk him on leash. Granted he goes wherever he wants and they tag along but he never pulls the leash out of their hands or drags them off their feet or any of the things he so easily could. And the thrill of walking a dog that’s bigger than they are is huge when you’re a toddler.
With our damaged Finna we reward any time she walks by our side no matter how accidentally it happens. We walk her on an easy walker harness with a wacky walker leash (made of the exercise band stuff that the more you pull it the more it resists) so she’s pulling against her leash more than against me. She’s got a long way to go before she has good leash manners but she’s making slow but steady progress.
I am quite simply horrified at this so called training device. I have never had a problem training a loose-leash walk. My favorite method is to “shape” the position, then treating for longer and longer durations at your side; I find this also results in the dog learning to pay close attention to you and watching you carefully which is a nice bonus. Alternately, I have also used coming to a dead stop when the dog pulls, and then “treating” by moving forward once they return to your side.
I shudder at the ways in which this device could damage a dog. So sad that people don’t have the patience or can’t take the time to train their dog with gentleness and kindness. There are moments when I want to resign from the human race…..
Thank you for writing an article on this product Patricia.With all of your knowledge and the credibility that you have my hope is that many dog owners see this and decide not to buy one.
I am now a proud member with The Pet Professional Guild as is Leonard(thank you for all of your video’s and great work!) which is a force free training association.
I have been making a living as a dog trainer for the past 14 years and was taught to choke dogs while in the training school, we didn’t use shock thank goodness. I was never comfortable with doing this to a dog and would never recommend a client do it either because of lack of consistency, timing and potential abuse with it. From the day I graduated I have never used force in training. I was very lucky to find wonderful people like you and Suzanne Clothier on line. Now we have the internet with thousands of You Tube video’s available, so I don’t understand why people don’t use more humane methods in training, for me it is all about relationship and what a lousy relationship we would have if I were to use this on my own dog. I am hoping for a ban on all products like this one day…..soon. Please keep on sharing your your tips, ideas and opinions they are invaluable.
I have an almost 7 yo Standard Poodle who is a horrible puller, entirely out of enthusiasm, I think. (I sum up his personality as “I’ve never been out of my cage before, I’ve never seen another dog let alone a rabbit or squirrel, I’ve never been on a walk and no one’s ever fed me a single morsel of food. Zoom zoom zoom.” None of that is remotely true, note, except the zoom part, it’s just the way he acts. I think he’s SP x shooting bullet.)
I used Jean Donaldson as a guide when I got him at age 2 and he was somewhat responsive to her highest level – turning and walking the other way as soon as the leash tightened – as long as we did it several times every day. Any lapse in training cleared his mind.
He knows what he’s supposed to to, he just gets so excited! Now when he pulls ahead and I give him the “ut ut” he somehow springs into the air while turning back to my side. In two steps he’s pulling ahead again. It’s a tedious way to walk though easier on my arm.
My trainer suggested a prong collar which I tried only because Suzanne Clothier gave them a grudging, “Maybe.” I needn’t have worried. He didn’t care about the “spiky things,” he pulled just as hard and the prong hangs ignored behind all the leashes and collars at the back door.
In the 80’s I used a trainer who was skilled with the choke collar and taught it well – both of which almost no one does. That dog would respond to just the sound of the chain 15 years later. The problem, I think, for the commenter above was that she didn’t pull hard, as she said. Then it is just annoying. The collar has to be positioned high, it has to stay there (impossible with a standard chain) and it has to hurt. But it will hurt only one time if you do it right. I’m not advocating for that. I haven’t even considered it for any other dog but it was the 80’s and the most advanced thing out there, as far as I knew, was the Monks of New Skete. We all know how that worked out. (I will never forget the look of utter betrayal that dog planted on me the day I abandoned the alpha roll.)
The best thing so far for Rocket Boy has been the leash wrap, which I figured out after seeing a commercial leash on the market that does the same thing – more expensively.
I’ve never used a shock collar and that product seems repulsive. I did meet a woman at the dog park once who had a young pit bull and was very cautious about its behavior. She said she used a shock collar on him and that she had applied it to herself at a much higher rate than she ever used on the dog and it wasn’t painful – say level 2 for the dog, 6 for her. (The dog seemed rather mild and behaved perfectly the whole time I observed him, with no shocking.) I am not convinced. I’d need a real special case before considering it. And a whole lot more skill and better timing than I think I have now.
I look forward to watching the link – after RB gets a chance to shoot around the dog park for an hour or so – where we are headed now.
Apologies for the length. This is my first time posting and some of my dog’s enthusiasm seems to have rubbed off on me.
Horrifying. The only time I would even think of letting a shock collar into the same room as my dog would be for snake-proofing. I’ve seen what a rattler can do to a dog. (If anyone knows of a non-shock way to snake-proof, please let me know!) My guy loves to roam about, sniffing everything, since we live in an area with lots of dogs. The thought of what something like this would do to him breaks my heart.
OH MY! What fresh h*ll is this?
I shudder to think how many dogs will be subjected to the horrors of this collar. Sadly, the sales concept will appeal to people who want a push button response from their dogs. Only when it is too late, and they’ve completely messed up their dog, will some begin to realize that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…others will just blame their “dumb” dog for his continued and even escalating “stubborn” disobedience. Sigh…
I hadn’t yet heard of this “revolutionary” new product, so I sure appreciate the heads up. You can bet I’ll be sharing a link to this blog post on FB, as well as spreading the word far and wide. But don’t we all just long for the day when people understand that a good relationship is the foundation upon which any and all training should be built? When they accept that truth, they will stop trying to “win” against their dogs and begin working with them instead.
I’d be happy if I could just get everyone to understand that walking while you’re tethered to someone is not something dogs just instinctively understand. Loose leash walking is a skill. It can be taught; it can be learned; but dogs don’t come hardwired with the knowledge. Why isn’t this obvious?
If someone is having that much trouble train their dog to walk on the leash they should seek out help of a humane professional trainer if they are not willing to do that they do not deserve to have a dog our dogs just want to love us and be love and treated kindly there is no need for inhumane treatment. I hope they take that leash off the market or at least post some warnings on it. Some dogs are easier than others to train but for dogs that may be more difficult the extra time and if necessary professional help is worth it.
Thank you for this post. I always find it interesting when companies/people are “strictly positive reinforcement” and then teach leash jerks or advocate shock collars.
Keep up the great comments. And Beth with Corgis, I too have some concerns about head halters. I think they have the potential of harming a dog’s neck and spine (I say that not as a vet but as someone who’s neck and spine can be easily messed up) and need to be used carefully. I probably should have included that in the post, but am glad Beth brought it up. Once front attachment body harnesses came out I stopped using head halters much except when the dog was truly huge and highly motivated (example: Great Dane who was severely dog reactive/aggressive who had dragged his owner across the street twice, injuring both her and another dog badly, and a St. Bernard who dislocated an owner’s shoulder… you get the idea.). For these dogs I’d often attach both, and only use the head halter as a back up. (Or a head halter with a leash held on two sides by two handlers.) Thanks though Beth for bringing the issue up, it’s an important one.
This blog couldn’t have come at a better time. I am just sitting down after getting home from a particularly stressful day of work. I am a trainer at a shelter, and most days I head up the enrichment programs for difficult dogs. I am the newest trainer there with the least experience and often feel like I am looked down upon as a lesser trainer because I am much “softer” in my training methods than the resident trainer. I don’t really care to use air cans, water bottles, or other abrasive methods if I can help it, and I often think that because of this, the other trainers don’t always respect my opinion when it comes to the best way to develop behavior protocols. Reading your blog just reinforces the fact that I need to stick to what I believe in as a trainer and not second guess myself. I may not always have the most personal experience, but I build on your experiences that you have shared in your seminars and books, as well as other trainers that I really admire. Thanks for being such a strong, worthy example.
Heather Staas says
I guess we all have different experiences with headcollars. My boy likes his, with or without a leash, and dives into it when I pick it up. It means walks, dog play, all good things. He wears his happily for long stretches of time, and it doesn’t inhibit his interacting with dog friends. He’s a standard size German Shepherd, I am 5’2″, and find it not a problem to hold the leash down low under his chin area without pulling up or backward on it. Fit and trained properly they should be comfortable to wear. Used properly they should rarely be on a tight leash, and no dog that pulls should have his leash fed out when wearing one.
But many dogs that resist any restraint, have learned that pulling and rushing works, often will show frustration at any training tool that is used to prevent them from performing the behavior, especially when not combined with the needed training. I too see dogs that paw at head collars, and dogs that bite at leashes, and dogs that chew through front clip harnesses, bark and dig at the ground in frustration, etc.
When it comes to what advice I give to clients about pulling on leash I always tell them that I think the key is not GOING for a walk until your dog has been taught the SKILLS to go for a walk. Loose leash. Attentive. Changes directions with verbal prompts. Stops. Only when those are learned do you venture out for an actual “walk” anywhere, adding distance with experience and success.
Alison Irving says
I also use a leash wrap. Like Jonn, I have a dedicated puller, who has not been deterred by nose halters, prong collars, check chains (which I loathe) or a body harness. The leash wrap seems to work. My dog is highly anxious, so he pulls me round the walk to get home and safe as fast as possible. Over the past couple of years, I’ve done a huge amount of behavioural work with Hawkeye (thank you, Patricia, for your books, I’ve become an avid fan. They’re very helpful). Hawk’s better than he was at the start, but still very anxious. He remains reactive to other dogs, but copes if there is a critical distance between him and the stranger.
Two days ago, I popped him in a Thundershirt, to see if it helped the anxiety, and used it with the lease wrap. It’s not a magic wand, but used alongside behaviour modification techniques, there seems to be a beneficial effect. By the middle of the walk, Hawkeye has been doing normal doggie behaviours like our other Border Collie, looking around more, sniffing, almost enjoying the walk at times. He also is coming under control much quicker when he is startled by another dog. This morning a Boxer erupted from behind a fence, wailing like a banshee. After a quick panic, Hawkeye came in to sit and have a treat. So, not a cure, but perhaps a step on the way.
The idea of putting an anxious dog like Hawk in a device that delivers electric shocks doesn’t bear thinking about. He’s highly anxious already. With that device, he’d be a basket case.
Anne Springer says
And……….just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, PetUNsafe came out with this horrendous idea:
We have a Facebook group dedicated to teaching polite leash walking without force:
Web site and book are coming;-))
If only someone would come up with a device that gave a person a “correction” whenever they came up with an idiotic training tool.
Anyway. Even though my dogs have all had a very solid heel, I do not require that my dogs walk at my side at a snail’s pace. First off I go crazy when I’m forced to walk slower than 3 mph, secondly I have bad knees which barely bend and will often suddenly lose my balance requiring me to quickly step sideways to avoid falling and, third walks are for my dog to have fun and be stimulated not watch my knee. What I do require is that the dog walk on a loose leash. I use the human-turns-to-stone method of teaching it. Dog can walk in front, behind or to the side but the minute the leash becomes taut I stop dead in my tracks and just stand there. The dog usually pulls in all directions but at some point he’ll step back towards me. The minute the leash is loose again I move. It doesn’t take long for him to learn that a loose leash means forward motion and pulling gets you nowhere. If the dog does a sudden yank or zig that trips me up then he has to walk at a perfect heel until the next corner. It is amazing how quickly they figure out that their behavior determines the enjoyment level of the walk. Once the loose leash is down pat on a 6 ft lead I move on to the all-band (never cord) zipline and they quickly learn to walk politely on it too, including the rule that if I do a fast lock/unlock of the leash or stop for any reason they have to return to me and sit until I decide to continue walking.
By the way, my relaxed walking rules cause a lot of people to mistakenly believe my dog isn’t leash trained. I’ve been informed more than once by other dog owners that you can’t allow a dog to not heel or he will pull all the time. When a neighbor cared for my dog for a week while I was out of town I had a bunch of other neighbors stop to tell me upon my return, “You dog knows how to heel now! She taught him in one day!” When I’d say, “No, he’s always known how to heel, I just don’t require it.” they’d look all dejected and say, “That’s what she said, but we didn’t believe her.” Not one of those neighbors noticed that when I stopped walking to talk to them my dog stopped immediately, returned to me, sat down at my side and waited politely for the walk to continue.
Perhaps we could all come up with a new device called “DogSafe” that protected a dog from his owner? Do not take my comments as smug ones, I have made mistakes with dogs over the years far too numerous to list, and I have certainly had moments while walking an untrained dog that I pondered my choice of hobby and occupation. But a mat that won’t allow a dog to leave it without a shock? Oh my. I had a client once who had a hospital white carpet and a Golden Retriever puppy, about five months old. It was growling at its owner. I discovered that the dog was not allowed to lie down on the carpet except on a small towel that was provided, and was corrected when it got up and got off this tiny little postage stamp of a piece of fabric that was designed to protect the client’s rug. If you know me you know I love people as much as I love dogs, and I do try to maintain benevolence at all times, but I am hoping that I will be forgiven for growling in frustration myself by the time I left the client’s home.
Betsy Lane says
Thank you for writing about this. As usual, your work inspires me in my own. Please never stop!!!
I saw this website a couple weeks ago too. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Knowing folks are buying into this “training style” is really upsetting to me. I guess as trainers and dog lovers, we all just keep putting the word out, hoping more and more will become educated on why this is so so so wrong in all ways.
Beth with the Corgis says
I want to be the lone voice against the “if the dog pulls I don’t move” method! I know it works, the logic is sound, and I use the same method to keep the bossier of my two dogs from ordering me to move faster towards the treat bin with a series of barks (you bark, I turn my back and stop. You be quiet, I move toward the treats. Lather, rinse, repeat).
But on a walk, ugh! I totally lack the patience to stop when the dog pulls. I have a very stressful job, I’m gone over 9 hours a day, the walk is as relaxing for me as it is for the dog, and there is no way I’m going to be diligent about this every day. The downside to the method is if you are not 100% committed to it, you lose the training. If the dog is allowed to walk forward when pulling just once, you’ve suddenly turned it into “random reward.” “Hey, SOMETIMES when I pull I get to walk, and I never know when that time will be, so I will try it now and see if it works.”
The other thing is that you really can’t start a puppy on that method. It’s not fair to the pup and not conducive to teaching puppy that leashes are Fun and not something to fight with or play tug with. So many of us snap a leash on a puppy who is too young for serious leash work just as a safety method, because we live in areas where it’s not safe for puppy to be loose. We have several weeks of allowing pup to wander and then all of a sudden we stop moving whenever puppy pulls. And we do that diligently for two days, and then on day 3 Mom is sick and we need to rush over to bring her something to eat and get puppy out to potty after work and before running off, and so just today we will let puppy pull because we are rushed…. and BOOM right back to square 1 (or square -15 because enforcing the rule randomly is perhaps worse than never enforcing it at all).
So it is wonderful and pretty much guaranteed to work for people who can commit to it 100% for a set amount of time, but quickly falls apart for those of us who are not quite so dedicated. It is also very difficult to mix it in with socializing when dealing with a young dog; we don’t want to lose the exuberance to meet new friendly people, and that exuberance frequently results in pulling.
I prefer putting “heel” on cue and gradually working out the pulling over time. I find it less frustrating for the handler. The exception would be large dogs, dogs with owners who have physical restrictions, or extremely reactive dogs.
Wow, just… wow.
I can’t believe people actually think that works. In training, we use more food than anything else, and luckily, our dogs already come to us knowing how to heel at our sides. We are taught collar corrections, but they’re used so rarely now that I actually can’t remember the last time I used one. Also, there’s a new tool our trainers taught us the last time around. It’s called the Time Out. When the dog is very distracted by something, other dog, leaf, person, whatever, we position the dog to be as close to us as possible, placing both hands at the nearest point of the leash to where the leash and collar connect. We’re not pulling on the dog’s collar, just holding them against our leg. We hold them there, not talking to them or touching them, for 10 seconds and then we pick up the harness handle and move on. If they walk passed the distraction without engaging in it, we immediately give food as a reward. I wasn’t convinced this would work when I first tried it, but it really does. Plus, it has the added bonus of calming a frustrated handler down so we don’t get too upset. For working dog owners out there, you’ll understand what I mean when I say, you can’t work a dog when you’re mad.
Deanna in OR says
A tight-leash shock collar is such a sickening idea! And so unnecessary.
I teach puppy-k & beginning obedience classes, and I have my students focus on rewarding the dog frequently for having a loose leash, and simply stopping when the dog makes the leash tight. Then we have several ways of getting the dog’s attention back, leash loose, and off we go again.
It is so hard for people NOT to let the dog pull them, for a few steps or many, when the leash is tight. I tell them that “if the dog gets to go in the direction that they want to go, with the leash tight, the dog is being rewarded for having a tight leash just as if you threw him/her a big hunk of steak.” Getting to go where they want is a huge reward for the dog. Don’t reward the dog–just stop.
So of course the dog will have a hard time learning to understand the rules when on leash, if half the time the the dog is REWARDED for a tight leash, and other times not. No consistency = no learning. The more consistent they are, the faster the dog will learn.
If the only way the dog gets to move forward is when they feel no pressure on their neck from the collar, (or on their front-clip harness) and then when the leash is loose, the dog DOES get what they want, the dog will learn to keep the leash loose, pretty quickly. The challenge is getting the human on that other end of the leash to be consistent.
I found Turid Rugaas’ little booklet, My Dog Pulls-What Do I Do? to be incredibly helpful.
Awful, awful, awful. What some people will come up with in order to torture dogs.
The best method for getting a dog to not pull on the leash is to make it an enjoyable experience. Once learned, you can use any darn regular old leash you want. No expensive, electric leashes required.
This product seems to be sold mainly through Amazon – can I suggest adding reviews there, perhaps linked to this blog?
I found the easiest way of teaching loose leash walking to pups was to start without the leash. Mine were thrilled to prance along close beside me while I occasionally dropped treats – by the time I introduced the leash they knew what With Me meant. A few sessions of stopping, or quick turns, when they were adolescents, and they are now usually very good.
Ugh. This is a terrible idea.
But it makes me think about an issue I’m currently dealing with. I have started walking the dog from a nearby petshop (belongs to the owner, not for sale!) along with my own dog (they get along really well and my dog is a bit anxious and this dog seems to be a calming influence and it’s not any extra work aside from untangling myself from their leashes occasionally!).
My dog was a puller but, with a front-attaching harness and a lot of training, is now pretty ok.
This other dog is big (a berner mix who outweighs me!) and very relaxed… but a big one for stopping to sniff/pee. I don’t mind this in moderation, but every 2 feet is getting annoying!
His owner – a dog trainer himself – has him on a choke chain. At first I didn’t really even think about it, but then I realized that every time he stopped to sniff or pee and I kept walking, I was choking him! Aak! So I put the leash on the other circle of the collar – so now it doesn’t close up, but now the dog also just stops and sniffs and will even go back to sniff something we already passed, and I can’t stop him (or, more correctly, get him to keep walking).
For the record, I’m not a dog trainer (though will soon start a course to become one – yippee!).
In any case, I’m not really sure what to do – I’ve never had a dog who preferred sniffing to moving!! He’s not terribly treat-motivated. I could probably walk at his pace and not get too annoyed, but my dog also has to keep stopping and that seems unfair.
I haven’t had a chance to speak to the owner about this (the last couple of times he’s been busy with clients when I’ve brought the dog back), but I will… though I’m nervous about asking a dog trainer when I don’t really believe in his methods (he’s not a bad guy and his dog is super happy and loves him to bits and is not at all reactive or anything)…
Thanks – and thanks for the great blog!!
Liz Shaw says
Oh my. I think a good 50% of the feedback I give clients when teaching them loose leash walking is telling the owners to loosen up on the leash because they are using it, instead of verbal/visual cues to communicate to the dog. The FIRST thing I teach the owners is that their dogs will never learn to stop pulling, if the owners use the leash to tell the dogs where to go and when to stop. If 50% of the time, a tight leash is because the human tightened it, how can punishing the dog for a tight leash do anything but completely confuse him? This is really hard for the humans – to realize that maybe they are a part of the problem! I teach them to always say “let’s go” whenever they are going to change direction and other leash manners that are key for the human. Once the humans are polite enough, then we work on the dog manners, attention etc! Would people be willing to walk with a device that shocks them when they tighten the leash or they make a mistake or they aren’t paying attention to their dogs? I doubt anyone would be so thrilled by such a product. And likely, rather than promoting good leash walking skills, it would probably end dog walks for 80% of all dogs. Arggh. What a bad idea.
Maya Madden says
The easiest dog I ever trained is my 14 yr. old BC named Gem. I put the leash on him at about 4 months old, and he instantly walked calmly ny my side! Don’t understand it but sure have appreciated it. Same goes for the rare times I have had to tie him up (like camping in a state park)… he just lies down and waits. Scuh a good boy!
I had not thought of the points brought up in this well thought out article.
No substitute for proper training. This device is frightening. As sentient beings perhaps a shock device on the fridge handle might create the correct associations for someone on a diet, but on a leash the animal will not know why it is being punished and possibly (likely) make the wrong association given the different intents/ reasons why it puts pressure on the leash.
To help educate people who might think this device as a short cut to training their dog — its a good idea to link back to this article whenever you see simple leash mentioned. Might help stop people before they inflict this nasty device and its unintentioned repercussions on their beloved animals.
Inflicting pain to live in harmony with an animal is abhorrent, the hallmark of ill-informed laziness at the best and cruelty at the worst. I had always thought invisible fence was cruel but this leash is many times worse for the reasons set out in the article. Thanks for writing it.
Kerry M. says
When I work with my dogs on head halters, I just can’t get stockholm syndrome out of my mind.
I puppy raise for Canine Companions for Independence and they require that all puppies wear a head halter. The dog I’m raising now walks beautifully on leash and HATES his halter. I have spoken many times to the coordinator about this issue since I think he would be a dream to control on a flat collar but every time it has been explained to me that the halter isn’t negotiable. They don’t use the halters in advance training so I don’t know why they care whether we use his gentle leader, but I agreed to follow their rules to puppy raise, so I grudgingly let it go, and began lots of CC to try to bring about less misery. He never pawed at it and rarely rubs at it, so the passersby can’t tell he hates it, but I can tell by how he positions his ears and head. We have made progress over the last six months and I can now get him to catch a treat while wearing the head halter which I am very proud of because that took some time and effort. Since I was curious whether this was just over sensitivity on the part of the dog, I trained my own pet dog to walk on a head halter a couple of months ago. Same exact reaction. He hated it but we went slowly and used lots of treats and he now can walk with it without pawing – looking OK to the passersby, but pretty unhappy to anyone who knows him. Huck is happy to report that he is back to his flat collar on his walks.
I have never felt more manipulative in training than when I worked through this issue and that’s where stockholm analogy comes in. I know they initially hate it but I am trying to condition them to beyond tolerance to actually liking it. And I just feel kind of icky about it. The more experience I have with the gentle leader, the more I think that is the best marketing name in the world. I’m pretty sure my dogs would assume it’s named the severely annoying leader or the uncomfortable leader.
I don’t know much about whiskers but I do know that they can help a dog orient in space and that the gentle leader cuts right across the face in the middle of their whiskers. It doesn’t touch a whisker on either of my dogs, but there is one in back of and in front of the snout loop. I wonder how disturbing that sensation is? If we could ask our dogs, would they prefer prongs in their necks to a loop in the middle of their whiskers? I’m not sure, but I’m recommending the halters less and less based on my personal experiences and what I think the two dogs I’ve worked with would have to say about it if they could tell me.
Oh, and if I feel that way about the gentle leader, it’s probably obvious I agree the shock collar for loose leash walking is a terrible idea. Thanks for writing this up and so passionately, too.
I am so, so horrified. Not do I consider the SimpleLeash cruel, but I worry that the idea it promotes- that a tool can “automatically fix” dog behavior encourages pet owners to make indiscriminate and casual use of very harsh punishments in casual training.
As I have posted on this forum (a few years ago now, I think), I must admit, I have used a shock collar with success and without any perceptible negative consequences. BUT, I did so in a very limited way, after exhausting all other options, and only in a situation that was dangerous for my dog and myself, and possibly to people in the general public. The short version: Otis the Great Dane was a deer chaser. Only deer, but his obsession level was very, very intense. Deer are everywhere, but unpredictable, I couldn’t desensitize easily and Otis is so big and strong that there was no guarantee that physical restraint (of any kind- he actually dragged my 6’4″ husband to the ground WHILE wearing a headcollar once) would suffice to keep him under control. Running deer is both illegal and very, very dangerous. Otis could have been killed, or he could have caused an accident that killed someone by chasing deer into the road. We used the shock collar as a 100% pure aversive, never for any other type of training, and never in any kind of social situation. It worked. He never seemed frightened or stressed, but he did learn not to chase deer. Now, he doesn’t need to wear the collar at all. I’m glad that I used it, but I think of the collar as the equivalent of holding a child’s hand to a hot stove. I would never do it if there was any other way to make the situation safe, but used judiciously, it can be the difference between life and death. Certainly NOT something that you want to do over and over, for no clear reason, to be sure.
I say this as a person who is intensely grateful for the shock collar, would use it again and feels that it dramatically improved my dog’s quality of life: repeated or prolonged use of this type of punishment in ordinary circumstances without clear and well-understood direction is torture.
As for leash training, Otis was completely untrained when he came to us at 18 mos. old. He didn’t pull constantly like many dogs with bad leash manners. Instead, he’d suddenly jerk in one direction or another or stop still as he saw something interesting. Initially he was so confused by the leash that he’d overcorrect when he jerked against it, only to yoink up against it in the opposite direction. I tried stopping, turning, leash pops, none of it made any impact at all, because he was too strong to be effectively controlled physically with a flat collar. He wasn’t food or toy driven so rewards were of limited use and luring impossible. He DID want to walk with me, (he wasn’t trying to drag me or take off, just jerking on the leash as something caught his eye or nose nearby, then he’d go back to walking on a loose leash) and be “good,” and do as I asked, but was just not understanding what I wanted from him and was obviously getting stressed and anxious about it. He was so strong, there were times during those first weeks when I really wasn’t sure whether I would make it back to the house with him because I was so exhausted. Still, we did it. No shock collar, no prong collar, no hurt feelings. He was as big, as strong, and as utterly untrained as they come, and it just wasn’t necessary.
Because he was so big and tall, the head collar seemed like the most appropriate tool and indeed, it did function much like a horse halter on him, with pressure exerted downward or to the side. He DID hate it. Intensely. This is significant to me because Otis is very tolerant of physical touch and restraint- he loves towel time after rainy walks or baths, enjoys and solicits hugging, readily accepted a winter coat and a backpack, wears Halloween costumes with grace and aplomb, does not mind having his feet handled- he is a tolerant dog, but he hated the head collar. But it worked. It gave me enough leverage to physically control him well enough to communicate what I wanted him to do. We used the stopping method (turning did no good at all for some reason). I’d freeze, then gently tug Otis until he circled around me to come back into position (being so long, it isn’t easy for him to turn around beside me or to scooch backward into position). The moment he was in position we’d move, the moment he pulled forward or to the side we’d freeze, perhaps taking a step backward to move him away from the object of his interest until he was back in position. It took two- three weeks to learn to walk pretty well. We then started phasing out the head collar when he’d been doing well, but carrying it with us and putting it back on if he started acting up. Honestly, my husband and I were only doing this out of health and safety concerns, but I think that the “punishment” of wearing the head collar was actually a big factor in Otis’ learning curve. By about week six, we had discontinued it entirely, and Otis walks beautifully on the leash even now, years later.
We are fairly consistent in expecting him to walk nicely, beside or behind us, but little exceptions and slip ups (he will occasionally still slam on the brakes when passing over a very good smell and sometimes we stop and “release” him to sniff and mill about at the end of his leash) don’t seem to have any impact on his general leash behavior. This is characteristic of him, though. Otis is a calm, deliberate dog. He will sometimes make a decision not to listen or to make an exception to his normal behavior, but he doesn’t get excited and forget himself, nor is he the type to press his advantage. Sandy, on the other hand, has much more trouble- she’s more naturally biddable, but gets overexcited very easily. Given an inch, she’ll quickly escalate back to sled-dogging at the end of the leash. She does much better with an active direction to focus on. ‘Walk with/stay focused on me’ whereas Otis doesn’t like to maintain that kind of focus- he prefers to operate on “autopilot” where he knows the default boundaries but does his own thing within those boundaries.
Amy W. says
I typically use the stop and wait method; my dogs respond well to this and the pauses are usually brief. However, if this doesn’t work, then I might do an about face and call “let’s go” to them. After a brief period, we will head back in the original direction. If I still find they are pulling (because they are really excited to get to the doggie swim beach for example), I might repeat the about face, but for a longer period and start to ask for a lot of sits along the way. I find if they are really straining at the ends of their leashes, I have to go into “heel”, “sit” mode and really ask for their concentration on walking politely and not focusing on getting to a certain spot.
Melani Nardone says
Control at any cost, science be damned. Saddens me greatly. Why as a culture are we so enmeshed in the belief that learning must be painful to be effective?
Beth with the Corgis says
em, your comment about using the shock collar to stop deer-chasing is very interesting to me. I was doing some reading up on e-collars after reading this, and apparently they did some studies with beagles.
When beagles were shocked for a specific action over which they had control, they showed no stress behaviors over being shocked (in this case I believe they shocked them for touching the quarry they were chasing).
If they were shocked for behavior that was either random, or not obvious to them, or not under their control, they rapidly developed stress behaviors and exhibited stress when brought back to the training area, even if no further shocks were every administered.
I believe that similar conclusions have been reached studying rats.
In my opinion, using a shock collar to stop a bird dog from running rabbits would fall under category A (controlled by the dog) and using one whenever the dog pulls would definitely be category B (seemingly random to the dog).
As someone who uses an e-stimulus machine at times for a medical condition, I can say that there are levels of shock that can be applied that are uncomfortable enough to get your attention but not painful enough to be inherently scarring. But the predictability of when and how it will happen is the difference between feeling you have control over your environment, and feeling learned helplessness over the total unpredictability of the discomfort.
And while I am not a fan of head collars, I believe they have their place and your case is a perfect example.
I taught my new 7 1/2 year old rescue not to pull on the lead by simply stopping when he pulled. If he pulled, we weren’t going anywhere. Granted, I looked like a plonker when I stood on the corner by the shop for 45 minutes once because all the smells were just so interesting to him (we moved about 5 feet in that time), but I now have a dog that doesn’t pull on the lead. Worth it.
Where I train dogs at Fur-Get Me Not in Arlington, Virginia, we highly recommend the Freedom Harness, with a front clip, back clip and soft velvety strap underneath. It works great for pullers and especially for our reactive dogs. Walking takes consistency and patience — not a fancy device that is magically just going to solve the problem for you. Among the many things we emphasize with loose leash walking, we particularly like to highlight capturing the times your dog ends up right by your side where you want him, and jackpotting if you get a check in with eye contact, too.
I used to use a Gentle Leader with my reactive dog, Sophie. But no matter how much I tried to desensitize her to it, she hated it, and it stressed her out — not exactly how you want her to feel when she sees a dog. I’ve switched to using the Freedom Harness and two leashes with her (one clipped on the front, and one on the back), and it’s been so much better. We encourage our Reactive Dog class and other students to use the Freedom Harness, and people (and dogs) are very happy with it.
The debate about electronic devices makes me very proud to live in Alexandria, VA. Just last month, our City Council voted unanimously to clarify that shock collars will not qualify as leashes or physical restraint under our leash law. Kudos to our Animal Control officers and the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, which oversees our local animal shelter and animal control, for spearheading this effort and sticking with it when things got dicey politically.
I’ve been inadvertently shocked by electric stock fences several times. Even when the shock was mild enough not to be painful, it was a horrible kind of surprise. And for awhile afterwards, every time I approached the gate that shocked me my heart would pound and my hand seemed to have a mind of its own about not wanting to touch the gate. Definitely not an experience I’d want to give to my dog.
We shouldn’t be comparing medical devices that use electricity for healing and shock collars that use pain to achieve a training goal.
Regardless of how you may nor may not feel about shock collars, the ethics of using one, their place in training etc, etc..trying to equate them to a medical device, or even just trying to “create a picture of understanding” about some aspect (pro or con) of shock collars via references to medical devices creates misinformation. medical devices and shock collars are apples and oranges.
For a shock collar to work, it MUST inflict pain. Right or wrong, that point must NEVER get glossed over. If there wasn’t pain produced by the collar, than there would be NO point to using one.
Even IF (and clearly this is open to debate) there is times that you can justify the use of a shock collar, it must NEVER be forgotten that it works through application of pain.
Leonard Cecil says
Tricia – thanks for that comment about the shock experiment(s). We did experiment Nr. 2 a couple of weeks ago and the videos are now with the psychologists for their analysis. The second experiment went as follows:
Each subject received the collar placed as per handbook on the neck. There was a series of behaiviors taught for a maximum of 10 minutes in a language unfamiliar to the subjects. These behaviors were taught using:
Positive reinforcement (praise)
Positive punishment (shock to stop unwanted behavior)
Negative reinforcement (shock applied with the command and stopped only upon the successful completion of the required behavior)
The “working level” of the shock was max. 50% of the subjects tolerated level of shock as established in Experiment 1, but at no time higher than level 2 on the PetSafe Deluxe remote training system. When I was trying this out myself, I could not handle higher levels than level 2 for repeated shocks, especially in a -R situation and since I was the trainer of the others, I could not bring myself to give the other more shock than I myself could handle.
All subjects did manage to complete the behaviors, which even included a simulation of a strange dog interuupting a session – meaning someone came in and started clearing away the tables and chairs the subject needed and the subject got shocked for not continuing working.
Two subjects reported in the filmed interviews, that they were very close to throwing in the towel before the experiment was over, although they did not overly react to the shocks. Only one subject kind of got it, that the continuous shock was meant to speed up his performance, although a couple of others did actually speed up their performance as seen on video. But they couldn’t formulate why they did this. Several of the subjects named behaviors they thought were being trained that weren’t – indicating that they really didn’t understand what the desired behaviors were. All reported, that the shocks were painful and several were amazed, that they were “only” 50% of what they’d been able to tolerate in Experiment 1. As with Experiment 1, there was no direct correlation between what the people said they felt and what they showed – accross the board. In other words, 7 people experienced the shock and showed their experience to it differently and not analog to the relative strength.
I will finish the text part of this experiment as soon as I get the results back from the psychologists and publish them on the same page as listed above.
I volunteer at a Humane Shelter, working to rehabilitate dogs with basic obedience and socialization. As you can imagine, we get some pretty hard cases. Since I’m young, strong and get good results, the large ill-behaved adolescents generally come to me. (including one husky that literally dislocated a person’s shoulder)
Most importantly, I’ve found spending 5 minutes on “watch me” click-and-treating goes a LONG way for getting good walking manners out of a dog. I want to make sure that the dog’s first priority when going out is paying attention to me and, for new dogs, I stop often during the walk to practice “watch me.”
I really like martingale collars for softer dogs, Easy Walk harnesses for stronger untrained dogs, and the toughest cases are walked with the leash clipped to both the Easy Walk and a martingale collar in front. The martingale (EW is basically a martingale harness) allows me to communicate to a dog ignoring verbal cues with a quick gentle tug. (I’ve tried it out on my own neck, and it just feels like even pressure all around, no pain or choking) In a worst case scenario, the EW and martingale combo works well to overcome the strength of a charging larger dog —I’m a small woman, no match for a pit bull on a flat collar.
I don’t like choke chains, pinch collars or head harnesses; even in the toughest cases, my goal is to have the dog’s attention and communicate clearly what I want. I don’t strive to be a skinner box and I’ve noticed that dealing out external punishments tends to throw a wrench into the whole “people-pleaser dog” mission.
Also, dogs earn freedom on walks with good behavior. The biggest mistake I see people walking pullers is they give the dog way too much leash. I start dogs off with 2, maybe 3 feet of a 6-ft lead. I don’t look for a perfect heel or anything, just the dog’s attention. As long as they’re “keeping one ear open” for me, I give them more lead.
Cesar Millan’s advice to not watch the dog and walk confidently goes a long way, but I absolutely defy the “silent” part of his advice. I use lots of verbal cues for walks, especially with new dogs. Let’s go, wait, stop, left, right, watch me and “nuh huh” get a lot of use. As I see it, walking on a loose leash isn’t the primary behavior we want to train a dog for, but a byproduct of training a dog to attend, understand and desire the appreciation of the human handler.
OMG! This is so incredibly horrible! My Emily, who I am learning to train to be my service dog, would die if I used this disgusting thing. She is a wonderful and very sensitive greyhound who knows what I’m thinking, sometimes before I do. I’ve only had her for a few months yet we already have a very strong bond. It’s amazing. I’ve used nothing but positive reinforcement, and I treat her with the utmost respect that I would the Dalai Lahma. She loves to go over her lessons and is not frightened. I take her almost everywhere I go, and she does just fine. The bond between a dog and her caretaker can be amazing if you don’t use tactics that scare her.
I see people wanting quick fixes for their dog all the time. I wish more people would think about leash walking from the dog’s perspective. I repeatedly explain that while we make the dog-leash association freely, dogs have no innate understanding of being tethered to something (the way they know how to sit and we repeatedly reward it). Wolves, wild dogs, and domesticated dogs don’t naturally walk side by side with another creature – they stagger so they can see or stalk or heard from a distance. All they know is that once this tether is on them, they can’t always do what they want, whether it’s run ahead to see something or run away from something that scared them. I use the stop and u-turn method in the real world combined with a lot of shaping practice at home building up to real world distractions. I start with a sit next to me, cue and take one step, and have the dog sit again. Not everyone needs to combine the two, and my 2 1/2 yo girl learned pretty quickly with just the stopping, but my puppy can barely concentrate even on his wow treats for the first few minutes when in public. He’s also on an Eash Walk harness, and it helps a lot, but it doesn’t absolve me of the reponsibility of teaching him what I want. I agree with those who’re troubled by head collars – they work on some dogs but can lead to head problems and should be acclimated. For leash-shy dogs, I place the leash next to the food bowls for a few days, then attach it right before meal time, and let the dog drag it around. I use and recommend a Get Dressed command, so the dog remains still while the owner puts on the leash or nose- or body harness, until released. I also recommend desensitizing to the leash, and at least a few minutes of play before going on a walk to get the initial excitement out of the way. My 9 mo puppy walks like an angel when I pick him up from day camp. Thanks for the great article – the sentence about “[s]topping a behavior by force…” is one I may have to pull out from time to time. I didn’t mean to write so much but there is a lot to say about it.
Deborah Moore says
Thank you for your bluntness. What a horrible device! Last week as I was showing someone a “no-pull” harness, I told them no matter how well the harness was fitted or how good a design it is, it won’t stop pulling. They looked at me blankly. The harness is just a tool — the only thing that can teach a dog to walk well on a leash is the owner.
As always, so enjoy your blog. Glad the kitties are well. 🙂
Beth with the Corgis says
Matthew, I understand what you are trying to say about comparisons. But honestly where my comparison came from was in reading a bird dog trainer’s information on “e-collars” where he said something like you should never use it on a setting that causes a dog to yip, cringe, or startle (lest you get them to associate the activity area with pain). You should see some small muscle contraction where the collar touches.
And the stim device I use at home causes small (and sometimes pretty large, if I set it too high) muscle contractions. So that’s what made me think of it.
There are different devices out there and different settings, and they definitely CAN cause pain and can be a form of serious abuse. I’ve read a lot about what people say when they try them themselves, and many say it feels weird or tingly or uncomfortable rather than painful.
But with respect, your statement “For a shock collar to work, it MUST inflict pain” is not really how aversives work. A quick squirt of water in the face will stop most dogs cold, and causes no pain. It’s the startle effect (and/or dislike of the sensation) that interrupts the behavior in that case, same as clapping your hands loudly. That said, I would not want my dog squirted with water every time it pulled on a leash either; the collar in the original post could cause pain or not cause pain and be a horrible idea either way (more horrible if it causes pain, still awful if it’s just an unliked sensation).
For rattlesnake aversion training, there is definitely pain! A collar set on a low setting… I’m not so sure as I’ve not tried one.
Here’s what Wiki says, under its entry on shock collars:
“At 0.914 joules the electric muscle stimulation and contractions a human receives from an ‘abdominal energizer’ fitness product is exponentially stronger — more than 1,724 times stronger— than the impulse a dog receives from a pet containment collar set at its highest level.”.
A “remote trainer” set on a low level emits 0.000005 joules (5 microjoules).
A “bark collar” set on a high level emits 0.0003 joules (300 microjoules).
A “muscle stimulation machine” set on a “normal level” emits 2.0 joules.
Set on a “high level” it emits 6.0 joules.
An electric fence energizer [a “charged fence” – not a pet containment system] emits 3.2 joules.”
another liz says
I think there is a time and place for expectations of stellar leash manners.
As a volunteer and owner, I try to consider the circumstances surrounding walks. If a dog has been cooped up for awhile, pulling is to be expected. If a dog has had little practice on leash, or hasn’t been on leash consistently, or is just incredibly high energy, loose leash training with me will not occur unless they are slightly tired out first. Whether this means I have to let dogs run in a safe area or jog for a bit, I find it unrealistic and unpleasant to expect a loose leash right out of the gate. Maybe this makes for a less solid heel overall for me, but I’m fine with a relatively loose leash the majority of the time coupled with the joy of being out with a happy dog.
A quick glance at the leash company’s website provides a vet’s statement regarding the successful use of the simpleleash on patients being walked through the clinic. Wow, do dogs need any more reason to dislike vet visits? A shock or two in the waiting room would never be something I’d want my dogs to associate with the vet.
I was looking up the “leash wrap” other commenters mentioned and found a couple of helpful YouTube videos. Which led me (as YouTube will) to the alternate universe in which there exists the chicken diaper harness.
Lisa W says
This new “training” device is neither new nor is it training, but it is deplorable. As noted from other comments, shocking dogs to either do or stop doing a behavior is not new nor is it particularly humane (Is there a word that means animal sympathy or kindness? Every time I write humane, it’s not the subject I want.)
I agree with Matthew that we must not loose sight of the way a shock collar works–inflicting pain and surprise. Lots of dogs in service for lots of tasks get shocked in training, and I’m sure it’s effective, but is it the best way to go about teaching a desired behavior? Never having trained a dog to do more than be a companion in the terms our household defines it, I am not an expert, but I do have a sense of my own response to pain and my dogs when they get hurt, etc.
Also, as someone who has tried with patience and as much kindness as I could muster on certain days, being a rock or a tree or a blob or a lump to stop pulling doesn’t always work. There must be room for acknowledging that sometimes a dog needs a good body harness to show her the way.
Beth with the Corgis – I completely share your frustration about the “just stop when the dog pulls” method! I am terrible at this; it is impossible for me to be 100% accurate with my discipline to myself to stop at all times. Like you, I have gotten to the point now where I teach heel as a specific behavior (and gradually build the duration) for places where I really need to have the dog in close, but for the rest of our walks I just put my young dogs in a harness so they can’t hurt themselves and work on less pulling over time. I do stop if they pull like Iditerod sled dogs, but otherwise if it’s not hurting my arm I will tolerate some pulling but continue to praise & reward when the leash is loose. My middle dog now walks beautifully on a loose leash, but he was about four years old before I’d say it was proofed for everything. I am currently NOT enjoying working on this skill with my 9 month old border collie; this is really the only aspect of dog training that I do not enjoy. I’ve used a prong collar on an older dog in the past; I just don’t have the heart for it with the younger two so I take the long-term approach.
I was a real novice when I got my second dog, and I’m afraid it shows. He is a very nervous dog (though I didn’t quite recognize that at first), and pulled quite a bit, including frequent lunging when things (read: people laughing, dogs barking, cars starting) frightened him. I had heard of the protocol that calls for “being a tree” and tried to implement it with this dog. The thing is, with a dog who is pulling quite hard and is nervous, coming to a sudden stop was very aversive. My sandals made a loud slapping sound when I stopped, and my dog was charging ahead to the point that my stopping jerked his collar very hard. Much as with any correction, this at first stopped him from pulling, but he quickly became desensitized to it. “Being a tree”, especially when he was preparing to lunge, in this context worsened my dog’s nervousness and actually made him very dog-reactive. Obviously this was more due to my inexperience and ignorance than a flaw with the method itself, but just something to keep in mind.
Conversely, my first dog is a single-minded little Beagle who simply does not care if I stop. She will stay at the end of the leash, looking steadfastly forward, and eventually sit without ever releasing the tension in the leash or looking back.
For both of my dogs, we got polite leash walking very easily by having them in Senseation harnesses in situations where they were very likely to pull (ie at the pet store) and shaping with the clicker closer to home. Hooray for clicker training!
Why would anyone think that shocking your dog would train it ? If you were in constant fear could you learn anything? I always use the Easy Walker…and always promote it when people ask about it. Went on vacation with my dog Babette, and for the first time she had to be on leash every where….she did very well even when 2 dogs charged at her while we were walking. She herded them back to their owner who they had gotten away from…on leash the whole time! Since I could tell she was taking charge of the situation, I let the leash play out the full 6 feet and let her do her thing. The other owner was very impressed and grateful as neither of the dogs was coming as called. Both had regular collars on that they had slipped…so I sold another easy walker, and my little girl was center of attention. Since she is only 12 lbs, Boston and Rat Terrier mix (we call her a Brat!), I know that she does not know that she is a small dog, but she is so sure of herself. Thats what working with your dog will bring, a confident, sometimes take charge dog who knows what to do! Now I could tell that it was under control and she was in no danger, so I let her have her head, but of course a very agressive dog is a different story.
I would never use this kind of product. I have a dog that pulls, but he is such a soft dog and so sensitive that I can only imagine how much this would traumatize him. My other dog, frankly, would probably take it in stride – he’s just this tough little dude that takes a licking and keeps on ticking, no matter what comes his way. I’ve never seen him cowed, or afraid, or even sad. I still wouldn’t use it, but I imagine the results/repercussions will differ greatly with the underlying personality of the dog.
Hound Hill says
I just heard about a study by Adcock at Duke, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, that showed threat-motivated learning (they used the threat of an electric shock, although nobody actually got shocked) engages a different part of the brain than reward-motivated learning (they used money). They did FMRIs and found that the threat-motivated learning engaged the amygdala (region of the brain associated with stress), whereas the reward-motivated learning activated the ventral trigeminal area, which is associated with rewards and where “feel good” dopamine-making neurons are located.
Not only did this study show that different areas of the brain were activated with threat-based vs reward based learning, they found that for this simple task, the reward-based learning yielded better results, as was shown in a couple of previous studies. However, the threat-based learning was hypothesized to be usedful for motivation that leads to a narrow, stereotyped view, like when recognizing a snake in the grass.
The implications for dog training are clear. Shock collars might be useful for snake proofing, or as em has used it so well with the deer-chasing Dane, but reward-based training might be better for teaching other things.
Hound Hill says
Sorry, here is a link to the article:
Pretty interesting. Of course it makes sense, but I had not seen a study that compared the results of threat and reward based learning, and used fMRIs, and how relevant that they used the threat of electric shock! Interesting that they didn’t even use the actual shock, subjects just thought they would be shocked.
Donna B. says
Sorry, forgot to put my actual name on the last two posts.
pibble lover says
Front clip harnesses are not the answer for every dog. Mine could twist and walk right out of them, both the easy walk and premiere. I’ve seen quite a few pits snap through them. I handle large to giant breeds. An Irish wolfhound puppy still needs to get walked to the vets long before it can fully learn how to LLW. Head collars are still recommended for large/giants by the veterinary behaviorist I work with, who taught me how to use them correctly. If the dog’s head or neck is twisting, the handler is using the collar incorrectly. They should never be used with too much lead, that’s a common mistake, they should only get just enough lead to be near your side. If the dog can lunge on a head collar, handler’s got something wrong, either the body or collar position. Dogs need to be aclimated to them properly, then we phase out their use during LLW training and transition to a flat or martingale.
I’ve handled several pits that are way too strong for a front clip harness only, but could be managed on a head collar. We’ve handled many rescues and rehabs this way, strong untrained dogs ranging from 70 to 190 lbs, and have not had a single head collar injury. Never had a dog lose any joy in a walk, either. They’re honestly no more dangerous than a flat collar or a common slip lead if used correctly. If anyone can point to any studies that indicate otherwise, please do. Certainly a far better alternative to a shock leash, I’d venture to say.
I can understand using some stim to train rattlesnake avoidance and in some other life or death circumstances, but for loose leash walking it’s overkill.
Concerning the discussion on head halters: I have absolutely no doubts that my dog likes his Gentle Leader. After the first use and Duke figured out what the leader was for, he started trying to shove his nose into the hole while I was still fiddling around with it to get it arranged to put on. He still does that 5 years later. Duke actively prefers the head halter to a flat collar. That said, he also likes his (front-attaching) harness, but I can’t control him as well with the harness compared to the halter.
Note that I do have a Great Dane and I am about 5 feet tall. And when I first got Duke (and sometimes even now), he would literally pull me places, including the middle of a busy street, to check out something as ridiculous (to me) as a leaf blowing down the street or some unknown tantalizing smell.
Also note that I got my dog when he was 3 years old. I do not know about his previous life, but given the extreme sensitivity of his throat, I am convinced that his previous owners used a choke collar. One of the reasons I think that Duke prefers his Gentle Leader so much is that it means absolutely no pressure on the front part of his neck. (Sometimes even a little pressure causes him to choke.)
It could be my imagination, but I believe Duke prefers the Gentle Leader to his body harness. My theory is that the Gentle Leader is more comfortable for him.
So, it is not correct to say that every dog hates the head halters.
I will also note that I have (and continue to) use several methods to get Duke not to pull. He is a JOY to walk now. He still pulls on occasion, but the vast majority of the time, he gives me a loose leash. It was worth all of that effort to train him.
The two methods I used the most were: stop on pulling and u-turn. Not the emergency u-turn, but the “I’m the leader. If you pull, I’ll just turn around and walk the other direction so that I am once again in the lead. Too bad we are not going the direction you wanted to go.” (Note this method only works in those times when Duke wants to go a particular direction. Also note I also tried to train a cue-word to mean slow down, but only had marginal success with that.)
Contrary to the comments of a previous poster, I have not found that I had to be 100% consistent in order to get dramatic improvement with loose leash walking. In other words, if we were in a hurry and Duke was pulling, I didn’t always do the “tree” thing or u-turn. He still made huge progress.
This is wrong in just so many ways.
More and more European countries are showing shock collars the red card, but to me it seems as if producers where simply giving them another name to become again acceptable.
I’ve never seen a head collar properly used, though that’s mostly due to the fact that my dog trainer is against their use during classes and strongly advised me against using one,when I was looking for a solution to stop my then 10 months old Golden from pulling. He was diagnosed with a broken elbow at he age of 6 months and proper leash training had to be put off for longer than was good for my back.
In the end we reverted to a couple of intense “follow my yummy fingers” training followed by the same mix of methods used on my now 4 years old lab – who came to us at the age of 1 1/2 years with absolutely no leash nor collar training.
Time and patience are some key words. For leash training I use a relatively short leash (1,5meters) and simple collar or retriever collar/leash combined with the silent walk method – don’t talk and change direction frequently, you’ll end up having your dogs attention. When walking, stop when the dog starts pulling, if the dog doesn’t break the pull, try to walk backwards.
Important, you may repeat this during the walk, but don’t continue for more than 5 minutes. During breaks and if we’re still outside I either put the dog on a long leash (5 meters and more and attached to a harness) and let them have their fun.
If I don’t have enough time, I shorten my route. 15 mins route for 30mins of time.
What I’ve seen throughout all the hours spent at dog school, is that people don’t take their time fo their walks, they are occupied with other things than being there for their dog and they only remember the not pulling exercises when the dog Is already distracted by too many things. Or they just let them roam around free (which is a different topic alltogether).
I would have used the clicker method, but I changed my mind on its effectiveness only recently. 🙂
I’m happy enough with the result, they do walk heal if I want them too, but all I want is no pulling, so they have all the room the length of leash allows. And when I’m awake enough, I can even walk them together.
To Donna B (on Hound Hill?): Thanks for the reference to the study, it’s fascinating. I’ll read it over tonight, might be a great subject for a blog post….
And to all, just fyi: I don’t use the “Stop if you Pull” method much myself. For myself (although not for novice trainers), I’ve found a combination of 1) first teaching attention with R+, 2) tons of treats when the dog is in the right place, ie, more R+, 3) helping a dog at first to follow when I turn to the right with lots of visual cues (I like to bend my knees, dogs seem to notice that right away) and eventually, once we have a solid foundation, 4) doing a 180 turn in front of the dog if I think he’s about to forge ahead. This is the part that takes the finesse and timing, and not all novices can pull it off. You have to turn before the dog gets ahead of you, when you ‘feel’ it start to push ahead. It’s a kind of a body block in that you move into the space the dog was considering taking. I do it very benevolently, with lots of treats and verbal praise as the dog responds. I also do lots of direction and pace changes to make it fun; otherwise, it must be such a snoooooze for a dog.
Seriously? I know this is harsh but who in their right mind buys anything from people using language like: “those collars with spiky things, and the leader that goes over the nose”?? Or is that the scientific jargon that I’m missing out on there?!
I feel sorry for Joe Public’s dogs…
I did want to add one thing about the type of stopping I used to teach Otis not to pull on the leash: I didn’t use the “be a tree” method exactly, because though Otis would stop moving forward, he had no idea what to do next. What I did was stop, often take a step backward to get him moving again, then encourage him with a verbal cue, “get ready..”(I used the same one to signal that we were going back to “formal” walking after a free sniff or play break) and a gentle tug in the right direction to move him back into “correct” position, with his nose beside my hand. The instant he was in the right place, even if he was still moving, I started to walk. The instant he moved out of position (his shoulder passing my leg in the forward direction–he has a very long neck so this puts his nose at least 12″ ahead of me– or roughly twice that distance to the side) I’d stop, even if there was still slack in the leash, which I kept quite short.
After I’d stopped, I’d turn him around me in a circle to come back into position- we spun in a lot of circles for that first couple of weeks, but at least it wasn’t as boring as standing still, and it seemed easier for him to execute and understand than asking him to back up or try to do a tight turn to walk back to me without moving myself- Circling him around was the important feature, though- it disrupted his attention on the object of his interest, engaged his brain, and redirected his focus to me.
The first few times, he looked at me like I was crazy. The next few, he started circling back into position without any physical cue- I could see the wheels turning, “I want her to go…how do I make her go…?” then he started working it out… “turning around is annoying, and is cramping my style. How can I avoid that?” With a calm, thinker of a dog who only pulled toward interesting features, it worked GREAT. After only a few weeks, he could have won leash walking contests. After nearly four years, I still spend the vast majority of Otis’ walks with his leash resting across the fingers of my open hand.
However, my other dog, Sandy, has a totally different set of issues around leash walking- she’s a steamroller who learned at some point in her former life that putting her head down and forging full steam ahead is the best way to enjoy a walk. She’s not aiming at anything in particular, typically, she just wants to go,go, go. Stopping and turning did not help much. She wasn’t focused on anything, so she pulled constantly, but didn’t feel all that disrupted by having to stop or turn, which confused her some, but did next to nothing to tone down her excitement. On the plus side, she wasn’t strong enough to overpower me, so it wasn’t AS critical to fix it immediately, but unlike Otis, she never really figured the turning thing out- I think she got as far as “this lady’s crazy” before “hey! what’s that over there?! Now that I’ve turned around, I see a New Thing, just as good as the Every Other Thing!”
We gave it about a week with negligible progress before switching to a reward/very mild punishment-based system. Food sends her excitement over the top, so worker-bee Sandy mostly got praise and attention for a reinforcer, which suited her just fine. We started at home with treats though, rewarding for attention and teaching a “watch me”, then taught her to follow along with us while on leash indoors, shoveling food and praise at her for following and continued attention. Food-driven Sandy learned this move in minutes. We then translated it to the leash outdoors, starting our walks with a “watch me”, then a “with me” just as we had at home, but phased the food out pretty quickly since she started to get overexcited, jumping, darting her gaze around, and losing focus. Instead of pure positive reinforcement, we introduced a mild positive punishment in the form of a verbal correction (“ah-ah”) if she started putting tension on the leash, followed by a quick redirect, (“with me”) and warm praise for coming back close to us. Serious distractions meant stopping, then calling her by name and implementing a quick-time march in a different direction.
Sandy now walks quite well, but with a totally different vibe than the one Otis gives off. She seems focused on it as a task when she walks close to us without pulling. She can sustain this focus for quite a long time, and I believe that it is satisfying to her, and certainly more pleasant than choking herself half to death with her (flat) collar- but it does require that she concentrate on doing it, if that makes any sense. She wants to pull, but is supressing that impulse to make US happy-if she gets sufficiently distracted, she’ll relapse.
Otis, on the other hand, doesn’t ever forget and go back to pulling, but he doesn’t seem to think about it actively- he’s sniffing, looking around, generally in his own little world (he didn’t have six years of bad habits to overcome, either). One way isn’t necessarily better than the other, but they are definitely different, with different needs.
Off leash, Sandy will RUN forward, then loop back before she’s out of sight, spending most of her walk dashing back and forth around us. Calling her name means a slamming stop, a hairpin turn and a sprint back to our sides-it’s just how she is. Otis spends most of his off-leash walk moseying along behind or to the side of us, sniffing smells, looking around, enjoying the occasional burst of speed, but mostly sticking to a leisurely trot, watching our progress out of the corner of his eye to make sure we never get too far away, and seldom venturing ahead of us at all. Most of the time, calling him means that he comes trotting up in no particular hurry (though in his defense, with legs that long, a leisurely trot for him is nearly as fast as I could run). It’s no surprise to me that leash walking takes much more conscious effort for Sandy than Otis- it’s much more dissimilar to her preferred mode of travel.
Beth with corgies. I wasn’t talking about ALL aversives, just shock collars. And I maintain for them to work, there must be pain. Otherwise why would one use a shock collar to try and stop a behavior? Shock collars do not work by tickling, or causing pleasure, they work by inflicting pain. That is their purpose. that is how they work.
Kerry M. says
Appreciate the feedback from those who have dogs that like (or even love) their head collar. I appreciate it because I want to keep recommending them especially for dogs who are physically difficult to walk due to their size.
I am getting a new puppy to puppy raise this fall. I am hoping that she will have the same experience of the dogs who love it because she will spend a year and a half being walked on it with me. She will actually be the 4th dog I’ve personally worked with on one so here’s hoping law of averages gives me one who doesn’t see it as a mini torture device.
I also would disagree with the assertion that shock collars must be painful to work. Having experienced the sensation myself on my fingertips and neck, I would not describe the shock as pain, exactly. It is very startling, and I find it quite unpleasant, but it isn’t a snap like a static charge (which I do find painful), but rather a buzzing sensation, at least with the collar that I used. Higher settings left me with a “funny bone” weird sensation, but I still wouldn’t describe the feeling as pain (unlike the electric fence I got zapped by years ago). I’m fairly sensitive to even very mild electric shocks- I don’t even like using touch screens because of the mini shocks I often feel- but while I wouldn’t say that the sensation caused by the collar was painful, I WOULD describe it as MORE unpleasant (and decidedly more distracting) than most mild forms of pain, at least to me. It’s the surprise, and the weirdness of the sensation that makes it so aversive to me- I’d personally rather take a straightforward slap to the face any day of the week, but I don’t think that it is necessarily fair to describe “all shock collars” as needing to inflict pain in order to work. It might be fair, however, to claim that they work by inspiring FEAR. The low setting of mine is not at all painful, just startling and weird, which can be just as (if not more) frightening than pain.
This quote is exactly what I did to my dog except I will take out “injured” and use “corrected” because I did this to my dog without using a shock collar: “Every time I pull toward another dog I am (corrected). Using my doggy brain and able as I am to associate 2 things together, it is obvious, even to knucklehead here, that other dogs are dangerous. I’d better start growling and barking at them to keep them away.” You don’t need a shock collar to ruin your dog.
Now I have a dog which has grown reactive to other dogs when it didn’t start out that way. I realized the more corrective I became with my dog, the more he became convinced that approaching dogs with people are potentially dangerous. In fact yelling at my dog was probably not understood at all by my dog. It was probably interpreted as yelling AT the other dog so now my dog thinks he and I are a team yelling at the oncoming dog (or people with dogs). Even worse if I put my dog on a sit behind me because NOW people with dogs are so dangerous I have to put myself BETWEEN them and my dog. They must be the most dangerous possible thing out there.
I’ve worked hard to undo this but we’re not there yet. Now I live in an area where people let their dogs run off leash constantly (a casual harbor). I have better results if I don’t have my dog on a leash than if I do because a tug or tension on the leash can trigger his reaction.
This morning, walking my dog for a potty break before work, my dog is on heel and being food rewarded for keeping focused on me. Another dog he hasn’t met yet comes charging up full speed ignoring both owners who are calling their dog and even patting their thighs bent over none of which is working. My dog did fine with the first encounter, the second encounter, and the third encounter all of this as the couple finally caught up to their dog and us. After the third time the dog encountered mine it seemed we had made it through. I let my dog do his business. The other dog ran ahead and was out of site. Success! Or so I thought. I then realized the couple had detoured behind me and my dog and I are now in between the free running dog and the couple. I had also turned around to head back to the dock so now my dog’s back is turned to the other dog which has reappeared and is charging full speed in our direction.
Treat in hand I keep my dogs focus who is clearly getting more and more agitated the closer this dog comes even though he is listening to me and staying at heel on my left. His stance lowers slightly to a more crouch-like walk, his head darting between me and looking back over his shoulder at the oncoming dog. I DON’T treat this because he’s not calm but I keep redirecting his attention as best I can. But the situation is escalation and I couldn’t think fast enough to even begin to find a solution. My dog is on heel at my side and a big force of nature is barreling towards us making my dog more and more agitated by the second.
The dog approached from my dog’s left. When the dog stopped to greet my dog (AGAIN) my dog had passed his threshold and my dog defensively went for him. It was a dog yin yang – my dog snarling and possibly chomping at their dog’s butt and their dog yowling in retreat, both dogs spinning in a circle. I tried to get between them and lost my footing so now I’m on the ground, the owners of the other dog (who were quite a distance away distracted on something else and not paying attention to their dog) came running over. I felt completely out of options. I can’t control what other people are doing or other dogs. Had that dog been under competent human control … in fact had humans even been PRESENT this may not have happened at all. It was possibly the absence of the other dog’s “people” that caused this because in all three previous approaches, that dog’s people were in site. The forth encounter, they were not in site.
I’m so frustrated. We work HARD. He trains for flyball, agility, titles in obedience, AND he is trained for Search and Rescue but he will NEVER be a service dog if we can’t correct this. Any advice is welcome. Sorry this reactive comment is on a shock collar article but I think it’s important for people to realize you don’t need a shock collar to end up with the same result caused by giving confusing messages to our dogs when trying to correct.
It seems like the product is marketed at beginning or first-time dog owners. That is too bad. I walk a lot of dogs who will suddenly dark out into the grass to go to the bathroom. I also walk some “jumpy” dogs that will get startled by loud trucks or other sounds and quickly jump behind me. I would hate for dogs like that to get “corrections” when they aren’t doing anything wrong.
Elizabeth: I’m not a professional. I just wanted to respond to your story in case no one else does. I read it and was moved. I hope you are able to work this out.
It would be good to remember what you said: “I can’t control what other people are doing or other dogs.” You can’t.
Elizabeth, You are not alone. I too live with a damaged and reactive dog. And despite my best efforts to keep everyone safe from her she has managed to bite someone. Had the person that was bitten listened to my pleas to wait a minute while I confined the dog nothing would have happened except some fierce barking. Unfortunately, she ignored everything I was saying, leaned in over the gate and spoke to me very emphatically. My damaged dog perceiving a threat to her favorite person reacted with her teeth delivering one short sharp nip. I’ve replayed it thousands of times in my mind and what it comes down to is that those of us with reactive dogs do the very best we can all the time but we really can’t control other people or dogs.
For us, we are working with a professional trainer which is proving a great help. I have a pretty good working knowledge of how to train and counter-conditioning, etc. which is what it will take to change our dog’s associations with people to something positive. What I lack is experience and the ability to stand outside myself and see what I really am rewarding. Our trainer has a lot of experience and she can tell me when my timing is off and I’m rewarding the undesired behavior rather than the desired behavior. It’s helping a lot. Not that our dog won’t be a work in progress for a long time to come but as you no doubt understand even the smallest victories and improvements are to be celebrated.
Wishing you all the best in your journey with your reactive dog.
Em, the problem with your rebuttal is that it’s subjective. the assumption is because you didn’t feel what you would think of as pain, the dogs are also not feeling pain.
The other issue with it is, when we use words like discomfort, and unpleasant we are down playing the pain factor. in my opinion, its a denial of what is actually going on. NO ONE wants to think they are intentionally inflicting pain on their dog. so we are only causing “discomfort” and “unpleasant”.
Lets look at just those words. for something to be unpleasant, there is often something discomforting happening, part of the definition of discomfort is mild pain.
I Googled for the medical definition of pain. some of what I found was ….
“subjective interpretation of the discomfort”
“Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience”
The other issue with your rebuttal is the claim that shock collars work more by inspiring fear. Since they aren’t using noise, what other means would there be for inspiring fear except pain?
for there to be pain, one does not need to be rolling on the ground writhing in agony, yelping, screaming, crying etc. one only needs to experience a physical sensation of enough intensity to be “discomforting” or “unpleasant” in order to feel pain.
the idea that a sensation is only pain if one is yelping and expressing agony is really, well, silly.
Elizabeth – if you haven’t already, check out Leslie McDevitt’s book, Control Unleashed.
Oh Elizabeth, so many of us empathize. Willie was just as bad as your dog, if not worse. It took me over two years to have a dog I could walk in a neighborhood, and I still would never ever go to a dog park. You’ve gotten some good comments already, here are a few thoughts of mine: 1) It is true that you can’t control the behavior of others. Because of that, the more tools you have in your tool box, the better.. Control Unleashed has some great ideas in it, I’d also refer you to the video I have on the website of stopping dogs who are running at your dog. It’s hugely helpful in the situation you describe because it’s not just about controlling your own dog, it’s influencing the behavior of others. (Go to http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/aggression-towards-other-dogs).
2) If you think about it, you and your dog did wonderfully, and I want to take a moment to celebrate his wonderful behavior for the first three times that other dogs came charging at him. Good boy! Good girl for all that work you did! I hope that the ending doesn’t take away from how well you both did in very trying circumstances. This is important, I’m not just blowing smoke here girl, it’s critical to evaluate what happened, and what happened is that your dog was great compared to his behavior a while ago.
3) As much as I sympathize, and believe me, I truly truly do, it also seems important that as I understand it, nothing truly serious happened. Your dog snarled at another dog and maybe nipped at his butt. No dog was injured, and you (I hope) were not injured. What was worst perhaps was feeling helpless in that situation. All you need then are a few ideas about controlling the behavior of other dogs (not always possible, but often) to add to your complement of tricks.
4) And so I say: First, I’m sorry that this happened to you and your dog. It shouldn’t have. And second, yeah for you and your dog for doing so well in such a difficult situation. We’re all here applauding you.
Premier Dogs says
While I am saddened and frustrated to hear about this “SimpleLeash” product, I am not surprised.
As most of us in the world of training/behaviour know: Working with the dogs is the easy part… it’s the owners that are the challenge… and this “SimpleLeash” will certainly appeal to the lowest common denominator of dog owners.
My previous dog once hit an electric for wild boar while picking up his ball during a walk. He ended up mortally afraid of the ball. If he saw me pick it up, he would cower. I put the ball down in yard, he would not go near it. Off course I threw it away… Can’t imagine what this kind of collar would have donw to my pulling, dog reactive big softie siberian…
Must admit I failed horribly on the teaching your dog not too pull with the new pups. One of them is pretty good, darting back to us when we stop as he pulls. The other one is a moreavid hunter, very intense on everything moving when we go out and remembering every place he has ever seen a rabbit or hare… I use a front harness but he just puts his paws over it so the leahs is under hin and, hey mama, look I can still pull… Grrr. Used a leash wrap this mormng, first time I read about it. Seemed to work better! Although his long thin 10 mo old body it does have the tendency to slip backward a bit.
I’m not sure how profitable it is to continue this line of debate, since I agree that shock collars must cause distress to be effectively aversive, but once again, I must disagree with your blanket assertions.
I don’t accept that your medical definition of pain is complete, for one- many unpleasant sensations cannot realistically be called painful. Nor is pain necessary to inspire fear. In your earlier post you note that ecollars don’t work by tickling, but honestly, depending on how ticklish you are, the mechanism is somewhat similar. My brother used to torture me by sneaking up behind me and poking me in the ribs in just the right place. I screamed and jumped out of my skin every time, but the sensation my brother caused WASN’T pain. It was surprise and an unpleasant sensation. Obviously the situation isn’t comparable to a shock collar- I knew what had happened and why and I knew I wasn’t in danger. But I would be cautious about hanging too much of your argument against shock collars on the certainty that they cause pain. In my admittedly subjective experience (but how else would the painfulness of a sensation be evaluated? I seriously doubt that the sensations are substantively different to Otis, who is both bigger and hairier than I am.), they don’t always, but that is not necessarily a justification for using them.
What do you all think of the Starmark Collar?
pibble lover says
I feel I left something important out my head collar comment. What really helps with large untrained dogs, is that I get to reward them for being in the walking position by my side and the collar is a huge help in doing that for large to giant breeds. If they’re out front or darting about, I can’t reward them for being in the right place. Most of these dogs come to me underfed (last pit was over 25 lbs underweight, poor thing!) so I have a whole baggy of soft yummy stuff that I constantly feed to them while they’re walking right next to me. The further they get away from that position, the further away they are from the good stuff. For shorter dogs, I smear a long wooden spoon with peanut butter. Yes, I am working on teaching ‘heel’ at the same time, so typically I’m rewarding off my left leg.
I saw another person’s comments who handles pit bulls awhile back mention using a combo of front clip harness and martin. I’m always looking for new ideas, so I’ll check that out. One thing I know after almost four decades of walking dogs, I’ve never seen such strong and dedicated pullers as I do in my foster pits. Good thing they’re generally smart, willing and love to eat! Never ever would I consider using an electric stim or shock to teach this skill, no matter how severe the pulling.
Time and patience is my mantra, repetitions require both and that’s how dogs learn. We’ve become such a ‘quick fix’ culture, and it’s really hurting dogs…
EM, you keep leaving the context of a shock collar.
Shock collars cause a physical sensation through the application of electrical current.
If that physical sensation is not pain, then what is causing the fear, distress, and discomfort you refer to?
Wendy W says
Hmmm – for the sake of our dogs’ enjoyment – what if we wore shock collars and let our dogs zap us whenever we walk too slowly or remain oblivious to some delightful scent in the grass? I know my dog loves me, but I’m guessing that if her paw was on the trigger, I could be reduced to a twitching puddle by the end of the first block.
So I’m going to keep my goals focused on keeping my girl as happy as possible while walking with plodding/clueless me. I’ll continue to: 1) reward her for walking in something close to a heel position; 2) allow her to move away from the heel position when she chooses, addressing any pulling by stopping or changing direction; and 3) keep at it with the look at/leave it exercise to further reduce her reaction (hope, hope) to wonderfully exciting things like UPS trucks and skateboarders.
Beth with the Corgis says
Matthew, while I sort of feel debate may not make progress, I want to assure you that the physical sensations caused by my own experience with e-stim can be uncomfortable enough to stop what you are doing without being painful. Muscles contracting on their own without you contracting them is a weird and disconcerting situation. Unless you are doing aversion training (rattlesnakes, etc) frequently all you need to do is interrupt a dog’s behavior to redirect him to what you want him to do.
I can undoubtedly cause a dog to be spooky and hand-shy simply by repeatedly squirting the dog in the face with a squirt gun. It does not need to cause an ounce of pain to very aversive.
The reason I think it’s important is because others might argue the leash is ok to use if they try it themselves and determine it’s not painful. But the fact is you can still mess up your dog without causing a speck of pain.
If you are using a traditional shock collar to proof a dog on behavior it already knows (coming to a whistle for a bird dog, let’s say), frequently all you need to do is startle them when they ignore you to get their attention back on you. That is why loud claps, tossing magazines, and rattling pennies all are considered aversives and all can have a (limited) place in training, even though none are painful.
Again, I think it’s important to stress that even if there is NO PAIN it can be unsettling to the dog and ruin it.
This is the last time I will visit this issue. In order to better address the assertion that you have repeated, that shock collars must cause pain to work as aversive, I pulled out my shock collar, charged it up, and tried it on both my husband and myself (he volunteered). Just as I remembered, the sensation is not one I would describe as painful. It buzzes, which feels weird. It is not a sensation that I enjoy, but it doesn’t hurt. It’s startling. If I didn’t understand what was happening, it would probably be frightening.
My collar ranges from level 1-8. It starts as imperceptible on level 1, a barely perceptible buzzing at level 2, and gets increasingly intense. At level 4 for me, 5 for my husband, we started vocalizing, “Ack!” and flinching. And then laughing. This is not to make light of the shock collar as a serious punishment, this was just our human reaction, with none of the psychological distress that one would expect to find in either an animal or a human with no ability to control or predict the sensation. The laughing was a release of nervous tension, surely, but no stage, not even level 8, which felt like being tapped on one of my reflex points or the sensation a few minutes after jamming my funny bone, did I experience a sensation that I would say hurt. Still, I would not like to experience it again. If someone had the ability to inflict it on me at random, I think I would very quickly become traumatized.
This is important, I think, because it is rather too easy to use simplistic assumptions like “shock collars always cause pain,” to draw simplistic conclusions, “it is therefore not good to use shock collars”. The problem with this is the risk that people will test your assumption, find that they disagree with your assessment, and dismiss your conclusion as ill-informed. If shock collars are only bad because they cause pain, all a person would have to do is satisfy themselves (by any one of a number of measures which could include personal testing, behavioral observation, etc.) that shock collars DON’T cause pain, and they could draw the logical conclusion that shock collars are humane and appropriate.
Whether the collars cause pain is almost incidental. Plenty of everyday accidents and activities cause pain. Not being a particularly graceful person, I experience mild to moderate pain several times a day. I step on pointy rocks, get scratched by thorns, yesterday the car door got caught in a gust of wind and swung shut on my shin, leaving a truly impressive and fantastically purple lump. Do I feel traumatized by these experiences? Of course not. I wasn’t startled, I knew that I was not in danger, and I have only my own inattention to blame. I still feel confident and in control of my life, and secure in my relationships.
If on the other hand, my husband had become angry with me and whacked me in the shin with a stick, you had better believe I’d be traumatized (and on the phone with the police). The pain would be the same, but pain is not always the most relevant factor. I would be just as traumatized if he shouted and threatened, even if he never touched me at all. When determining whether a shock collar is appropriate or acceptable it is important to remember that pain ISN’T necessary to cause trauma- the fact that something doesn’t hurt doesn’t necessarily make it acceptable. Fear and uncertainty can be just as damaging as pain, perhaps more. So even if you are satisfied that a shock collar is not causing pain, it may still be cruel to use it.
One final anecdote to rebut your main point, that shock collars MUST be painful to work as aversive:
During the late spring in our area, female snapping turtles often venture out of wetlands to lay their eggs on higher ground. This means that we sometimes encounter them in unexpected places. They’re pretty slow moving, so keeping a sharp eye out and an occasional “leave it” are all that is typically necessary to share space. On one occasion, however, Otis’ best dog friend approached what looked like a rock in the grass at the dog park, sniffing with no particular interest. The turtle lunged at him before any of us realized what it was, snapping, catching him completely off guard. The dog let out a sound beyond a yelp- he screamed. He also leapt what looked like about fifteen feet straight backward and came streaking back to his owner’s side, tail tucked and cowering. For nearly three weeks afterward, every time we passed a roundish rock of turtle size, he’d freeze, and tuck his tail and creep nervously around it (and we live in a glacial terrain, so lots of these everywhere). But here’s the thing. The turtle never touched him. At all. The dog’s experience was deeply frightening and profoundly aversive- traumatic, I’d say, but involved absolutely no pain. He was “just” startled.
It is very likely that some shock collars cause pain, but whether they cause pain or not, the sensation is always startling, even if you expect and understand it. Heaven only knows what a dog makes of it. So I say again, it is not necessarily true that shock collars NEED to be painful (though some of them almost certainly are) to be aversive and potentially traumatizing.
I want to express my appreciation for those who wrote about the be a tree, or rock or something stationary approach to leash walking and acknowledging it didn’t work for them either! whether it was due to lack of time, patience, the dog having more persistence, etc. I can remember covering a quarter mile in 40 minutes and thinking this was just nuts, & not enjoyable for either of us. My now 5 year old BC was incredibly difficult to comfortably leash walk till he was 2 -1/2 years old and now he is a dream. It was literally the one behavior I struggled with. I had also tried the Gentle Leader, a harness, a prong (briefly!!), then a metal link leash to at least stop the tug-a-war, treating at my side, lots of praise for the right position, etc. etc. It was exhausting & embarrasing, then it just stopped and he became my perfect guy in all ways. And I definitely can not imagine how adding shock would have helped, though it easily could have made a very sensitive guy even more leash aversive. Oh, and he is one of those dogs who has walked off leash beautifully since he was 6 months old.
One small, very obvious thing it took me a ridiculously long time to realise – you need a longer leash to walk a very small dog. Most leads in the UK come at a standard length of 1 metre/40 inches. My dogs’ withers are about 10 inches off the ground. A 1 metre leash gives them almost no room for manoeuvre – life became so much easier for all of us when I found 6 foot leads!
And I do agree Wendy -we would all be getting a hell of a lot more exercise if the “stim” was at the handler’s end!
Marcia Carlson says
I checked the online stores where I purchase stuff for my dog and none of them were carrying this item so I went to the SimplLeash site to find out where it was sold. I copied their URL by highlighting it then pressing control and C. Found out amazon.com sells them. So I logged onto my amazon account, and sent them an email using their form with the heading “dangerous product”. I commented that they were selling an item that was used as an instrument of torture of dogs. I said that noted dog trainer and behaviorist Patricia McConnell (whose best selling books are sold by amazon) could explain it better than I could and pasted in the URL by pressing control and V.
Maybe if we all contacted amazon and asked our friends to contact amazon, asking amazon to stop selling this item, they will stop selling it, making it harder to get.
Mia Hess says
Boy, since my clicker timing sucks, I know using something like this would REALLY suck for my dog!!
I feel bad for people who don’t have access to (or even know how to find) a good trainer to train THEM and their dog, even know about these pages or Kikopup on YT. I feel bad for people who can’t afford a trainer or classes either but wait…they can afford $100 plus S&H. Hmmm…what’s wrong with this picture?
I have noticed that one of the two huge things that people complain about is “dog pulls on leash.” I do it too.
Sometimes even the shocking bark collars can be damaging. I knew of a dog who was becoming increasing reactive to bicyclists and joggers during walks, getting to the point he was becoming a danger. Turns out the owner had put him in a bark collar to stop his barking when he would charge his fenceline after bicycles and joggers. It stopped his barking but the poor dog became very paranoid when coming across these things in public, highly stressed with panting and drooling, followed by a *silent* lunge and snap. The owners never connected the dots and the dog lost his life over it.
On the topic of controlling pulling, I noticed several commentors mentioned using a “leash wrap” for dedicated pullers. While it can seem like a quick fix, it is really not appropriate for reactive or fearful dogs.
For years I’ve taken shelter dogs through an obedience class taught by the shelter’s board director. For many years he taught the “leash wrap.” When I took over teaching the course, the leash wrap was the first thing dropped from the otherwise reward based class.
The wrap basically is using a choke chain around your dog’s chest (behind the elbows and pinching skin when correctly positioned.) The wrap rarely stays correctly positioned on most dogs and slides back around the waist, cinching everytime the dog pulls. I have rarely seen anyone make sure that the leash stays loose and immediately loosens after the “correction.” To be used correctly, there has to be the immediate release like a choke chain. Mostly I see people walking dogs who are being strangled by their waists. I’ve also seen what this method does to reactive dogs and it’s just as Trish mentioned with the shock leash: pain + strange dog or stimulus = increase in reactivity.
I understand how difficult it is to manage pulling and to find a non-corrective product that does not involve some time and effort involved. Among my current sudents there are 4 owners who are matched with truly innapropriate dogs for their lifestyles. All are over 70, have had some combination of back surgeries, knee replacements, or broke a hip in the past year. All 4 have recent injuries from falls during dog walks before they signed up for class AND have doctor’s orders they cannot fall again! It has been a real challenge trying to help these women while their dogs learn the basics.
I am a big believer in watch, and in class we also teach a 360 turn watch and students have the “armchair watch” game (from Peggy Tillman), but without the clicker, as homework. By the time the handlers are getting to this point, I teach the “about face” LLW and it’s been highly effective. We also play “red light, green light” where a jackpot is put on the floor for the dog to see, with a starting line 20 feet away. If the dog pulls, the handler backs up to the start line and starts all over (also from Peggy Tillman.) Not so useful during actual walks with dedicated pullers, but extremely motivating for the handler to see that their dog can learn the concept of LLW. They seem to be willing to put more time into the “about face” practice for LLW. For people who cannot put the time in or physically cannot manage the timing of turns, the easy walker or halti are their main options.
I like the easy walker for most students since it’s difficult to injure your dog, but as was mentioned some dogs can escape properly fitted ones and there is no head control – big problem with dogs who lunge or are bite risk. As mentioned by another poster, if I’m using one of these with a reactive dog, I also use a martingale combo as a “back up” safety system.
I like the halti or gentle leader in some circumstances but have the most resistance from people who have already been using gentle leaders with their reactive dog. Most I have worked with were correcting the dog as if they had a choke chain on, not understanding the kind of neck pain and damage they can inflict a gentle leader. Chronic neck pain certainly does not help a dog relax. If they are new to a halti (I prefer these since they clip to the collar in case the dog manages to wrestle out) we can make a lot of progress, but I’ve found it very difficult to try to retrain someone who’s been using these products incorrectly for years. In these scenarios, sometimes switching to the easy walker is a good bet since there is a “fresh” start and the dog gets a break from being jerked around.
The idea of simple leash is a good one but only for dogs with uncontrollable problems. For example a female pitbull that constantly gets off the leash tears down the wall of the house and rolls in decon then coming inside and poisoning her family by getting decon all over the inside of the house. This behavior even led to the woman having a miscarriage due to the decon in her system.This collar was the persons last resort aside from putting their animal to sleep and saved the animal and the families lives.
One day when out leash training a rescue dog, I noticed that I give unintentional minute “leash corrections” as my hand bounces when I walk, and even more when I jog or run with the dog unless I have my hand pinned to my stomach at all times, which is kind of silly and hard to do if you’re doing anything more than walking.
Imagine how confusing this would be to a dog if I practiced giving intentional leash corrections. But even more so, I wonder if the SimpleLeash is sensitive enough to punish the dog for the walker’s unintentional hand movements.
With my unconscious leash corrections in mind, I began to take notice on walks of my hand movements. Then I began to watch other people on walks and noticed that they too do it. Even more so the joggers and runners.
Susan Mann says
I have very little patience with devices that deliver pain of any sort, and an abhorrence of euphemisms, so find this device contemptible. On a lighter note, apropos of another device that uses a “stimulus” to correct the dog, this time for barking, I have a great true story:
Guy walked into our ER with his girlfriend, he had burns on his neck. Turns out the girlfriend’s dog was barking a lot, so he bought a shock collar that would automatically “stim” him when he barked, no effort needed on the owners’ part. The girlfriend was appalled, and to reassure her how harmless it was, he put it on himself. The dog barked, the guy got shocked and let out a shriek as he fell to the floor, which set the dog off in a barking frenzy, and each time the dog barked, it kept shocking him! He had second degree burns and was in a lot of pain, and needless to say, the dog did NOT wear the collar!
I know this is an older post. But I was wondering if everyone is against e collars for just leash training or against it for all use? I use an e collar on my 8 month old GSD and he respond very well to it. Never yelling, shutting down or anything. Before we even put the e collar on him, I tried it on myself and it is nothing like a shock at all. Touching an electic fence or shocking yourself on a door knob hurts way more! This is a different sort of stimulation, it’s more of like a thing that causes your muscles to move. In no way, did it hurt at all. I would never ever put it on my pup if it caused me any pain. We use our e collar to reinforce off leash commands. With the e collar your dog has to know the commands before you even put the e collar into the equation. If your dog has no idea what leave it means and your zapping him left and right to leave it, he just learns that when he hears that word he gets zapped. So you really have to have the commands taught before you’re reinforcing them. The e collar to me is just like a tap on the shoulder or a quick tug on a flat collar or prong collar. It gets my dogs attention and he’s like oh hey, moms walking I better catch up. And he carries on his merry little way sniffing everything and being happy. E collars when use in correctly are HORRIBLE, if you don’t know what you’re doing or are a novice, inexperienced dog owner, then please return your e collar and seek the help of a professional!
We have a dogtra 2300 ncp that has a vibrate button, which does just that, vibrates like your cell phone and even that is enough sometimes to correct my dog. It is not a stimulation or a nick, but a vibrate. E collars are not for everyone, I understand that, and if you understand how to use them correctly, they’re great. It’s the same thing to us as an extension of a leash. Please don’t hate on all e collars! Especially when used properly.
One of the things that bothers me the most about shock collars (and punishment-based training in general) is the euphemisms. It’s not a tap or a nick or a stim–it’s a SHOCK. It’s a painful, punishing stimulus. If punishment is such a fine and dandy thing, trainers and companies should have no problem calling it what it is.
At one point, the hubby and I were considering fostering a deaf dog, and we were wondering how you could get the dog’s attention if you were out of arm’s reach and not in front of them. We tried to find out if you could use a shock collar with the vibrate setting only (possibly removing the prongs for safety), thinking that with a deaf dog, that kind of signal might be really useful. Turns out that there are collars that just vibrate. If what you want is a *signal* like a tap on the shoulder, why not just get a vibrate collar?
There are a lot of risks with shock collars. How do you know the setting is low enough, especially when dogs are pretty stoic about pain? How do you know the dog will associate the punishment with the right action (pulling) rather than with other circumstances? How do you account for variations in pain tolerance from day to day? What happens if it malfunctions?
I’ve had “stim” for physical therapy—very light electrical current, combined with either heat or ice. There are days when the level of current that was fine yesterday isn’t today. Sometimes I get desensitized and need it turned up. Other times what feels fine at one minute is uncomfortable at ten and it needs to be turned down. So when it’s that finicky, with a machine intended to deliver non-painful current, a trained physical therapist, and a person who can communicate exactly how the current feels, how much harder would it be to get the “right” level of shock for a dog who can’t tell you if it hurts.
First of all, that’s awful, especially that the woman had a miscarriage. In a situation like that, I definitely understand feeling the need to take really drastic steps.
However, if the dog is constantly getting off the leash, the problem is how securely the leash is attached both to the dog and to the person. (Is the clasp breaking, is she pulling the leash out of her owner’s hand, etc.?) Shocking the dog isn’t going to make her any less able to get off the leash. It might make her less *inclined* to do so, but one of the breed traits of pit bulls is gameness–the ability to persevere through pain. If the dog wants something badly enough to ignore the shock, then what? I’d be very concerned that this is giving a false sense of security.
Also, I always question when people talk about “last resorts” what the first, second and third resort actually were, how long they were tried, and how well they were done.
A Setter Mom says
I really appreciate the comment that something doesn’t have to hurt to cause trauma. I am beginning to believe that certain things that happen daily over and over again in dog-owner interactions such as repeated yelling at the dog, grabbing by collar, etc. may be far worse than say one or two signaled aversive events the dog can easily learn to avoid through his own behavior and never have to experience again. That comments not to be misconstrued – I think this leash is a terrible idea because it doesn’t meet criteria for effective punishment at all. But I think some of the social interactions that happen can be far more traumatizing than one or two experiences with a carefully timed “aversive” that doesn’t happen over and over again like some of the traumatizing social stuff.
i would like to give the makers of this product a little ‘harmless correction stimulus.’
seriously, have you seen this? says
How about a vet that gives advice that can hurt dogs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfArvh9bzY4&feature=player_embedded
Re the video mentioned above: Eeeps. I choose to stop watching after awhile, too painful to watch that terrified dog when there are so many kinder ways to work through the fear of loud noises.