Don’t Choke the Dog

And Other Thoughts About Medieval Training Practices

choke chain stuffed dog 004

This is Part one in my “Discovering Training” series. Be sure not to miss parts two and three!

Why would anyone want to use a device called a “choke chain” or a “pinch collar” or a “prong collar”? What about “shock collars”? Yikes…

{But wait a minute, Annette… don’t you have a slip collar or “choke” style collars? Yes I do, actually, but I only use them with non-force methods and not as trainer-applied correction devices. I will explain in a post that is dedicated to these specific tools and how they are used with force training vs. positive training methods. But I never use them on a dog that pulls hard nor do I tug on the leash!!}

When used by traditional trainers these training tools are used in ways that clearly cause the dog pain or at least a modest amount of discomfort. Many people cringe at the thought of intentionally inflicting pain, even if a small amount, on their little baby dog. But these devices exist in abundance. There are many trainers, veterinarians, groomers and professional dog walkers that endorse them and recommend their use wholeheartedly. Amazon pages are filled with positive reviews for these devices.

Crazy Dog People

You can read the reviews and articles about these devices, but then you’ll see a fair amount of people that disparage their users. Unfortunately (for dogs) those that speak out against these tools (which are typically persons in the non-traditional training camp) always seem sort of ridiculous. They tend to come across as being completely unpractical, bleeding heart, and dogs-are-people-too sort of folks. You know who they are; crazy dog people that don’t live in the real world with the rest of the normal families.

Well I’m a crazy dog-person, so naturally you’re going to be inclined to think that I’m predisposed to being a bit ridiculous about dogs too but in reality I’m a very practical woman. My time is very precious to me and I don’t like wasting it on training practices that are much slower than other methods. My human family members come first and I wouldn’t place the life of one of my dogs over the life of a human (not even a stranger). So I certainly do not think dogs are people.

I am soft-hearted but I’m not a bleeding-heart and I am dedicated to my dogs but I only do what works and works quickly. And while I sometimes think “Come on, it is a dog, you know”, I believe strongly that humans bear the responsibility of good stewardship and that means taking care of those that depend on us right along with carefully protecting the earth’s natural resources. But I’m a fan of electricity and gasoline and computer chips and against socialism so there is certainly a balance in my opinions.

When it comes to dog training I’ve been taught the traditional methods and have had some education in the newest style of positive training (which really isn’t that new, but that’s a topic for another time). So basically I’ve used all the different types of training aids and devices and I’ve used all the different methods at one point or another. I am not a pro, who has handled hundreds of dogs, but I do have a lot of practical experience and I am in the unique position of being able to give advice that the average family can relate to, since I’m not a pro who handles hundreds of dogs (and I live in an average family situation with dogs). I guess I’ve got one foot in the dog-world and the other in the people-world.

Two Schools of Thought

I mentioned before the “two camps” of training. There are the so-called positive trainers (these are the new kids on the scene) and the traditional old-school style trainers. They tend to call themselves traditional, or just plain old trainers. The positive folks call them “force trainers”, probably because it puts their methods in an unflattering light without being completely untrue. And the term “positive” trainer is really a misnomer, because positive trainers almost always utilize the “negative” end of the spectrum in learning. So don’t think that positive-method trainers are permissive, laissez-faire style trainers, whose dogs run amuck but everyone “feels good”. Good positive trainers have wonderful success, and dogs that excel in all kinds of sporting events like agility, obedience trials, Rally-obedience, earthdog trials and so on, and so forth.

The term “positive” as applied here really just refers to the fact that the foundation of this training method relies on using the dog’s natural motivations with a reward system, utilizing much more positive reinforcement than other practices.

And I’m here to tell you that the  training devices I mentioned aren’t inhumane but they are almost never necessary in the way they are being used. These training devices are quite useful when put into practice by a knowledgeable behaviorist or a person who has done their research and knows in what way to apply them to a dog and utilize them properly.

Now I’ve made myself enemies with both the traditional training camp and the positive training camp, but that’s ok. (Considering I don’t have tons of traffic to my modest little website, the hate mail should be minimal.) My goal here is to give pet dog owners a good understanding of training principles so that they can decide for themselves what kind of trainer they wish to be (or to hire, etc)

My goal is to help the regular folks out there sift through the myriad of information and advice out there to get to the truth, opinions aside. Let’s see honest facts, folks. We can temper those facts with opinions based on personal experience but let’s see the real science behind training.

Go on and read part two in the series, I tried to keep them short and sweet for you.

3 thoughts on “Don’t Choke the Dog

  1. I love my thunder leash. It is a great tool in training. Actually at this point I no longer use the harness part of it.

      • I love mine it is worth every penny. Easy to use . Fred is the first dog I ever took to obedience training. She is my 3rd rescue dog. They suggested a choke collar. I tried it one session and hated it. NOPE so I went searching on Goggle found this and am absolutely thrilled with it.

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