Would You Tazer Your Child

My response on behalf of INTODogs to Quentin Lett’s article in the Daily Mail in defense of electric collars.

“How many people who believe that electric collars are justified have actually tried one against their own throats? Not many, I’ll bet!

I am the Chair of the Association of INTODogs. We represent only Behaviourists and Trainers who promote fair, gentle and positive methods. Die-hard traditionalists who still use choke chains and gadgets of force, can be scathing of those using gentle methods. Ok, building up a relationship with your dog based on understanding and patience is no quick fix such as a sudden electric shock might be, or a painful jerk on a choke chain, a prong collar, citronella spray, pinning down (‘alpha roll’) and the rest. Most civilised people today don’t want their relationship with their dog to be based on fear. I don’t know the statistics, but how many dogs end up put to sleep as a direct result of fear-generated aggression caused by the inappropriate behaviour of humans?

I understand all the arguments in favour of electric collars and have heard them many times. If I have a small child and live near a main road, do I use a Tazer? No. I don’t allow him access to an ungated front garden. Reputable rescue centres do home checks and require enclosed gardens with high fences. Someone who has sufficient wealth to have acres of land can surely afford to fence off a smaller part where the dog can be free and safe rather than shocking him. It is debatable anyway as to whether dogs need acres of roaming space. Third world village dogs are free to come and go at will – but do they roam far? I doubt it.

I once helped the owner of a rescue whippet. When the microwave beeped the poor dog ran screaming around the house, tail between her legs. She didn’t know what she was meant to be avoiding and was terrified of the powerful shock on her skinny neck which inevitably followed in her previous life unless she turned and ran the other way.

I am probably one of few modern ‘behaviourists’ who, many moons ago and to my eternal shame, actually myself owned and used a hand-operated electric collar on my own dog, so I speak from experience and not hearsay. And no – I didn’t try it against my own throat either. E-collars were very popular in those days. Because it seemed successful, I used the collar freely. I taught my Rottweiler to turn away from a mound of rotting garbage and dead lambs that he could scent from a mile away if the wind was in the right direction, by shocking him. However, he eventually learnt to brave the shock – even the maximum, such was the lure of the stench. He simply ignored and withstood it, so at last I came to my senses and began to look into other ways to gain the cooperation of my beloved dog.

I started to study with enlightened people, leading to the work that I do now. Patience, leadership, stress-reduction and gentle training really work. A dog then cooperates through choice, not force.

Electric collars are for lazy people. Responsible dog owners concerned for their dog’s mental as well as physical welfare put in the time and effort – and securely fence their boundaries.

The tragedy of this discussion is that many desperate dog owners will have read Quentin Letts and rather than paying for help they will be spending their money on shock collars. In the wrong hands they can be used deliberately as instruments of torture. I once saw someone laughing as he made his dog leap in the air at the press of a button. It is time they were banned throughout the UK – not just Wales”.