They absolutely do. Along with prong collars, choke chains, smacking, and yelling. They all work.
Now, before you all think I have lost my marbles, let me explain why I choose not to utilise this particular way of training even though they seemingly get results.
When I first started on this amazing dog training journey decades ago as a newbie dog owner, there was only one way to train, and it was through traditional methods. You name it, I’ve probably done it to my dogs then: choke chain, prong collar, muzzle grab, rolled up newspaper, anti-bark collars that spray citronella in the face of the dog, leash “pops” and yes, even Alpha Rolls. I didn’t use the shock collars because it wasn’t as easily accessible and I was too much of a cheapskate to get one.
I’m not proud of that part of my history. However, given a choice, I will do it over again because it taught me a lot. It showed me what I didn’t want to do, why owners would go down that route and most importantly, it inspired me to look for a different way of training. It made me reach for a different kind of relationship with my dogs.
This process of discovery took me to different parts of the world and showed me things I never thought possible. The most important journey though didn’t require a passport. It was more of an internal journey.
I went from what-the-heck-can-I-do-to-stop-the-damn-annoying-dog to what-can-I do-to meet-his-needs-so-that-we-can-both-live-happily-together. This shift in perspective was not easy and it took time. It was downright scary. If I don’t punish him, how will he learn? I can’t just let him run amok! He needs discipline! He must face his fear! Dogs must know who is the leader! Other people will think I am a softy.
Slowly, slowly I realised it was my ego and insecurity talking. The world didn’t end when I took time to understand what it was the dog required to be happy. I came to understand that discipline is not about corporal punishment or inflicting pain. Discipline was about me managing my emotions and had nothing to do with the dog at all. And most importantly I came to understand that I need to meet the animal halfway. It wasn’t about me “making” the dog do something. It was about creating a mutually beneficial partnership.
That revelation solidified my resolve to never use an aversive if there’s another way. (Of course if it’s a life-threatening situation, anything goes! Always safety first!)
So what do I think of SPCA’s Teach with Kindness campaign, the 15 local organisations that signed the position statement expressing their support for force-free methods and MP Louis Ng’s support of the ban on shock collars? I think it’s bloody brilliant!!!
Never in a million years did I dare to imagine a proposal to ban shock collars will ever make it to Parliament here. Having been in the position of a frustrated dog owner with one dog that was infuriatingly stubborn and another that bit several people, I can understand the temptation to take the quickest route to quash all these issues. I am just thankful that I didn’t have access to a shock collar at that time. The fallout from using aversive methods are well documented and I have seen it first hand in my own and clients’ dogs.
The world is tough enough. Let’s make a choice to make it a better place for all. A little kindness goes a long way.