Let's talk about tools
With Jacqui Zakar
Advocates for dog training ideologies that exclude any form aversive tools or techniques insist that tools such as prong collars or e-collars only cause harm. The problem, however, is opponents of tools are failing to recognize the difference between misuse and appropriate use and are cherry picking research to reflect this view.
The position of organizations such as the AVSAB, Dogs Trust UK, RSPCA and SPCA etc., is that reward-based training methods (void of any aversive tool or technique) should be the only approach used to modify canine behaviour.
From The AVSAB's Position Statement on Humane Dog Training:
"Based on current scientific evidence [AVSAB] recommends only reward-
based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of
behavior problems… There is no evidence that aversive methods are more
effective than reward-based methods in any context."
These organizations, tasked with benefiting animal welfare, sit in a position of authority and influence and publish position statements citing multiple studies to support their argument. However, the research is incredibly biased and flawed, and any findings contrary to popular opinion are dismissed or omitted altogether. Yet, there are, in fact, numerous studies, articles and books that demonstrate the safe
and effective use of training tools (see examples below).
There's not only evidence for efficacy of tools in the literature, but also trainers demonstrating humane and effective use in the field and, as a result, giving dogs freedom they wouldn't otherwise have, saving many lives, and doing so while improving the emotional well-being of dogs without fallout.
"The research resulted in high learning effect for pinch collar and electronic training
collar, on the other hand [force free] quitting signal showed a low learning effect."
"No dogs showed interest in or attacked a lone sheep in the path test… Our study
indicates that aversive conditioning with the use of electronic dog collars is an
efficient method for reducing the probability of a dog chasing or attacking sheep on
pasture… no adverse effect of this method was observed."
E-collar training "…effective in that the majority of dogs avoided the KAT stimuli [Kiwi
Aversion Training – Kiwi are endangered flightless birds in New Zealand] regardless
of whether an electric collar was worn, and that the training generalized to other
locations and lasted for at least 1 year"
E-collar training "Resulted in complete and permanent elimination of aggression in
all of the 36 dogs tested… significant increases in the dogs emotional stability."
E-collar "averted all 13 attempted attacks on lambs…prey-killing aversion can be
most readily established by applying response-contingent aversive stimuli during the
chase and attack phase of the predatory sequence."
"…success achieved by owners using a slip, choke, or prong collar. Many owners
are impressed with the immediate control effected by such training equipment…"
"While positive reinforcement can be used exclusively for the training of certain
behaviors, it is suggested that in the context of instinctive motor patterns, negative
reinforcement and punishment may be desirable and necessary additions to positive
"Electronic training collars can be an effective remedial measure for some types of
problem behaviour in dogs… Ninety percent of survey respondents reported there
were no adverse effects."
The prong collar "…is the most effective and least dangerous of restraining collars."
Dr Daniel Kamen (2013)
"… the prong collar can be used to rapidly establish active limits on pulling excesses
with little risk of harm to the dog… a sophisticated training device with a number of
obvious and not-so-obvious features that make it extremely versatile and useful in
the context of controlling highly motivated and impulsive behaviour."
"…electronic training collars are significant training aids since they can be
administered at a distance so that the dogs do not associate receiving the shock with
Check the sources:
Salgirli, Yasemin & Schalke, E. & Boehm, I. & Hackbarth, Hansjoachim. (2012). Comparison
of learning effects and stress between 3 different training methods (Electronic training collar,
pinch collar and quitting signal) in Belgian Malinois Police Dogs. Revue de médecine
vétérinaire. 163. 530-535.
Christiansen FO, Bakken M, Braastad BO. (2001) Behavioural changes and aversive
conditioning in hunting dogs by the second-year confrontation with domestic sheep. Appl
Anim Behav Sci. 2 Apr 26;72(2):131-143.
Dale, Arnja & Statham, Shivaun & Podlesnik, Christopher & Elliffe, Douglas. (2013). The
acquisition and maintenance of dogs’ aversion responses to kiwi (Apteryx spp.) training
stimuli across time and locations. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 146. 107–111.
Tortora DF. (1983) Safety training: the elimination of avoidance-motivated aggression in
dogs. J Exp Psychol Gen. Jun;112(2):176-214.
Andelt, William & Phillips, Robert & Gruver, Kenneth & Guthrie, Jerry. (1999). Coyote
predation on domestic sheep deterred with electronic dog-training collar. Wildlife Society
Bulletin. 27. 12-18.
Dinwoodie, Ian & Zottola, Vivian & Dodman, Nicholas. (2021). An investigation into the
effectiveness of various professionals and behavior modification programs, with or without
medication, for the treatment of canine aggression. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 43.
Eve D. Marschark & Ronald Baenninger (2002) Modification of instinctive herding dog
behavior using reinforcement and punishment, Anthrozoös, 15:1, 51-68,
Coleman and Murray (2001)
Dr Kamen, D. (2013) The Well Adjusted Dog: Canine Chiropractic Methods You Can Do.
CCB Publishing; 2nd edition.
Lindsay, Steven R. (2005) Handbook of Applied Dog Behaviour and Training, Vol 1-3. Wiley-
Dog Sense Training and Behaviour