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Why a Professional Dog Trainer Never uses Electronic Collars

Aug 28, 2023

As a professional dog trainer specializing in reactivity, aggression, fear, and anxiety, there are several reasons why I never use electronic collars:

Using electronic collars to train reactive and aggressive dogs can carry significant risks of fallout, exacerbating the very behaviors you are trying to address. Here are some reasons why:

1. Increased Aggression and Reactivity: Electronic collars deliver aversive stimuli, which can escalate the dog's fear, aggression, and reactivity. Instead of addressing the underlying emotional triggers, the dog might associate the discomfort with the trigger itself, leading to an intensified aggressive response. This can make the dog more dangerous and unpredictable, as they might lash out in an attempt to avoid the aversive stimulation.

2. Generalization and Contextual Issues: Reactive and aggressive behaviors are often specific to certain triggers or contexts. Using an electronic collar can create confusion for the dog, as they may not connect the aversive sensation with the exact trigger causing their negative behavior. This can result in generalized anxiety and reactivity, where the dog becomes anxious and reactive in various situations, even those that were previously non-threatening.

3. Suppression of Warning Signals: Dogs typically exhibit warning signals before displaying aggressive behaviors. These signals, such as growling or barking, are crucial communication tools that signify their discomfort. Electronic collars can suppress these warning signals, leaving you with a dog that might skip these cues and resort directly to aggressive behavior. This increases the risk of unexpected and potentially dangerous outbursts.

4. Trust and Relationship Erosion: Effective behavior modification for reactive and aggressive dogs relies on building trust and a positive relationship between the dog and the trainer. The use of aversive methods like electronic collars can erode this trust, making the dog more fearful of both the trainer and the triggers they associate with discomfort. This can hinder progress and make future training efforts more challenging.

5. Negative Emotional Impact: Dogs experiencing reactivity, aggression, fear, and anxiety are already dealing with complex emotional states. The aversive nature of electronic collars can worsen their emotional well-being, potentially leading to increased anxiety and even learned helplessness. This can have long-lasting negative effects on the dog's overall behavior and quality of life.

Considering these risks, I always recommend the use of positive reinforcement-based methods, counter-conditioning, desensitization, and working with a professional behaviorist who specializes in these issues. These approaches address the underlying emotional causes of the behavior and help the dog learn coping strategies, leading to more sustainable and humane results.

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