I logged into my personal Facebook account last night. As you can imagine I have hundreds of fellow dog trainers as friends on my Facebook account. This means pretty much all of my newsfeed pertains to silly photos, news in the dog world and intelligent canine discussion (most of the time).
That's when I stumbled upon this. It's a survery by "The Shock Free Coalition" (hmm I wonder if there's an agenda there) asking pet owners and anyone else who's ever or never met a dog in their life, how they FEEL about the use of e-collars and shock collars.
This survey was in fact, very shocking.
On the front page the survey answered some questions the average person may have which included the following:
1.) What is this project studying?
This study will help us understand various aspects of the use of electronic collars on canines.
....A few more questions were answered pertaining to what the survery would receive if they took the survey.
5.) How are you protecting my privacy?
Only trained researchers associated with this project will have access to your data. ID numbers will be used in place of your name or other identifying information on the questionnaire.
6.) If I have some questions about this research study, who can I ask?
This research study is being conducted primarily by the Shock Free Coalition and Dr. Nathaniel J. Hall from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Texas Tech University. If you have questions, you may contact Dr. Hall via email at Nathaniel.j.Hall@ttu.edu. Texas Tech University also has a Board that protects the rights of people who participate in research. You can call and ask them questions at 806 742-2064 or mail your questions to the Texas Tech University Human Research Protection Program, Office of the Vice President for Research, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 79409 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If my assumption is correct, this survey will later be used as data and evidence supporting the ban of the sale and/or use of electronic collars in dog training.
Of course, by this point I am extremely interested in seeing what questions are on the survey. Assuming that college professors, people whom Americans consider to be some of the most intelligent people in our country, would only be participating in a survery who's questions were crafted with great care and an honest effort to discover the un biased TRUTH, whatever that truth may be. That was sadly not the case.
The first few questions asked where I heard about this study from, what my level of education was, my current marital status, income, it even asked if I had children and what my political views were! I was also asked what my relationship was to dogs (pet owner, trainer, veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, etc.) I of course, marked pet trainer. I was also asked if I myself, own a dog. I marked Yes.
The following questions proceeded to ask more about my relationship with my dog such as how I obtained them, why I aquired them (for companionship, sport, competition, etc). By this point in the survey I sincerely thought that maybe this was going to be a good survey full of unbiased questions. So far there didn't seem to be any emotional questions or questions serving an agenda and for a moment I thought "I'll be darned, maybe this will be a legit, non-biased survey." However, there's more.
I proceeded to answer questions such as my dog's weight, my dog's sexual status (whether they were intact or not and what gender they are), and what kind of training I participated in with my dog: group classes with a private trainer, group classes with a dog club, group classes at a pet retail store, individual lessons with a private trainer, individual lessons with a veterinary behaviorist, training on my own with help of the internet, support of books and DVD's, advice from a family member, I've never owned a dog or "other" and a section for clarification. I decided to mark other and in the section for specificity I wrote "Trained myself with over 10 years dog training experience." After answering this question, I felt like these questions were going to get more and more skewed to one direction, but I continued the survey.
The next section asked me to rate how strongly I would value the training advice from different trainers.
This is where things started to go downhill. The trainers listed were: a police dog trainer, military dog trainer, a professional certified trainer, a veterinary behaviorist, a dog club member, hunting dog trainer and a pet store trainer. I marked all as "strongly value" except for the veterinary behaviorist and pet store trainer. I did this for a few reasons: typically, veterinary behaviorists do not participate in the training of dogs. They are behaviorists which means they are usually seeing dogs for neurologial, medical or genetic issues and their consultations usually take place in an office or evam room and consist of perscribing medication for dogs and sending the dog owner home with a handout of rules to follow. They're more like a dog psychiatrist than a dog trainer. For the pet trainer, these are people who typically are hired by big box stores with no prior knowledge or experience and are trained to the store's policy and conduct. I personally don't feel that a large corporation looking to add training to their services in order to advance their revenue, really had the dog's best interest in mind. As far as the other options, it was not specified as to what kind of experience these trainers have on an individial level but by my experience, they're usually highly skilled people who are all training for the same reasons- they want to help dogs and people. Therefore, I marked strongly value. I wish the verbage on the answers would have been "strongly consider" instead seeing as I would want to meet this person and speak with them first before I placed any value on their training advice, but I digress.
The following questions about e-collars were as follows:
Have you heard about electric collars before? - Yes.
Do you or anyone you know use, or have used in the past, electric collars to train dogs? -Yes.
Please respond to each statement with the selection that best represents how you feel regarding electric collars. Answers ranged from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
An anti-bark collar worn by the dog is more humane than a manual electric collar used for training dogs.- I marked strongly disagree because there isn't enough context to answer the question with an intelligent answer.
An electric collar that works with a boundary fence is more humane than a manual electric collar used for training dogs.- I marked strongly disagree for the same reasons as above.
Electric collars do not cause pain to dogs- (An extremely loaded question that gives no context concerning quality of the collar, who is using it, how many levels it has, whether it's a static shock collar or works more like a tens unit.)- I marked somewhat agree.
Electric collars do not cause discomfort to dogs- (Again, no context is given)- I marked neither agree nor disagree.
Electric collars come with no or virtually no consumer warnings- (once again, a question with no context as to which product we are referring to.)- marked neither agree nor disagree
Electric collars cause no harm to pet dogs- (good greif this is getting ridiculous)- again marked neither agree nor disagree.
There is a mounting of scientific research that indicates that the use of electric collars is damaging- (This is true, however, it's a lot of cherry-picked, inacurate and skewed data that leans towards a "shock free" agenda. It's not real science. There are plenty of ACURATE and NON-BIASED research studies that indicate all four quadrants of operant conditioning are effective and when used in a scientific and strategic manner, do not necessarily cause harm to the dog's pysche. Here's an article highlighting an example of one such study here. and another here.)
Electric collars have shock levels from 1-99 so the shock can be increased if the inital shock at the lower level does not work- (This is not how any dog trainer with a brain and a heart for animals is using these tools. This is a highly biased question)
The study goes on to ask questions rating how I feel about my dog and my love for them including:
my pet means more to me than any of my friends,
quite often I confide in my pet,
I believe pets should have the same rights as friends and family members (NO I do not. I love dogs but they are dogs and we should not be creating laws that imply that dogs think or act like humans because it is inacurate and dangerous to do so)
I believe my pet is my best friend, quite often my feelings about people are affected by the way they react to my pet (seriously? so if someone has a fear of dogs you'd react negatively to them as a person?)
I love my pet because she is more loyal to me than most of the people in my life (just because your dog is domesticated and has no choice but to live with you in your home does not mean they are more loyal that your friends and family who are humans and have human-like flaws that don't always serve you to your liking.)
I enjoy showing other people photos of my pet
I think my pet is just a pet (well yes, what else would she be?)
I love my pet because she never judges me (she can't speak english but I wouldn't be surprised if she said you could stand to lose a few pounds when she has to see you naked. I know mine would.)
my pet knows when I'm feeling bad (yes because it's been proven by science that your pet can smell changes in pheremones and hormones which fluxuate with your emotions)
I often talk to other people about my pet
my pet understands me (not if all my years of dog training experience serves me correctly. Many animals don't understand their owners and need training in which to do so)
I believe loving my pet helps me stay healthy (sure, there's been unbiased evidence proving this)
pets deserve as much respect as humans do ( I don't disagree with that, but what does that have to do with an extremely biased survey about e-collars? Also, what counts as respect or disrespect is extremely subjective from person to person.)
me pet and I have a very close relationship, I would do almost anything to take care of my pet.
I am not very attached to my pet (hmmm)
Owning a pet adds to my happiness
I consider my pet to be a friend
-- For the record, in this part of the survey I marked "strongly agree" for many of the questions. But what in the world do these questions have to do with e-collars? Is this considered REAL research? Is this where we're getting statistics and data that are used in the making of laws such as the banning of e-collars?
My understanding was that when we confide in colleges and their professors, we are doing so because we trust them as an intelligent and unbiased sources of education and information. I'm extremely upset that this is a survey that may be used to indicate real research.
The sad thing is this is the type of "research" legislatures are using to justify the ban of e-collar sales and use. This doesn't have nearly enough context or evidence to make any point other than The Shock Free Coalition is trying to sway pet owners into giving data that is skewed in their favor by playing on the heartstrings of everyday dog people who do not understand that the information this coalition has about e-collars is extremely incomplete and inacurate.
We can do better than this.
If you're as upset as I am, please write the professor who's overseeing this study at Nathaniel.j.Hall@ttu.edu and express your concerns with him.
- Tara Siefring
Tara is a dog trainer helping struggling dog owners in the Pensacola area. She got her start as a struggling dog owner herself which was her fuel to learn the skills to help others. Today, she's helped nearly 2,000 dog owners in Northwest Florida learn how to be better leaders to their pets so that their dogs can be better companions for the family. HH was voted one of the best dog training companies on the Gulf Coast in 2018. Learn more at www.happyhoundfl.com