Another Response to Dr. Karen Overall

By Suzanne Eviston
Eviston is a police K-9 officer and trainer

PHOTO-Axle_and_Suzanne-2003Hi Diane et al,

I also found that letter very interesting. I can’t keep my mouth closed about this one – rather one-sided it appears. I appreciate reading these types of things and these types of discussions. Bring them on!

Many people are misinformed about e-collars and this article is a typical type of article seen by people who know little about it and really don’t understand it. Many of these studies are inaccurate/flawed because the application of the collar is flawed.

Just because someone has “DVM” behind their name does not mean they know what they are talking about – especailly – when it comes to dog training methodology. Are you kidding me? Most of them would not know how to teach a dog to heal! Vets are not dog trainers and many of them have limited understanding of behaviour as well.

Having just returned from the international working dog breeder’s conference and sitting for 4 days long through dozens of presentations of studies on genetics, behaviour, diet and performance, I think you have to understand that these vets are sometimes more scientist than animal people. It was clear to me through presentations of studies and test trials that they don’t understand the side of dogs that we do. Many presented studies with control groups yadda yadda but had not even thought of the simple factors that would wildly affect the results. Factors that we would easily think would be important.

Once such example was a scientist from Sri Lanka named Eranda Rajpaksha that presented a one year study “Comparison of performance between imported and locally bred landmine detection dogs in Sri Lanka.”

He presented an excellent study based on the Sri Lankan breeding program of German Shepherd dogs with the conclusion that the imported dogs were better quality workers and had a higher percentage of success in the work and completion of the mine dog training program.

However, my first question was “Who trained the dogs that were bred in Sri Lanka?” The answer “Sri Lankans”. #2 “What was the difference in the stock used?” None: both German working line dogs. #3 “What was the training background/knowledge base of the Sri Lankan trainers?” The answer I’m sure you can imagine was that the Sri Lankans had less knowledge/training/ability to train the dogs and give them the foundation that the German trainers with many years experience did, before the dogs left Europe. Of course the outcome was that the Sri Lankan bred and raised dogs did more poorly than the imports.

The study while appearing to be “whole” to this scientist was flawed just based on one factor that he simply did not understand after all “dog training is dog training isn’t it?”

As you well know, there are cases where e-collars just save the lives of dogs. Traditional applications of this tool were improper and people continue to misuse it today. Many still are not up to date on the new style of application of these tools. The old training style truly was a “shock” the dog application. It is not so anymore when properly used.

The methods we used to train police dogs in the 80s have changed drastically, just like our sidearms and police tactics. If we were doing a study on police tactics today, but the tactics used were out of date, how applicable would the results be to policing today?

The letter:
An open letter from Dr Karen Overall regarding the use of shock collars.
Date: Tue Dec 6, 2005 4:01:19 PM US/Eastern

No, I have not changed my opinion and it is that there is never any reason for pets to be shocked as a part of therapy or treatment. If anything, I have strengthened this opinion. There are now terrific scientific and research data that show the harm that shock collars can do behaviorally. At the July 2005 International Veterinary Behavior Meeting, held in conjunction with the AVSAB and ACVB research meetings, data were presented by E. Schalke, J. Stichnoth, and R. Jones-Baade that documented these damaging effects (Stress symptoms caused by the use of electric training collars on dogs (Canis familiaris) in everyday life situations. Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, Papers presented at the 5th Int’l IVBM. Purdue University Press, 2005:139-145. [ISBN 987-1-55752-409-5; 1-558753-409- 8]).

So what is this vet’s experience with e-collars. Such a strong letter, yet what is her background in training animals? Working dogs? I am sure it is available somewhere, I just wonder. Do people blindly read this and accept it for what it is without questioning her background? You must ask this before blindly accepting these statements.

Studies can be so misleading! Stress symptoms are caused in some traditional non-ecollar training as well. It all comes down to the user and the type of application of the training style.

What did these researches do as far as “shocking” these dogs? Use old style methods? What type of training did they have? What style of E-collar work are we talking? It is just all “bagged” into “shock” it seems. Of course bad applications would cause a lot of stress!

This follows on the excellent work done by Dutch researchers, in cooperation with their working dog groups and trainers, that showed that working/patrol dogs were adversely affected by their ‘training’ with shock, long after the shock occurred (Schilder MBH, van der Borg JAM. Training dogs with the help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2003;85:319-334).

I would love to read this. However, what kind of e-collar training were these people doing? How were they trained? If the training work these people were doing was flawed, so would the study be!

New methods and techniques come along and I see great progress in the use of this tool, but the general public – including exceptional trainers – still do not use this tool properly or understand how to use it.

Even dogs that are raised properly and trained properly can benefit from the use of e-collars. It really is an excellent tool that can bring so much to training and so much to the control of dogs that are unruly.

While proper foundation is the key, it is not always present so we sometimes have to fix problems, especially with imported patrol dogs.

My girlfriend Shannon Malmberg is one of the top, if not THE top, pet dog trainer in the lower mainland area of British Columbia. Almost all of her clients come from cookie dog and “positive” feel good trainers who mean well but just can’t use these methods to fix severely problematic or dangerous animals. Their “last chance” person is her and she is the E-collar woman extraordinaire!! Her pet clients do not leap off the ground, scream in pain or leave stressed out.

E-collars are a tool that can be very helpful and effective when used properly, just like a leash. A leash can be abusive in the wrong hands as well.

For the breed,

Suzanne Eviston
Von Grunheide Shepherds
Snohomish, Washington
(360) 568-3146

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