Victoria Stilwell Tells Steve Dale She's Positive e-Collars are Abusive

Victoria Stilwell Tells Steve Dale She's Positive e-Collars are Abusive

On Steve Dale's Pet World on WGN Radio, listen HERE to dog trainer Victoria Stilwell from Animal Planet's It's Me or the Dog. I asked her about actress Eva Mendes fancying a shock or electronic collar. "It's one thing about putting one around your hand to try to test them, it's another thing to put it around your neck," she says. Mendes explained to David Letterman that she went ahead and gave the collar a try.

"If you use one (an e-collar)  long enough, you could change the electrical energy in the brain," Stilwell adds.  Never one to mince worlds, Stilwell says these collars are abusive and have no place in her world. Why is this equipment abusive to even suggest to use on children and acceptable for dogs, she wonders.

In her new book "Train Your Dog Positively," Stilwell writes about how to help dogs with a long  list of behavioral issues, including separation anxiety. She even suggests playing background music to help calm anxious dogs. Ever one to help, I offered various types of music. Hear which one Victoria chooses.
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  • My issue with this article is that the term "e-collar" refers to Elizabethan collar -- a protective collar to keep a pet from harming a wound.

  • I understand - that is why I wrote electronic or shock's there - those words - pretty straightforward.

  • I only hear the term e-collar these days by people that want to lessen the meaning of shock collars. That's the problem. People want to feel less guilty about using the shock collar, so they're trying to make it SOUND better by changing the name. Just like choke collars are now referred to as "correction" collars, so people don't think of them as choking their dogs. It's a bit ridiculous and pathetic. These collars, no matter what you call them, are abusive. Which is why they're being banned in several countries, and some US states as well.

  • In reply to peacefulhippiegirl:

    A collar can't be abusive; it's an inanimate object. Only the USER of the collar can use it in an abusive manner.
    By the way, you left out the worst offenders (in my opinion)...the so-called "gentle leaders" and "haltis": devices that in the wrong hands inflict serious corneal damage and severe neck sprains.
    Trainers who understand how to train dogs will use a variety of tools humanely and effectively and successfully. Banning the tools is not the answer.

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    I agree that "e-collar" is a whole lot friendlier sounding than shock collar, but it's also the logical abbreviation of "electronic collar," which is the most accurate term (and also the most unwieldy).

    Personally, as a trainer who does use electronic collars at times, I don't mind if someone wants to call them shock collars. For a long time, that's all anyone called them, and for good reason (if you examine the early models). As far as I'm concerned, it's not worth arguing over.

    What does offend me a bit, though, are baseless claims like the one quoted above regarding changing brain "energy." Such fantastic assertions undermine Stilwell's credibility, and support the argument that the most strident critics of these tools are frequently the least familiar with them.

  • ""If you use one (an e-collar) long enough, you could change the electrical energy in the brain," Stilwell adds." Yes. It's a biochemical process. Happens during phases of learning, with or without an e-collar or other device.

  • I agree with Ruth's comments above. I will also add that an Electronic / shock collar has it's place in certain situations where, in my opinion, other forms of training prove ineffective, or are simply impractical.

    There are several examples in my own experience where a shock collar proved a fast, safe, and humane means of correcting behavior that would be extremely difficult to correct by other means. Modern E-collars use warning tones and then progressively increasing levels of correction. A dog quickly learns to respond to the tone or gentle correction without receiving the kind of sudden shock that opponents of this tool often disingenuously use to paint an abusive picture with. I personally find this technology to be far less "abusive" (and dangerous) than the prong collars that are still so commonly used.

    In my case there are three specific examples where this technology quickly corrected problems that would've been challenging otherwise.

    The first example involved a very rambunctious dog that, when let outside into the fenced yard, had a bad habit of jumping on the sliding glass door while barking. Because modern doors are double paned, sound doesn't easily travel through the door. Simply shouting a command simply didn't work. The E-collar quickly corrected the dog's unwanted behavior at precisely the moment that the correction was needed. After only a few gentle corrections, it was possible to train the dog to sit at the door (to indicate its desire to come in) without further use of the E-collar.

    In the second example, a dog learned that the kids occasionally dropped food into trash bins where food shouldn't have been placed. Even after the kids' behavior was corrected, the dog continued to dump trash all over throughout the house when it was alone, this despite having several enrichment toys available, such as a Buster cube filled with food. By using a Zones E-collar and transmitter, the dog quickly learned through gentle correction that the trash cans were "off limits," and the problem has not recurred, even though the E-collar is not actively used.

    Third example. One member of the household is "not a dog person," and despite being taught how to properly interact with the dog, has never succeeded in becoming a top-tier member of "the pack." The dog sees her as submissive and below it in the pecking order, and has taken to barking incessantly at her when the "pack leader" isn't home. After being trained in proper use of the E-collar, this member of the household was finally able to gently, but effectively, correct the dog's barking and "bad behavior." Harmony has returned to the household, and the dog now interacts respectfully with this member of the family.

    There have been no unwanted side effects to the proper use of E-collar technology, in my experience, and the risk of a dog being abandoned to a shelter because of "difficult to correct" behavioral issues was avoided. I reject Stilwell's claim that the use of E-collars has negative effects on the brain. If that were true, the millions of people who are walking around with implanted defibrillators (both heart and seizure varieties) would be really messed up by now. Clearly, the technology is safe. I have NEVER heard of a dog who's "brain was fried" because the use of a shock collar.

    I would conclude by reiterating some of the points that harpercollie alluded to ... only the users of these tools can abuse them. In the right hands, E-collars and halti/gentle leaders are excellent and very effective tools for training.


  • Oh ... one last point, with regard to Stilwell's question as to why one would use this on a dog but not on a child? The answer is quite simple. Children can communicate using language, and they understand when you tell them WHY you don't want them to do something (which doesn't guarantee they'll obey ... just that they understand what you are telling them). By contrast, dogs (even the smartest ones) don't have the capacity to carry on a sophisticated verbal exchange ... which means you can't explain to them why you don't want them to engage in a particular behavior. Well, that's not entirely true - you CAN explain it to them if you like, but they won't understand. ;-)

    Any argument based on a flawed comparison between animals and children (despite some similarities in behavior) is doomed to failure because of this very important difference. Stilwell's argument, therefore, fails this test because the question of "abuse or not abuse" is tied to whether the subject cognitively understands the concept of "action/consequence" and a verbal explanation of "why" - kids do, dogs don't.


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