My initial reaction to the proposed outright ban on e-collars in Scotland and the comments of Roseanna Cunningham M.P.

This post is aimed as much (if not more so) at those of you who strongly agree with this decision, than those of you who disagree with it. It is a post written with the sole intention of making you THINK. Making you genuinely, critically analyse and dissect the information presented. A post intended to recognise, encourage, respect and challenge your knowledge and intelligence as a responsible dog owner. All I ask, is that you read it fully and (although this is incredibly difficult where emotion has been deliberately whipped-up in order to cloud clarity), objectively consider the comments herein? If you are prepared to do this, then you have my respect; and my thanks.

Roseanna Cunningham M.P.

In the stroke of a pen and the shackling of your broader investigation, your monocular vision and thoughtless disregard of an opportunity for phenomenal, genuine education, progression and welfare-focussed potential, has unarguably heralded the greatest, negative impact on canine welfare in Scotland for decades. Your ill-advised, emotionally charged and politically-motivated decision, has directly, deliberately, unashamedly and absolutely affected the lives and freedoms of dogs and owners throughout your country. Your actions are those of a Victorian mother, frustrated at her inability to achieve meaningful resolution – “If you can’t share nicely, you shall not share at all”.

You take counsel from a for-profit organisation; one proven to have desimated health and bastardised fitness and form for over a century, their justification being money, prestige and dishonouring the human priviledge of dominion over other animals, in pursuit of some kind of gross distortion for aesthetic preference. An organisation to which I have sold electronic collars to a judge, trainer and breeder.
And so to the RSPCA. a charity so plagued with concern and bruised by controversy; one only too obliging to publish stories of success and joy, yet not so fothcoming with statistics covering killings and justifications? A charity in which I stood and witnessed first-hand, electronic citronella spray collars being used and woefully inadequate staff-handling of dogs.

“The Mail on Sunday quoted Dawn Aubrey-Ward, a former inspector for the RSPCA, as saying large numbers of animals, particularly dogs, were put to sleep after being classed “unsuitable for rehoming”, a definition which could be widely drawn to include older animals, those needing veterinary care, dogs deemed “aggressive” or larger dogs which were “hard to home”.
The repetitious, intentional and wholly avoidable killing of another physically healthy animal, owing to it’s size, failure to respond to the narrow parameters of ‘acceptable’ training and difficulty to home? Necessary suffering?

Cruelty isn’t found in a tool.

Cruelty is found within an ignorant mind or a rotten soul.

Minds are changed through education, not legislation, and no amount of either can positively influence rot.

The term ‘unnecessary suffering’ is absolutely applicable to ANY action taken against another living being, where that action is unjustified in respect of it’s intended outcome.

‘Unnecessary suffering’ can only be accurately understood where ‘necessary suffering’ is clarified and agreed.

Delivering a 2-second electronic pulse to a dog for a failure to present a dumbell close enough to your crotch in pursuit of a competitive-ranking, is incomparable to the delivery of a 2-second electronic pulse to a dog in order to save it the experience of a bullet or a terminal needle, charged with a get-out-clause of ‘we did our best’ ; and save a lamb the experience of disembowelment. Yet the means are identical. The tool also, is identical.
The use of a head-collar as a dog contorts, claws and writhes in vain to rid itself of this ‘unnatural’ restraint upon seeing another dog/car/cat/squirrel … Necessary suffering?
The frustrative non-reward (found on the same continuum as aggression) of free-shaping during clicker training. Basically the harnessing and direction of a state of deliberately induced frustration within another living being, simply to perfect an act intended for public or personal gratification, of no necessary or practical benefit to the dog whatsoever.
The repeated ‘clack’ of an extending lead, as it’s wearer is jerked dead in their tracks, straining on hind legs in an act of clear, yet futile resistance again and again throughout 30 minutes worth of ‘exercise’. An accumulation of thousands upon thousands of ineffective, entirely-avoidable assaults against the throat, chest or muzzle of the recipient … Necessary suffering?
The grotesque appearance of a bloated victim of a ‘love via glutony’ mentaility, surrounded by hollow marrowbones, stuffed chew-toys and this morning’s untouched bowl of ‘kibble with a bit of chicken gravy’; struggling for breath despite a single-digit lifetime … Necessary suffering?
Bone and heart-shaped, nutrient-deficient, health-compromising rainbow-coloured, mass-manufactured ‘training treats your dog will LOVE!’ … Crating or confining a social animal during periods of wholly avoidable absence, or a lifetime of yelping and frantically scrabbling at the car windows as you ‘pop to the shops for 5 minutes’, despite their unmistakable show of angst … Necessary suffering?


“Electronic training collars destroy the human:animal bond”

That statement was given on the radio this morning.

It requires amendment.

“Human intent, negligence and ignorance destroy the human:animal bond”.

Unless my dogs are sorely mistaken?

sleeping with the dogs


The madness of ‘Pleasant Learning’
Whilst I might strongly reject much of what he had to say in terms of behaviour modification as being crude, excessive and fraught with unintended repercussions; there is a core ethos that underpinned the philosophy of Bill Koehler’s dog training for which I hold nothing but perfect agreement … Respect.
Respect to a dog for being a dog and respecting the rights of that dog.
Koehler maintained that one of the greatest injustices we can inflict upon a dog, is the denial of a right afforded every living animal on earth.
What is that right?
The right to experience and learn from the consequences of their own actions.
The right to differentiate good from bad, right from wrong; approach from avoid.
All consequential learning stems from a process of trial and error. It is through error that success is maximised and error reduced.
What’s more, the greater the error – the more the emotional disconfirmation of expectancies – the greater the learning. This is why low payouts don’t make a gambler and forever tugging weakly on a lead will not prevent a pulling dog from pulling.
‘Errorless learning’ is not learning at all. It is instead, restrictive-direction and redirection , intended more to smooth balm into the heart of the dog’s gullible keeper, whilst lining the pocket and peddling the fanciful ideology of the trainer, than it is to afford the dog the rightful luxury of precise, educational experience.
Scotland declares that “Unpleasant learning for dogs will not be tolerated”.
What logic is this? It’s like something a 7 year old might hurriedly scribble down in a ‘ if you could re-write the 10 Commandments, what would they be?’ Class-project. Sweet and deserving of a sympathetic smile; forgivably naive, yet totally misguided.
Without ‘unpleasant’, there can be no pleasant.
Define ‘unpleasant’ within the strict confines of a legal framework? Better still, define a pleasantness pertaining to cross-species learning, that is universally acceptable and non-negotiable? No grey areas?
As with ‘necessary’ and ‘unnecessary’, you must first define ‘pleasant’ if, with intolerable determination, you are to criminalise all who fall outside of it’s parameters.
So what is ‘pleasant’ learning?
We live in a world, run entirely through coercive, unpleasant practises. From international chest-beating, to the red ‘X’ .. ‘SEE ME’ in a child’s textbook. We habitually abide by legal systems we might disapprove of, set out by politicians we never elected, in a country we would sooner not live; doing a job we would sooner not do for employers we’d sooner not know. We earn money we would sooner not need, to pay debts we would sooner not owe, or buy things we would sooner not want. We adhere to the ‘norms’ of social and cultural expectation and where, when and if we fall foul of these expectations, then our individual expectation (assuming that we are moral beings?) is that an unpleasant consequence (often highly unpleasant) awaits us.
Life is unpleasant.
‘Unpleasant learning for dogs will not be tolerated’
Notice the speciesism in there! What of cats? People train cats, yet their protection appears incomparable with dogs? What of horses, ponies, parrots hawks and rats? You know, rats? … That’s right, the self same sentient beings, subjected to meaningless, non-contingent, unpredictable, inescapable electrical currents delivered to their bare feet; essentially coffined inside baron, metal chambers and ‘sacrificed’ (as though they had a choice in their martyrdom) in their hundreds of thousands so that your academic advisors can inform you of what science can tell us about adherence to morality, ethics and best practise?
According to that bastion of ethical treatment of dogs, The Kennel Club; Dr Cooper – the Scottish parliamentary academic aide of choice – reportedly claimed ‘significant long-term negative effects on the welfare of dogs subjected to ‘shock’ (it’s the Kennel Club – they love to embellish) collar training’.
Yet in my personal conversations with Dr Cooper in Feb 2017 (a nice guy I might add), the claim was that dogs in his study showed elevated-cortisol levels, indicating as much that they were in ‘A state of preparedness’, which can result from both fear and excitement. There was no confirmation of long-term negative effects when we spoke? Here’s a lift from the study in question, which related to sheep chasing and recall training:
“Overall the physiological data from the main study suggest two things: firstly that once the dogs entered training, none of the treatments resulted in large increases in cortisol secretion and by inference arousal or stress; and secondly the differences in salivary cortisol between treatment Groups appear to represent some underlying difference in arousal, perhaps related to time of year, rather than a difference in arousal due to the training programmes.”
“Our results indicate that the immediate effects of training with an e-collar give rise to behavioural signs of distress in pet dogs, particularly when used at high settings. Furthermore, whilst best practice as advocated by collar manufacturers mediates the behavioural and physiological indicators of poor welfare detected in the preliminary study, there are still behavioural differences that are consistent with a more negative experience for dogs trained with e-collars, although there was no evidence of physiological disturbance.”
It doesn’t require a team of researchers to know that high-level e-collar stimulation will result in “behavioural differences that are consistent with a more negative experience”. That after-all, is the entire purpose of using such settings for sheep-chasing dogs.
What is glaringly absent from this study, is the methods employed by the APDT (anti-collar) group to modify livestock-chasing? It doesn’t appear anywhere? Neither has a follow-up study been conducted to assess the validity of the Kennel Club’s unsubstantiated accusations of ‘Long-term negative effects on the welfare of dogs subject to shock’?
When it comes to cats and electronic boundary containment collars, the same academic researcher and his team reported no significant impact on long-term welfare and a noticeable increase in confidence.
“Taken together, the findings do not suggest that long-term (at least 12 months) exposure to the system had a significant negative impact on the behaviour and welfare of contained cats. Indeed cats subject to electronic confinement appear to be less neophobic than unrestrained cats.”
These findings are noticeably absent from, and would appear to blot the paper of the intolerable act of ‘training with unpleasant consequences’?
Horses are subjected to learning through the application and removal (thus avoidance) of pressure; of punishing consequences for incorrect behaviour. They, like cattle pigs and fowl are also afforded the luxury of protection through the use of electrical fencing. For fowl, the outside is kept out. The fencing delivers a short, unmistakable and incredibly effective, electronic stimulation to the nose of the fox – another canid – just like the dog, but considered undeserving of such moral, legal protection. Whilst for the others like the pig, cattle, horse or Alpaca, the outside is not permitted. ‘Unpleasant learning’ facilitates and enforces this understanding.
Falconer’s will fly their birds deprived of food and tethered to a glove, even where though bird would prefer and so attempts to take flight; thereby teaching the bird the futility of non-permissible freedom. The assumedly ‘unpleasant’ consequence of effort.
Every sporting, hunting working dog in the country has been subjected to some degree of ‘unpleasant learning’. It is essential, advisable and responsible.
It is the proportionate and necessary measure of ‘unpleasant learning’, which keeps dogs and all other animals safe. That is why ‘unpleasant learning’ exists .. It is precisely why we know what it means; because the value it offers us in terms of our successful navigation throughout the course of our lives is undeniably beneficial. It is a gift. It is the gift of the appreciation and acknowledgement for and of all subsequent ‘pleasant learning’.
Somewhat perversely, the very act of legislating against ‘unpleasant learning’, is in itself a perfect example of itself!
Legislation is only effective against those who fear being legislated against.
Good people with good intention do not need legal scaffold to support their moral actions. Conversely, bad people with bad intention will continue to do bad things regardless.
The very best that you can do is to educate and elevate understanding through experience.
Sadly, the statement ‘unpleasant learning for dogs will not be tolerated’ is neither educated, nor indicative of any meaningful, or TRUE understanding of the totality and yet simplicity, governing how dogs learn.
We MUST be prepared to recognise and reconsider our own fallibility.

Truth is aversive when you fail to accept that you could ever be wrong…

What follows is a lift from a training forum, between myself and a UK, veterinary referred, academically qualified behaviourist.
I have respected her anonymity by referring to her as *****.
During our exchange, ***** chose to disclose that she has worked with 10,000 dogs in 8 years, and has achieved great success using only P- (loss of reward) and R+ (gaining reward). Of these dogs, 1,500 have been aggression cases. Here are her own words …
“I’m a trainer and behaviourist that doesn’t use shock/stim/tone/static/e collars to train out undesirable behaviours. I have trained thousands without the use and don’t just use one method at all. I use positive reinforcement and negative punishment and I work with all sorts of dog, mainly aggressive ones and have never had to use it. If I haven’t had to use it, I would question an e collar is necessary to resolve any problem behaviours? Been doing this 12 years by the way and stopped counting four years ago at 10,000 dogs that I have worked with.”
I challenged both the genuine level of ‘true’ input achievable, given that 10,000 dogs in 8 years, equals 3 different dogs, every single day of close to 3,000 days without break?
The answer was that ***** also ran classes. 16 classes per week with 8 dogs per class.
Personally, I do not consider class instruction to constitute ‘working with’ in the truest sense of the words. It would me more accurate to say ‘advised and observed’.
I then posted the following:
“If you use R+, then by default you also use R-. If you use P-, then in the vast majority of instances (a time out for example), the removal of social contact is equally the inclusion of social isolation – Technically P+ (so long as it is successful) and R-, since the animal will work to remove/avoid the procedure. It can be argued till the end of the time, whether or not this is the case, however no-one can ever answer it with absolute certainty either way, since none can talk with the subject animal. Quadrants simply don’t work in the way that our personal preferences would have them work.”
***** replied:
” Negative reinforcement is the term used when something unpleasant stops happening and is the basis for how punishment works …… It is P- that is applied when rewards are withheld, I do use this. R- is when P+ stops; I don’t use this as I don’t use P+.”
I wrote:
“To [*****], you wrote – ‘It is negative punishment that is the term for withholding a reward. Not negative reinforcement.’
P- would be removing the reward *****, yes, however the animal is responding in accordance with redressing the loss .. to remove a state of need or desire, to achieve satiation – each of which are aversive states. Since R- entails the subject working to escape or avoid an aversive state, response contingent reward is as much about R-, as it is R+!
In his Presidential Address before the Association of Behavior Analysis in 2002, Perone (2002) summarized the situation with respect to the entangled relations between positive and negative reinforcement and punishment:
I believe that much of what has been said about aversive control is mistaken, or at least misleading. Aversive control, in and of itself, it is not necessarily bad; sometimes it is good. And, more to the point, the alternative-positive reinforcement-is not necessarily good; sometimes it is bad. Aversive control is an inherent part of our world, inevitable feature of behavioral control, in both natural contingencies and contrived ones. When I say that aversive control is inevitable, I mean just that: Even the procedures that we regard as prototypes of positive reinforcement have elements of negative reinforcement or punishment imbedded within them (2003:1).”
S.R.Lindsay, Animal Welfare Propaganda and the Anti-Dog Training Agenda.
“If you are training a behaviour that requires intense, fast responding, make sure your dog is WELL DEPRIVED* of whatever reinforcement you are using” Reid.P. 1996, EXCEL-erated Learning. James and Kenneth, p43.
*My emphasis on above quote.”
***** wrote:
“My mistake, I clearly joined the wrong group.”
There it is! Escape/avoidance … Flight ….. That’s what happens when an individual considers conversation ‘aversive’. Just like a dog, we can either submit and accept, fight or flee. In this instance, the verbal equivalent of ‘fight’ has seemingly proved ineffective for *****. ‘Submission/acceptance’ is simply not an option, the likely reason being that acceptance of one’s own error of judgement and realisation of inaccurate longstanding beliefs, is for many, considered even more aversive! This leaves one remaining option – Flight.
We’re all servants of our own Sympathetic Nervous Systems!

The dog training world is full of BAD advice

Please be mindful of the ‘training’ advice offered by certain ‘youtube’ individuals.

The moment you find a ‘trainer’ interpreting ANY animal’s behaviour as being:

or “Throwing a tantrum”

Then I urge you to seek alternative advice elsewhere.

Interpretations such as these (and these are genuine), are indicative of an individual who has come face to face with the extent of their own knowledge, experience or capabilities. It’s almost like an involuntary safety mechanism, designed to prevent us from realising that we are limited, perhaps more limited than we either believed ourselves to be, or would like to appear. It doesn’t necessarily make the person ‘bad’, in fact they likely love their animals and genuinely believe that they are doing right by them. However it often suggests that individuals who use this type of observational terminology, are inclined to place multiple problems under one explanatory umbrella, implying that the dog is somehow capable of acting in a certain way, simply to spite, challenge or deliberately undermine you.

If a dog is reliably acting in a particular way, be it contextually predictable or seemingly irrational, there IS a reason. The reason may be obvious, difficult, or indeed impossible to ascertain, but on some level, there IS a reason. One thing is absolutely certain … No dog, is behaving the way it is behaving, due to “throwing a tantrum” or because it considers it necessary to act “bratty”.

Following extensive field work involving hours and hours of documented, observable canine behaviour, no ethologist has ever returned an ethogram which read “Shitty” or “crappy” in order to describe what they had witnessed.

Here’s the danger (as I see it), in using terms such as these to describe what unfolds before us … They provide all the justification required, to allow anger, frustration and resentment to cloud our thoughts and govern our actions.
“Shitty” behaviour is justifiably punished. I needn’t concern myself with the why’s and the wherefores if I consider a behaviour to be “crappy”, I can just get in there and stamp it out. It’s a personal attack.
The fact that consistently undesirable behaviours are generally indicative of a far larger ‘relationship’ or certainly contextual issue doesn’t matter one bit .. Not if My dog is being “Shitty”!

Plus …… PLUS ….. Those blokes on the internet said it’s okay, and they’ve got several thousand followers and are “Internationally recognised behaviour experts” – Right?
They’ve never actually met me, my dog or my family. They’ve never been to my home, joined us on our walks or asked for any veterinary or acquisition and rearing history.
They know nothing of my dog’s breeding, present level of command fluency or individual temperament …. But that doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant WHY my dog is barking on the lead, chasing her tail incessantly or leaping at guests. It’s all just “Shitty” and therefore deserves correction, needless of further thought .

Do you see WHY I get so frustrated when I see video advice like this? It explains nothing, and so the desperate owners who watch it, learn nothing. It reduces dog training to a level below that of anyone who genuinely consider themselves ‘trainers’, to a place where coercion is king, and understanding, irrelevant. It’s a backward step that I urge anyone and everyone to avoid.

I have no issue whatsoever, with delivering a negative consequence to a behaviour which threatens the welfare of any animal, and I include that threat as being the very real possibility that the dog will be surrendered to a shelter. The difference being, that wherever possible, I will look to give the animal full control over that situation through the use of an appropriate alternative, or at the very least, an environmental cue which serves to predict the likelihood of pending correction, thereby providing the dog with control. A dog taught to walk well on a lead, won’t pull. A dog which pulls on a lead isn’t being “shitty”, it simply doesn’t know how to walk acceptably.

There is no benefit whatsoever, to be gained by interpreting any behaviour which displeases you, as “shitty”, “crappy” or “bratty”. Should you hear things like this, proceed with caution.

The reliability of organisational opinion – Electric containment systems for pets and non-domesticated animals.…/2016-09-evidence-long-term-welfare-proble…

Wales chose to ban the use of remote training aids, largely on the advice of Mr David Ryan (then chair of the APBC) who condemned remote training devices.
Here’s what Mr Ryan told the Welsh Parliamentary Assembly, in his wholly anecdotal (and incredibly biased) report (Dec. 2007) – In this instance, relating specifically to the use of remote training aids for cats ..

“Due to their ethology and particular sensitivity, punishment by any kind of device is not appropriate in modifying feline behaviour. Any form of punishment invariably increases anxiety and fear. Feline ethology is such that their primary response is flight and avoidance; which may remain specific or generalise, and unrelated neurotic behaviours in the cat easily occur, including reduced capacity to cope with social contacts”

Got that? … “Invariably increases anxiety and fear” … “punishment by any kind of device is not appropriate” …. “Unrelated neurotic behaviours .. Including reduced capacity to cope” ..

Ok ….

Below, is a 2016 study by the University of Lincoln in respect of the use of electronic containment systems, E-collar fences basically, where gardens have a perimeter wire placed around them and the cat wears a collar. As the cat approaches the boundary wire, a tone or pulse is given by the collar, which serves as a warning, followed by a static correction if the cat continues towards the boundary …

“Modern devices train the cats to associate a warning beep with the location of the invisible fence. As a consequence animals may be able to quickly and efficiently learn appropriate avoidance behaviours, without persistent anxiety or fear of a shock.
The scientists undertook a range of behaviour tests designed to assess the mood and anxiety of cats and found that, if anything, those contained with electronic boundary systems appeared more confident when it came to new experiences.”

Just to recap … “Quickly and efficiently learn appropriate avoidance behaviours without persistent anxiety or fear …. Appeared more confident when it came to new experiences”

Now then … You tell me? …. Since they cannot BOTH be right, one of the two conclusions and recommendations is obviously incorrect! The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), insist on academic standing (Honours degree and above) and postgraduate experience of 2-3 years working alongside a veterinary practise. Being veterinary referred, they’re obviously well educated and ought to know their subject inside and out, right? They ought not really make sweeping generalisations, assumptions or claims, such as “Any form of punishment invariably increases anxiety and fear”, without concrete, undeniable evidence to support those claims, surely? **Incidentally, when your child runs around with her laces undone, trips on one and falls and grazes her knee, then in the ‘scientific’ sense, provided she makes sure that they are done tightly thereafter, ‘running with loose laces’ has been technically punished, and she’s now ‘avoiding’ a repeat punishment by learning that she’s better off with tight laces** … But according to the APBC, “Any form of punishment invariably increases anxiety and fear”? – Is the child now anxious? Does she spend her playtime in fear?

The APBC again, appear to be at substantial odds with the University of Lincoln in relation to electronic containment systems!
Remember, The University writes that:
“If anything, those [cats] contained within the boundary systems appeared more confident when it came to new experiences”

Mr Ryan of the APBC however, stated:
“Fence containment systems should not be allowed even though the animal is able to move away from the fence. …
Whilst all electric shock devices are prone to the dog failing to associate the intended stimulus with the punishment, containment systems are particularly disposed to the dog associating the pain with an unintended stimulus. When a dog approaches a boundary, it does so for a reason. It may be greeting visitors or defending the property against a perceived intrusion by another dog. If it receives a shock as it does so, the shock will be associated with the most relevant stimulus present in the dog’s mind at the time. It may therefore associate the pain not with approaching the boundary, but with visitors or passing dogs, resulting in subsequent fear and aggression towards those stimuli.”

*[note also, how all parties simply use the term ‘electric shock’, whilst none have taken the time to elaborate on the term, leaving anyone without first hand experience to know no difference between placing a battery to one’s tongue, a muscle stimulation belt to one’s abdomen, or corporal punishment electrodes to one’s shaven head]

Again, for an association of such academic achievement, operating via direct referral of such a trusted body of professionals as veterinarians, then one would certainly expect statements presented as facts, to be beyond inaccurate, untrue and scaremongering tactics such as
“When a dog approaches a boundary, it does so for a reason. It may be greeting visitors or defending the property against a perceived intrusion by another dog. If it receives a shock as it does so, the shock will be associated with the most relevant stimulus present in the dog’s mind at the time. It may therefore associate the pain not with approaching the boundary, but with visitors or passing dogs, resulting in subsequent fear and aggression towards those stimuli”
Unless of course, the University findings that the [cats] were “Without persistent anxiety or fear” and “More confident when it came to new experiences” were simply, wrong?

For those who might not be aware, pet containment systems save lives. That’s why people buy and use them. Not because they get a kick out of startling their pets – (they could fill that criteria at FAR lesser cost) – No, the reason pet containment systems are installed, is because the owners wish to keep their animals, other people’s animals (including stock and livelihoods) and potentially innocent motorists SAFE. They want to permit the animal freedom, whilst simultaneously ensuring welfare. These are owner who recognise the fact that doors sometimes swing open, leads can get dropped, kids don’t always close doors behind themselves and that one single error could cost the animal it’s life or physical wellbeing.
These people CARE about welfare.

One final point on pet containment systems .. One which again, serves to highlight either the ignorance, the naivety or the dishonesty of the APBC in their 2007 paper …
Quality electronic containment systems follow a pretty simple procedure. realising that it would be wholly unfair to simply hide a wire and have the animal try and guess through correction, where the boundary lies, the kits contain multiple, clearly visible flags.
Now a flag isn’t something that most pet animals will encounter a great deal in a natural environment, and that fact is used to the owner’s advantage – As a ‘visible’ boundary.
The flags are placed along the boundary line, and the animal is ‘taught’, that approaching the flags results in a negative experience, an unpleasant consequence, a startle, a ‘shock’.
Done correctly, this novel stimulus [the flag] rapidly assumes “avoid it” status, and the animal maintains a healthy distance whenever a flag is in close proximity. Over time, the flags can be gradually removed, with the animal ‘remembering’ the areas it has learned to avoid …. Ta Da … Invisible containment system.

Now this is what the APBC wrote in respect of pet containment systems:
“The difference between electric boundary containment systems and electric stock fences, as used by farmers to control large livestock, is that the stock fence invariably follows a visible boundary, or is highlighted by white tape, so the animals can see it clearly. The arbitrary invisible boundary defined by an electric containment system does not provide a visible reason for the dog to understand why the shock happened. Animals understand that things they touch can be painful; thorns or sharp rocks exist in their environment. It is very easy for them to learn that something they brush up against should be avoided.”

A reminder of a key criticism of containment systems from the APBC:

“When a dog approaches a boundary, it does so for a reason. If it receives a shock as it does so, the shock will be associated with the most relevant stimulus present in the dog’s mind at the time.”

And yet the ‘acceptable’ endorsement for farm animals?:

“The difference between electric boundary containment systems and electric stock fences, as used by farmers to control large livestock, is that the stock fence invariably follows a visible boundary”

So then I ask you, if that visible boundary is a hedgerow, yet ‘shock’ is associated with “the most relevant stimulus present in the [animal’s] mind at the time”, then why are we not seeing millions of sheep, horses, cattle and pigs, literally terrified of hedgerows, or aggressing towards trees? Farm hedgerows invariably contain roosting or resting birds, often singing or cawing .. By the logic of the APBC, we ought also, to have farm animals showing signs of increased anxiety when they see or hear, birdsong. BUT … As you are no doubt aware, this simply ISN’T the case. Birds land amongst a herd of cattle, and what do the cattle do? – They continue to graze. Horses will stick their heads THROUGH the strands of electronic tape in order to eat what’s on offer on the other side!

And what of electric chicken fencing? Fencing designed to keep the contained animal safe, by virtue of the fact that the approaching predator receives unpredictable electronic correction – again, ‘shock’ if you like? Where is the ethical army in this instance? Why is the argument for the fox, rat or badger, any less important on welfare grounds, than the argument for the domestic pet?

Interesting isn’t it! .. You see, the REAL differences between farm stock containmnmet systems and PET containment systems, are that farm containment fences:
(a) Have a HELL of a lot more energy potential – ‘SHOCK’ if you like.
(b) Will punish ANY animal that happens to come into contact with them
(c) Do NOT carry the same emotive strength as an animal which people consider to be part of their family – Despite the fact that each are living, sentient beings
(d) Neither farmers, nor veterinary referred ‘behaviourists’, are ever likely to exchange (or pay for) behavioural concerns over a cow straying onto a lane
(e) Banning electronic stock fencing for agricultural animals in Wales, would go down like a shit panini – Sideways …

As I say … Ignorance, naivety or dishonesty?

The lack of genuine understanding is disturbing regardless – Especially when laws which affect hundreds of thousands of animal’s welfare are passed on the strength of it.

Over training? 

There is (in my opinion), an unpleasant image emerging in respect of what constitutes (or ought to constitute) dog training and ownership. I was watching a few videos from a few US youtube trainers over the past couple of days, and it seems that the main message being put over, isn’t to exercise, permit freedom, bond, interact and create a harmonious relationship with a responsive dog, but rather that a restricted or restrained dog is the name of the game, or in more instances – Hire me.I saw a recall video – The dog was about 10′ away from the trainer, in a room, on a remote, and the trainer had food. To me, that isn’t a recall. The environment had been restricted to the point of ‘zero option but to’, and there was no relationship, no ‘gel’ between dog and trainer whatsoever.

I’m seeing nothing which denotes ‘skill’? There seems to be nothing different, beyond dog or camera angle in the abundance of clips. Life extends beyond a place board. Walking 2 dogs or 20, all on restraints of one sort or another – Well, frankly, “That don’t impress me much”.

There is life beyond a ‘facility’.

The dogs live beyond a ‘facility’.

Training MUST extend beyond facilities and tools.

Where is the ‘love’? Where is the ‘fun’ gone? Why is dog training and ownership being portrayed as some kind of regimental, seen but not heard mentality?

Sometimes, I cannot help but draw the analogy of a prison when I look at these facilities. Freedom is only permitted, when permitted. Choice is channelled and/or pressured and a great deal of time is spent on a place board ‘lock down’.

Rarely, VERY rarely will you see these 20 lead walked dogs running freely together, permitted to experience and exhibit their natural, species specific tendencies, whilst still under the control of the trainer. The excuse will be that they are ‘aggressive dogs’, ‘red zone’ dogs or anxious dogs, and so the ‘harmony of the pack’ would be adversely affected. In response to which, I would ask “Then what is the point in the programme?”

It isn’t my idea of training.

Are the APBC ethical, humane or fit for purpose?

The APBC (Association of Pet Behvaiour Counsellors) is a self-proclaimed, “Second to none”, group of ‘veterinary referred’ ‘behaviourists’ (read ‘expensive’ – although they claim to work at a “reasonable cost”), which operates throughout the UK. The association proudly places tremendous emphasis on a member’s  academic achievement, yet you will notice ‘applied/practical proficiency’, to be suspiciously lacking in their marketing material. Essentially, the APBC is an association intent upon furthering their own name, increasing (paid) membership and creating an ‘elite’ public persona. They claim however, that their focus is,

“To maintain and ensure the highest professional standards of the practice of companion animal behaviour therapy so that clients can be assured of effective, humane and appropriate advice”


Read those three tenets again – “Effective” “Humane” “Appropriate”


Read on …


The APBC advised the Welsh Parliamentary Assembly on their ban of remote training collars in favour of ‘kinder’ – ‘more effective’ methods of training and behaviour modification, one of which was chasing stock/wildlife.* The (then) chair of the APBC – David Ryan, wrote an article on his website regarding chasing.

You can read it here

It begins by bamboozling the owners with the utter bullshit (i’m sorry, but i’m passionate) claims, that chasing is a release for anxieties, therefore the owner must ‘scan their environment’ at home to identify insecurities, which accrue to culminate (like a pressure cooker of anxiety) in chasing – THEREFORE, David Ryan tells owners to treat (for example) firework phobias before tackling chasing!! … It gets better … Mr Ryan, the bastion of welfare, of “EFFECTIVE HUMANE and APPROPRIATE training; the parliamentary ‘go-to-man’ on matters affecting millions of dogs, is asked the following question ….

“I have 2 y/o Sheepdog, of course, bred to herd. We rescued her 3 months ago. We live in a rural area with many deer, armadillos, etc. Our property is not fenced. She has bolted out the door several times in pursuit of deer. I can’t control the deer population, it is what it is here. She does love her toys so I will work on this. My concern, when she is in pursuit, she is fast and hears nothing I have to say. The other problem I have is her barking. She gets walks 3-4 times a day and whenever she sees deer she barks uncontrollably. I tried the rocks in a can, creating a noise and that worked for about 3 weeks then she became immune to that. Will a dog whistle help? I am desperate! Thank you!”

Mr Ryan replies with the following (shortened for brevity):

“If I HAD to keep her using your environment (and my preference would be to re-home her to a more appropriate one, because it is not benefiting either of you) I would forget about walking her and spend the time with her tied-out on a long line so she can’t run off, whilst playing retrieve games with her.”


YES!!!! … you read that correctly … “REHOME HER, or FORGET ABOUT WALKING HER AND TIE HER OUT” ….

Having NEVER MET THE DOG, and based entirely on the scant information provided in a brief, desperate blog post, the former chair of the “second to none” APBC, the “highest professional standards of companion animal behaviour therapy”, starts out with “REHOME HER or FORGET ABOUT WALKING HER AND TIE HER OUT”.

Mr Ryan goes on to recommend ‘games instead of walks’, ‘practise obedience so that she comes back because she wants to’ [??!! – No actual answer there whatsoever!] ….. And finally … “After that you need a PROTRACTED PROGRAMME [my emphasis] of introducing the stimulus (deer) at a low level whilst keeping her focus on you (toy-reward) and gradually increasing the salience of the deer-stimulus … [Then comes a ‘buy my book’!! .. Followed by] “Good Luck!”

I’m sure Mr Ryan means ‘decreasing the salience of the deer-stimulus’, but here’s the rub … Here’s the really really really wrong part … The worst aspect of all ….

Mr Ryan is LYING and he bloody well knows that he is lying. There is no way in a month of Sundays that a ball will beat a deer for a sheepdog with a well rehearsed chase history. Mr Ryan knows this, which is why he starts out by saying ‘rehome your dog’ – Because his advise is impotent and he knows it … But impotent advice won’t generate income, and so Mr Ryan back-pedals and throws a ‘buy my book’ into the equation too … Best grab a few quid out of it whilst she’s desperate eh David? …. Disgusting. Unethical. Unprofessional. dishonest and greedy.

That’s the APBC for you. David Ryan is presently presenting seminars on chase modification throughout the UK … Where emotions prevail, common sense will fail, eh David.

*You really ought to get your hands on this advisory paper, settle yourself into a comfortable chair for an hour or so and read through it. Depending on your general response to absurdity, you will find yourself either laughing, stunned into disbelief, or enraged. Seldom will you encounter a more emotively biased, evidentially lean, scientifically cherry-picked, anecdotal and factually false piece of work on the subject of remote training aids and the effects of professionally applied correction (positive punishment – Adding a negative consequence as a result of an action), and electronic pressure (Negative reinforcement – Removal or non-occurrence of a negative consequence as a result of an action) on canine behaviour.


APDT alarm bells – Here’s the first one I heard ……

During my APDTUK assessment, I was required to teach an unknown class of people/dogs, certain behaviours for (I think it was an hour?) whilst being observed by two assessors placed at either end of a training hall. The teaching requirement was held secret until I entered the hall and began the session. At the conclusion, I was asked to leave the hall and wait outside, where I was led to an undercover area, which joined one of the assessor’s houses.
As I waited, a group of 3 or so dogs (from memory they were Belgian Shepherds – Tervurens or Groenendales) emerged tentatively from the back door of the house, eyed me with great mistrust and wariness, and one of them continued a low grumble, whilst looking towards me from sideways on. “Ooops .. Ignore them” remarked the husband of the assessor as he brought me a cup of tea, “They’re no good with strangers” … He turned to the dogs “G’wan – Inside!” and shooed the dogs away.
I was advised some 10-15 minutes later, that the assessors were ready now, to give me both my aural assessment, along with their feedback on my work. I was taken through to a conservatory, where the two women awaited me. Now I have to say that each of the women were lovely to speak with and both nodded encouragingly as I explained my use of class layout, positive reinforcement, choice of rewards, reward delivery protocols, projection of instruction, explanations etcetera, in relation to the preceding class work.
Then it came to my scores!!
“Do you teach classes already Jamie?” I was asked.
“No, I don’t” I replied
“Why not?” the second assessor enquired
“Because I don’t necessarily believe that hall-based training is the most beneficial training I can provide” I answered, trying to choose my words so as not to offend!
“Well you should!” announced the first lady (not as in the president’s wife .. She wasn’t there .. I just mean ‘the first one of the two to speak in this recollection of dialogue’ … Anyway, I digress) … “You did an exceptional job in there! The woman who kept wanting to do things HER way is a NIGHTMARE to train, but you actually chose HER dog to demo with! It worked!”
I smiled, “Oh .. Thank you”
Then came my results …..
“Well, you scored all but perfect! Well done!! It isn’t very often we get scores like this. You only dropped half a point, giving you a score of 17.5 out of a possible 18!! Well done!!!”
The second, smiling assessor asked “Can you think why you dropped the half-point?”
I thought …. “Errm?? Timing perhaps?”
“Er? … I’m not sure, was I rude or anything? Did I miss a technical point? .. I really don’t know?”
“Ha ha! Nope!” Chuckled my judge “That was all great! … I’ll tell you ….. Do you remember going through the DOWN exercise?”
“Yes, I do” I answered, a little puzzled
“And do you remember the Poodle?”
“Yes, I do … She was the young one who was taking a while”
“That’s right” said my second judge “And why was that do you think?”
I knew the answer to this, so I replied with confidence “OH! ..That’s because the dog didn’t fully understand the mechanics of the exercise. The owner was choosing to lure for too long, making the dog over-reliant on the visual cue of the hand containing the food – It was as though her nose was attached to it with string .. It moved and she broke!” I smiled …
“Errrr? No …. No that isn’t what WE had down? …. Why else do you think a dog like that may struggle?”
Now I was confused! I KNEW why the dog wouldn’t DOWN; It was for the reasons given! I tried a generic answer .. “Well .. Either the dog doesn’t ‘understand’ the behaviour, perhaps it has a prior training history which conflicts with what was being taught there, or the motivation to perform it is insufficient for that particular dog in the circumstances?”
The ‘professional’ interpretation has stayed with me from first hearing it … This was it …
“No .. That’s not what we think Jamie. What we see is a young Poodle in a training hall in the colder months. Now his fur on his tummy is shorter than the rest of his body and the floor of the hall is pre-tty cold for that little one …..” (I sat – Stunned) … “So what might we have done differently?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! …. But I found the words dropping from my mouth, like broken teeth from the ‘stun-punch’ to the chops I had just sustained … “”
“YES!!! A coat … Or put a warm blanket on the floor!” ….
……. A warm blanket …… Because a dog which originated working in swamps and water, will endure a ‘cold tum-tum’ performing a DOWN inside a training hall ……
I think I knew from that moment on, that my future as a member was to be a brief affair ……..