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.

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

  1. Thank you – I could not ever have put this better. How eloquent you are. Everything you said is spot on. I intend to write to the minister regarding this issue & intend to mention electric fencing too.
    We live in a fear induced society. If you were to ask the public why they adhere to speed limits – I can guarantee the answer will either be ‘I’m scared I might have an accident/kill someone or I fear getting £100 fine & 3 penalty points! So we all learn through threat of fear of consequences to some extent etc. But a dog cannot see the speed limit signs, can’t read the laws – so we have to teach them acceptable behaviour vs unacceptable behaviour! A mother of pups gives the pups a nip when they do something they shouldn’t – sure the mother knows better than the rest of us – we take a dog at 8 weeks & have the responsibility to ensure the dog knows how to behave. This is akin to me shouting to my partner that dinner is ready – I don’t get a response – I shout again – same – I have to go through house & find him – tell him again – no response – it’s not until I prod him in the shoulder that he responds with – sorry I was just so focused on this programme I didn’t hear You! It’s like the dog focusing on chasing something! Not until their focus is broken by a touch (at a distance – an e-collar) will the dog hear you shouting! So the touch that the mother gave is mimicked & respected.
    Thank you

  2. If my dog with the use of escolar gets a life where he can be out with me and have enjoyable walks not being a danger chasing bikes livestock etc.Then after all the positive food and toy only training has failed yes please. I did not bring up two children withou saying no or having sometimes unpleasant consequences for wrong behaviour, and it’s not working trying only positive rewards for my dog.

  3. Jamie – I looked in because I could not believe that all your response to this major, tragic news was a running mention in one of your videos, and you did not disappoint.
    EXCELLENT write-up. “Minds are changed through education, not legislation” –  could well be the best summary I have ever read about the issue.
    I am truly shocked about this U-turn (no pun intended). I would go as far as to say it looks like a setup: just a couple of months ago, reassurance that there will be regulations, no ban, so no more need to step up against the mass deception, and now this. I’m an avid lurker but I’ve been posting comments frantically at relevant articles since (at least where they pass “moderation”, as, unsurprisingly,  they’re all on the lobbyists’ side), in a rather Sisyphean effort to give reason at least a small voice amongst the madness.
    “(…) electric shock collars are harmful, and the expert advice is clear that electrocuting dogs doesn’t help train them.” – Scottish Tory Maurice Golden.
    To the tone of Max Findlay: Jesus CHRIST!!!
    I’ve done some sums about 69 relevant comments out of the 74 one of these articles gathered, and found that 75% of proponents, while 11% of opponents reported personal experience in support of their stance (which, in the latter case, was all second-hand, witnessing misuse).
    I’m not personally affected, I’m not a retailer, I don’t even live in Scotland, if ecollars were to be banned UK-wide, I would still not be affected because I would just use other tools, but my heart goes out for the dogs, people and other animals whose lives are now to be destroyed by ignorance like it happened in Wales. I hope this is something I’m not alone with, much as I understand that those who do the research will always be in minority over those who just repeat the opinion of others, and, with even less conviction, I hope that someday we’ll have legislators who understand it, too.
    The Scottish government appears (appears. I don’t know what to trust anymore.) to be welcoming comments on the issue to electronictrainingcollars@gov.scot until the 14th of February. If you haven’t yet done so, I would urge you to share your thoughts there, too, just perhaps short of the – however justified – bitterness as I believe they would be presented in better form than from most of us.

    Ps. Thank you for the photograph. I needed something to smile about!

  4. Am finding out a lot on this blog .Is there any news letter publication out there that is about good ecollar training world wide.There are such good articles here deserves a wider audience.

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