Last Wednesday afternoon as I approached the Westsyde public dog park, I found a dog class going on. I asked the instructor how long they would be and was told that it would be OK for my dog and I to enter the park. So we did.
My dog immediately ran to some of the dogs in an effort to play. The first to respond was a border collie. As the border collie ran to my dog, I heard the instructor say "use the collar."
I saw the border collie then run away from my dog on the command "leave it." I was shocked as I looked around to see every dog wearing a shock collar and every owner with a remote control.
I was informed that one of the dogs was a five-month-old puppy. I was very uncomfortable so I called my positive re-enforcement trained dog to me and he came right away.
We left the park hoping to minimize further shocks to these dogs.
As I crossed over the dike I heard a very loud series of yelps coming from the park. It made me very sad. I cannot say for sure what happened, but I looked back into the park and saw one of the dogs sitting with its tail tucked looking very frightened.
I walked away wondering what had brought these seemingly intelligent, caring dog owners to a class designed to intimidate and inflict pain on a family member. I cannot imagine that they would have considered getting a shock collar as their new puppy wagged its tail and licked their face for the first time.
Training methods using shock collars, pinch collars, choke-chains, and other intimidating or pain-causing techniques hurt and frighten dogs. They also deeply scar their confidence.
Dogs trained for police work, service dogs for the blind, and dogs trained for sports such as agility are all trained using positive methods. Imagine a dog performing a very difficult task like searching for an earthquake victim while worrying that it could make a mistake at any time and be shocked.
It could not do that heroic work without confidence and without knowing it had the full support of its human partner.
You are your dog's partner and its only advocate! Your dog looks to you for guidance and support, just as the police dog does to its trainer.
Your dog can be trained to behave well and come when called, by you, in a positive, supportive way. I know first hand that dogs learn and thrive from positive training techniques.
I have a regular little mixed-breed dog that is barely two years old that is competing in agility trials, has three trick titles and is very obedient. The dog’s not perfect — neither am I, but we are a team.
I urge, even beg, people using shock collars or other negative methods to ask themselves this question: Is my heart really in this, or am I just frustrated with my dog's behaviour?
Believe me when I say that it is very rewarding to train your dog using positive methods. Many years ago, I trained my dogs with negative re-enforcement as I did not know of another way. If you are like me, you will be extremely happy with yourself to become a 'cross-over trainer.'
Please advocate for your dog. There are experienced, positive-based trainers in Kamloops. There is an almost endless supply of information in books and on the Internet.
In addition, I later learned from the City that this for-profit business is not paying to use this space. This is not how I would like my tax dollars used.
E. KAREN WILLIAMSON