Friday, January 26, 2018

Let's Wink at Shooting Dogs and Wounding Sheep

"Dependency Model Dog Trainers in Scotland have just succeeded in getting e-collars banned in a country loaded with sheep, and where the protocol for sheep worrying is to shoot the dog dead."

Sheep and dogs have been around a long time, and during their entire multi-millenia history, dogs have killed sheep. Not thousands of of sheep, and hundreds of dogs, but millions of sheep and millions of dogs.

And you know what happens every time? Sheep and dogs die.

It does not have to be this way. Several decades ago, "buster" e-collars were invented to "bust" dogs off deer and sheep. These collars were too hot for normal dog training purposes, but were no more aversive than the electric fences we see all over the countryside.

About 12 years ago, however, a low-stimulation e-collar showed up on the market. These collars give a very moderated signal -- a tap, not a zap -- and they have proven to be extraordinarily useful tools with which to train dogs, and especially to "proof" dogs so that recalls and commands are obeyed from a distance.

 Offering excellent timing, and a range of communication options from beeps to vibration, and a range of electronic stimulation from an impossible-to-feel "tap" to a solid "zap," these collars have proven to be a real threat to Dependency Model Dog Training as practiced by the pure click and treat set.

Clickers and treat bags are marvelous tools for teaching, and they are particularly important when training tricks for which the dog otherwise has no instinctive code or reward, such as running weave poles, carrying small baskets, offering up a paw, or sitting on command.

But clickers and treat bags are much less effective when getting a dog to ALWAYS recall on command (rather than sometimes), or getting a dog to stop chasing squirrels or cats, or to stop barking at things it can see out the window. 

You can pay a clicker trainer a lot of money for a very long time, and their working terrier will still not be safe off-lead in a woods full of squirrels, rabbits, and fox.  Don't take my word for it: Karen Pryor, the self-styled queen of clicker training could not allow her own dog to run off leash in the woods, and had to contain it in her own yard using an Invisible Fence e-collar!

I mention this because dependency model dog trainers in Scotland have just succeeded in getting e-collars banned in a country loaded with sheep, and where the protocol for sheep worrying it to shoot the dog dead.

From the Aberdeen Herald:

The use of electric shock collars for dogs is to be banned in Scotland, the Scottish Government has announced.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said causing pain to animals by "inappropriate training methods is clearly completely unacceptable".

The ban will be introduced through guidance issued under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

It has been welcomed by animal charities and campaigners including Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden, whose petition calling for the devices to be outlawed attracted more than 19,000 signatures.

The ignorance and ran-away misinformation here is stunning, and I am reminded of an old article by conservation writer Ted Williams entitled Management by Majority who noted that the anti-trapping campaigns in California depended on a pack of lies put on the table and a lot of truth left off. Massive direct mail campaigns were illustrated with a type of leghold trap that had been outlawed and replaced more than 70 years earlier, while the fact that all of the Yellowstone wolves were routinely trapped with legholds in order to vaccinate them and radio-collar them was never mentioned at all.

The Scottish have followed the Welsh down the path to foolishness, deciding to ban ALL e-collars rather than banning the 30-year old models that off-patent and sold cheap by Chinese manufacturers with poor quality control. Would they do the same: ban all cars because there was once a Yugo and a Pinto? Ban all guns because some Saturday Night specials are still made of pot-metal and will exploded in your hand?

The law that Scotland and Wales should have embraced was a standard for ecollars, requiring units used and sold in Scotland and Wales to conform to certain manufacturing and reliability standards, with 100-levels of stimulation from very low to moderate.

Of course, that's not the solution offered up by the Dependency Model Dog Trainers who sought to ban ecollars which they saw as a real threat to their bill-by-the-hour business plan in which so many problems are never quite solved in a reliable manner.

Your dog still does not have a solid recall on squirrels and sheep? Well, perhaps 100 more hours with the trainer will start to put you on the road to success!  At the very least, it will help the trainer get a new Vauxhall!

And if that fails, well then the dog can always spend its entire life indoors or on a leash.

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Dan said...

Actually, the banning of cheap pot-metal guns because they explode has actually happened in Britain. Our legislators really are that stupid.

Two companies, first Saxby-Palmer then Brocock Engineering (who still exist, having branched out) had a line of manufacturering whereby normal firearms were specially weakened and adapted to fire self-contained air cartridge ammunition. This ammo was a brass cartridge-like container which was charged with highly compressed air; the nose end unscrewed to take an airgun pellet. The entire assembly had an internal valve system that dumped the air to fire the pellet.

This all worked very well, but there was a problem in that the guns sold were usually modified firearms, modified by drilling out the revolver cylinder and barrel and replacing both partly with pot-metal. What you had was a device which could be converted back into a Saturday Night Special.

Whilst it was possible to do a competent job on this conversion and produce a gun as good as the original, most conversions were really, really badly done. The man recounting this tale, a retired chief inspector of a firearms department, told me that on the first shot such a gun had about a 25% chance of exploding. Second shot was 50/50, third shot about 80% chance of destroying the gun.

One evening shooting he had attended (teenage disagreement over love, basically) was solved by means of fingerprint evidence. The accused had fired three or four shots, the final one of which had caused the pistol to detonate, severing some fingers. It was from these the suspect was traced, picked up from where he was hiding out and taken to hospital for treatment before arrest.

This class of air gun was banned over a decade ago, in a catch-all Antisocial Behaviour Act.

Which was a pity, because they made a very nice replica of a Martini-Henry rifle that I quite fancied owning, if only for the coolness factor (although it would have done passably well in Sporting Rifle competitions with a replica period 'scope on).

CJames said...

It's so much easier to get simple bad regulations passed than to write a sensible regulation that actually resolves a problem. "It's dangerous! Ban it immediately." doesn't require people to think or pay attention for very long.

I still remember how persuasive the pure positive spiel felt to me when I was first trying to figure out being a responsible dog owner. Getting past that instinctive "sounds true" to actual science, evidence, or data is a hard sell to the general public, who are told to trust their gut and taught to hold their quick opinions up on the same level as those of any expert.

Donald McCaig said...

I pasture 1-400 ewes during the grazing season and have adopted a year old coonhound.He is often loose. In the weeks before the ewes arrived I trained the hound on a handful of old retired sheep by penning them where he'd pass them at about forty feet - outside the immediate chase perimeter. He'd worn the ecollar previously for "come" and "leave it".
I let the coondog out with the sheepdogs (who ignore sheep unless working) and when he showed the very first puzzled interest in the sheep I nicked him with the ecollar. I repeated this exercise for days before letting him loose where he might find sheep on his own.

If the dog is fully committed to an attack, the ecollar may be too late.

He is now sheep-safe but training for sheep aversion isn't simple nor is it -like the recall -perfect. A shepherd friend's lab took down a sheep suddenly and unexpectedly after a year of ignoring them. Prey/predator.


Anonymous said...

As long as studies on e-collars are conducted in the manner of the study below, we will not be getting anywhere. Say what you want, but to me it looks like a mission to prove the failure and not a scientific question.

Jennifer said...

So... later post says e-collars are great for many forms of correction and proofing. This post points out a few places they're banned (could add that they're banned in much of Australia as well). No wonder it's hard to find a trainer who uses punishment effectively. What a sorry mess.

Jennifer said...

I once sold a pup to someone whose Jack Russell took down an adult sheep! They assumed it was safe cause the dog was so small. It amazes me that herding dogs aren't more inclined to chase and maim. Sheep are such easy prey.

tuffy said...

wow--that's a lot of ignorance.
and a lot of dissociation from the reality of Nature.

in my mind, along with the e-collar standards, training instruction for the owners should required as well.
e-collar training, like choke chain or pinch collar training, isn't as simple as giving a correction or pushing the button.