Yesterday, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers revealed the electronic collar survey it spent the whole summer developing.
It boasts a total of 16 questions, mainly geared toward gauging opinions on electronic collar training.
A brief letter accompanying the survey described its purpose thusly:
The board of directors is in the process of reviewing the Dog Training and Behavior Practices Policy and investigating a motion prohibiting the use of Electronic Training Collars by our certificants.
In an effort to develop a stronger position on this sensitive topic, the CCPDT has issued a survey, and will be holding a call for supplementary materials through October 20, 2013.
Measuring Perceptions v. Measuring Facts
The push to develop a “stronger position” on electronic collars apparently came together at the CCPDT’s May Board meeting, spurring the creation of a task force chaired by Vice President Shawn Smith and announced in the July 1st issue of CCPDT’s newsletter.
One might ask how an uncontrolled, anonymous survey will effect the policies of an organization nominally committed to science-based practices.
Or why more legitimate steps to gather information about current electronic collar equipment and training practices are not being taken.
Of course, the CCPDT is not merely soliciting random anonymous opinions. They are also looking at science, including all available literature on electronic collar training.
And that would be entirely sufficient if the goal of the task force were to determine whether graduate students should be allowed to use electronic training collars in pursuit of their behavior science degrees.
But that’s not the question under consideration.
It’s whether certified professional trainers should be allowed to use them, which would seem to call for an investigation of how certified professional trainers do use them (or at least might, if they weren’t continually discouraged from educating themselves beyond the most politically correct tools and quadrants).
Why has there been no call for case studies over the several months since it was decided that the CCPDT should “develop a stronger position” on electronic collars?
If the goal is to assess whether, or under what circumstances, pro trainers are using these tools humanely and effectively, you need to examine their methods and results, not just those of a tiny handful of graduate students.
Like it or not, the entire known body of scientific literature on electronic collar training is meager in volume, myopic in scope, and mainly outdated. In addition, most studies have inarguable (and widely acknowledged) methodological weaknesses.
Science begins with observation, not opinion polls. If the CCPDT intends its policies to have any weight or legitimacy beyond that faction of trainers who want electronic collars banned no matter what, it needs to make a good-faith effort to collect relevant information on current electronic collar protocols and practices.
Instead, we see the CCPDT focusing its energies on measuring perceptions.
So, in the context of developing a stronger position on electronic collars, does ”stronger” mean better informed or simply more radical?
Take the survey and decide for yourself.
NOTE: The below survey is intended exclusively for dog training and behavior professionals. If you do not work professionally with dogs, either as a trainer or behavior consultant, please do not take the survey.
© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2013.