The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers finally released its new position statement on electronic training collars. The announcement was made without fanfare in the latest issue of its online newsletter, which cited the adoption of the new policy during the CCPDT’s May board meeting:
The Board of Directors adopted the Electronic Training Collar position statement presented by the Electronic Training Collar Task Force. This position statement will outline the CCPDT view for the use of electronic training collars in dog training. A formal release of the newly adopted position statement was made at the end of June.
The new policy statement leads with a nod to tolerance, acknowledging the existence of diverse methods and “certificant profiles”, and flatly stating that electronic collar use is not forbidden.
Conflicting prescriptions follow, however, including the suggestion that negative reinforcement protocols should be exhausted before considering the use of an electronic collar, the chief utility of which may be in applying negative reinforcement specifically.
While I appreciate the CCPDT’s decision not to ban electronic collar use among its certificants, the bulk of their policy statement, titled Electronic Collars and the Humane Hierarchy, seems based on a misunderstanding of where remote collars actually fit within that framework.
Electronic collars are arguably one of the best tools available for administering timely negative reinforcement, yet they are stubbornly treated as a tool of last resort for unstated reasons, as if their application were somehow beyond the pale of either that quadrant of operant conditioning or the associated tier in the Humane Hierarchy.
Why do they merit special consideration, versus other less modern or sophisticated tools meant to do the same? Why should certified trainers, presumably well qualified to make responsible choices, be discouraged from even contemplating their use, while other aversive tools are freely discussed and liberally applied. Why are there no policy statements regarding head halters, no-pull harnesses, or citronella collars?
Was it just politics that drove the formation of the Electronic Training Collar Task Force, or are there magical thinkers within the CCPDT who consider electronic training equipment inherently witchy– a beast that defies logical assessment and whose effects may not conform to natural laws? Either way, the result seems confused.
© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2014.