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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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I am posting to announce that following a ten-month hiatus, my status as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (Knowledge Assessed) has been officially revived.

Note to Self: Stranger things have happened.

Please see past posts for details on my failed (or so I thought) protest of CCPDT policy, and the CCPDT’s subsequent (and totally unrelated, I’m sure) policy reversal.

I should say, it very likely was totally unrelated. After all, had the CCPDT Board been swayed by my arguments, even belatedly, I might logically have been informed once the offensive policy statement was revised. In case, you know, I wanted back in. As it was, I did not get the memo.

So, sadly, I can’t take any credit for the CCPDT’s recent reversal of its hardline ban on placing electronic training collars on any dog under one year of age. But I can still crash the party.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.


I was jarred over the weekend to discover the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers had lately revised its 2009 policy statement on training practices.

Back in December, I’d written a letter to the CCPDT’s Board of Directors protesting the inclusion in that statement of language banning certificants from using electronic collars on any dog under one year of age. The letter had accompanied my application to re-certify as a CPDT-KA, and explained why I could not sign on to the new policy.

My check was ultimately returned and my certification allowed to expire. But that decision was not made hastily. The CCPDT Board took two weeks to consider my case, a fact that was communicated through official channels and leads me to believe that everyone serving on the CCPDT Board at that time would have read my letter.

And despite the scant response I got at the time, it appears the CCPDT Board may have taken my concerns (or similar concerns voiced by others) to heart.

As of August 4, 2011, the CCPDT’s Policy on Training and Behavior Intervention Practices no longer includes the following within its list of disallowed practices:

Applying a collar that delivers an electrical stimulation to a dog under the age of one year, with the exception of a vibration collar that does not have an electronic shock component.

In its place, a new and unrelated restriction has been added:

Purposely lifting a dog by the collar, leash, or scruff such that two or fewer of the dog’s legs remain on the ground.

Go figure.

Or, follow this link to view the revised policy statement in its entirety.

By the way, it’s unclear to me whether the CCPDT has actually shared the fact of these changes with current certificants, apart from editing the document as it appears on the CCPDT site. You would think they’d be obliged to, kinda-sorta, considering a new restriction was introduced. But the person who brought these changes to my attention said she’d only happened upon them by accident while reviewing the policy online. And it was definitely not mentioned in the most recent news update posted to their site.

A fact I can confirm unilaterally is that they did not inform me. But that’s not so shocking.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.

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UPDATE: The CCPDT revised its policy statement on training practices in early August, 2011.

The CCPDT Responds

Below is the CCPDT’s response to the letter that accompanied my recent application to renew CPDT-KA certification. It explained my inability to sign CCPDT’s updated Ethics Code, due to its reference to their 2009 policy statement banning certificants from using electronic collars on any dog under one year of age. The board’s response followed two weeks of deliberation, or, more likely, a two week period within which my concerns were at some point very briefly deliberated.

It is by now safe to assume my arguments did not inspire the CCPDT to revisit the language within their 2009 policy statement on dog training practices. But even if it did, their taking the present opportunity to remove me from their ranks is hardly a shocker.

At any rate, here is what landed in my virtual mailbox yesterday afternoon.

Good afternoon Ruth:

Last evening the Board of Directors  of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) discussed the reasons you submitted for which you believe you cannot sign and adhere strictly to the CCPDT Code of Ethics.  We appreciate your integrity and honesty.   However, insofar as the Code of Ethics is an integral part of our recertification process, your refusal to sign means you have not fulfilled the recertification requirements.  Regrettably, we must allow your CPDT-KA credential to lapse.


CCPDT Board of Directors

A Haiku Version

The more I contemplate the above four sentences, the more I regret the CCPDT did not think to craft their verdict into a pithy haiku for my digestion. That would have been inspired. Below is an example of the form, featuring a 5-7-5 syllable structure:

Concerns unwelcome

Integrity regretful

You are not worthy

I’m sure someone out there can do better, but you get the idea.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.

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