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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I am one of those "unconventional" dog owners, or so I've been told. And the reason for this is simply because I treat my dogs as if they were human. (Cleo lives indoors and sleeps on my bed). As far as I am concerned they are beings with feelings and emotions, and are equal if not superior to humans.

I have been told that I look after Cleo better than how alot of people would look after their child. Well I guess it's true. Cleo always comes first in everything I do. For example, I ensure that I am out of bed by 6am every morning (be it a working day or a holiday) so that Cleo can have her breakfast, simply because she has to eat at that unearthly hour on weekdays so that I can get to work, so I don't see why I should get a break on weekends while she goes hungry. I know most people would not bother to get out of bed on a holiday to feed their dogs... because to them - it's just a dog... I sincerely believe that if you won't let your child go hungry on a Sunday, you shouldn't let your dog go hungry just because you want to have a few hours of extra sleep on a Sunday...

Anyway, I am also one of those who are absolutely against the use of choke chains on a dog. Many trainers that I have met over the past years have insisted that I use the choke on my darling Cleo. I have never and will never use a choke chain on any dog. As far as I am concerned it hurts. Many trainers will try to tell you that it doesn't. Some will even go so far as to demonstrate the use of the choke on your arm. Of course when they demonstrate, the force used on your arm is probably a fraction of the force that they will use on the dog. So if anyone tries to sell you the idea of a choke chain with this demonstration, I suggest that you ask them if it's possible for you to try it on them with the chain around their necks, and not their arms. See what they say to that...I'll wager that none of them would be up for that challenge!

Again, my belief is that if you will not use a choke chain to discipline your child, then you shouldn't use one on your dog...Anyway here's an extract from Animals in Mind, an organisation in the UK on the effects that a choke chain can have on your dog.

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Choke chains have been used on dogs for many years, they are so common that few people give them a second thought.

Maybe they could become less common if people were aware that choke chains (apart from being ineffective as training aids), are the cause of many medical conditions including:

Injured ocular blood vessels
Tracheal and oesophageal damage
Severely sprained necks
Cases of fainting
Transient foreleg paralysis
Laryngeal nerve paralysis
Hind leg ataxia

When examined for damage caused by choke chains, some dogs have shown misaligned vertibrae and some have sustained permanent nerve damage. One condition called Horner’s syndrome causes nerve damage that results in recurring pain in the eye and severe headaches.

People who advocate using choke chains often suggest using them on dogs from a very young age. Using chains on young dogs is highly likely to result in much more severe and long term injuries. For example, agility classes do not allow dogs to begin training until they are one year old. Solely because of the increased risk from traumatic injury.

Fifty dogs using choke chains were studied in Germany. The dogs were followed for their whole lives and autopsies performed when they died. Forty eight had some form of injury to the neck, trachea, or back. Two were genetic while forty six of the fifty were caused by trauma.

Pain is the principle The other problem with choke chains is the training regime that goes with them. Far from preventing pain and injury the primary purpose is to cause it. The general principle is that you ‘snatch’ the chain in order that the dog learns that to disobey brings pain and discomfort.
Trainers who advocate choke chains say that once you have inflicted sufficient pain, your dog will learn to respond to just the ‘chink’ of the chain. It is true that in general dogs will respond - by flinching or cowering in anticipation of the pain that usually follows the warning ‘chink’.The National Canine Defence League does not use choke chains and advises new owners not to use choke chains on dogs they adopt.

Stopping and changing

Very often we see dogs on choke chains who are damaging themselves by pulling with all their weight and strength - their owners having been told that a choke chain is the answer.
In most cases the answer is not to rely on any devices (painful or otherwise), but to understand a dog’s motivation for pulling and how to get them to appreciate this is not what is wanted and will in fact, get them nowhere.

Dogs are usually very quick to learn. By repeatedly stopping or changing direction when they pull, then rewarding when they get it right, it is possible to get even the most determined dog to appreciate that pulling will not get them anywhere.

Never on a puppy

Never even be tempted to use a chain on a puppy, it simply isn’t necessary. Puppies from 4 weeks to one year willingly learn using very gentle methods. Any force or punishment is simply not necessary. More importantly it interferes with effective communication, making them completely counter-productive.

Older and bigger dogs For dogs that pull heavily, there is a simple device called a Walkrite or Easy Walker. These are simple nylon harnesses that pull back when a dog pulls forward. You would use exactly the same stopping and changing method described earlier, but with the added advantage that a dog finds it difficult to pull against the Walkrite.

I personally like the use of a Halti, a special head collar that helps with training your dog to walk calmly next to you with no pain inflicted on the dog. See for details of how a Halti works..

It is possible for dogs to be taught how to walk quietly without any aids. However, if a dog already has a habit of pulling and is too strong for the owner then we would advocate using a Walkrite harness until the owner feels more confident that they have control.

Time and time again we see choke chains failing to help owners. Dogs are very determined, if they have to undergo some discomfort to achieve their goal, they will endure it. Any training that seeks to prevent behaviour by pain or discomfort has the potential to fail, especially when the dog considers it more beneficial to be defiant.

Conversely, any training method that provides a reward for an expected behaviour has zero chance of failure because the very persevering attitude that causes the defiant action will be working for us, not against us.There are thousands of trainers who can show more effective ways to teach dogs, that don’t involve force or have the potential to cause painful and debilitating injuries, but an end to the use of choke chains rests with us all.

extracted from Animals in Mind


Amanda85 said...

hi there.
ur blog is very informative...good job...
yeah, i'm also against choke chain, tat's y i didn't enrol my new dog for any formal classes..
wonder when m'sia will abolish tat dark age practise n move forward.

Julian Jones said...

nice work . I like it