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hello :)
I have an 8-month-old golden doodle and recently she was not training well and so my family went on a search to look for a trainer and my mom found Sit means Sit and they were also the only company/trainer that responded so we signed her up for that and we were super happy that we found a trainer. They told us that they trained their dogs with shock collars after we signed up (or that's when I found out) and they assured us it wasn't harmful. After the 2 week training that cost way more than it should of, she came home and was still acting the same but worse she was way more aggressive. That's when my brother and I realized that the shock collar was negative reinforcement and teaching her learned helplessness. So my brother wants us to go back onto treats but that would mean almost starting from scratch and that we wasted thousands of dollars. What should my family do?
 

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It is better to take a step back and start from scratch than to continue along the path the trainers were using. You obviously need to look for someone new. If you have the possibility to leave feedback so other people can avoid your mistake then please do so. These kinds of trainers need to "learn a new trick" as it were.
 

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Absolutely go back to reward based training.

Just a point of training terms, a shock collar is not negative reinforcement, it is positive punishment. So as not to derail the thread, I will put this link for anyone who wants to read more - Dog has a couple training problems, I need advice to...

There is plenty of evidence out there that proves that shock collars do more harm than good, but rather than get into that (unless you need pointers to help convince your family) why not tell us a bit more about what you are trying to achieve and we will try to make suggestions that will help.
 

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Go back to reward training.

If dogs get punished for doing something wrong, the only result is that they will become scared of you. But if you use rewards such as treats, it will make the dog excited to do the right thing again so they can get the reward. That's how we trained our pet Labrador Retriever.
 

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Absolutely go back to reward based training.

Just a point of training terms, a shock collar is not negative reinforcement, it is positive punishment. So as not to derail the thread, I will put this link for anyone who wants to read more - Dog has a couple training problems, I need advice to...

There is plenty of evidence out there that proves that shock collars do more harm than good, but rather than get into that (unless you need pointers to help convince your family) why not tell us a bit more about what you are trying to achieve and we will try to make suggestions that will help.
Pointers to help convince my family would be amazing!:)

Right now my family is only keeping our dog in a specific area of the house and not letting her free unless she is monitored but we want her trained well enough where we can trust that she won't like chew up our carpet or rip our bed sheet when we aren't with her. I feel like the biggest problem right now is that with the shock collar (that we are still using but I'm trying to lean her off) she doesn't listen like when she says come I have to like sound like we are playing for her to actually come.
 

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Ok, there may be a lot of reading but first, think about the effect of a shock collar and how it would be for you.

Let's say you were learning to drive, and when you got something wrong, your instructor delivered a shock to your neck. It is unpleasant at the least, possibly painful - that's how these things ”work”. It might stop you from doing what you are doing (for that reason, we sometimes refer to the effect as ”interrupters”) but importantly you don't know what you should have done differently. Were you in the wrong lane, going too fast, not using your mirrors, in the wrong gear, not indicating, too close to the car in front, turning left instead of right and so on. The collar does nothing to tell you what you should have done.

If your instructor continued to use it, how keen would you be to keep learning to drive? Not very, I'd bet. So you stop trying to do anything, for fear of doing the wrong thing. In dogs, we call that ”shut down”, the dog just exists but has no joy in life because she is doing the very least she can, to avoid being shocked.

Then, there is something called punishment callous, when the dog develops some tolerance to the shock. So the only way you can go is make the shock more and more severe.

With reward based training, you create a dog that is keen to comply with what you ask rather than afraid of the consequences of not complying; because the reward is your pleasure; and something awesome for her. It doesn't always have to be treats, it can be a favourite toy, or if you like you can use her normal food - if it helps, think of her as earning her lunch.

Sounding like you are playing to get her to come is great - you want her to want to come to you, what is more likely to achieve that, fun or pain?

And, another point - tearing sheets or chewing the carpet should never be fixed by a shock collar because if you are there to shock her, it means you have watched her do these things. You have set her up to fail. Going back to my driving instructor analogy, how many driving instructors will allow their students to crash, so they can punish them for it?

So, here is a good article about the science why shock collars are a bad idea.


By rewarding when she gets things right, you are far more likely to get repetitions of the good behaviour. Because there is always the promise that there might be something in it for her. Over time, you don't have to reward every time but that's for a different thread on specifics, I want to focus this one on the principles of reward based training.

Finally, I'm going to post a video - I was lucky enough to see this performance live earlier this year. This was achieved through reward, not punishment, and is a fabulous demonstration of what can be done using the right tools.

 

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Pointers to help convince my family would be amazing!:)

Right now my family is only keeping our dog in a specific area of the house and not letting her free unless she is monitored but we want her trained well enough where we can trust that she won't like chew up our carpet or rip our bed sheet when we aren't with her. I feel like the biggest problem right now is that with the shock collar (that we are still using but I'm trying to lean her off) she doesn't listen like when she says come I have to like sound like we are playing for her to actually come.
To convince your family, get one of them to wear the shock collar for a day. Wear it on your thigh so it doesn't hurt you. Every time the dog does something you don't like then activate the shock collar they way you would if the dog were wearing it.

I'm dead serious here!

If they want to continue on with this ridiculous nonsense then they should experience what the dog experiences. After the first few times you activate it, the shock collar will be in the trash. I'd bet good money on that.

Your family is going to need help from a competent dog trainer. Dog training is about 20% training the dog and about 80% training the owners of the dog how to carry on once the trainer is out of the picture.

In other words, competent dog trainers will put most of their effort into training YOU how to train your own dog. What you previously did is leave the dog with the trainer, expecting to get a completely obedient dog back at the end of the time and none of you learned a single thing that you can apply in practice. I'm a little annoyed to hear that people with the best intentions got scammed by such a charlatan, but the fact is you did. Now you need to stop making it worse.

That said, all is not lost. Dogs are flexible by nature and you can change tactics. You must, however, let go of the idea that you need to carry on with this shock collar treament immediately. You may have lost your money and gone backwards in the process so far but you don't need to KEEP going backwards. You need to stop making it worse so you can start to undo the damage already done and make things better. Do some intelligent research on what you should be looking for in a trainer and then take another whack at it. This time you MUST be involved in the process. There is no other way.
 

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I feel like the biggest problem right now is that with the shock collar (that we are still using but I'm trying to lean her off) she doesn't listen like when she says come I have to like sound like we are playing for her to actually come.
Sorry to sound blunt, but would YOU be inclined to "come" if your friend used a shock collar on you? Serious issues there.
 
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