Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Jerk, Pinch, Prod" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Jerk, Pinch, Prod

By Charlotte Peltz

It is no secret that I began my dog training personal experience and professional training programs using choke chains and prong collars. It is also no secret that I no longer train that way. When I began training a very long time ago the only training being done in classes for the public appears to have been with chain collars, and oh-the-many ways that we doctored up the fact that we were yanking on chains around our dogs' necks! My personal favorite was, "Give the leash a 'pop!'" Pop doesn't come across as sounding very negative compared to, "Give that dog a sharp jerk!!" I cringe when I look back.

And, now I find that I have every reason to do so with the proof to back that up. For quite a long time I have been seeking an actual study to which I could make reference. Many, many times the various trainers lists to which I belong have referred to studies, but I could never get anything solid to which I could make reference -- until now!

A 1992 study was conducted in Sweden by behaviorist Anders Hallgren, and Hallgren, in the Animal Behavior Consultants Newsletter, published a summary of the study in July 1992. Four hundred dogs from different dog clubs in Sweden participated in the study. These were "ordinary" dogs -- "in that owners presented them to us without any suspicion of spinal anomalies." The owners were simply curious about what a chiropractor could tell them about their dogs.

"Spinal problems" were being reviewed, and that term, 'spinal problem' is defined by a chiropractor as a smaller or larger detectable twist or lock of one or several vertebras." Hallgren states that this definition is not always consistent with a veterinary diagnosis. As with people, there are some with spinal "problems" that suffer pain, and people with those same problems and they have no symptoms.

Having said that, the study revealed that "problematic behavior" coincided with 65 percent of the dogs proved to have spinal anomalies, while only 30% of those with no anomalies exhibited behavior problems! It never ceases to amaze me how insistent people are about their dogs with serious skeletal problems not being in pain! Denial is alive and well. Dogs do not demonstrate pain unless and until it is so all-encompassing that they can no longer hide it. And, sad to say, all too often the way dogs show us they are in pain is in a format that we do not readily recognize for what it is. For example, sudden aggression could well be a result of pain. What dogs do NOT do is cry out from pain except for the possible quick movement that causes an uncontrollable reaction. They snap and then may simply go back to suffering in silence. They do show the discerning owner their pain in such ways as not climbing stairs as well as once they did, walking more slowly uphill, giving up sooner on chasing the ball, placing both hind feet together for forward movement that requires a bit of acceleration or when climbing stairs. Most people never notice these signs.

Factors that correlated with spinal anomalies include limping during adolescence, accidents, and pulling on leash. Limping during adolescence can be caused by "growing pains" (ask your vet about those), a sprained limb, some claw injury, etc., but - BUT - dogs that limp for long periods of time distort their body posture, and thereby contract spinal problems. Accidents such as falling off the grooming table (or the roof!!!), automobile accidents, wrestling games that some people believe are "fun," bouncing around in the back of a pick-up or even the family station wagon, etc. definitely can cause a canine companion serious problems that do not show up until later in life.

Pulling on leash. Ah. A biggee. One can hardly walk anywhere without encountering dogs and not see the classical example of a dog in need of training. Said dog is dragging the handler down the street, and all that straining on any collar, but certainly on a chain collar, speaks of strain all over the dogs body and certainly on the neck - for starters!

Then we progress to at least some of those struggling dog owners seeking help, and they are told to "give her a good strong jerk" to show her who is boss. Hallgren says, "For many years, I and others have criticized the use of choke chains and training methods that use jerking and pulling on a leash as a means of controlling behavior. Unfortunately, most dog trainers use just this technique. There is probably a relationship between the force of the jerk and the risk of injury. I believe dog owners should be warned that chaining a dog to anything firm, that isn't elastic, without surveillance may increase the risk of a spinal injury. A dog can easily forget the boundaries of the chain or rope, accelerate, and suddenly come to a halt, with all the stopping power concentrated around the dog's neck."

My case rests.

P.S. The pinch and prod part of the title refer to pinch collars and shock collars. I'll share more about them at a later date.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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