St Albans dog owner’s warning over “barbaric” electric collar training

Karen Tonge, from Karen's in the Dog House training services.

Karen Tonge, from Karen's in the Dog House training services. - Credit: Archant

Trainers have issued a warning to dog-owners about the risks of using so-called ‘aversive’ training methods following a scuffle between a dog-walker and a woman using an electric collar to train a puppy.

Siân Moles, from St Albans, was walking her Labrador at Redbournbury Mill when she noticed another dog – a Bassett Hound puppy - in distress.

She said: “It kept jolting and kept getting shocked and straight away I knew what was happening. I thought, ‘this is just barbaric’.”

Siân then confronted the owner, who had a small black remote pointed at the dog but her protestations were dismissed.

She said: “I asked her what she was doing. The dog was scared; it was terrified. There was no way it was going to obey her.

“I don’t think electric collars are ever good, but this woman just kept buzzing the thing. She didn’t know what she was doing.

“I said, ‘stop doing that, he’s just a puppy’ and she said, ‘he’s not a puppy he’s six months old’.”

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Siân then grabbed the remote control from the woman’s hand and threw it in a nearby river.

She went on: “I see that as a form of animal abuse and she just had no clue.”

The woman then took a picture of Siân with a camera phone and threatened to make her pay for the collar.

“I expected to see my face to be plastered all over social media but I haven’t heard a thing.”

Selina Davies, who founded St Albans Dog Training & Services, said that electric collars were akin to “caning children” and that positive training methods were more effective.

“People can get the dog to do whatever they want [without electric collars]. They just encourage bad behaviour and it’s nothing but a quick fix.”

Karen Tonge, a friend of Siân’s and owner of the Karen’s in the Dog House training service, is offering a free class to the mystery Bassett Hound-owner.

She said: “I am offering this owner a free session on recall using tried and tested positive reinforcement methods.”

Karen said: “Shocks do not teach a dog the behaviour that you want. It can suppress behaviour but I’m all about teaching the behaviour that I want them to do.

“We wouldn’t shock a three-year-old child to stop a behaviour we didn’t like - and as a general rule of thumb, a dog’s intellect is similar to a three-year-old child.”

Although electric collars have been made illegal in Wales, where the offence carries a maximum fine of £20,000 or a six-month prison sentence, the rest of the UK still permits their use.

Karen has written to her local MP, Mike Penning, urging him to raise the issue in parliament and is calling on others to do the same.