The Shock-Free Coalition: What’s Next?

Don Hanson explains how to keep the momentum going once you have signed the Shock-Free Pledge

<A version of this article was published in the March 2018 issue of Barks from the Guild, a publication of the Pet Professional Guild>

< A short link to this page – http://bit.ly/BARKS-ShockFreeMAR2018 >

I have been waiting for an organization of pet professionals to take a stand against the use of shock collars since 2002, so when PPG launched the Shock-Free Coalition on September 25, 2017, I was more than ready to sign the pledge to eliminate shock devices from the supply and demand chain. However, I also knew that signing the pledge, while an important step, was not going to be sufficient to stop the use of shock collars. Signing the pledge is just the beginning of what will very likely be a long campaign.

In addition to signing the pledge, as many of us as possible must commit to educating others in our profession, other pet professionals, and pet parents about the dangers of shock. This educational effort will also require that many of us become advocates and publicly speak on behalf of dogs, who cannot speak for themselves.

Critical elements of being an advocate involve writing and public speaking and presenting logical and scientifically-based arguments for our position while being respectful of those that disagree with us. I know there are many reasons that not everyone in our profession is comfortable being an advocate. Some may have a fear of public speaking, an instinct to avoid confrontation of any kind, or a concern about how taking a position on what some consider to be a controversial issue, may affect their relationship with current and prospective clients and their business’s bottom line. These are all real concerns, and if they describe you, I understand. On the other hand, if you want to try to overcome these issues, know that there are others ready to help you.

How, then, do you get over the concern regarding how publicly taking a position may affect your business? This is not always easy. I have been in the pet care business for 22 years and started as a traditional trainer talking about dominance and alpha rolls, all while using a choke collar and corrections to train a dog. After teaching my first clicker class as an experiment, I knew I could never in good conscience show people how to train with force again. I threw out our existing curriculum, scrambled to create a new one, and our classes became force-free, pain-free, and fear-free. This change was made in spite of the fact that I feared we would lose many of our training clients and veterinary referrals.

I have to thank my friend Gail Fisher of All Dogs Gym in Manchester, New Hampshire for giving me the courage to do this. Fisher had a massive investment in correction-based training, both as an author and pet care professional, yet she made a complete transition to clicker training because she believed it was the best option for her clients and their dogs. As a result of my choosing to transition entirely to clicker training, my business has grown, and most of the veterinarians in our community became convinced of our kind, compassionate approach’s efficacy. Also, I could sleep at night because I was no longer teaching people to “strangle their dog.”

While I am comfortable speaking, writing, and arguing for a just cause, I know that ending shock will require similar actions by many of us. I am a firm believer in the concepts, “think globally, act locally” and that “many hands make light work.” I thus decided to launch a Shock-Free Coalition in Maine where I live.

My first step was to contact all the PPG members in Maine and to invite them to join me. This was a logical first step as PPG members have already indicated their commitment to ending the use of shock collars simply by joining the organization. Indeed, Section One of PPG’s Guiding Principles states: “Pet Professional Guild members understand force-free to mean: no shock, no pain, no choke, no fear, no physical force, no compulsion-based methods are employed to train or care for a pet.” (Pet Professional Guild, 2017). Like I said, all PPG members have essentially committed to the pledge simply by becoming members.

I know many pet professionals in Maine who are not yet PPG members. However, because I was confident that they felt the same way about shock collars as I did, I invited them to join our cause. My second recommendation, then, is to contact other pet professionals in your community whom you know are already opposed to shock. If you get them to join your coalition, invite them to join PPG as well.

I have taken several actions as an individual, all of which anyone can do, and I suspect many PPG members have already done too:

  • I sent out a press release with the news that my business, Green Acres Kennel Shop, has joined the Shock-Free Coalition. PPG makes this easy for us by offering a template.
  • I wrote an article for the October 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News titled Is Your Dog Your Best Friend or a Family Member? If Yes, Then Please Join Me and Take the Pledge which I also published on my blog. If you have a dog newspaper in your community, write an article and submit it. If you do not have a newspaper that focuses on dogs or pets, try your local weekly or daily paper. If you do not have a blog, start one.

I shared a link to my article, as well as an older article I had written (The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars), on my personal Facebook page as well as my business pages (  https://www.facebook.com/GreenAcresKennelShop/  & https://www.facebook.com/WoofMeowShow/  & https://www.facebook.com/WordsWoofsandMeows/  ), and continue to do so on a regular basis. Share your articles and blogs on why shock-free is important, and do it more than once. There are some great software tools available to allow you to post to Facebook and Twitter on an automated basis. My favorite is Post Planner.

  • I included an article on the Shock-Free Coalition in the email newsletter my business sends to our clients and asked them to join us by taking the pledge. No matter how you stay in touch with your clients, keep them aware of the shock-free movement and your part in it.
  • I changed my profile picture and cover on my Facebook page, and those of my business pages, to encourage people to take the pledge. This is one of the easiest ways you can make others aware of the shock-free movement and your commitment to it.
  • I put up signage in our store promoting the Shock-Free Coalition and our commitment to the “No Pain, No Force, No Fear” philosophy. I also include PPG’s “No Pain, No Force, No Fear” logo on much of our printed literature.
  • There is a large banner hanging on the lower half of our outdoor sign, proclaiming we have joined the Shock-Free Coalition.

The following are things I have done to promote the Shock-Free Coalition as an individual which may not be as easy for others, but they are worth exploring:

  • I invited Niki Tudge, PPG’s founder, to be a guest on my weekly radio show, The Woof Meow Show, where we discussed the shock-free movement. If you do not have a radio show, find out who in your community does. Community-based radio programs are always looking for guests. In addition to hosting Tudge on my show, I have also been a guest on two other shows in our area that gave me an opportunity to discuss why shock-free is so important.
  • My co-host and I recorded a radio show/podcast titled The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars as a companion piece to my blog post with the same title. I find it valuable to provide information in a variety of formats as some people prefer to listen to something rather than reading.

Our first group project in Maine was to place a full-page, color advertisement in the November 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News, a state-wide dog-centric newspaper. A total of 12 pet care professionals participated in the ad where we publicly announced our commitment to ending the use of shock and invited other pet care professionals and pet parents to join us. Since then, we have had an animal rescue organization join our cause, and I am in the midst of discussions with a large animal shelter and two veterinarians about joining us for our next advert.

My eventual hope is that other pet care professionals who might be on the fence will see the benefit to their bottom line if they take the pledge.

In addition to the ad, I have cobbled together a website describing our coalition’s mission, providing a directory of shock-free pet professionals for pet parents, and announcing our next educational and advocacy events. Meanwhile, we are discussing our next steps as to how to grow our group and get more people actively participating.

If you have already signed the Shock-Free Pledge, thank you! If you have not signed it yet, it is imperative that you do so.

All of us that want to see shock eliminated as an option in pet training and behavior modification have much work to do. I will try to keep you informed of what we are doing in Maine, sharing what works and what does not. In the meantime, please share your stories with other PPG members so we can all benefit from what others are doing. Together

we can make the world shock-free!

References

Pet Professional Guild. (2017). Guiding Principles. Available at: bit.ly/PPGGuidingPrinciples

Resources

Hanson, D. (2017, October 1). Is Your Dog Your Best Friend or a Family Member? If Yes, Then Please Join Me and Take the Pledge. Available at: http://bit.ly/BestFriendsAndShock

Hanson, D. (2017, October 22). The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars. Available at: http://bit.ly/ShockCollars

Shock-Free Coalition: https://www.shockfree.org/

Shock-Free Coalition News Release Template: bit.ly/ShockFreeCoalitionNews

Say No To Shock! (A List of Scientific Articles and More)http://bit.ly/SayNoToShock

Shock-Free Coalition of Maine Facebook Page: http://bit.ly/ShockFreeMEFB

Shock-Free Coalition Sign the Pledge: https://www.shockfree.org/Pledge

Maine Pet Care Professionals We Recommend –  http://bit.ly/MEPetPros

The Woof Meow Show (Producer). (2017, September 30). The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudge [Audio Podcast]. Available at: http://bit.ly/PodCastShockFree-NikiTudge-2017

The Woof Meow Show. (Producer). (2017, October 21). The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars [Audio Podcast]. Available at: http://bit.ly/ShockPodcast

Don Hanson ACCBC BFRAP CDBC CPDT-KA is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

 

©01MAR18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Article – Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too!

A version of this article was published in the May 2017 Issue of  BARKS from the Guild

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA

< This is short link to this article on my blog
< http://bit.ly/ThanksPPG-Gus >

I was not allowed to get my first puppy until I was a junior in high school in January of 1975. I am not sure why my parents succumbed to my pleas after twelve years, but they did. When I purchased my cute little puff of black fur, a Keeshond/Poodle and we never caught the father mix, neither the pet store nor the veterinarian suggested training her. Other than some basic housetraining, Trivia had no real training during her life. She was a happy dog who liked everyone and was with us for 14 wonderful years. However, I believe that the life Trivia and I shared could have been so much better if I knew then what I know now. I am thankful that PPG exists today because they are an excellent resource for anyone who has just adopted their first dog.

My first venture into training a dog was when my wife Paula and I got our first puppy as a couple. It was the spring of 1991, we had just purchased our second home, and we decided we needed something to shed on the carpets; just kidding! We did some research,

Don & Gus in 1991, Before the Alpha Roll

and on the advice of Paula’s boss, a veterinarian, we went looking for a Cairn Terrier puppy.  We found one and named him Laird Gustav MacMoose or “Gus,” because he just acted like a “Gus.” On the advice of Paula’s boss, we immediately enrolled ourselves and twelve-week-old Gus in a puppy kindergarten class offered by the local dog club. We also purchased, and read both, Mother Knows Best and How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend because those were the two dog training books that were recommended at the time.

Our first night in puppy class was a complete disaster. Things went downhill the moment I was told to command Gus to sit, and Gus failed to comply. Now, this was not a big deal to us nor a surprise, as Paula and I were well aware that Gus had not received any training. However, it was a huge deal to the two instructors. They told me, in no uncertain terms, that Gus is exerting his dominance and that I had to alpha-roll him to show him that I was the alpha. The alpha role was exactly what the books we were reading recommended. So not knowing any better I did as I was told. As I grabbed Gus by the scruff and pinned him, he immediately began thrashing around underneath me, growling and snapping, and trying to connect his teeth with any part of me, so that I would let him go. I know now that he was terrified.

When I was told to grab his muzzle and told to “hold it shut,” I again, naively, complied. That is when Gus’ taught me that the dog’s teeth will ALWAYS be faster than the human’s hand. Gus instinctively sunk his canines deep into my palm. I said something inappropriate and immediately let go and begin to bleed profusely all over the training room floor. As one instructor ran to get me some ice for my hand, the other gave me a dirty look and continued teaching the class. I handed the leash to Paula, disappointed in Gus and disappointed in myself.

After we had gone home, it was evident that the relationship between Gus and I was severely damaged. I was no longer being asked to “throw the ball” by the Cairn with a tennis ball in his mouth and a vibrating tail. Gus did not trust me, and I did not trust him. I let Paula handle him in the remainder of his puppy classes, and when she went on to the next level of classes, with a different training club, I elected not to participate. I am thankful that PPG exists and today can guide a young couple with a dog so that they can find a qualified trainer that will teach them how to create and maintain a relationship based on trust and positive reinforcement. I am grateful that PPG can also recommend which books to read, and equally important, which to avoid.

Over time Gus and I learned to trust one another again, and training and behavior became a something we both enjoyed. Paula and I adopted a second dog, and we were fortunate to discover Dr. Patricia McConnell and her Dog’s Best Friend Training facility, where we learned about the wonders of reward-based training. I worked with Gus, and Paula handled Shed, and the four of us learned a great deal but more importantly, we also had lots of fun.

Gus eventually became the catalyst for our getting into the pet care services industry. His behavioral issues, he became reactive when people tried to leave our home, led to my interest in aggression and reactivity. His bladder and urinary problems, determined to be due to diet, resulted in our preoccupation with pet nutrition. When Gus developed epilepsy, he sparked our interest in complementary medicine. Thank you, Gus, you were quite the teacher as well as being a fabulous, furry, friend.

In the fall of 1995, we moved from Wisconsin to Maine, after purchasing the Green Acres Kennel Shop. Paula and I jumped right into our new business. Having learned the value of professional organizations in my previous career, I found and joined both the American Boarding Kennel Association (ABKA) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). Through the APDT email list, I met several people, many that are now wonderful friends, and started to read books that they recommended. I also began attending seminars, and I worked with our existing trainer to learn my craft.

In 1998 I attended my first APDT conference in Valley Forge, PA and stepped right into my first debate over shock collars. A shock collar company was exhibiting at the APDT trade show, and there was a significant discussion as to whether or not they should be allowed to do so. I was firmly in the anti-shock camp. After that conference, APDT adopted a policy that prohibited the promotion of shock collars at their conferences.

Three years later I was encouraged to run for the APDT Board of Trustees and started my first three-year term on the Board in 2002. Hoping to expand upon the ban on promoting shock collars at the conference, in July of 2002 I proposed that the APDT adopt a resolution defining dog-friendly dog training. At the core of my proposal was the statement “Dog-friendly training” does not include the use of tools or methods that cause pain, physical injury, suffering or distress.” Sadly, my motion died for lack of a second. I was very disappointed that no one was even willing to discuss my proposal.

I served on the APDT Board for two consecutive terms waiting for an opportunity to get APDT to take a more assertive position on dog-friendly practices, but it never happened during those six years. I was again encouraged to run for the Board in 2010, was elected to another three-year term. Sadly, it was evident the APDT was still not ready to take a stand. I do believe that APDT has done many good things for our profession, but it disappoints me that they have never been willing to take a strong position against the use of force, fear, and pain.

In 2014 I took my first serious look at PPG, applied for membership and let my membership in the APDT expire. Earlier I stated that I believe professional organizations are important. To me, membership in such an organization demonstrates an individual’s and a business’s commitment to the best practices of their profession. For that reason, as soon as a staff member at Green Acres’ completes their probationary training period, I enroll them as a member of the PPG no matter what role they play here. Every trainer, pet care technician, groomer, customer service associate, and manager is a PPG member and is expected to live up to the PPG guiding principles. It is a condition of employment.

I am so very thankful that I finally found a cohort of like-minded pet care professionals who are committed to the same things that I am and are willing to say so publicly. Thank you PPG and thank you Niki Tudge.

I became the manager of an email list for boarding kennel and daycare operators in 1996. Ten years later some members of the list began discussing how they used squirt bottles, spray nozzles on hoses, and anti-bark shock collars on their guests to control barking. I was appalled and made being pet-friendly a requirement of being a member of the list. Around the same timeframe, a client informed me that a kennel in our area used a shock collar on their dog while they were a guest. My clients were very upset that this had happened. As a result, Green Acres’s published our first position statement entitled “Green Acres Is A “Pet-Friendly” Facility.” Some of our competitors were not happy because they felt it made them look bad, but I believed then what I believe now. We were doing what was in the best interest of our clients and their pets. Our continued success confirms our clients agree. However, I have taken my share of flack from others in our profession and again, want to thank PPG for making the world a less lonely place.

Resources

Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facilityhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2006/02/01/green-acres-first-statement-on-being-a-pet-friendly-facility/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Carehttp://bit.ly/GAKS_Pet-Friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogshttp://bit.ly/GAKS-Pos-NoPain-NoForceNoFear

Pet Professional Guild Guiding Principleshttp://www.bit.ly/2mUCTqN

Pet Professional Guild – Pet Training, Management and Care: We Now Know Enough to Stop Shocking Our Pets – An Open Letter to Pet Industry Representatives Regarding the Use of Shock in Animal Training – http://bit.ly/2mUEj4Q

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationshiphttp://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

Dominance: Reality or Myth –  http://bit.ly/Dominance-RealityorMyth

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He also produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show heard on AM620 -WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. He is committed to pet care that is free of pain, force, and fear.