Don't All Show Dogs need Slip Collars?

Andrea Stone CCS CDW

Glen of Imaal Terrier, Violet, BOB on a Resco
I just recently attended Vicki Ronchette’s workshop, “Positive Training for Show Dogs” and it got me thinking. As our established clients know, Linda and I are committed to using humane, “dog friendly” training methods through the use of rewards and progressive approximations. We also eschew the use of aversive techniques and equipment, such as choke chains and prong collars. However much of the dog show world is still steeped in the use of traditional training methods . The seminar lead me to want to share a little bit with those of you who are new to dog shows, or who have been showing dogs for many years and are considering attending conformation classes at UCLA Dogs.

If you prefer traditional methods and pieces of equipment, UCLA Dogs will not be able to meet your needs. We respect your right to work with your dogs as you see fit and there are many training facilities in the area that will better suit such techniques.

We encourage all clients to commit to training their dogs adequately before entering shows and proactively rewarding their dogs for "getting it right". If your dog learns what he or she should be doing and the handler acts to manage and prevent unwanted behavior, there is no need to "correct" the dog. Even if one does not intend to jerk on, choke or string up a dog, we are all human and make mistakes. Using equipment designed for the purpose of delivering an unpleasant sensation to the dog such that they will not repeat an undesirable behavior is setting the human up for failure. And we want you to succeed! If you do not intend to use it for its designed purpose, there is no reason to use a slip collar at all. Just because slip collars are what most people use, or it is what has always been done, is not a good enough reason for us at UCLA Dogs.

It is our goal to make dog shows a safe and joyful place for your dog. We wish to see our clients reach the level of success they desire while still meeting their dogs’ needs, and never at the expense of their mental or emotional well-being. “Coping” is not good enough, and dogs need never “learn to put up” with anything according to our philosophy. By teaching dogs what to do, and building their trust by never pushing them past their ability to handle a situation with aplomb we will create show dogs who love what they do, and do it as best they possibly can. We build dogs up incrementally, especially young puppies or shy/fearful dogs. With pushy or over-the-top dogs we simply teach them the rules of the game. Good training is all about conflict avoidance and negotiation: if my dog does as I ask he will get what he wants. If my dog cannot happily do something, I will change my expectations, ask of him only for that which he can do successfully and build him up from there. It’s all about give and take, it’s about teamwork.

Success is important, both in our business and in the show ring, but not at the expense of our dogs’ well-being or our philosophy and ethics. Winning is important – we exhibitors are a competitive lot – but our dogs are more so. Showing, for us, is about the journey and the thrill of putting on a wonderful performance. Ribbons and accolades are just icing on the cake. Yes, this focus may be somewhat outside the norm. We are fine with that, and so are the clients who choose us. If you are new to UCLA Dogs and the above statements ring true to you, we would love to see you.