"Bark 'n' Scratch"

Volume II - Issue 36:  October 22, 2004
Published by:
Christopher Aust, Master Trainer

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In Today's Issue ...

=>  Just Visiting? Please Subscribe Here.  ->
=>  Christopher's Drool
=>  Pinch Collars
=>  Quote of the Week
=>  The Importance of a Healthy Immune System
=>  Recommended Stuff
=>  Top 10 Signs Your Dog is Spoiled

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Christopher's Drool

Hi Gang!

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but winter has hit Northern California. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of the rain, but it was one hot summer here, and the wild fires were getting a little close for comfort.

A few months back, I mentioned some of the issues regarding breed selective legislation. (BSL) Well the situation is getting worse with more and more cities trying to ban certain breeds from their limits. It's not just Pit Bulls either. Now, I was saying then it was going to get worse, and I got poo-pooed by many. I hate to say I told you so, but…

If you want to find out if your city is affected, I suggest you tune into Jill Kessler's radio web show “The Dog Dish” on or if you are in the Los Angeles area, you can listen on KTIE 590 Talk Radio.

Each week Jan Cooper gives an update on areas affected by BSL. Beyond that, it's a great show for anyone who owns and loves dogs. It covers a variety of topics I make an effort to listen to every week. If you get the chance, check it out. You won't be disappointed.


Keep those letters and suggestions coming. They are greatly appreciated.

Okay, that's it for now. I'm outta here!



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I know you are not a fan of these devises and say they are dangerous, but I have seen and talked to several people who swear by them. Would you please clarify this issue for me? I completely agree with your position on shock collars, but if a pinch collar could be useful…

Thanks for your help.

Name Withheld

Pinch Collars

When I originally received this email several months back, I answered it privately as I had recently done the shock collar piece. However, recently, I have received more letters and worked with a couple of clients who are convinced these devices are a viable option. Well, let me give you the facts, and address the statements of many of those who are advocates for this device.

Pinch Collar
Pinch Collar


The pinch collar was originally created in Germany to be used on military attack dogs. They were designed to make it possible for the handler to get their dog to release their bite once they had sent them out to attack. They were not designed as a training aid. Now a days, military and police bite working dogs are trained to release their bite on command.

Today, many trainers still use these devises and swear by their safety. Many will tell you they are safer than a choke chain and injuries are nearly unheard of. This is simply untrue. Let's look at this argument for a second.

The Arguments

I have heard many reasons for using these devises. One is: the dog drags the owner around when they walk or the dog won't listen to commands. There are a couple of things here. First, if you are physically unable to control your dog then you probably made a poor selection when picking a breed. Second, with proper training, there is no reason any healthy person shouldn't be able to handle any dog without using a pinch collar.

Many will tell you the choke chain can cut off the dogs' air and the rings can hang up on things and cause the dogs to basically hang themselves. This is true if you have put it on incorrectly, bought the wrong size and don't have a safety ring in place. In fact, this could happen with just about any collar on the market. This is why you shouldn't leave any collar on a dog that is unattended.

Next, they will say that since the pinch collar doesn't close all the way, it is safer. The stupidity of this statement is obvious when you look at the sizing instructions that accompany one of the most popular brands of pinch collars.

The instructions say the pinch collar should be one inch bigger than the neck of the dog. However, if you look at the photo above, the tightening chain is about four inches long. This means it can be constricted to three inches smaller than the neck of the dog!

Any collar could hurt a dog in the situation above, but the risk is significantly higher with the pinch collar. I'll explain.

The Test

It's a simple matter of physics. When the collar tightens, on a traditional collar or choke chain, the pressure is fairly evenly distributed around the neck of the dog. With a pinch collar, the pressure is concentrated on from ten to sixteen small points around the neck of the dog. To better understand better ...

Take your thump and index finger and form a “gun.” Take the “U” between the thumb and finger and press it against your neck and apply pressure. Don't be a baby; put on some real pressure.

Next, take the two fingers closest to the thumb and make a peace sign. Now, place the ends of the fingers and place them on either side of the “Adam's apple” area of the neck and apply pressure like you did before.

With the first example, you probably found it wasn't necessarily comfortable but not really painful. With the two-finger method, it took less pressure and was painful. Now imagine having fifteen fingers jabbing you in the neck. Yikes. One more thing to remember, the prongs are way smaller than your finger which means more pressure concentrated in a smaller area.


I called three local veterinarians and asked them approximately how many injuries they had seen that were the direct result of a choke chain. Two of them told me none they could recall and the third one said one. In that case, it had been applied incorrectly on the dog, and the dog had been tied out and left unattended.

I then asked approximately how many injuries they had seen from pinch collars. Two of them said they have seen numerous injuries and one said she sees about two a month. So, we have one in the career vs. numerous. Sounds real safe!

So, Why?

So, with all of this, why are there so many trainers out there using these devises? This is just my opinion, but it is either a lack of true training knowledge or money.

First, utilizing pain as a training method is quick. No doubt about it. Using pain allows a trainer to push more dogs through their program and thus, make more money. All at the expense of the dog. I find this particularly despicable especially if the trainer is knowledgeable.

I have also had people tell me they train their dog for competitive bite work and they need the pinch to get their dog to release their bite or to help “encourage” the dog's drive. This, again, usually can be chalked up to a lack of training knowledge and behavioral understanding. I have literally worked with hundreds of professional police dogs that have had control issues. I never had to resort to the use of pinch or shock collars. There simply isn't any reason for it.

"But Look at How He Loves Me!"

This is one of my favorite things I hear advocates for this devise say. “If I was being abusive he wouldn't love me the way he does.” I generally like to answer that with, “Is it love or fear?”

When fear and pain are used to train a dog, a couple of things can happen. You can take confident dogs and totally destroy their drive and confidence or you can turn them into fear-biters. Will this happen with every dog? Not necessarily. But I sure as hell don't want my dog to turn and bite a child, friend or the postman because their fear misinterpreted the intentions of the individual.

With dog bites and breed specific legislation becoming such a hot legal topic, we need to start training our dogs with love and understanding. Sure it can take a little longer. We may have to accept our dog doesn't have the right stuff for competition and is purely companion quality.

Over the years, I have seen many methods of training. Some were good and some were little more than abuse. The pinch collar I would lump in with the abuse group. I don't care what other trainers or factory reps tell you. If you believe them, go slip one of those babies on, and have someone give it a good yank every time you miss a keystroke. Then, come and tell me how humane it is.

This article may be republished using the following attribution box:
Copyright ©2004 Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies
Subscribe to the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter: subscribe@Master-Dog-Training.com
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Quote of the Week

If your dog doesn't like someone, you probably shouldn't either.

~ Unknown ~

The Importance of a Healthy Immune System
by Jeannie Thomason

Just as the world is filled with disease-causing organisms, the body is filled with defenses to resist them.  In fact, no matter what your pet is confronted with, his/her body has been well designed to fight back.  Studies have shown, for example, that cats that have suffered serious nerve injuries can recover complete muscle function.  When pets take medications (or eat poisons), the liver produces extra enzymes to detoxify them.  Even something as minor as a pulled muscle is swiftly addressed with an increase in blood flow, which brings additional oxygen and nutrients and carries off wastes.

The main reason a pet gets sick, according to holistic veterinarians, is that something is interfering with the body's natural healing powers. The key to staying healthy or healing is a strong defense system, which protects dogs, cats and horses (all animals for that matter) from everything from the flu germs to cancer cells.

More then their mainstream counterparts, holistic veterinarians believe that a weak immune system plays a key role in causing disease.  Antibiotics fight infection, but they don't affect whatever weakened the immune system in the first place.  This is why holistic veterinarians focus less on things that cause diseases and more on those that affect the body's defenses.

For instance, some veterinarians believe that there is a type of energy, or life force, that surrounds and flows into every living thing.  You are not aware of this energy.  You can't see it or hear it, and scientists still don't know how to measure it.  But it is every bit as real as the invisible germs that surround us.

When this energy is flowing freely, dogs and cats have a superb ability to resist disease.  But when the energy is blocked or unbalanced due to such things as stress or injuries, pets become vulnerable to illness.  And once they get sick, the energy becomes even more unbalanced, making it much harder for them to recover.

Everything our pet's experience, from the quality of afternoon light to an upsetting afternoon, can affect the body's energy balance.  But a few things in particular, such as diet, stress and exercise, play the biggest roles in determining whether pets get sick or stays healthy.

Nutritional Risks

Just as the wrong type of fuel in your car can cause the engine to knock and ping, certain diets make the body vulnerable to problems.  Most pets eat commercial foods, which are loaded with artificial dyes, preservatives, and additives.  Dogs and cats in the wild, have spent many years eating 'wild', natural foods, and this is what their systems are designed for.

It has only been in the last several decades that they have been exposed to commercially prepared foods, as well as the chemicals these foods contain - chemicals that their bodies simply aren't meant to handle.  In addition, artificial ingredients can trigger an immune response that can, quite literally, make pets sick.

The immune system is designed to attack foreign invaders while ignoring 'normal' molecules, such as those found in food.  The chemicals in foods certainly aren't natural.  If the immune system perceives them as threats, it will mount a defense.  A meal of dry kibble can unleash a flood of basophils and other immune-system cells, which in turn, release chemicals such as histamine.  Unfortunately, these chemicals aren't entirely benign.  In some cases, they can trigger a rash of itching, vomiting or diarrhea.

Diet affects the immune system in other ways as well.  Among the most important components of immunity are antibodies.  Antibodies are nothing more than specialized germ-fighting proteins.  The only time your pet can make enough antibodies is when she is healthy and well fed.

In addition, the digestive tract has evolved to digest and process certain kinds of foods.  Extra ingredients such as food additives or grains put a strain on the whole body as it works to break them down.  It is especially hard on the kidneys and liver because these organs cleanse the body of impurities and unnecessary nutrients.

Holistic veterinarians believe that diet - more specifically a diet consisting of highly processed foods of questionable nutritional quality - is the main reason pets get sick, This is why holistic care nearly always involves changes in diet, regardless of other treatments your vet may recommend.

The immune system is truly too complex to go into a lot more detail at this time!  But it is important to know and remember that it is designed to defend your pet against millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites that would just love to invade their body at anytime!  All of these open the door wide to a variety of diseases that will pray on your pet's health including, but not limited to, diabetes, cancer, leukemia, toxic conditions, tumors, neurological conditions, allergies, kidney problems, infectious diseases, respiratory illness, kennel cough, mange and more.

About the author:
Jeannie Thomason is an Animal Health Care Consultant with over 30 years of experience with animals in different professions. Jeannie created “JeanE's Holistics” two years ago and is dedicated to educating pet lovers and caregivers in a natural, holistic approach to their pet's wellness as well as offering effective, natural products to assist you in developing or maintaining your pet's health. The following are Jeannie's Web sites:

The Whole Dog Store

Whole Dog News (online newsletter)

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Joke of the Week

Top 10 Signs Your Dog is Spoiled

1. You think begging for table scraps is beneath him, so you let your dog eat at the table with you.

2. You take him to the supermarket and let him pick out his own dog food.

3. Your husband comes home from work, looks at the stew on the stove and asks: "Is this people food or dog food?"

4. You bought matching His & Hers place mats for your dog and yourself.

5. At dinner parties you always have to double-check the butter for visible lick marks, before putting it on the table.

6. Your dog gets to vote on where to spend the next family vacation.

7. You don't care if you or your spouse are comfortable at night, as long as Fido has enough room on the bed.

8. You complain about the rising costs of groceries, but you don't think twice about spending a fortune on doggie treats.

9. Your dog always gets the best spot on the couch and sometimes he even gets to hold the remote.

10. He has his own e-mail address.

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Thank You For Reading!  Have a Terrific Week!

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The Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

The BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter is published by Christopher Aust Copyright © 2004 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the express written consent of the publisher or contributors.

We accept no responsibility for your use of any contributed information contained herein. All of the information presented in BARK 'n' SCRATCH is published in good faith. Any comments stated in this newsletter are strictly the opinion of the writer or publisher.

We reserve the right to edit and make suitable for publication, if necessary, any articles published in this newsletter. We reserve the right to publish all reader comments, including the name of the writer.

Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies

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