…from the perspective of a person on the receiving end of child abuse.
From the time I was a toddler, I was ‘strapped’ with a belt by my father until I had welts on the backs of my legs. I would say I was hit hard enough to, hopefully, be upsetting to most people at this point.
If not, then there was the last time he strapped me and accidentally hit me in the face with the buckle end–even he was stunned enough to finally stop. I do remember that he had sweat dripping from his face from his efforts and that I could not catch my breath enough to breathe or cry…you know that inbetween stage.
Let that marinate for a moment. You might ask what a toddler-to-young-girl could possibly have done to warrant this sort of experience. I would too. This is the DIRECT impact–leather and metal on skin with a lot of force. That’s pretty self explanatory. Ouch–from a physical and mental standpoint.
And, for good measure, do not cry or you will next hear “If you cry, I will give you something to cry ABOUT.” (Probably fairly common to hear in my era and prior.) In my opinion, that’s a lot to ask of a child…hold it in for dear life. Also, learn to control your face into showing no emotion lest you be accused of smirking (“Wipe that smirk off of your face!”) You probably get it. Control achieved by parent.
And then there’s the secondary or INDIRECT way of gaining control. So many times, I remember being in a store with my parents. What do children often do in stores where there are toys? Beg for their parents to purchase something for them; and sometimes cry and whine.
Know how my father handled that? He would snap his fingers to capture my attention, then use his finger to point toward his belt, undo the belt slightly and quietly ask, “Would you like to go out to the car?” From the most casual observer (esp. from people who have never experienced this sort of treatment) these actions are so entirely innocent. *Man points at belt. *Undoes belt just a little–enough that the metal in the belt makes a slight clinking sound–people could think he’s just adjusting his pants–perhaps tucking a shirt in a little. *Man asks daughter in a not unpleasant voice if she would like to go to the car. No one is the wiser.
What happens inside the little girl–especially this little girl? This is something for which I can provide a vivid, first-hand account– it could vary from child to child, but I have a feeling there are some commonalities: I would feel an instant stun of recognition of the secret signal b) white hot fear would shoot through my brain c) I would go hot/cold d) I would sweat e) I would stand perfectly still and pray we would never leave the safety of the store. f) I had a very difficult time speaking under pressure for most of my life. g) I am treated with chemicals for lifelong depression and anxiety and am easily triggered by seeing people or animals receiving intentional and harsh punishments. I am especially triggered when someone tries to euphamize (or sugar coat) what they are doing. “Triggered” could mean anything from feeling incredibly violent urges, depressed, or driven to tears.
How to Achieve the Same Results in Dogs
1. Condition the dog. Take your average device that delivers shock. Place the shock (or eDevice as a trainer told me) up high around the dog’s neck and snug against the throat and skin so that a sensation is actually felt).
2. Push remote control button. (If you would like to set the dog up to do something undesirable, go ahead. Open the front door and hope your dog runs toward the street…we need ‘bad’ behavior to try this out on–so set your dog up for a complete fail. The moment your dog steps across your boundary line, push the button and see what happens. The bigger the dog; the higher the device should be turned up. More dog; more AMPS. We want this high enough that we know we caused pain to a particular dog. This is, after all, for the dog’s own good! (Major MAJOR dark sarcasm.)
A ‘helpful’ tip: Ring a little bell, clink a belt buckle (or maybe just provide a tiny ‘vibration’) just before delivering the most powerful shock you think this organism can handle. We don’t want to be cruel; let’s at least allow the animal to know that a shock is coming. Think of it as bile that happens just before you need to vomit. This will come in handy later. But, do be sure the shock is powerful out of ‘kindness’ to the pet…it will require fewer shocks in the long run.
Now…NOW we have something to work with. Now, wait a day or so and test how well this works. Open your front door, let the dog peek out and get excited to run out, just as he does, press the Vibration button only. A nice, friendly vibration button. VOILA! Your dog probably did not do the undesirable behavior. Goody for YOU! Science is just amazing!
Teensy, tinsy fine print. Too tiny to bother to read: Using this method has consequences that are quite unpredictable. It relies solely on the organism that is being targeted. One K9 maybe freeze or shut down and become instantly compliant. Another one may start feeling aggressive toward…cars(?) or whatever it happened to see when it was in the process of getting shocked. Yet another personality may feel so inclined to share her frustration with classmates or family members by hitting or biting them. They may act strange at school–maybe they cannot concentrate very well– or if it’s a dog, while it’s just walking around it might start showing some neurotic behaviors such as .jumping at shadows, or maybe chewing themselves bald. In tinier print, “there is the slightest chance that this process could result in a return attack to the person using the remote control.”
One thought that used to run through my child head is that I wished I were as big as my father so that I could do violent things to him in return. You get what you get. He was a Bible enthusiast and I remember really understanding the the “Eye for an Eye” concept. You hit me; I’ll hit you. I especially had this urge in response to also watching my pets being beaten until they screamed as well for various offenses. Religion and violence were such an interesting combination. And “Honor thy Mother and Father” was challenging, I can tell you. Another thought for another time.
The person using the remote does have the advantage of using the device willy nilly, however they do not get to control the consequences of exactly what happens inside the mind of a receiving organism that has a central nervous system.
On what scientific principle is this explanation being based on? A scientist named Pavol who coined the term “Classical Conditioning.”
It can work to create happy or bad feelings. He rang a bell just before he would feed some dogs. Yummy! Dogs like to eat. Ring, Ring…dog food comes flying out of a shoot! Now, Ring Ring! Delay the dog food coming out of the shoot and let’s interview the dog!
Interviewer: Hey, did you hear that? That was a bell!
Dog: We KNOW! Could you excuse us please and step aside? FOOD is about to come flying out of a shoot and we are VERY hungry.
Interviewer: (Momentarily halts the feeding shooter) Just one quick question and then I’ll unblock the food machine. Tell me how you feel about the bell that is ringing?
Dogs: [in unison with drool going down their chin and all over tarnation]: THERE IS NOTHING BETTER ON EARTH!!!!
Yes, Classical Conditioning can be used for GOOD things!
Real Life Scenario (and why I dread working with the general public)
Location: Any dog wash
Request of me: Trim toenails of a dog being washed.
“Hello, did you request a nail trim.”
“Ok, how is he [double-sized, extra muscular pit bull] with being handled?” [I must place myself in front of this dog that has no muzzle–an inquiry is not unreasonable].
No answer. Did he not hear me? I proceed with caution.
I carefully take this kid’s large foot and quickly clip one nail. The dog jerks his foot back wildly.
Ok, I understand. The dentist happens to scare me in a similar way. However…
from the corner of my eye, I saw the owner reach for his chest. Lo and Behold, he had a remote control device and I knew instantly what it was. He pressed the button as I stood there.
“You just shocked your dog.” [Remember how I said this can be very dangerous to bystanders? Maybe the dog thinks I am somehow responsible for this attack on him.] “I am sorry, but I cannot do this.” I walked away.
Here it comes…drumroll please…
“It wasn’t a shock…IT WAS A VIBRATION.” I have a jackpot waiting for the first person to tell me why only a nice little ‘vibration’ would be so effective on a two-ton pit bull.
Hint: If you are physically strong enough, you can save yourself some $$ by making your own homemade device. Wind your arm up, say “Beep Beep” and and then punch your own trusting and unsuspecting dog straight into the face. Make it so hard that he screams…be sure he screams so that you know you hit hard enough. After awhile you will only need to say “Beep Beep” and it should cause the same reaction.
I’ll hand out another prize for someone who can guess what it does to me inside to see a device that has absolutely no sound and is virtually undetectable unless you know what you are looking for and that the person wants you to help them while they do this..most particularly as a RESPONSE TO SOMETHING THAT THE DOG WAS AFRAID OF! Jerk foot away out of fear, so administer shock (?) Got it.
Consider the classic Milgram Experiment performed after WWII and the Nazi regime: Ugh…boy is this a long one to explain. The goal of the test was to see how far a person was willing to torture another person if commanded to do so by a superior. Suffice it to say, the subjects of this experiment were thoroughly traumatized. The subjects were the people instructed to harm another person…and they could hear fake screams and pleas for them to stop. The authority figure told the subjects they had no choice; they needed to do this. It was one of the most unethical studies ever performed on real humans–it induced unspeakable trauma to the unwitting participants.
Then, consider this…owners of dog washes or other like places who are either neutral, supportive, or completely uneducated about the principles I just described may not in any way understand that you refused to participate in the harming of an animal as instructed. You will have a most difficult time explaining in one sentence why you did not ‘help’ a customer. At least I did. I only really care what the dog thinks, so I guess that hearing that what I did was unacceptable was tolerable enough. And I have supportive friends outside of that environment, calming meds, and an entire Sunday to pull it back together. Oh, and I quit.
Now you know.
If there is an upside to this story, it is this. My father learned about behavior concepts right alongside me as I trained his dog for therapy and service work. He was overjoyed. Some of his last words to me were, “I am sorry. I wish I had known. I would have [raised you] completely different. Please forgive me.” I did. He only knew what he knew, but I considered him to be brilliant enough to recognize and apologize. I’m sure it took guts as it seemed gutwrenching. It was novel and sincere and fully cathatic to me. Other people and animals are not so fortunate. The only real problem are the remaining emotional scars and internal auto responses (PTSD) that I experience when I am forced to contend with ancient and ignorant behavior. I simultaneously want to educate and must fight every autmated response to want to ‘bite’ ignorance…especially ignorance and pride that have been blended together.
And, so for the second part of my life after having worked in conditions in the industry where I have been given little choice as to which clients I can work with or not, I have finally achieved a small goal of being gainfully employed in an unrelated field which allows me to pre-screen and filter so that I can avoid being taken by surprise. Yes, I always want to help the dog, but only if I am not re-exposed to these particular elements.
And, I do have compassion for those who follow in the footsteps of the only thing they’ve known and may say things like “Spare the rod; spoil the child.” I almost feel more sorry for them if/when they come to realize what they have perpetuated. I have been this person too–it shouldn’t come as a surprise. They/We were sold a bill of goods. The person meting out punishments is being as damaged as much as their victim. They are probably hurting and damaging the people and/or animals they love the most and when they come to realize this, there is no padding for their horror. And, for a touch more of the religious; though this is far from my interest…”Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
To summarize: Call Me Only If…
I forgive, but I need to protect (myself) so that I can continue to, hopefully, make a difference. So, if you’re scheduling an appt. with me, I welcome anyone who a) understands that barbarity of such approaches or b) is willing to put this approach to training and behavior modification behind them. I cannot engage in a debate as to whether I am right or wrong. I teach without the use of fear, intimidation, and without tools meant to hurt and that is just that.