Ads for E-Collars on Clicker Training Discussion Groups and Websites

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"What are ads for electronic shock collars doing on your clicker training website/discussion group?"

This is a question that clicker training list moderators and webmasters hear often, usually (but not always) from beginners to either Internet discussion forums or to clicker training. It is a fair question, too! At best it sends an incongruous message; at worst it would seem to be unethical and hypocritical for someone espousing non-aversive training methods to profit from ads for aversive training devices.

In the majority of cases the list owners and webmasters have very little say over what ads appear in their discussion group messages and websites, because the majority of discussion groups are hosted by a third-party who provides this service at no charge in exchange for the right to display ads within messages and on web pages.

The content of these ads is supposed to be specific to the content of the discussion group—but this doesn't mean the service provider says, "OK, this is a clicker training site so we'll cut out the e-collar ads and only put in clicker training ads!" What it really means is that the service provider scans the content of the site or discussion group and finds keywords specific to the site or group, then advertisers bid on the right to advertise on sites that contain those keywords.

So, if you are on the ClickerSolutions Yahoo group, Yahoo identifies that the group has discussions about dog training, barking, clicker training, jumping on visitors, escaping from the yard, coming when called, German Shepherds, Dachsunds, Agility, grooming, etc. The e-collar advertiser is probably bidding on most of those keywords, so those ads will appear in that group regardless of the group's training philosophy.

It all comes down to keywords, nothing sophisticated yet—but who knows? That might change in the future as advertisers demand greater control over where their advertising dollars are spent. After all, every time someone clicks on an ad, the advertiser has to pay whatever the highest bid for that keyword currently is. If the person clicking that ad doesn't spend any money with the advertiser, then the advertiser's "return on investment" is reduced.

Many website owners derive some income from ads which pay the website owner a small amount each time someone clicks on the ad. It should be noted that in many cases the website owner does not get to choose which ads appear on his or her website. While all advertising providers give the webmaster some means of filtering out ads, new ads and advertisers come online every day and it would be a fulltime job monitoring the content of the ads appearing on the site and filtering the unwanted ads out. For the small amount of income these ads provide it simply isn't worth it.

The webmaster has a choice—either accept that unwanted ads will appear on the website, or live without the income that these ads provide. Put into perspective, a good clicker training website will educate people in ways to train dogs without aversives, regardless of the ads appearing on the site (which most visitors will realize are not an endorsement anyway). At the end of the day, a broad range of topics are advertised and with some use of filtering, the number of unwanted ads can be reduced.

On the other side of the coin, often the income derived from running these ads is barely enough to warrant keeping them on the website.

So the next time you see an ad which offends you on your favorite clicker training website or discussion group, consider writing to the advertiser rather than the website or discussion group owner. The advertiser chooses to advertise their product, but the website or discussion group owner may not have any choice about which ads appear on their website or discussion group.

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