by Ms. Pat Sullivan
ELECTRIC COLLAR TRAINING
Carefully done, this is a great training aid.
One of the simplest and most humane training aids I have found for working with dogs is the electronic collar. This is a device which, when placed on a dog’s neck, allows a trainer to deliver small electric shocks of varying strength by remote control.
It is also unquestionably the most controversial subject I’m ever likely to bring up in this training column. Many people quiver at the thought of administering a tiny jolt of electricity as a correction to their beloved pet, while not thinking twice about giving Fido a much more painful whack on the muzzle for stepping out of line, or hauling him, gasping, off his feet with a “choke” collar when training him to heel.
So this time in the interest of letting you know all about your training options, we’re going to take the bull by the horns and give you an introduction to electronic collars. Let the bouquets and brickbats fall where they may!
The benefits of working with this type of collar should be obvious – the trainer can immediately correct a dog’s mistakes at a distance far greater than leash training allows. This is a virtual necessity in training field dogs.
But the potential for abuse and misuse of these devices is also great. They should be used only by professional dog trainers, or after you have had proper training in how to use them. I even suggest that you visit a gun dog or field trial trainer to see current training practices and how dogs behave on the collars. If you are considering using an electronic collar, you need to be able to evaluate your own dog’s “tenderness” to this training method. It could be that a remote control collar that delivers “noise only” stimulation is enough for your dog.
Basic collars and their costs vary. There are “bark collars” and “bark diminishes” that emit stimulation every time a dog barks. Some can be programmed to let a dog bark for up to thirty seconds before automatically firing off a small shock, so that your dog learns its okay to warn you about intruders, but not to bay at the moon all night.
The “training collars,” however, are controlled by the dog handler and vary in working range from 200 yards to a mile. In some of the newer, more sophisticated collars, the transmitter allows you to vary the intensity of the shock without having to adjust the collar by hand.
To give your dog a fair shake, you must begin with conventional (line) training. An electronic collar is not an “easy out” or a magic time-saving device to speed up training. It is simply another correction tool, albeit a very powerful one.
As in line training, your being “on the ball” in terms of giving commands forcefully, rewarding good behavior enthusiastically, and making corrections immediately, means everything. The same No. 1 Rule applies in line training and electronic collar conditioning – do not use commands that you cannot enforce! If you want to call your dog to you and have no way to get him there if he refuses, then DON’T CALL HIM!
Initially, basic obedience skills reworked with the line and the collar on. The lowest effective shock strength should be used, just enough to see the dog twitch his ears. If he barks or howls, you’ve got the stimulation set too strong. To be effective, the electronic collar must be on very snugly so that the metal contacts connect with the dog’s neck. It is very important not to shock the dog before the command is given! At Taproot Kennel, we introduce dogs to the electronic collar on the recall command, working several minutes a day on recall for four or five consecutive days.
If you are doing this at home, being in a quiet place, and then gradually increase your distractions. The premise is simple. Call the dog, and then administer the stimulation until he arrives at your side. The dog quickly learns that his safest place is with you, and that this extra irritation disappears when he is at your side. If training has gone well, you should be able to take your dog off the long lead line for recall training in about a week, and just work the dog with the electronic collar.
A dog that lives in your house often has the distinct advantage of knowing you all too well, and will capitalize on your faults as a trainer during sessions. Develop a way of giving commands authoritatively, without pleading or wheedling. An important part of these sessions is also to motivate your dog both before and after, with praise, enthusiasm, even treat rewards.
The electronic collar is most effective on behavior problems that have been resistant to other techniques, with the exception of unprovoked aggression. Excessive barking, car chasing, deer chasing, are all problems easily trained with electronic collars, if properly used. Other widely known successes include boundary training for dogs who must live in unfenced yards.
My own opinion is that once you’ve worked a dog on an electronic collar, you’ll never be without one. An obedient dog will enjoy and share more of your life. I make no apologies for loving my dogs so much that I will use every modern training device to make their lives happier and safer.
Click on the link at the beginning of this article…
“The Internet Animal Hospital”