No other issue has divided the world of dog lovers than the use, or the non-use, of electric shock collars for dog obedience training purposes. On one side of the divide are those that say any form of electricity, be it a small jolt or moderate in intensity, should always be considered as a very inhumane way of treating man’s best friend. On the other side of the fence are those espousing for the full use of electric shock collars as a means of correcting undesirable behaviour and to instill obedience in their pet canines.
Experts say that, while a shock collar can be a great tool for dog training, it is NOT the only tool available to dog owners and trainers. Additionally, it should never be viewed as a miracle cure that will help eliminate all behavioural problems in dogs. The following are some training tips when using electric shock collars so you’ll be more empowered on how and when to use these devices effectively.
Always Start with Obedience and Behavior Training without the Collar
Even before you start putting on the shock collar around your pet’s neck, you might want to give traditional, non-threatening dog training methods a try first. Experts recommend using the shock collar not as an all-inclusive, one-size-fits-all kind of training tool. In fact, what they recommend is for it to be used in extreme behavioral cases and as a means of last resort only. This is to make sure that non-threatening methods are given a chance first to work their charm on your pet’s problem behavior.
Teaching or training a pooch about a particular behavior without using the collar should be the very first thing that any responsible pet owner should do. For example, if you want to train your mutt to come to you once you call its name, it is often a lot safer for your pet to learn this without having to experience the jolt, the vibration, or the startle that the shock collar can deliver. True, these devices deliver a variety of corrective methods that range from a beeping sound, vibration, or even several levels of static electricity. While you may think that these are not harmful to canines simply because you don’t feel pain yourself, it is illogical to compare their experiences with ours. Simply because the static electricity doesn’t harm us doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t bring our pets harm, too.
In our example, if your dog responds to your recall, do you honestly think there is a need to use an electric training collar? All you will ever need is mastery of the use of positive reinforcement plus the clicker methodology and you should pretty much handle the dog training exceptionally well. If in case your dog, despite repeated trainings using positive reinforcement and non-threatening methods, still doesn’t respond to a simple recall, then you might want to employ aversive training methods such as the application of an electric shock collar.
Consider Using a Different Aversive Method
There are a variety of aversive training methods; not only the use of electric shock collars. Again, even before going for aversive dog training techniques, do understand that studies show treating our dogs with aggression ultimately results in an aggressive dog. It is for this reason that aversive dog training methods, which rely on the application of something unpleasant or even painful to our dogs, should be performed in the correct manner.
As dog owners using aversive training techniques, it is imperative that we use only the appropriate level or amount of force and use these techniques at the correct time. Additionally, not becoming over-zealous in the use of corrective techniques is a must. It is also essential to redirect the source of correction so that our pets will not associate the aversive technique as coming from us.
That being said, before you use the electric shock collar, you might want to consider employing less threatening aversive methods first such as using the vibration feature of the collar or maybe squirting water into your dog’s face to get its attention.
Using our example in training your pet to come to you when you call it, you may want to put a long leash first which you can tug every time you say “come”. Sooner or later, your dog will associate the long leash with the word “come”. Then you can use the electric shock collar together with the long leash. Again, you always start with the verbal command. If it doesn’t follow you, you tug on the leash while applying a shock at the lowest setting. Over time, your dog learns to avoid getting the ‘shock’ by following your command. Then, you can ditch the long leash but still leave the collar on.
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Make an Effort to Learn When to Use an Electric Shock
One of the most crucial things you have to learn whenever you have to use an dog shock collar for training your pet is the correct timing. As much as possible, don’t be overzealous whenever you have the collar around your pet’s neck. Most pet owners believe they have all the power to apply as much corrective static electricity onto their pets as often as they think is necessary. This is not only a reflection of bad judgment but also poor understanding of what the electric shock collar is for and what the principles of aversion dog training are.
To put it simply, you need to know when to use the shock collar and when not to use it. For many pet owners, an electric shock collar is often used in correcting bad behavior in dogs. However, experts say that these canines may have started their obedience training a little bit late in their life such that these behaviors have already been interpreted by these mutts as ‘normal’. Hence, beginning pet parents should do their share of training their dogs early in their lives to help minimize the development of perceived ‘bad behavior’.
Some owners also use the device in teaching their respective pooches verbal commands, like in our example above. While this can have value, it is imperative to learn when exactly to use and deliver the static electricity. There is an unspoken rule when it comes to the use of such gadgets. Never ever show the remote controller of the collar to your dog or let you be seen by your pet using the remote controller. This way your pooch will never associate the gadget with the static electricity and will not associate with you. That is the last thing you would want to happen, lest your pet simply no longer trusts you.
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Understand that Applying More Voltage Doesn’t Necessarily Equate to Canine Understanding
There is this notion that a more powerful jolt delivered to a pet will instantly make it remember what is being taught. On the contrary, delivering a jolt, without reinforcing it with other behavioral training techniques, is not only counterproductive; it doesn’t help your pet learn what you want it to learn as well.
Let us put it this way. If somebody were to tell you that you need to take an exam in Forensic Psychology but you clearly don’t know anything about the matter, you will fail. The person who told you to take the exam will give you an electric shock every time you fail. But no matter how many times you are going to take the test, you will still fail for the simple fact that you don’t know anything about Forensic Psychology, and you will still receive the shocking punishment for failing. Did the person teach you first about the basics of Forensic Psychology? He only told you to take the exam and if you fail, you get the shock of your life. Cruel, isn’t it?
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That’s the same thing with dogs. Delivering an electric shock without teaching them what it’s for is essentially punishing them for not obeying the command or for doing it incorrectly whereas we haven’t really even bothered to teach or train them how.
If You Need to Apply Voltage, Do It in Increments
Again, if using an electric shock collar is inevitable, you need to start from the lowest settings first. Don’t ever start giving the static at the highest possible setting. You should understand that pooches have an uncanny ability to adapt to a variety of stressful stimuli. You may be able to deliver a shock of its life now, but sooner or later, your pet will already grow accustomed to the electricity that it will no longer work. Starting out at the lowest possible setting is the way to go. If you notice your pet not responding anymore, then you may go up a notch.
There’s a lot of controversy regarding the use of such devices. It clearly doesn’t matter whether you’re for or against it. What really matters is to spend time and effort in training our dogs at a very early age so we don’t have to use such devices. In case we have to, then relying on these training tips when using electric shock collars should help guide our actions.
- Prong and Shock Collars and Electric (‘Invisible’) Fences, PETA
- Dog collars, The Humane Society of the United States
- The Use of Shock in Animal Training, The Pet Professional Guild