Shockproof Collars For Dogs: Love Them Or Hate Them. There isn’t a lot of middle ground. There are a lot of myths. People have formed a lot of opinions based on the opinions of others regarding shockproof necklaces. Few of these opinions on impact collars are based on firsthand knowledge or facts.
I train a Setter puppy named Llewellyn Zeke. Zeke’s owner Gregg recently purchased a shock collar to help with Zeke’s training. Gregg told the owner of the training center where Zeke takes puppy lessons. This is not a direct quote, but a summary of this person and a host of others:
Shock collars are simply torture devices. They are cruel. They damage the relationship between the dog and the owner. I have never used one and I will never use one.
Unfortunately, too often the most vehement opponents of shock collars are those who have little or no working knowledge of a shock collar.
Myth # 1: “Shock collars are torture devices”
A shock collar is a training tool that applies a negative stimulus to the dog. It can be used properly for training a dog. It can be misused to cause extreme pain in a dog. A leash can also be used properly as a training tool and inappropriately to cause extreme pain. The important word is “incorrectly”. Used correctly, a shock collar is no different than a leash as a training tool.
When you first equip a dog with a shock collar, the objective is to find the level of operation. The working level is the lowest level the dog will notice. You put the collar on the dog and start at the lowest level and shock the dog. You gradually increase the level until there is a notice. Ears erect, or the head circumference. A bark from the dog means it’s too hot. You want to avoid vocalization. Just a “what was it” look from the dog. If the ears droop and the tail curls up, the collar is too hot.
When using a shock collar, the key is to apply the less amount of zap needed to do the job. Early versions of shock collars had very little means of adjusting the level of shock. They were permanently set to “weld” and, because of that, good for very little. In contrast, modern shock collars have a large number of levels. My Shockproof Collar has 48 levels available, ranging from imperceptible for the smallest of dogs to warm enough for the most stubborn dogs. There are also many levels that are useful for avoiding overtaking. The overshoot occurs when level 5 is too low for the dog to notice and level 6 causes the dog to vocalize (indicating that the level is too high).
To further prove that this is not a torture device, here is a video of me shocking me:
Myth # 2: “You can’t train a hunting dog without a shock collar”
Many people who buy their first hunting dog will immediately buy a shockproof collar. This is done because of the idea that one cannot train a hunting dog without a shock collar. This is simply not true. Hunting dogs have been trained for hundreds of years. Shockproof collars have only been around since the 1970s.
Here’s a true statement: if you don’t know how to train without a shock collar, you won’t know how to train with a shock collar. The shock collar is a negative training tool, but if you don’t know how to use other negative training tools, the shock collar will be of no use and may interfere with the dog’s training.
Before the shock collar, the tool of choice was the long leash, also known as the control cord. This, like the shock collar, is a tool that is used to apply negative reinforcement. The shockproof collar is really no different from the old-fashioned checkered cord.
One thing to note: a dog can be trained for field work without the use of negative reinforcement. It’s being done and a growing group of sneakers are ditching their checkered cords and shockproof collars. A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it, but the proof is in the pudding.
I use a shock collar. I am not ashamed of this fact. But, I am also making progress to use the shock collar less and less. With every dog I train, I get smarter and use the collar less. I’m not doing this because there is something wrong with the collar. The point is (agreed by most egg head trainers) that positive techniques stick the best. I know this for a fact even though I continue to train with a shock collar. My toolbox is not yet deep enough to completely eliminate the shock collar. But I am committed to training my animals to an increasingly higher standard, which means I have to get smarter and use less electricity.
Myth # 3: “Shock collars are negative … I only use positive training techniques”
This is not so much a myth about shock necklaces as it is a criticism of those who ignore them out of ignorance. Many coaches avoid the use of impact collars as they are a negative technique, but I often find that these same coaches use negative techniques. The most vocal criticisms come from trainers who are already pulling and pulling their dogs in order to achieve compliance. This is a shame because as training goes negative some softer dogs endure the shock collar better than the tugging and tugging of the long leash. I saw videos of dogs being pulled and pulled and I really saw these dogs close and then saw these same dogs flourish when they were trained with the shock collar. Truth be told, such a dog would be particularly well suited to purely positive training. Unfortunately, at this time, I have not found any books available that teach hunting dog training using only positive techniques. If it existed, I would buy the first copy.
Myth # 4: “Shockproof collars destroy the relationship with the dog”
When hunting with a hunting dog, the hunting does not take place because the dog is highly trained in obedience. Hunting occurs because the dog and the human realize that they are a team. I can’t find the birds. The dog cannot bring the birds to the ground. Hunting with a dog is a symbiotic relationship. Each party realizes that together we are better than one of us alone. The best training you can do with your dog is to strengthen this relationship. If this relationship were to be destroyed, there would be no more reason to maintain the relationship.
In other words, if the relationship between the hound and the hunter was destroyed, the hunt would cease to take place. I have hunted hundreds of times with my dog… the relationship is pretty intact, despite using a shock collar.
Myth # 5: “Shockproof collars are a shortcut”
This is the one I heard recently, from a man who has not yet completed training a single hunting dog. He was implying that using a shock collar was sort of cheating and a lazy way of doing things. Others said it was a shortcut and a way to reduce the amount of training required.
Using a shock collar is not cheating or is it a lazy way to train a dog. It does not shorten or speed up the workout in any way. In fact, in most cases, the training behaviors using a shock collar appear to be the same as the negative method but without shock. When training a dog to come forward when called upon, the first step is to train a booster using positive techniques. Treats. Later the dog is put on a long leash or control cord and the dog is called out. If the dog does not respond, the dog is coiled or pulled until he arrives. However, if we are going to use a shock collar, it is only then that the shock is introduced. It is superimposed on top of the winding or pulling. A transition is made to the shock collar. Once the transition to the shock collar is completed, drilling begins. The repetition of the lesson is what is used to cement the lesson. The lesson should be repeated and corrected in all kinds of distractions. It is a job, both for the pupil and for the trainer. If the test cord is to be the tool of choice, it should be drilled and checked in different places and with different distractions. The shock collar is not a shortcut. Rather, it is an extra step, and whichever method you choose, drilling and repeating is required.
Shock collars are not the torture devices they are often described as. They are also not the silver bullet for fixing everything that is wrong with your dog. They are a tool, and in certain circumstances, this tool can be used to shape and modify dog behavior. There are also other tools, apart from the shock collar. Some of them are positive and some are negative. With any tool, you have to know how to use it for it to be effective.
Update (1/21/2015) – If you liked this article, consider taking a look at some of my other articles…
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