Guest Blog Contributor – Christy of Doglifestore.com
Dog breeds can be categorized according to their function, size, and shape and throughout the years, over 300 dog breeds have been listed down. Apart from a few working dog breeds, statistics have actually shown that dog breeds have only emerged over the last hundred years. The reason why this happened is because dogs were bred in order to get a desired result such as getting the wanted size, shape, physical abilities and many others and this encompasses the physical appearance but also their temperaments. Dogs like the German Shepherds, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinschers and many others were bred because of their hunting capabilities and also their general temperament that makes them great guard dogs.
The aforementioned dogs are also coincidentally the breeds that many insurance companies have considered to be blacklisted because of the risks that they entail. Certainly this logic is not unfounded but reputation that these dogs have garnered that they are terrifying aggressive have colored people’s perception on them and more often than not, in a very unhealthy way.
Indeed, the way these types of dogs were bred have a certain genetic inclination to become more territorial thus showing more aggressive behaviors but the way they are brought up should also be taken into consideration. Despite their reputation, the aforementioned dogs along with others such as the Akita, Great Danes, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and others are great companions and family dogs.
With that in mind, would using a shock collar for inherently territorial dogs be ideal?
Before they had the more sophisticated version that we now know today, shock collars have actually been around since the 1960’s and used to train hunting dogs. They were used to deter unwanted behavior such as excessive barking and also training dogs to stay within properly lines, most especially in farm areas.
Over the years, the shock collar or sometimes called the e-collar has created a great divide among pet parents and also experts. The negative view on collars stems from the idea these are “torture” devices designed to cause pain and at some point submit your dog to obedience. People who are against the usage of the device prefer non-chock methods.
On the other hand, people who approve of the shock collar, may it be experts and regular pet owners believe that it is a great tool for training. Even the famous dog whisperer, Cesar Millan, has approved the use of the collar.
On a more personal note, the results of using the shock collar is fairly evident. Granted that it is used properly, it is a great training tool. But, if a pet owner does not know how to use the device, it will bring unwanted consequences for your dog. Overall, it depends on how it is utilized and if it’s utilized in the right way.
I believe that the e-collar is prone to misused because of the wrong impression it gives to people. Here are a few common mistakes that people do when it comes to shock collars:
- Using the optimum shock level.
Shock collars’ intensity levels can be adjusted. It may come if different formats but it usually ranges from 1-100. A common mistake among users is the concept that the higher the intensity level, the more effective it would be.
Using it this way is definitely wrong but a mistake you would commonly see. When using a shock collar, it is not designed to punish a dog’s behavior but rather divert their attention. If your dog yelps the moment you initiate the shock, you are doing it wrong.
What this does is it creates an unwanted associated towards the collar for dogs, causing them to show aggressive behavior. This is not to say that shock collars create unwanted and aggressive behavior but the misuse of it does.
- Using without prior warnings.
Another common mistake is that owners immediately go for the shock option when their dog engages in unwanted behavior without investigating the cause of the behavior.
For example, the dog is about to lunge at the mailman and to counter this behavior, the shock options is then used.
What this does is it confuses the dog on why there is a sudden shock sensation. It may prevent them from lunging at the mailman or any random stranger but it may result to unwanted associations and in this case associating a random stranger to pain and we do not want that to happen.
Shock collars are usually built with a vibrate option which simply feels like a cellphone or pager on vibrate and also a beep option. Rather than immediately going for the shock, try getting their attention first.
- Thinking that it’s a quick fix.
People get into shock collars because of claims that it’s a quick fix and this is simply untrue. There is no such thing as a quick fix and training your dog relies in both patience and consistency. This major misconception has also lead to overcorrection of some users.
It is an unfortunate reality that the shock collar is prone to being misused leading to unwanted consequences for your dog. With that in mind, what is the proper way of using the device?
For starters, we have fully established by now that if shock collars are used as a way to punish a dog’s behavior. It will not bode well. E-collars are to be used as a tool for negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is where there is a stimuli to be applied – in this case, shock – when a dog does an unsafe and unwanted behavior.
Along with negative reinforcement, this is also to be paired with positive reinforcement. This is when good behavior is rewarded with treats and praises to encourage repetition. This way, your dog is taught on what he should do and what behaviors to avoid in.
When using the shock collar, it is essential to do it properly such as:
- A healthy association with the collar.
Make it a point that when your dog wears the collar, it is a neutral experience. Meaning, wearing it is not associated with any particular emotion whatsoever. What this does is when you are about to put the collar on or when wearing it, your dog will remain comfortable.
To do this, put the collar on when your dog is at a relaxed state. The main objective is as if your dog to feel as if he is just wearing any other leash or collar.
- Addressing the source of behavior first.
Before anything else, observe why your dog engages in unwanted and aggressive behavior and address the problem first. For example, when you are going on a leisurely walk at the park, a squirrel passes by and your dog starts to growl and about to lunge at it.
Acknowledge that this is a completely normal behavior. Dogs are after all descendants from the wolves and a squirrel is considered prey and seeing it is triggers the predator drive. Because this works more on an instinctual level, address this issue through calming your dog first.
Get his attention and tell him to sit or any command that gives them the chance to relax. When he does so, give him a treat!
With any other situation, do the same thing. Get his attention first.
- Utilizing the beep and vibrate option.
This point has been discussed by passing but let us delve into it some more. Most if not all shock collars equipped with a vibrate and beeping mode. As the name implies, it simply vibrates or makes beeping sounds.
When using the collar, utilize these options. Just like the scenario stated on the previous point, get their attention with through a vibrate or a beep. Have their attention focus on you.
- Adjusting the intensity level.
The goal is to get your dog’s attention. When administering a shock, make it a point that you get your dog’s attention evident with a more focused attention, perked up ears or anything that indicates a heightened awareness.
The sensation should be enough for your dog to thing “what was that?”. As a general rule of thumb, think of the intensity levels from 20-40 as low, 40-80 as medium and 80 and above as high. Different dogs have different thresholds. What may be a mild sensation to one might be a little high for the other.
- Use it as the last option.
When you have tried to calm your dog and he doesn’t do so, use the shock option. Constant delivering a shock would give your dog an unpleasant association with the collar and we do not want that to happen.
Remember that the collar is used to deliver a negative stimuli and not to punish your dog but rather divert their attention to the momentary pain.
With the varying reviews of experts and as a dog parent myself, using shock collars for territorial dogs is a great tool for training, accompanied with other training techniques and when the device is used properly.
In a more urban setting, I would use a shock collar when leash training – say – a Rottweiler. With a dog harness that is clipped at the back such as this Big Dog Lead on a walk would be ideal, especially when engaging in more active activities such as running. For those starting at leash training however, a front-clipped harnesses would be more preferable.
But wouldn’t be using a shock collar on a dog that’s bred to be territorial make it more aggressive? That wouldn’t be the case. Granting that it is used well and with the proper training.
With the shock collar in place, this is simply an added security blanket but honestly, you would use this less if your dog is fairly trained to obey and stay calm.
It is understandable that using a shock collar is terrifying because we wouldn’t want to hurt our dog as various misconceptions have lead us to believe. Yes, it does cause pain but it’s not lasting but simply delivers a sensation. What makes most pet parents apprehensive in getting one is the thought that these collars are torture devices but would not bring any good to your pet.
Personally as a pet parent, I acknowledge that the shock collar is a great tool and not a device designed to make our dog’s life miserable. Just like a training harness or any training equipment for that matter, can be misused and lead to unwanted consequences only that the shock collar has garnered a unique reputation. However, it is also necessary to know that the device is prone to being misused and to remedy this, being properly educated on how to use the device is key.
There is no one concrete way of training a dog. This relies on preference and how you, as a pet owner, wish to proceed with the training process. Just like any other training, this takes time and effort and for it to be effective, it also demands consistency and patience. Whether you decide to use a shock collar or not, this is also completely up to you.
Overall, it is essential to acknowledge both sides of the coin that as much as using it is beneficial even for dogs with a more territorial and aggressive inclination, the device can be misused to aggravate these behaviors. With that, proceeding both with caution and also having a full understanding of the tool is ideal.
About the Author:
Christy of Doglifestore.com likes to write about whatever tickles her fancy and loves to document the adventures of her fur baby when she’s not busy going gaga over their crazy antics.