It wasn’t long ago that the mere thought of someone choosing to purposely ‘shock’ Man’s Best Friend into submission belonged in my brain’s “Unthinkable” category. Training your dog with an electronic collar held no interest for me. Then, in my efforts to live healthier and ‘get out’ more, I started walking in local parks and decided to take my loyal canine companion with me. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? The silhouette of a man and his dog walking through a tree lined park as the sun sets over Biscayne Bay, the dog dutifully trotting alongside his master, keeping in step. Yeah, well I think that was a commercial for the newest arthritic drug or something, because that wasn’t us! Dusty, my middle-aged red golden retriever, being just as spry as he was when he was just a pup, spends much of his day awaiting my return from the office, as many of our dogs do. Understandably so, when it’s time to get out for some fun in an open area, Dusty is the first to sign up! After more than just a few ‘lively’ encounters with Dusty living up to his name and literally “leaving me in the dust” as he ran off to chase a bird or a squirrel, I knew it was time to try something different. I wasn’t going to deprive him of his walks with me and the exercise he was clearly screaming for, but I couldn’t risk him getting hurt or lost, or me getting just plain hurt as the vision of me being dragged directly into the bay with reckless abandon flashed through my mind. It was at this point that I began listening to friends telling me to begin training your dog with an electronic collar.
I had seen other dog owners using the clicker method, retractable leashes, harnesses that made it near-impossible for them to gain leverage and pull you to the ground, and I’d also noticed that some people were training their dogs with an electronic collar. Not knowing much about them, I started doing some research and asking some friends how these “shock collars” work. Many of my friends are from the Midwest and use their dogs in hunting or just need to control them in large open areas.
After some comparison shopping, I settled on purchasing an electronic collar made by a company called “Sport Dog”. Since this electronic collar meant the difference between being successful at training Dusty and possibly hurting him (or me) if I did it wrong, I decided to do things exactly as suggested by the video that came with the collar. (yes, I’m one of those people who sometimes enjoys the challenge of figuring out gadgets as I go along rather than read the manual; in this case, don’t be stupid.. we’re talking your Best Friend here!) It is important to understand that before you begin training your dog with an electronic collar, your dog needs to be at least minimally trained in the fundamentals. That is, your pooch should know to sit, stay & come; the basics. If you are thinking about training your dog with a shock collar, and are concerned that it may hurt your four legged friend, let me tell you that I had the same concerns. Having these worries, I decided to test it out on myself first. While at first wondering if I should put it on my actual neck, as it will be on Dusty, I chuckled to myself and did a reality check, mustering all the nerve I could and placed the dial on a setting that might be normally used in the field and zapped myself on the forearm. Although this is not recommended, the shock I received was not much more severe than that of touching a doorknob after walking across a carpet. It was more annoying and scary than painful. I now felt more at ease about using this device on Dusty.
For about a week or so every time I took Dusty out I would put his bright orange training collar on, but leave the control handset in the house. We would go out and play and work on some basic commands. It got to the point that as soon as I reached for the collar, Dusty would get so excited and immediately jump on to his favorite cushion on the front porch and extend his neck for me to secure the electronic collar. Come to think of it, he does the same thing whenever I reach for the car keys. It also should be known that Dusty’s nickname is “the love puppy”, this dog actually gets free burgers at the local McDonalds when we go through the drive thru, and before they ask what I will be having you hear on the speakers, “Hi, Dusty!” and everyone comes to the second window to pet him. I can only hope they wash their hands before returning to their stations.
After a week, we progressed through our training and I took the transmitter with me. I began to nudge him with a slight shock if he did not obey a command quickly enough or disregarded me totally. It is important to note that before any shock was inflicted, I would hit the button that produces a tone from the collar; a ‘warning’, if you will. This way, Dusty would associate the tone with an upcoming unpleasant experience. When he obeyed the command he was rewarded with praise and or his chew toy. It was in a very short amount of time that I rarely had to give him a shock; the tone alone produced the desired affect! Soon, a leash was unnecessary, as the collar and my commands were enough to keep him under control. Whether the expected outcome of training your dog with an electronic collar is to keep him under control and within a safe range for hunting, or merely to enjoy his company in the park without a cumbersome leash, it is vital to practice in the steps provided in this article and to follow any accompanying literature upon buying one of these devices.
Finally, when I took Dusty to a trail that I like to hike, I determined a distance that I felt comfortable with, taking into account that he have plenty of space to turn to the wind, sniffing and frolicking to his hearts content, yet well within range of the transmitter so I could shut him down if a rabbit or other distraction caused him to go on the lam! Dusty now is familiar with our “safe distance” and if he gets too far ahead he will stop and turn around at about that distance and wait for me to catch up. I find that I very rarely, if ever, have to use more than the tone and my voice to get him to obey now. If you have similar success to what I’ve experienced, in training your dog with an electronic collar, you not only will have a much better trained animal, but your own stress levels will drop and you will more likely take your best friend out to explore new areas more often.