Dog training is easier said than done; sometimes despite your best intentions, a dog can get the best of you! It is best to nip undesirable behavior in the bud, before it can become engrained in your dog. If you let the behaviors persist or if you have a particularly stubborn pooch, it can be very hard to counter the behavior. One training tool you may think about trying are shock collars for dogs, but are they effective, and more importantly safe and humane?
Dog shock collars are highly debated, with firm believers on both sides of the spectrum. I have used an electric collar on my dog with success, and am confident that it was not in any way detrimental to him! A normal, canvas flat collar can be more dangerous!
Oh, how shocking! Let’s talk about the shock itself. In the automatic dog bark collars, the shock is delivered near instantaneously with the bark and is of very short duration (and only the dogs own bark will trigger it, no need to worry about other dogs or noises shocking your pet!). The shock feels like a static shock and wouldn’t be described as pleasant. I’ve actually tried numerous shock collars, on all the intensity settings and none have truly hurt, but they definitely got my attention, and I laughed after each one! I prefer the shock to being pulled on by my neck! Shock collars are not intended to hurt or frighten the dog, but to divert their attention with the element of surprise and a bit of discomfort. If you don’t believe me, look on youtube for videos of people trying them out!
For the more novice dog owner’s among us, using an electronic dog collar for dog barking control is the best thing we can do. You have a window of under two seconds to get your dog to associate your correction, whether verbal or leash correction, with their action. Most of us just can’t deliver! For instance, if you come home after being out and see that your dog had an accident, trying to correct the behavior is useless. Maybe your dog will end up thinking that when you walk through the door it gets punished, or maybe they will associate the correction with a nearby object; either way, they will not be able to connect the dots and figure out the correction was for the accident they had an hour ago.
If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs when you are outside, a shock collar can be the answer. I started using the collar on Oliver because of his on-leash anxiety with other dogs. After one bark and correction per walk, he would end up walking confidently at my side, no longer tempted to bark at passing “friends”. After using the collar for a few weeks, I weaned him off of it, and now he rarely exhibits that behavior. Oliver is a Norfolk Terrier and weighs sixteen pounds, showing that you can successfully use shock collars for small dogs!
When you are shopping for a collar, I recommend getting one with a few levels. The brand we have used is Tri-Tronics; I chose them because they were recommended to me and they are a company that has been around for years. I would start the setting in the mid-range (so on a scale of 1 to 5, start at 3). You don’t want to start at the lowest setting because it might not pose a good enough distraction for your dog; all you would be doing is slowly increasing his tolerance. If your dog is responding well to the shock at the mid-level, you can turn it down bit by bit (over the course of days or weeks) to wean him off. If you find that your dog is still barking at the mid-range, increase it a level or two to help him get the picture.
Shock, what shock? Another important thing is to make sure you don’t react yourself. When your dog barks, especially for the first few times, he will definitely react. When Oliver got shocked for the first time, he did a little yelp, and didn’t know what to think of it. Over time they will realize, “gee, if I bark, I will get this unpleasant feeling… I better stop!” The last thing you want is for them to think you are in any way privy to the shock! Don’t pay any attention to their reaction; act as if you didn’t notice!
There are other kinds of shock collars which can be used for training beyond bark control. These are equipped with a wireless sensor and allow you to control the duration, intensity, and timing of the shock. I believe these are best left to the professionals. Using a collar incorrectly and timing the shocks wrong will result in a fearful dog. Just like other reinforcement methods, you have to deliver the shock within two seconds of the behavior.
For the most part, these collars are a humane way to control your dogs barking. That being said, this is a tool that has the potential to be used wrongly. Never leave the collar on while unattended. If the dog sees a predator (whether squirrel or human) outside of a window, it is only natural for him to bark to protect his home. You wouldn’t want to discourage that behavior or frighten him further. Also, consider your dog’s temperament when selecting the correct type of collar you use for training. If you have a naturally fearful, skittish pet, this is probably not the right training tool. Timid pets can be easily corrected with other methods; it is the more pig-headed, obstinate dogs that require the additional distraction!
If you need help selecting the right size or brand for your dog, or want to talk about training with electronic collars, send me an email, I would love to help.