Wireless Dog Training Collars
I have recently noticed an increase in the amount of discussion relating to wireless training collars, or more commonly known as electric collars, shock collars or remote training collars. I have never been one to shy away from sharing my opinion; after all I have almost 20 years of dog training experience to offer.
Wikipedia defines the collars as a collar that produces a static pulse stimulation at varying degrees of intensity and duration to the dog via a small transmitter incorporated into a dog collar. It also states that the collars can be used for positive reinforcement, and operant conditioning, along with positive punishment (stimulation given at the moment of the undesired behavior) and negative punishment (a continuous stimulation is given until the moment a desired behavior occurs in order to increase the frequency of that behavior).
If you don’t know the definitions of Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment and Negative Punishment and understand their inter-workings then the chances are you will not be equipped to use these collars as any type of positive reinforcement.
Vibrating collars are often used on deaf dogs, but these are not shock collars these are simply collars that vibrate to get the dog’s attention since they cannot otherwise hear their owners. This vibration paired with positive reinforcement can be good, but again this is not a correction or shock. Your cell phone vibrates in your pocket, it does not shock you when it rings!
Most people misuse shock collars and create more problems than the ones they started out with and sometimes create aggression. I will again use one of my favorite phrases “Aggression incites aggression” and shock collars are certainly not a treatment for any type of aggression or dominance issues.
The number one reason I have seen that people get hand held shock or training collars, is because their dog is not coming when called. They mistakenly think that administering a shock will encourage their dog to come to them when called, however the opposite usually happens.
They yell “Come” and if the dog does not come running they provide a shock as punishment. However, dogs are not capable of reasoning like we humans are, instead of realizing they are getting shocked for not coming when called; they associate the word or command “Come” with the shock and they want to run away to get away from the pain, the opposite reaction from what people want.
Often times, if this training style has been employed, we must completely change the command because just hearing the word causes such a negative, and fearful feeling for the dog!
While working as a vet tech I once witnessed a dog that developed a stomach ulcer because the owner was shocking it so often and the dog was simply confused and unable to deal with the stress.
Whoever says shock collars are not painful, has not experienced a shock from them. Not only does the shock scare you, it is also painful. Low levels are not terribly painful, but they are still disturbing to most dogs. If you add to that the stress of not knowing WHY you received the shock and how to avoid the shock, it is a sad situation.
Shock collars may work in some instances and sometimes it appears that they work, but really the dog is just shut down and too afraid to try and show any other behavior for fear of incurring the wrath of the collar.
Positive reinforcement may take more time, knowledge and psychology but it is much less stressful and barbaric for your dog! I like a dog that is allowed to think and encouraged to show a variety of behavior. This willingness to learn helps me to teach my dogs a plethora of commands and skills, and helps make his life more pleasurable because he enjoys learning instead of fearing when the next shock or correction may come his way.
Stress raises blood pressure and not only shortens the life of people, it also shortens the life of animals!
Stick to reinforcing good behaviors and giving your dog a reason to listen to you. Instead of shocking him for not coming when called, give him a jackpot of chicken breast when he DOES come to you! If you use your mind and positive reinforcement you will see just about every bad behavior make a turn for the better!
So put the training collars down, and learn to communicate clearly and with compassion! Empathetic training leads to a sturdy obedience foundation.