I Need a Shock Collar!
by Robin MacFarlane
"That's it. I'm getting a Shock collar!"
"NO!" "Stop that!, "Get off of there", "Leave it!", "Come, get over here, Come HERE!"
"Quiet. I said stop barking, Quiet!!"
Have you been using that exasperated tone of voice and uttering one of these phases at your dog?
You feel certain Fido 'Knows' he should not be doing THAT, yet he continues merrily on his way with some annoying behavior that Is. Driving. You. Crazy.
You're at the breaking point (or your wife is, and she says you better fix Your dog!)
So here you are, searching for a shock collar because you figure that will finally teach the dog to listen and give everyone in the house a bit more peace.
It will. But let me stop you in your tracks before you just purchase, strap the collar on the dog and start pushing buttons when your pooch is "bad".
Remote collars are excellent tools. I go so far as to say I personally believe they are the most humane, versatile and safe dog-training tool currently on the market. However, they take some knowledge to use them in that humane, safe and versatile fashion.
Don't worry, you don't need a doctorate degree to use an e-collar, but you do need a basic understanding of how a dog learns and how the equipment fits into an overall plan for training your dog to behave in a more polite fashion.
First off, let's agree that your dog is not misbehaving in order to annoy you. He's misbehaving because what he is doing is rewarding for him. It is exactly the same reason any of us 'misbehave'. We drive over the speed limit because we feel we have a good reason too, or just because we get a thrill from it. We eat things that aren't healthy for us because they taste good and we over indulge in all sorts of things because at that moment in time, it seems like fun.
Our dog's motivations are not all that different from our own.
And just like us, dogs can learn to behave differently when they understand better choices exist. That is what I really want you to learn about using a remote collar for training your dog. If you use the collar to create alternative choices that yield better rewards for your dog, you don't have to just apply punishment to that bad behavior.
Let me explain. Let's say your dog goes crazy; lunging, barking and throwing himself at the door whenever a visitor arrives. It is total chaos, and you find yourself in a full sweat trying to drag him to another room behind closed doors just so you can let the pizza guy in. You are thinking "if I get a shock collar I can zap him when he goes nuts like that." The problem with this thinking is it might not turn out as you hope. You might get a dog that yelps and slinks away from the door, but you're going to feel pretty bad about doing that to your buddy. Then there is also the possibility that rather than a yelp and slinking away, your dog will think the pizza guy just bite him so he better bite him back!
Instead of the above scenario, let's learn to use the collar to TRAIN the dog to make alternative, more rewarding choices. Your dog thinks barking at the pizza guy is either fun or he's doing his job protecting the property. If we teach him that going to his dog bed (and STAYING there) whenever the doorbell rings is a more rewarding choice, he's happy and we're happy. That is win/win. It means learning to use the e-collar as a teaching tool rather than a punishment tool.
Being frustrated may have led you to purchase a remote collar, but lets not use it while in that agitated state of mind. There is a better way.
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.