1a. WHY should one use an electronic collar rather than clicker, treat or other methods not involving any pain?
The first time I heard about dog training with an electronic collar, I imagined the Electro-Shock Treatment scene from the old Frankenstein movies. But once you open your mind and move past the negative hype and cookie-trainer propaganda, you realize something rather startling… dog training with an electronic collar (if done correctly) has absolutely nothing to do with pain.
1b. BUT don’t electronic collars “shock” the dog? And doesn’t this cause pain?
This is a common misperception. A quality electronic collar has a variety of stimulation settings that can be set to match your dog’s temperament. Instead of causing a “shock,” the collar instead delivers a small amount of low level stimulation. Proper use of the electronic collar should not cause pain or submission.
2. WHEN should the electronic collar be used, rather than clicker, treat or other methods?
You don’t need to use an electronic collar to train your dog. People have been training dogs for hundreds of years without the electronic collar. However, people have also been writing books without word processors for hundreds of years, too. I think the analogy is fitting.
Personally, I use a modified working dog approach because my clients demand maximum results in a minimal amount of time. Now, many will argue that to do this you need to cut corners or apply undue pressure on the dog. However, if you look at the facts, you’ll find otherwise. Remember, 99% of my clientele at South Bay K-9 Academy are civillian pet owners. At an average price of $600 to $900 for a dog training program, these people would NOT BE HAPPY if their dog’s personality was broken and their best friend came home sad and neurotic.
So, any training approach or tool that does not produce a happy, trained dog would quickly put us out of business. I find that if you properly use an electronic collar and understand the fundamentals of timing, consistency and motivation, you can fix certain behavior problems faster than with any other dog training tool. And fast, reliable off-leash obedience can literally be obtained in hours, rather than days or months.
The electronic collar is an amazing tool if used properly!
3. HOW should such collars be used for best results and to assure least amount of pain?
I think it depends on the handler’s skill. If you’re a beginner, simply use the collar to fix problem behaviors that you would never want the dog to do. For example, if your dog is digging in the trash, you should first set the electronic collar to an intensity level which fits your dog’s temperament. Next, leave something tasty in the trash can. When the dog goes to dig in the trash, you should stimulate the dog with the electronic collar transmitter.
If the stimulation is motivational, your dog will never dig in the trash again. Now, you may be wondering what I mean by “motivational.” Motivation is best understood through the analogy of a police officer giving a speeder a ticket.
If the dog trainer is the police officer, and I’m the speeder… the concept of motivation suggests that the ticket must be expensive enough to convince me that I don’t want to get any more tickets. If I’m driving home from work on a Thursday night, and nothing good is on T.V. and nobody is waiting for me at home… then a police officer can give me a $2 ticket, and it will be motivational enough to convince me to stop speeding. However, if I’m driving home on Super Bowl Sunday, and I’m late… and I’ve got $50 bucks riding on the game… then the police officer’s $2 ticket will no longer be motivational. So what does the police officer need to do? He needs to give me a $200 ticket.
Now, how many $200 tickets do you think I need to get before I decide to never speed again?
That’s right… just one! If, on the other hand, my last name is Trump and my first name is The Donald… then a $200 ticket isn’t going to be motivational. So, the police officer will need to match the motivation of the ticket to my sensitivity level. But since I’m just an average working Joe, if the police officer insists on giving me a $50,000 ticket and then pulls me out of my car and slaps me on the head with his night stick… I also won’t ever speed again. But I probably won’t ever drive again, either. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to hate police officers, too. So, the electronic collar allows us tremendous flexibility in matching the correction to the dog’s temperament. And we can do it in a way which doesn’t involve jerking or pulling or being physical with the dog. But it is the handlers responsibility to know his dog, and not issue $50,000 tickets, when a $2 will work just as well.
4. WHO should use such collars? Any pet owner? Only trainers? Only skilled trainers? WHO should never use such collars?
Any intelligent dog owner can use an electronic collar for avoidance training (such as digging in the trash, climbing on the bed, digging holes in the garden, etc…) Advanced handlers and professional dog trainers can easily use the electronic collar to polish obedience routines, build faster response to commands, and increase reliability. And experienced professional dog trainers can use the electronic collar to correct certain types of handler and dog aggression. Sometimes just the texture of the electronic correction can be motivational for a dog, where physical corrections won’t have any effect.
5. Are there any breeds they should never be used on?
Everyone thinks that their breed is special… that their breed has certain “quirks” that make training more difficult. Greyhound owners think that their breed is harder to train because Greyhounds run faster. Chow Chow owners think that their breed is harder to train because Chows have a stronger defensive drive. Whippet owners think that their dogs are harder to train because they have skinny necks. And Komondor owners think that their dogs are harder to train because they were bred to be independent workers. But the truth of the matter is that the breed of dog is highly irrelevent.
The real question that dog owners need to ask is, “What type of temperament does my dog have, and how should I match the motivation level to fit my dog’s temperament?” If I happen to be working with an Australian Cattle Dog that has a very soft temperament, maybe I’ll set the electronic collar intensity setting to level 1, low. The beauty of the electronic collar is that you can match the intensity level to your dog’s temperament. This means that, even if you get excited and overreact, your corrections will still match your dog’s temperament. So the possiblity of over-correcting your dog is actually less likely with an electronic collar than with any other type of collar.
On the other hand, if I am working with a second Australian Cattle Dog that has a very hard, dominant temperament, perhaps I’ll set the collar stimulation level to 4 or 5. So you can see, it’s not the breed of dog that matters as much as it is the temperament of the dog.
6. Are there brands of such collars to be wary of?
The electronic collars I use and recommend are made by Innotek and Tri-Tronics. There are other collars on the market, but I’ve found these to be most reliable and offer the best customer service. Don’t buy an electronic collar from your local pet store. These are usually cheap collars that are made overseas. They have poor engineering and low reliability. Even with the Innotek and Tri-Tronics collars, we’ll often receive collars that don’t work properly.
In most cases, the collars simply won’t produce any stimulation, or such an abnormally low level of stimulation that they’re obviously not working properly. But this will happen with any type of hardware. I’ve found that Innotek and Tri-Tronics are highly responsive to their customer base and offer speedy repairs and refunds.
7. WHAT is the major objection to such collars? What is your reaction to that objection(s)?
I don’t feel that there are any rational objections to the intelligent use of the electronic collar. Most of the criticism of these training devices is built around the argument that, “People will misuse them.” But this is an age-old argument.
Dog owners must not decide to ban an otherwise safe and effective training tool simply because there are a few individuals who don’t bother to stop and read the instructions.
8. WHAT experiences, credentials, training or other do you have in the use of such collars? Do you consider yourself an authority on this subject?
As the [former] owner of South Bay K-9 Academy and the web site, http://www.dogproblems.com , I’ve personally trained hundreds of dogs with the electronic collar. But you don’t have to take my word on the effectiveness of electronic collar training.
If you simply look at some of the top winning dogs in most of the American working dog sports, you’ll find dogs that have been trained with the electronic collar. Take Triple Crown Dog Training Academy, in Hutto, Texas, for example. Currently the largest dog training facility in America (if not the world) Triple Crown is the home of Scutzhund trainer Rob Dunn. Mr. Dunn recently placed in the top 10 of the World Schutzhund Championships with a dog he trained with an electronic collar. Or Keith Benson, who has a fine working AKC Obedience Golden Retriever that has been admired by the likes of Terry Arnold and Tom Rose.
My philosophy is that: If it works for the top trainers around the world… and then you are able to use it and get positive results yourself… then it’s definitely a tool you should incorporate into your bag of tricks.
9. WHAT obstacles/challenges face one in using such collars? And, separately, what obstacles/challenges have you faced in using such collars?
Although the electronic collar is a powerful tool, it should be used as a supplement to your entire training program, not as a substitute. The most appropriate use of the electronic collar is after you’ve layed a strong foundation of obedience exercises on your dog. I think the biggest mistake that otherwise intelligent people make with the electronic collar is: teaching the dog to be collar smart.
Many times, an owner will get lazy and put the electronic collar on the dog immediately before the training session. And then they remove the e-collar after the session. If you do this consistently enough, your dog will learn quickly that if he isn’t wearing the electronic collar, you can’t enforce your commands. Or that he only gets the stimulation when he’s wearing the collar.
To overcome or prevent this from happening, it’s important to put the electronic collar (and any other training collar) on the dog several hours before you take him out for training.