The Electronic Collar vs. the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors

An article published in a recent issue of The Canine Times¬†states that, “The Association of Pet Behavior Counselors condemns the widespread use of devices which deliver electric shocks to dogs for the purpose of training or curing behavior problems,”The article later states that, “Only in a handful of cases, where all else has been tried and failed, and when the condition is potentially life-threatening, can the use of such devices ever be justified, according to the association, and, only then, in the hands of an experienced behavioral specialist who is capable of accurate timing.” HHHMMMMM… if the electronic collar is truly cruel and inhumane… WHY would they advocate ONLY using it in cases where everything else has already been tried? This is ridiculous.

If something is truly CRUEL and INHUMANE… you should not do it… period! But the truth of the matter is that the electronic collar IS NOT CRUEL AND INHUMANE. Sure, there are people who will use even a buckle collar in a manner which is harmful to a dog.

But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater! Let me go on record as saying that the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors HAS ALTERIOR MOTIVES! They epitomize the Mothers Of Prevention who will not rest until they save every dog owner from himself! They simply will not believe that YOU are a smart, intelligent thinking individual and would rather treat you like an incompetent child! The fact is, I have never seen a problem arise from an owner PROPERLY using an electronic collar.

It is only when the e-collar (or any other training device) is misused that you’re going to run into problems. But if we’re going to start lambasting training devices, let’s not forget to chastise the mother dog for using her terribly sharp teeth to nip and bite the 5 week old puppies for biting her nipples too hard! Trust me, with the insanity and lack of understanding the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors has demonstrated in adopting this stance, it won’t be long before we see them outlawing pinch collar, choke chains, leather leashes, and fur savers, too!

Many of you have written to me this week and have asked that I clarify my stance on using the electronic collar. You’ll note that I don’t refer to this marvelous training device as a “shock collar,” which is more of a loaded, propagandistic term designed to belittle the electronic collar and the people who use them.

For those of you who don’t know what an electronic collar is, let me explain: The electronic collar is a small box fitted to a collar which the dog wears. The box has two contact points which should gently touch the dog’s neck when fitted snugly. The handler carries a small transmitter the size of a garage door opener, and this transmitter sends a signal to the collar which then delivers a small amount of electrical stimulation to the dog’s neck. “Electrical stimulation???” you ask. Yes… electrical stimulation.

A small tingle. This stimulation can be as light as a tickle, or as strong as a minor jolt, depending upon your dog’s sensitivity. “But why use the electronic collar?” you ask. Well, if you’ve read my book, you’re probably familiar with the concepts of timing, consistency and motivation. With the electronic collar, you can:

1.) Achieve perfect timing. Especially if the dog is doing something at a distance, such as digging a hole in the yard. If you had to manually run to the dog to correct him, there’s a good chance you’d sacrifice the 7 to 9 seconds required to get your dog to associate the correction with the behavior. With the electronic collar, the correction happens immediately.

2.) You can be 100% consistent. It doesn’t matter if your dog is running through heavy brush or speeding past you at 20 miles per hour, the electronic collar will allow you to consistently correct your dog. And in many cases, he’ll only associate the correction with the unwanted behavior, rather than associating the correction with you!

3.) Unlike the electronic collars of the 1950’s and 1960’s, today’s electronic collars let you match the motivation level of the correction to your dog’s temperament. So the possibility of over correcting your dog is pretty unlikely.

What many people don’t understand about the electronic collar is that giving a correction to your dog must be motivational. This is similar to the police officer who gives you a $2 ticket for speeding. It’s a correction…. but it’s not motivational. So, it really doesn’t matter whether you use a buckle collar, a choke chain, a pinch collar, or an electronic collar… as long as your corrections are motivational.

So, not only does the e-collar allow me to give motivational corrections that can be precisely matched to my dog’s temperament, but it also allows me to have perfect timing and consistency, too. Here are my rules for who should use an electronic collar: Beginners: If you’re a beginner, it’s probably best to stick with using an electronic collar for behavior modification only.

Put simply, if you’re trying to break a behavior such as digging in the trash, digging holes in the yard, excessive barking, or jumping on furniture… simply set the collar to the high setting (you’re goal is to create avoidance to the object)… and press and release the stimulation button RIGHT WHEN THE DOG JUMPS on the furniture.

Or just as he starts to dig. Or when he sticks his head in the trash can. That’s all there is to it. It’s just that easy. Pretty much any idiot can immediately and successfully break any number of behaviors by merely using a little common sense and only using the e-collar for avoidance training, as I’ve just described. Intermediate trainers: For dogs that already have a working understanding of on and off leash commands, the intermediate trainer can start synchronizing his manual leash corrections with the e-collar.

This can help polish your exercises, build faster response, and make proofing exercises take 10% of the time they normally would. Advanced professional trainers: Advanced professional trainers who have a good feel for reading a dog and understand advanced handling techniques and concepts can use the electronic collar to help solve aggression problems. For some reason, the texture of the correction can affect the dog in a way that the regular training collar will not.

And remember, with the e-collar, there’s no jerking or pulling… which can really come in handy when you’re dealing with a 140 lbs. Rottweiler who’s trying to bite the fingers off your left hand. And by texture, I’m not talking about motivation. Sometimes just because the texture of the correction feels different to the dog, you can cut through the nonsense and make communication much faster and easier.

A well timed and placed electronic correction can, in many cases, have a calming effect on the dog and make him focus on the handler– in the case of dog aggression. The remote electronic collars I recommend and use are made by Innotek and Tri-Tronics. The e-collar I’m using right now on Forbes, my Rhodesian/Bull Mastiff mix, is an Innotek Retriever Trainer that I purchased through the Fosters and Smith Mail Order Catalog for $389. You can reach Fosters and Smith at 1 800 826 7206