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Electronic collars have been proven to be the most humane tool to use in dog training. This collar allows for quicker response and greater freedom during training for the dog and handler. These improvements have been related to cell phones (electronic collars) and how far they have come from a wall mount phone (treat trainers). Electronic collars are now being used on wildlife to study their movements and keep them from human contact. The use of electronic training devices has been proven to improve training efforts. Without these devices, dog training would be more time consuming and some animals would not respond as quickly as with the aid of these devices.
Citronella Essential oil obtained from the leaves and stems of the Cymbopogon plant
EMS Electronic muscle stimulators, is a muscle contraction using electrical impulses
Endorphins Substance excreted by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus during heightened stimulus producing feeling of well-being
K-9 Abbreviation for "canine" meaning dog
TENS Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is an electric current produced by a device to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes.
Do you have behavioral issues with your dog? An electronic collar may be the most humane tool you can choose for dog training. Because electronic collars are often used incorrectly, they are believed to create aggressive behavior, only work on aggressive dogs, "shock" the dog, and cause burns (Hassen, n.d). Electronic collars can be a valuable and effective training tool if used correctly, such as for nuisance barking, recall issues, counter surfing, heeling, forced retrieving, invisible fencing, avoiding objects such as snakes, food, people and more.
TYPES OF ELECTRONIC COLLARS
There are several types of anti-barking collar systems available. One type operates by spraying citronella on the dogs face when the collar detects barking. Another type, ultrasonic, emits a high pitched sound when activated by a bark. The third type delivers a low-level irritating static tap when the vibration sensor detects barking. Figure 1 depicts three types of collars, including one remote system.
FIGURE 1 Types of Anti-barking Collars (n.d.) (Google Images)
My experiences with the abovementioned anti-bark collars are that the dogs can always outsmart them. My parent's Rat Terrier screams when he has his bark collar on. He does not scream because it is painful. He screams because the collar is designed to react to a bark, not a scream, so that is why he does not get shocked. With the citronella collar, a dog can learn to bark up and away from the collar to avoid getting sprayed. Dogs can also physically move the spray box to the top of the head to avoid getting sprayed in the face. With the sound emitting collar, dogs can eventually ignore the noise and keep barking.
Another type of electronic collar device is an invisible fence. Invisible fencing utilizes an electronic collar device to prevent a dog from leaving a predetermined boundary of the yard. A recent study on the effects of invisible fences on dogs claims that non-neutered male dogs became aggressive upon use of the invisible fence. The author explained that the dogs were punished with a static tap whenever they approached the perimeter of the boundary which resulted in negative association with whatever or whoever they went to greet. If the dogs would have been neutered they may not have become so aggressive because male non-neutered dogs are very dominant in the first place. This is a case where the dogs had no proper training with regard to the invisible fence and the owners were not present outside to control their dogs (Jacques and Myers, 2007).
Unlike dogs, cattle have visible electronic fences for containment. Because cattle are so tough they often push through a weak barrier such as a barbed wire fence. The resulting injuries can cause more pain than that from an electronic fence. When the cattle have a visible electronic fence, they are easily taught by negative reinforcement to avoid going through the fence. Cattle won't react aggressively, unlike male dogs that charge the fence and get a static tap. (M. Krasnanzky, personal communications, December 2010). Figure 2 shows the invisible fence system in use and the agricultural practice of containing farm animals with electronic fencing.
FIGURE 2 Electronic Fencing in Use (Source: "Dog Fence Collar - An
Effective Pet Containment System", retrieved from www.allpet.ws, (2010) and "Piglets in Winter," retrieved from www.grit.com (2011)
By using an electronic collar during obedience training sessions, you, as the dog trainer, do not have to rely on a leash when your dog is at a certain point in training. You can work on long distance recalls and off-lead heeling. Of course, positive reinforcement must be used along with the negative correction from the collar. This is critical in order to avoid the collar being perceived as punishment. Redirection of the behavior and reward go hand in hand with use of the collar. There is a huge advantage in not having to yell at the dog when he does something wrong. Due to a dog's short attention span, you only have about 1.3 seconds to correct a dog. Anything later is considered cruel punishment. With use of the electronic collar you can achieve the correction quickly. Treat trainers often don't correct their dog or correct very late with a verbal "no." Would you like to be corrected right after you did something wrong or would you like to be corrected with a verbal "no" five minutes later? How confused would you be? In addition, an electronic collar should not be intended as everyday apparel for the animal. The collar should be used during training sessions and when trying to curb unwanted behaviors such as barking. At night, or when the animal is resting, the collar can be removed and turned off. This way, if an intruder enters your home, the dog will be able to bark and alert you without receiving a static tap.
"An electronic collar is similar technology to electronic muscle stimulators (EMS) and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS units). These devices are very common in the medical, chiropractic, and physical therapy fields. You may have also seen advertisements on the television for electronic muscle massagers. It uses a low-level, adjustable electronic stimulation to create muscle contractions. These tools are used in the medical field to alleviate pain, encourage healing, and promote blood circulation. The amount of electrical impulses sent through the skin is non-painful and works by activating the release of pain suppressing endorphins in the brain" (Hassen n.d).
Figure 3 compares the output voltage of various stimuli. According to the chart, a shock from the electronic collar is no more painful than a shock from a nylon carpet in low humidity.
FIGURE 3 Output of Voltage Comparison, (Source: "Dispelling the Myths About Shock Collars," retrieved from www.petplanetoutfitters.com (n.d.)
"Relate the improvements that an electronic collar can offer in dog training with the improvements that a cell phone provides. Cell phones are no longer just plain telephones; they are mini-computers with built-in cameras, internet access and all sorts of applications. Cell phones and electronic collars enhance our communication with others. They allow for diversified means of gathering and sharing information. Of course, you have to possess the knowledge to properly use the device. Some people may still choose their old wall mount telephone in their house but are restricted to the length of the phone cord and it is not exactly easy to send photos or access the internet. This truly limits what you can do while you're talking on the phone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing things that way. It's just limiting. The same relationship can be said about using a leash or treats to train your dog. It's just limiting. With a cell phone and electronic collar you can do things wherever you want, whenever you want" (Hassen n.d.).
No two dogs are alike, just like no two people are alike. There are difficult dogs and there are easy dogs. A difficult dog gets a correction and keeps doing what he was doing. An easy dog gets a correction and thinks you severely hurt it. You, as the dog trainer, must figure out the correct level at which to train your dog. The level needs to get the dog's attention without hurting its feelings. Of course, there are some situations in which the electronic collar should not be used: on dogs that are handicapped, very fearful or nervous, or display extreme aggressive behavior. The electronic collar should only be used on otherwise healthy, sound-minded dogs. It takes knowledge to figure out how to give the right level of correction without hurting the dog's feelings. The nick button is used 99% of the time. The continuous button is rarely needed (Frawley. n.d). Also, a snug fit to the collar is important. If you don't have a snug fit on the collar, the two prongs will not touch the dogs neck properly and will only give him an innocent nick. An innocent nick is going to confuse the dog. One time it will be a very high nick and the next it will be a very light tap. Some dogs have very thick fur in the neck or mane area and will require some grooming or cutting of the hair to allow the prongs to reach the skin. Proper knowledge of the electronic collar's technology is required to ensure it's effectiveness. Otherwise, undesirable results and/or an improperly trained dog can result.
The tap from the electronic collar is something that tells the dog to pay attention. The tap that the dog receives is not meant to cause physical pain or emotional stress. The tap from the electronic collar is no different than tapping someone on the shoulder. The tapping on the shoulder was not intended to cause emotional stress or pain, but to let someone know that you wanted to communicate with them. Most dogs will respond to a electronic pulse level too low for humans to feel. Electronic collars must be adjustable because some dogs are very sensitive, while others may be quite tough. You have to determine what level your dog will respond to when you try the collar. When beginning to train with an electronic collar, one should always start on the lowest setting and progress upwards if needed. An additional reason why the collars must be adjustable is because distractions from the environment are never consistent. Connect this to training with a treat; how many times will a treat work flawlessly indoors, but it fails to maintain your dog's attention when a squirrel is running by? (Hassen. n.d) Remote electronic collars are advantageous in that the owner can be across the room or away from the dog outside and still give a correction. The dog will associate the negative correction with the undesired behavior or an object it was meant to avoid and not with the owner.
PROS AND CONS
There are many positive outlooks on electronic collars. One is that your dog can be trained to go off-leash faster. Now you and your friend are able to go out to the dog park without worrying that your dog will not come back to you. In addition, you can visit your mother's house without worrying if your dog is going to attack her dog. The collars are very useful in training avoidance behaviors. Having a dog that continually goes into the garbage can or chases the cat is not desired and often leads to injuries or costly trips to the vet. Containment in one's yard is another good use of an electronic collar. It is far better to have your dog experience a small electronic shock than to be hit by a car.
There are many advantages to training animals using these devices, but there are also negative perceptions. Electronic collars are believed to create aggressive dogs, injure the dog, and cause stress. Aggressive behavior of un-neutered male dogs upon electronic collar use, as stated in Jo Jacques review, is widely varied and often the fault of poor training and education on the owners part. Also, as my paper states, the use of electronic dog collars will not hurt the dog or cause any emotional stress if used properly. A good trainer will emphasize positive reinforcement along with use of the collar. This is imperative to the balance in a dog's emotional state. The animal needs to realize in a quick and easy manner what the undesirable behavior is and what is pleasing to its trainer. Use of both positive and negative behavior modification techniques will help achieve this learning. In addition, certain traits in an owner warrant whether he or she is suited to using an electronic training device on their animal. If an owner/trainer has an aggressive and negative personality, use of an electronic collar for training is probably not the best option. An owner who takes an interest in his animal's well-being is better suited to use of this device. A word of caution: constant correction and static taps will only result in the dog fearing the collar or its owner. Therefore, the owner/trainer should be well versed in use of the electronic device before attempting to train. It is advisable to obtain the advice of a good dog trainer if unfamiliar with electronic collar use.
In conclusion, the use of an electronic collar allows for greater freedom of communication with your dog. Being able to re-direct your dog's attention while he is at a distance from you greatly enhances the reliability you can achieve in a short period of time. It also allows you to communicate with your dog without yelling. The electronic collar also does not cause emotional or physical pain to the dog if used properly. Invisible fence use has shown some cases of dogs becoming aggressive, but every debatable issue has some sort of drawback and multiple opinions from experts. When used properly, the electronic collar can be a humane and effective tool in training your dog.