This post is sponsored by Dog Training collars.
One of the posts I wrote sometime back concerned a veterinary hospital in Southern California that offered a course for dog owners who wanted to protect their dogs from the many poisonous snakes in the area.
The one-day course, conducted by a person trained in the use of electronic-collars, has been effective in keeping dogs away from deadly snakebites in a short time.
I got some indignant comments from readers who thought this was a savage way to treat a dog. Others thought this was the best way to save their dog’s life. (I also got a long email from an A/R group telling me how this training harms the snake psyche.)
I did a lot of research on positive ways to teach a dog to stay away from snakes and none of them seemed very effective. It would seem that any dog with a nose and a brain could tell the difference between a dead snake skin and a living, slithering snake making a noise.
One of the more critical commenters assured us that if her dogs ever found a snake, they would "run happily back to me for a treat." I'm afraid that in her world pigs fly through green skies.
I thought about returning to the topic, but I don’t have any personal experience. I don’t live in an area where poisonous snakes are a big problem. My little guys seem to get my logic to stay out of dangerous situations when they're off leash.
Recently I reviewed Ted Kerasote’s excellent book, Pukka's Promise. He brings out a lot of controversial topics, one of which is the use of the electronic collar.
Pukka had been trained from puppyhood to obey recall and “Leave it” commands, but large dogs with high prey drive are hard wired to chase. When they get into a zone, there is little a trainer can do to keep them out of danger.
One time he had Pukka on a lunge line to work on recall. He fastened the line to the trailer hitch on his car while he searched his pockets for his silent whistle. Suddenly Pukka scented a covey of birds and he was off.
The line caught Kerasote across his ankles, flipping him to the ground and stopping Pukka in mid stride.
When I struck the ground, I broke two ribs. Lying there, my chest stabbing with pain at every breath and seeing him sprawled on the ground sixty feet from me, I wondered, “How is this positive reinforcement?”
It was then that he considered the use of an electronic collar.
What he found was that today's collars are much more technologically advanced than the shock collars of old. Trying it on his own neck, he experiences the “shock” as the “sting of a determined mosquito.” It has also been described as being like static electricity, not really painful, but it gets your attention and you want to avoid it.
He didn’t have to use it until two weeks later. They are practicing recall when Pukka suddenly gets the scent of deer and he's off, ignoring commands to leave it and return. Kerasote gives him the lowest level of shock.
It was as if the hand of God came down from the heaven. Pukka skidded to a stop and stared at the deer with a surprised look that said “How did you do that?”
He sprinted back to Kerasote.
“The weirdest thing just happened, Ted. I was chasing these deer and I got this annoying sting on my neck.”
Of course we can keep our dogs from danger by always keeping them on a leash or a line. That is something every dog owner should decide. But an intelligent use of a training collar might allow the high-spirited dog to have more freedom with less danger.
Using e-collars is a decision each dog owner should make. They should never be used for punishment, but they can be an effective training tool if used intelligently. More information at Dog Training Collars.