Are electric shock collars an effective method for training dogs? – Part 1

Falling down the stairs at the age of three.

My three year old daughter used to go up and down the stairs without using the handrail. We would tell her and warn her to use them or she might get hurt. She was, and still is, stubborn. We were watching T.V. one evening when we heard her falling down the stairs. I looked up in time to see her two tiny feet pointed up as she crashed into the landing at the bottom. She must have cried for ten minutes, but she was okay. Guess what? She does not need to be encouraged any more to use the handrails. She is now “conditioned” to use the handrails.

Ivan Pavlov, according to www.wikipedia.org was a Russian physiologist, psychologist, and physician who worked with dogs. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1904 for research pertaining to the digestive system. He came up with the idea of “Classical Conditioning” which, according to www.dictionary.com is defined as:

n. Psychology

A process of behavior modification by which a subject comes to respond in a desired manner to a previously neutral stimulus that has been repeatedly presented along with an unconditioned stimulus that elicits the desired response.

This is a great application of the electric shock collar. The shock collar is used primarily by those who have no fenced-in yard and wish to keep their pet dogs safe. As the dog approaches the fence, usually identified by little white flags in the early stages of training, it will hear a little bell sound a warning. If it continues past the warning, it will receive a shock, the severity of which depends on the setting. The owner controls the setting. The dog is trained (conditioned) to back up. The dog continues walking around the perimeter. It is learning to back up or jump back when the bell sounds. It may take a day or a week or two, but it will learn to not approach the fence line. It has been conditioned.

Some of you say this is cruel. Why? Because it hurts the dog a little bit? The dog is not running into traffic, is not getting hurt or killed, and is not threatening others because it will not go past the invisible fence. Is it foolproof? No. Neither are fences, pens, keeping the dog in the house, etc. As long as people own dogs nothing will be foolproof.

Do you like stories? WARNING! Do not read if you like sad endings. Our family dog was killed on November 30, 2008. Her name was Sally. A neighborhood kid, driving around 30-40 mph in his Camaro in our 25 mph speed zone, ran her down. She died instantly. Would an invisible fence have saved her life? Probably, but remember, no system is foolproof. This dog was pretty good at staying in her own yard, but she was apparently fighting a cat that day and we did not catch it in time. And so, she is gone and we are looking for a new dog. I hope we do a better job at keeping her in our yard and that our neighbor kid slows down. It could easily have been my four year old out there in the street. Do you really think I would be cruel in trying to protect her from leaving the yard by using a shock collar? I think not.

Any suggestions as to a good breed of dog for kids? She was a Basenji/lab mix.

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