Electric Fences and Electronic Training Equipment
It was nearly ten years ago when I received a call from a family in Orchard Park, New York inquiring about a hidden dog fence. The husband told me how he had acquired his Australian Shepherd from an Amish man in the Leon area for a whopping $75.00. He came home with his new puppy convinced that he had really gotten a bargain. Which is in fact what happened. As we discussed the various fence installation options the man made reference to his $2500.00 dog. After several references to this $2500.00 dog I asked what he was referring to. He indicated that although he only paid $75.00 for the dog, he also paid an additional $2400.00 for surgery on the same dog, which resulted from the dog being hit by a car just two weeks after having brought the dog home. So, this was his $2500.00 dog.
Often times I am asked, “aren’t those hidden dog fences very expensive and do you really think that they are humane?” I can say that the hidden dog fences are much cheaper than the medical expenses associated with being struck by a car and significantly less painful. Thirty to thirty five years ago when electronic training equipment was first developed, it was designed to administer a shock sufficient enough to deter a hunting dog from chasing deer when it was suppose to be chasing rabbits. The shock levels used at that time were by today’s standards very high and in many cases excessive. Nonetheless, it accomplished the training purpose.
Recognizing that animals like people have different sensitivities to physical stimuli, the vast majority of training equipment used today has an adjustable stimulation level to accommodate the sensitive dog as well as the very stubborn dog. One aspect of training with an electronic devise that is critical is the concept of the inverse relationship of the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. (Please refer to my website www.smartdogtrainer.com for the article entitled “Canine Neuropsychology” for a more detailed explanation). In a nutshell, if a dog is brought into an emotional state (stress or fear for example) he will have little or no ability to learn. If an electronic collar scares the dog by using an excessive stimulation level, what do you think will happen to the dog’s ability to learn? Right, it will be inhibited. Using excessive training methods that create stress or fear could result in inhumane methods and hinder the dog’s ability to learn.
Some of the most expensive containment equipment on the market today still employs the use of the antiquated ideas of using excessive stimulation levels to keep your dog home. By using higher stimulation levels, you scare the dog into staying home. These methods, although still used by some, will soon to be replaced by a newer more sophisticated “low stress” training strategy.
Does that mean that any method that employs any discomfort to the animal should be discarded as unsafe or inhumane? If this were the case then we would have to stop using a bit in a horse mouth, which creates enough discomfort to communicate to the horse when we want it to stop. We would have to stop giving our dog’s vaccinations using needles, which protect them from dangerous diseases along with the list of other absurd arguments.
By using a low level of stimulation (some discomfort) that communicates to your dog that he or she needs to stay home and thus preventing your dog from being injured may constitute the most effective method of training or containing your dog that exists.
The use of electronic training equipment is not something that a novice should attempt without some guidance from an experienced professional. Different equipment has different purposes as well as limitations. Due to the fact that every dog is different and that each dog owner may have varying expectations of their dog, it is crucial to understand how the equipment being used is affecting your dog. A thorough understanding of both the dog and the equipment will help you accomplish goals beyond anything you may have ever imagined.
When I first started training dogs, my “off leash” programs consisted of 16 to 20 weeks of training working with a dog for 60 to 90 minutes per day. Today, with the use of electronics (remote trainers), the same results can be accomplished in less than half the time with far more distractions and greater reliability. As your dog learns the “training strategy”, you are able to effectively communicate with your dog at a distance 50 to 100 yards with little effort. There are several different techniques that can be used to train a dog. These techniques are the training strategies that I am referring to. In our next article I will be explain these strategies in more detail.
NOTE: Any training devise could injury your dog if not used properly. I have seen dogs that we afraid to come off the back because the stimulation they received from their collar was too high. I have seen dogs that have injured their spine with the improper use of a gentle leade; dogs that choke themselves on a chain collar and the list goes on and on. Some people perceive one piece of equipment as better or more humane than another. Dogs are different from one another as people are. What may prove to be very effective with one dog may be inappropriate for another. Regardless of what kind of training equipment you choose, be sure that you are using it according to the manufacturers recommendations. If you are not sure, ask someone with experience for help. Your dog will be glad you did.