I'm not sure if these are still used very much in the UK, but I'm talking about when a dog wears a collar that will emit a warning, and then electric pulse, if the dog goes over a line on your property. It's an invisible line which the dog can't see, but works by keeping the dog afraid of the shock coming. Will it work? Possibly, which is probably why these are still being used with this particular problem. But really, is this the kindest and most effective way to deal with this problem? :(
So why am I against them? After all, it's better than your dog getting run over right? Well there's a definite argument from that point of view - having witnessed first hand the devastation of a car accident with my beloved collie Kai at just 18 months old, who lost his leg as a result - it's not even remotely funny. It's heart breaking, and painful to watch someone you love so dearly suffer. And Kai was lucky not to lose his life - many aren't so lucky. But here's just a few reasons why I think they could do more harm than good:
- So your dog can't see this invisible fence line, but it can see other things going on - suppose your dog experienced the electric shock around his neck at the point some children walked past. You're telling me you can guarantee he won't associate children with bad things from thereafter? No, I thought not :(
- Your dog could well learn to be fearful of going out of the house - I think I might be if I wasn't sure when a shock was coming. Yes I know there's a warning that's emitted beforehand, but a nervous dog that's inclined to bolt may well not take much notice of it. That doesn't seem okay from my point of view, I'd like to think my dog felt safe whenever it was at home.
- Isn't it just plain lazy to have an electronic gadget do your job - that is to educate your dog on what is acceptable and what is not, and up until the point that they understand, to manage the situation accordingly. Just like children, they didn't ask to come into your life - and believe me, there are kinder ways of getting your point across.
- My dogs are my best friends. They comfort me in times of stress and sadness, they listen to me when no-one else can understand, and they are always ready to jump up and spend time with me. I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but to knowingly, calculatingly, put something around their neck which could cause them pain - doesn't sit well with me. If I do that, I ignore a lot of the lessons about friendship and trust that they've ever taught me.
Whenever you're tempted to use some sort of punishment to solve a problem, realise the truth in the saying "Violence begins where knowledge ends". We as dog owners are lucky that dogs are endlessly forgiving of our human errors, but this is no excuse not to learn from our mistakes.
Scientific research into dog behaviour has increased our knowledge of how dogs learn in an extraordinary way. Unfortunately as with all new ideas, it will take time for kinder, more effective methods to become the norm. But here's what you need to know when you face a problem such as your dog bolting out of the front door and putting themselves and others into danger.
Manage the problem in the short-term
Use stair gates, put your dog on a lead, be vigilant to avoid the problem occurring. Imagine you're dealing with a toddler or small child - keeping them safe is our responsibility not theirs, they just don't understand how to do it yet.
Fix the problem my teaching your dog to DO something rather than trying to STOP them doing something
For example if you teach your dog to sit on a mat whilst the front door is opened, by heavily rewarding them - playing games around the front door to make it a training ground rather than a battle ground, then you'll be explaining what you want rather than punishing what you don't want. Here's an excellent resource that I'd recommend you watch to help you with this:
I'd also recommend checking out Dr Sophia Yin's website: http://drsophiayin.com for more information on her Treat & Train product, which was specifically designed with this particular problem of dogs bolting out the front door in mind.
Believe me, no matter how bad you think your dog is - "Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution". We just have to be prepared to learn more to find them, and I'm grateful for every struggle I've ever experienced with my own dogs and those I'm lucky enough to have taught. I'm pretty sure as I became a better dog trainer, I also became a better person because of them too :)