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A possible case for electric collars

Many years ago as I was becoming more involved with working dogs, I received an invitation to help in the possible retraining of a dog. It had now been in court twice for chasing children riding bicycles.

A judge had given it a final stay of execution, but only on the provision of a satisfactory report from the Police and a Dog behaviourist/trainer. The trainer was going to try, as a last resort, to correct the dog using an electric shock collar.

At this time, I had never seen such a device even though I understood its workings. I had certainly not seen one used to correct a problem dog.

I arrived at the appointed place and met the owner and his dog. The trainer kept himself to himself and was busy setting out ropes as if it were a film set, preparing for some dangerous stunt.

On the tow ball of his car was a shock absorber device, along with a sack of sand. Both of these were in order to take the strain of stopping the dog in its tracks if it were necessary. The dog would wear a special harness with ropes attached to double welded D rings. The Trainer also laid out a rope to show the safe area where the dog should not be able to reach if the Shock collar proved ineffective.

Once all the lines were set out, two of us held a lead each attached to the ropes just in front of the sack of sand. This was so that the dog would decelerate safely than coming to a dangerous and sudden stop.

All was tested and when ready the trainer went to speak to the boy who was to ride his bicycle along the safety area. He then went to speak to the owner and harnessed up his dog complete with the electric collar.

With everyone ready, the trainer gave the indication for the boy to set off on his bicycle. Unfortunately, the dog did nothing, so the trainer asked the boy to wave his arm and shout at the dog, but without falling.

This had the desired effect and the dog took off like a rocket. The trainer had told the owner that when he presses down on his foot with his boot he should call and keep calling his dog until he is back with him again. The Trainer pressed the owner’s foot and he called his dog. I saw the dogs ears come up, rotate back towards the owner, and then just fold flat, as the dog took no notice of the command.

As soon as the dog’s ears went down, it took a summersault into the air as the trainer activated the collar. The dog jumped about as if stung by a bee. Only when it faced the owner did the trainer release the switch. Any deviation other than coming back to the owner was met with the activation of the collar.

A few times the trainer had to remind the owner to keep calling his dog. In witnessing what was happening, it was understandable the owner forgot.

Soon the dog was back with the handler and the trainer told him to praise his dog as if he was the best dog in the world.

We sat down for half an hour discussing what had happened though the trainer just went about checking all his ropes and equipment again.

Soon it was time for a second run and though the dog did give chase, it was obvious it was wary. Once again, as soon as the dog failed to recall to the owner the dog completed yet another summersault, jumping about to try to rid itself of this painful bee.

Eventually the dog returned to the owner and we waited again, for what the trainer expected to be the final run. After another half-an-hour, all was set up again. This time even though the boy was shouting at the dog it would not chase after him. It would not even look at the boy as if he were trying to ignore him.

The next stage was to move to an area where the owner and dog normally walked. We packed everything up and headed off to the owners estate. In York, bicycles were very common, just like Cambridge. Once near the owner’s home, two of us held a lead each again clipped to the harness and then with the trainer, owner and the dog we set off.

As we walked, many bicycles went past us but the dog simply looked away. This was my first experience of the Iraq Comic Ally method if you do not look at something it does not exist. Remember him in a television interview saying there were no tanks in Baghdad, yet one was driving right past the studio window.

The owner was very pleased though apprehensive that with the harness and us two clipped to him, what would happen if it were just him and his dog. There was no need to fear as the trainer removed the harness and slipped a muzzle on the dog before going over the road to hide behind a wall.

The boy who had helped us in the early stages road past and shouted at the dog, but again it simply turned its head away. This also happened with anyone else riding by.

The advice to the owner was to shout an aggressive NO if his dog even looked at a bicycle. The Trainer said he would come back in six months and at the end of a year just to check on behalf of the Court. He did however tell the owner that his current report to the court would be favourable. The owner was so pleased with the result and obviously moved to tears, as this day had been the dog’s last chance.

I was later told the court gave the dog a year’s stay of execution and if the reports were still favourable, the dog would not have to be put to sleep.

This was indeed an excellent result, but looking at it and analysing it there was considerable skill used here. Much of the skill was in reading the dog correctly with excellent preparation and timing of everything. I very much doubt ordinary dog owners with such similar problems could successfully use such equipment themselves. My personal fear is without the help of an expert; owners on their own could possibly only make matters worse.

At this time in my dog education, the Behaviourist/trainer was one of the few licensed to use such equipment. Such usage was only for life and death situations for dogs, nothing more. How they managed to change the law so that anyone could purchase such equipment for everyday sort of dog training I do not know.

The question is what do you think about electric shock collars now?

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