By Robin MacFarlane, Professional Dog Trainer
Ask about using an electronic collar for training a dog and you are sure to get some interesting answers. Ranging from “It is a great tool and works like an invisible leash” to “I am not sure about them, maybe as a last resort,” the more commonly held thought is “I don’t want to have to shock or hurt my dog in order to train it.”
I understand how people come to this conclusion. It is only natural that most of us fear electricity. We’ve been conditioned from childhood to steer clear of electrical things and outlets. But not all uses of electricity are the same. A medical TENS Unit is completely safe and not painful. Today’s remote collars are very similar in design and do not need to cause pain to the dog in order to be effective or aid learning. Let me explain.
Have you ever been so involved in something that you did not hear a person speak to you? So mesmerized by the pages of your favorite book or engrossed by the last seconds of a big game that your partner’s voice never registered a blip on your consciousness scale? How many times have your kids been so caught up in a video game that they never heard call them for dinner?
Perception of common sounds is significantly diminished when our attention is keenly focused elsewhere. But the response to tactile sensation is different. It is much harder to tune out the perception of touch.
The next time you lose your kid to the intrigues of Halo, tap them on the shoulder. I am willing to bet you will interrupt their concentration. And no, you don’t have to slap them upside the head! Just a tap on the shoulder and you will have regained their attention. Now you can speak without raising your voice.
The same goes for our dogs. When they become distracted by fascinating smells or the visual intrigue of a squirrel, the light electrical pulse or vibration of a remote training collar can be just unique enough to interrupt Fido’s concentration. There is no need for the sensation to be painful to effectively regain the dog’s attention toward you.
That is because physical contact is simply very hard to ignore. The tickle of a stray hair brushing against your nose doesn’t hurt, but it sure is annoying enough that it causes you to take action to make it go away. The concept works the same way when low level stimulation is used to teach your dog to come when called. It doesn’t have to be painful in order to work. It only needs to be felt and be just annoying enough that your dog will work to make it go away.
Many people are quite surprised when they actually feel the low levels of stimulation we use to train dogs. Common remarks include: “That is nothing,” “I can barely feel it,” and “Wow, that is not at all what I thought!”
This is a good thing. It is time for the old myths and methods of using remote collars to fade away. We are in a new age of wireless communication and our dogs should enjoy the same privilege of freedom. Once you learn how to use low level remote collar training to page your dog to return, you’ll never want to go back to that landline of a leash!
Robin MacFarlane has been training dog’s professionally since 1994. She is a leading expert in the use and understanding of remote training collars. Through her instructing, writing and seminars she works passionately to educate others on ways to enhance the human-canine bond through better communication and understanding. Her mission to help pet owners, professional trainers and k9 handlers alike has taken her across the U.S., Canada and abroad. Robin shares her life with her two children, four dogs and a completely untrained cat. You can learn more about Robin’s work on her website and her blog.