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Is the use of an electrical collar really an effective training aid?
The short answer to this question is yes. Without a doubt, these tools are effective as training aids. They provide a quick attention getter for the animal being trained and they most assuredly provide a negative reinforcement that can teach the animal what behaviors are unwanted.
However, like all things, there is much more to consider than just the initial, obvious benefits. In this article, we will discuss the various benefits and problems encountered by using this device.
Let’s first discuss, for a moment, how these devices work. The electrical, or shock collar, as they are commonly referred to, is basically a receiver that, when triggered, delivers an electrical stimulation to the neck area of a dog via two probes that are in contact with the skin.
The receiver is controlled by way of a remote transmitter that has an effective range of up to one mile for some models. In early training, the charge is fairly low but consistent until the animal learns that exhibiting correct behaviors can turn off the stimulation.
Once the animal has learned how the collar works, these devices are not used continuously but rather the opposite. They are used only to dissuade incorrect behaviors by delivering a clear and consistent message with its electrical payload.
Now that we understand how these devices work, lets take a few moments to discuss why one might use them and whether they are effective or not.
The obvious reason for using an electrical collar is the ability to control the dog from long distances without having to yell or use noise-producing methods, particularly effective with animals that are used around cattle or in an environment where excess noise is not acceptable, such as hunting land.
This long distance control also has the advantage of helping you to maintain a non-threatening position with your dog by the collar enforcing the rules rather than you having to be physical or intimidating while correcting him.
On the other hand, relying on the long distance attention getter can also be a disadvantage. How?
Because at a good distance, you run the risk of the dog being able to run out of range of the transmitter to escape the electrical stimulus and losing your animal, not to mention a very expensive piece of training equipment.
Another disadvantage to the electrical collar is the prohibitive costs. With these items often falling in the $100 or higher range, they are not for everyone. This is a point to be considered when looking at the maintenance costs and the costs of any loss thru a dog that knows how to slip the collar or breaks it loose.
Another advantage to this training system is the acceleration rate of the training for specific behaviors. Many owners claim to cut their training time in half by the use of an electrical collar for training such commands as “come”, “get out” or “down.” This little fact alone is enough to make many new trainers carefully consider using this tool.
However, there is another disadvantage. After all, the basic principle behind this device is that it will inflict at least a measure of pain upon your pet. If you are the type of person to stay up late at night with pangs of conscience for not sharing your bologna sandwich with your hunting dog, then the electrical collar may not be the best choice for you.
This device is created with the purpose of negative reinforcement in mind and it does its job very well. It is a matter that each individual trainer must decide as to whether it is within their conscience to inflict pain upon their animal to achieve results and, if so, how much is enough before it becomes cruelty.
In the end, the answer to the original question is yes, these are effective tools, but like any tool, they have their uses and misuses. This tool can be a great asset if used properly or it can ruin a good dog if used incorrectly.
When all is said and done, it is the responsibility of each owner and trainer to decide whether or not it is a tool that fits into his or her training methods and style using their research and sound judgment.
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