NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

To Shock or Not to Shock

As a Leave No Trace Master Educator it was a bit embarrassing having an impact monster for a dog – particularly her wildlife chasing habit. People have different opinions on dogs and leashes. My personal opinion is if it is permitted, your dog is legitimately under voice control, and you are respectful of other people - a leash is not necessary.

I tried using a “stay close” command, where my dog, Aspen was in front of me, but close enough I could call her back. This just ended with me yelling at her constantly, frustrating me, disrupting other visitors, and wildlife running for the hills.

I tried having her on leash. Between watching my step, her step, making her heel, and trying to enjoy the scenery it’s a miracle I didn’t fall on my face or off a cliff.

The next idea was having Aspen walk behind me and using a “back” command. This worked extremely well, until she spotted a bogie (what I call wildlife) before me. My lab/whippet mix would be gone before I could think of grabbing the handle on her pack – apparently whippets are the fastest sprinters in the dog kingdom, lucky me. I still use this method, but with the addition of a shock collar.

Impact monster no more!
I used to be adamantly against shock collars, until I watched in horror as Aspen chased a chipmunk through a bolder field just waiting for her to break a leg. Which got me thinking, what if she chases a deer in front of a car? While historically she has always come back from her romps in the forest, she can’t come running back with a broken limb or internal bleeding or worse.

Some of you may be wondering about my thoughts on wildlife’s health and safety? That is a concern as well – they’re expending energy that needs to be conserved to escape wild predators and survive winter’s cold.

The collar I got her has a few key features. For one, the radio reaches the collar up to 400 yards, for my sprinter that was critical. It does no good if I’m calling her and she is out of range. It has three settings: a tone, a zap, and a continuous zap. The idea being I call Aspen (always with the same, “Aspen, come here”) > no response > tone > call again > no response > zap > call again > no response >continuous zap (which really only needs to be about two seconds). With this series of events she has learned to associate the tone with the action she needs to do; now more than half the time a zap isn’t needed. The zap has eight intensity settings; Aspen is rather sensitive so hers only needs to be set at two. I even put the collar on my arm to see how it felt, while it’s not pleasant, it didn’t hurt, but definitely got my attention.

When talking to other dog owners about shock collars, I continuously hear that once the shock collar comes out or the dog sees a remote they are on their best behavior or cower in fear. That’s not what I’m after. The idea is for her to learn not to chase wildlife in general, not to associate pain with the shock collar. I have avoided Aspen associating the desired behavior with the shock collar by putting it on her when we go outside for her morning constitutional and taking it off after her last trip out at night. In between those times if she’s in the house or her kennel I’ll loosen the collar so it’s more comfortable for her, but it’s still on so she is used to the collar being there all the time.

We’ve been on a few day-trips and one backpacking trip since Aspen got her collar and the difference is amazing! Sure she still tailgates a bit when hiking on the trail and lies on my sleeping bag instead of her blanket, but the wildlife chasing is under control. Every dog is different, but if the situation calls for it and it is used correctly, I would recommend a shock collar to train those impact monsters.


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