Fear of Remote Collar Dog Training: Fear of the Unknown
Guest post by Michael Burkey, Michigan Dog Trainer
Its often said that people are afraid of the unknown, things they do not understand or things they cannot control. For one who has an inquisitive mind though, this concept can be hard to understand.
Bear with me for comical side note, I loved to watch David Letterman’s skits where he played a character on the street of New York called “Mr. Curious.” He would stop people on the street and ask them seemingly stupid questions.
On second thought, they were very stupid questions that no one would normally ask someone, hence the comedy of it. When they would quietly ask in response, huh? he would explain that he was “Mr. Curious.” The expressions on their faces were of disbelief and well….hilarious. This is not to suggest that I ask stupid questions but I do love humor and am very curious about a lot of subjects. So you can call me “Mr. Curious” in a more serious nature.
Hence, when I first started using electronic dog training collars (or as some others improperly refer to the modern day collars as “shock collars”), I was very curious if they could be used in a manner to teach and reinforce behaviors at a low level stimulation rather than as a punishment tool at a high level as they were commonly used in the old days.
For many years, I had been a predominately positive reinforcement type of dog trainer who always looked for different ways to train a dog that did not include corrections. In fact, my working dog colleagues, who used heavy handed leash corrections along with praise/ball rewards, often teased me that I had a dolphin as a partner instead of a dog. I considered this a compliment even though it wasn’t meant as one; as my dogs were extremely proficient in their Police K-9 duties.
When training a dog for reliability, fair corrections are appropriate if a dog doesn’t perform an exercise that the dog had already learned and understood.
For example, it is not acceptable for a dog who has been taught to come on command to choose not to come when called because there is a higher distracting stimulus such as a rabbit, deer, a running child to chase or a speeding car.
One can proof their dog against many distractions but no dog is 100% reliable and as we use to say in K-9 training, why did the dog do it?, because “he is a dog.” And, a dog who is a sentient being has free will. Therefore, as much as you try to proof your dog against distractions, sometimes the distraction may be too great or not planned for and a fair correction can get your dog back on track or in some cases save his or her life.
However, I was looking for a way to deliver a fair and humane correction that would teach my dogs don’t do this (after he had been throughly taught what to do instead) that would not harm his psyche or our relationship. Heavy handed leash corrections were not in my belief system.
Thus, I started utilizing electronic dog training collars set at a low level that would get my dogs’ attention but not cause them pain. The amount of stimulation used would only be enough to get my dogs’ attention, no more and no less. Therefore, just like with any other training tool it would never be used out of anger to punish my dogs. Along with treat and ball rewards it would present a clear picture to them without damaging our relationship.
Remember, I said to call me Mr. Curious? I came to this belief system by questioning and learning from world known remote collar experts. My early influence came from retired Police K-9 Officer Lou Castle of California. He was a pioneer in modern remote collar training for police and search and rescue dogs.
Later, I met Robin MacFarlane of That’s My Dog! of Dubuque, Iowa by accident really but life changing just the same. Originally, another remote collar trainer was scheduled to speak at a seminar in Michigan. I signed up to attend his workshop not because I agreed with his methods, as he had a reputation as being too harsh on the dogs but because he ran a very successful business and I wanted to see first-hand what I agreed and disagreed with regarding his methods. Again, call me Mr. Curious.
To my pleasant surprise, the original trainer backed out of the speaking engagement and Robin took up the assignment. I was and continue to be very impressed with her knowledge of dog behavior, the proper way to use remote collars as communication tools, and how to best teach students. She is not only an excellent dog trainer but truly also a life educator and coach.
She continued my learning as to the benefits and application of low level or as she calls it “just right” remote collar training. She too is a pioneer in the remote collar training system for pet dogs as well as police service dogs. I continue to learn from her and she has become a very good friend and colleague.
If Mr. Curious hadn’t been so curious about the first trainer and hadn’t stepped out of his comfort zone to sign up for the seminar, he would have missed out on the opportunity to meet and learn from Robin. And, how sad that would have been as she has enhanced my life in so many ways. From her, I not only solidified my technique as a remote collar specialist but I also came to understand the reasons why some people are afraid of remote collar training.
Some people are afraid of remote collar training because they have no personal knowledge of how it can be used at a just right level to reinforce and modify behavior, they are unsure if they will be able to learn how to utilize the unit properly and not hurt their dog and they do not understand the science behind the tool as their only reference are hot sources of electricity such as electric dog fences (which have to be used at higher levels than a remote dog collar), light sockets, livestock electric fences, or licking the end of a 9-volt battery as a child. I still don’t know why a child would do that but many of my male clients report that they and all their friends did it and of course it hurt. Fortunately, I wasn’t a “Mr. Curious” at a young age. LOL And, fortunately the sensation from the remote collar is nothing like these hot sources of electricity.
Every one of my clients who have felt the remote collar for themselves were pleasantly surprised. They described the sensation as a tingle rather than a shock. In fact, one previously apprehensive client even started laughing as she exclaimed upon feeling the just right level, “is that all it is, I’m surprised, that is nothing!” With that said, remote collar training is not the right choice for every dog, every situation nor for every owner. However, used at a low level it can greatly enhance the training of many, many dogs. In some cases it has saved their life because without it, many owners and trainers who are not remote collar specialists were at their wit’s end and considering enthusing their dog.
As a child I was very afraid of bats because our childhood home was infested with a family of bats. You could hear the bats chirping in the walls as they climbed up and down inside the walls. They would fly up from the basement into the living areas usually when my parents were gone and my brother, Jim and I were being tended to by a baby sitter. I remember the baby sitter putting a seat cushion over her head as the bat flew around the room and Jim and I hid behind her chair.
One time, the family cat, Tiffany, jumped up and caught a bat. But like a true cat, she was more interested in playing with the bat instead of killing it. She and the bat sat right in the doorway of the living room blocking our exit as they played their little cat and bat bounce game. Every time the bat fluttered its wings, Tiffany would swipe the bat with her paw. The bat would go still and remain motionless and Tiffany would wait for the bat to move again. It seemed to go on forever. The house had to be fumigated to be rid of the bats and for many years I was terrified of bats. However, as an adult I learned how incredible creatures they truly are and the benefits they provide the ecosystem. As I began to understand them, my fear lessened.
The other night while sitting under a tree in Singapore, a bat flew and hovered about ten feet above me attracted by the tree’s budding flowers. It’s quick and silent wing flaps were a beauty to behold. I did not experience any fear, just amazement and wonder. I understand bats now and the fear is no more. Such is the fear removed when people learn how to use a remote collar with a qualified remote collar specialist.
For dog training assistance in Michigan, contact the Michigan Dog Trainer. Your apprehension will be resolved as you learn the mechanics and benefits of training with the remote collar system. And, your dog will love you for the new freedom he enjoys with your family.