It's Animal Health Week in Canada, and today we're finding out about the proper use of training collars for dogs.
According to Kristin Caldwell, a Registered Veterinary Technician with the Prairie Animal Health Centre, training collars, commonly known as 'shock' collars, can work quite effectively for most dogs who need them.
"It makes a noise and then it does give them a little zing," she explained. "It's one level above recognition, so when you turn those devices on, for example, if they have a setting up to 10 and you turn into one and you push the button, and your dog doesn't even look or doesn't acknowledge it, then you turn into two and do the same thing and get to three. Then, at three he kind of looks around like, 'where did that come from?' You set it one level above that, and, 'I felt that I definitely felt that, but it's not painful'. It's not going to make him cry or anything like that and it gets his attention. But before it did that, it made a little beep and so you do that a couple of times and the dog goes, 'oh, the beep came. I'm going to get a little zing, and I was barking'. They bridge all those behaviors together quickly."
Caldwell noted the dog owner can eventually just turn off the zing, as the conditioning effect helps them realize the beep means a zing.
"They're like, 'oh okay, I'll stop right now, because if I bark one more time, it's going to zing me'," she shared.
She said while there are some pets that they don't work well for, they do have a place.
"Lots of hunting dogs and field trial dogs use remote callers that you do that little zing to their neck when they're learning a behavior, but at the same time, of course, they can be used inappropriately," she noted.
"We rarely see an issue with those types of training devices when used appropriately, so they do have a place, especially for a dog who's maybe having to be rehomed, who or constantly getting noise violation fines or issues with the City, it would be an acceptable humane alternative to use a remote trainer to train that behavior out of the dog."
"They also make ones that just use citronella, but some dogs learn that if you just keep barking, you empty the vial, and then if it stops spraying you in the face."
She said since dogs can be quite smart, working with a behaviorist can help dog owners learn alternatives.
"Or sometimes your pet is the right one for a product like that," said Caldwell. "But yeah, they do have their place at certain times."
She suggests leveling up if needed, such as using the lowest effective product such as a citronella spray, and if the pet doesn't respond or respect it, then go a level up and try the zing instead.