|WHAT DO DOGS WANT?
After reading an article in QU magazine which was an attack on use of the electronic collar, I feel compelled to bring up some points, not from the human viewpoint but from a
dog's perspective. It's arrogant, in my opinion, to assume that dogs think like humans as I have always believed that dogs may be actually superior in character to humans and
our assumptions about them can be pretty inaccurate.
From observation, I believe dogs ask very little of humans -- shelter, food and a modicum of dependability. The first two are self-explanatory; it's the last bit that gets tricky. One of
humankind's most elusive traits is dependability and that's one thing most dogs do have--hence their possible superior character. Man hates to exercise self-restraint, to be
reliable day after day, to always--no matter what--be responsible. It takes energy, consistency, and the fortitude to live up to being dependable, especially when no one is looking
except a voiceless dog. But, that's what dogs want from humans.
What does this have to do with electronic collars? Well, dogs like structure in their lives and the feeling that their master knows what the structure is and will dependably live
within that. This is what builds respect on the dog's part. Dogs hate nagging, picking, and repression. Dogs like things clear-cut, black and white, with short infrequent
corrections that fit the situation perfectly. Dogs do not mind the electric collar when it's properly applied; they do mind the drip, drip, drip of half-meant nagging corrections.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mean to discuss training or training methods right here. I am assuming that we have an intelligent dog and an intelligent human and that both
are trying to make progress towards the common goal of a united team based on mutual respect. But, human failings must be taken into account. Owners have a big fear which
interferes with this goal of mutual respect, and that's the fear of being unloved by the dog. This means that most owners are weak when it comes to consistency and not vigilant
in meeting their own standards day after day. Dogs hate that. They want the owner to mean it every time he utters a command; they want him to carry things over from the
training session to the yard at home; they want him to measure up even when he's tired or in a hurry; they want to rely on him!
All this means is that a timely quick zap with a collar can clarify what the already-learned command says: do it now, do it right, do it the same way each time. Dogs learn from
repetition and they like to get into grooves of behavior. Dogs learn misbehavior as well as proper behavior in the same way. Over the weeks and months of training dogs learn
which behavior is acceptable and they get into the habit of that behavior. Dogs, again, love consistency. They love to perform properly. They love the feeling of doing it right. They
love the sense of meeting a standard of performance. They love the unspoken rapport with the human. They love to respect the master. Through all of this they become
self-confident, poised and unafraid, and joyful in their work. There is no thrill like that of working with your own dog when you're a part the team of man and beast under the big
sky doing what feels so right and so natural. You even come to feel that when you wiggle your little finger the dog feels it. You just go together like bread and butter. You each
know what the other is thinking. It's just so perfect, so rewarding.
The electric collar is just a tool like any other training tool which must be used wisely to reinforce and make clear what commands mean and how they fit into the overall structure
of a dog's life. It should not be punishment, it should be understandable. This means that the human has the responsibility of learning exactly how to use this tool and that does
take some diligent study. This also means that the human must learn a little about dogs too; how to read them and know from their body language when they're trying and not
being disobedient; when there's genuine confusion and not rebellion; and when they're just too mentally tired to continue learning that day. Patience, consistency,
repetition--those are the qualities which man must adopt for proper training. Those are also the qualities the dog will instantly recognize as something to lean on because he
believes always that you know best.
Well-trained dogs do not care when they do or do not wear a collar. They are already used to obeying commands as they do that every day and it's a part of the dog now. They
don't especially notice whether they are wearing a collar or a check cord once they're trained because they are too busy noticing the owner and they are just waiting for his
Making a big deal of electronic collars is a mystery to me. To me it's just a part of ordinary daily training and just one of the tools of the trade. My own dogs don't make a big deal
of it and neither do I. When I put a live or a dummy collar on them to begin work they are just excited to be out training and they are just plain happy to be working and doing what
they are bred to do. I don't have any anger towards my dogs ever; I make them mind always and they appreciate that.
As a professional dog trainer I care deeply about every single dog I train. That's why when learning this business I made it a point to study with quite a few trainers around the
country to observe their methods and sometimes it was not a pretty sight. I'm just grateful that my path finally led me to some trainers who used the electric collar as an integral
part of a complete and intelligent program. Had this not happened, I don't think I could have pursued this profession as my life's work.