Zap! Why I finally put an E-collar on my dog

Posted on July 11, 2011 under Pet Insurance

A dog with pet insurance runs after prey.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Electronic collars, also called e-collars, shock collars or static collars, are highly controversial among dog owners. Some believe they’re bad for pet health, and anyone who’s tried to buy one at a popular pet store has probably been intercepted by the resident trainer, pushing obedience classes over electronics.

When I adopted Jayda last year, I was definitely on team obedience. But after 15 months of dog training, I haven’t been able to put a dent in my dog’s insatiable prey drive. Jayda will run out the front door and sprint around the neighborhood looking for something to chase. She barks incessantly and chases cats and squirrels when we’re on walks or at friends’ houses. She even barks out the window at work when I take her to the pet insurance office. She jumps up on countertops to get cats and recently tried to join two wild mink fighting near the river. She picks fights with small dogs at the dog park.

In addition to being dangerous, Jayda’s behavior means she must be on a leash and prong collar 100% of the time outside the house, and she can’t come with me to visit friends who have cats. She can’t even be off-leash to fetch or swim while we’re camping.

Jayda is calm and obedient at home but seems to go into a trance when the prey drive kicks in. She doesn’t even flinch when I give a command or pop her prong collar. After one particularly stressful evening involving a Pomeranian at the dog park, I decided it was time to get complete control over my dog before she got us both in trouble.

The e-collar I chose has two buttons, a “tone” button that makes a beeping sound, and a “static” button that delivers the correction. The tone button is always used first, and for some dogs, that’s enough to disrupt the bad behavior.

The static button has 10 levels of correction, but Jayda only needed level 3 before she reacted to it. The reaction to watch for is very subtle: twitching the ears or trying to look at his or her own neck. No dog should vocalize or panic while wearing the collar. The goal is never to hurt them.

According to the instruction booklet, e-collars should only be used to correct one behavior at a time to avoid confusing the dog. This means that I‘ll only correct Jayda for chasing until she’s mastered the “no chase” command. Once we’ve covered that, we’ll move on to proper interaction with other dogs at the dog park.

Last night we took a walk and came upon the neighbor’s cat. Jayda usually goes crazy at the sight of Samson, but it was a different story with the e-collar. When Jayda started lunging, I said “No chase” and pressed the tone and static buttons. Jayda immediately stopped going after the cat and walked back to me. It was amazing. No yelping, no barking, no hissing.

I know that e-collars are controversial, but when my dog runs out the front door, goes after a cat or starts a fight with another dog, I need a way to stop her. Her life depends on it, and for that I’ll take any amount of controversy.

Dog owners and pet insurance enthusiasts , I’d love to hear from you: what’s your opinion on e-collars? How have you dealt with difficult dog behaviors?