An upstate New York woman was charged with animal cruelty in June when neighbors found that the prongs of a shock collar, the kind to be used with an electric fence, had become permanently embedded in her pitbull’s neck.
Electric fence systems are probably the most popular kind of dog shock collars on the market today. A few beeps warn the dog as it approaches the boundaries of the lawn; if he passes that certain boundary, he gets a shock.
If you have this kind of fence, you probably justify it by saying that otherwise your dog would run into the street. Well you know what else would keep him from running into the street? An actual fence. Or a leash. Or a great recall cue and an ironclad policy that outdoor time is never unsupervised.
Dogs live in a human-dominated world; we bring them into our homes and yards and then punish them when they attempt escape. We justify this by saying that they may get hit by a car. Cars being weapons of our own making that we operate while texting. Makes us seem like some pretty sick mothershuckers.
I’m a city girl, and Amos is usually on a leash when there are cars around. Most city dog owners I know fall into the same category. Still, I’m pretty sure that my country and suburban brethren can figure out how to use their brains to solve this problem, rather than electricity.
This weekend I attended a reunion of Karen Pryor Academy grads hosted by my training mentor Steve Benjamin at his home near Binghamton, NY. Dogs there ran off leash like crazy things, round and round the pond on his fourteen acres. Amos raced golden retrievers for sticks thrown in the water. Some dogs stayed on leashes and laps. And the dogs that were running around had some of the best recall cues that you’ll ever see, thanks to the fact that each of them lives with a dog trainer.
Steve, a former FBI man turned animal whisperer/race car driver, is an incredible dog trainer (he is pictured at left in a drawing my classmates and I commissioned my dad to do of him upon our graduation). The Karen Pryor was at our little reunion and mentioned during her talk that Steve had written an excellent guide on how to train your dog to stay in an enclosed area without negative reinforcement or punishment of any kind. In this thorough article, he demonstrates how teaching your dog to touch the end of his nose to a stick is the first step to a training process that can help ensure your dog never becomes roadkill.