The use of dog shock collars has been a subject of controversy in the world of dog training. Owners that use this method believe that it doesn’t really hurt their dogs. The shock has levels of intensity which the owner can control, and it is always recommended to use the low levels. However, many are still not convinced about the safety of dog shock collars.
There are several alternatives you can use other the shock collars to effectively train your dog. If you are not a fan of dog shock collars and are looking for other dog training methods, then you have come to the right place.
Practical Alternatives to Dog Shock Collars
1. Clicker Training
A clicker is an excellent tool you can use with behavioral training. Dog trainers and owners find this approach to be the most effective when it comes to shaping a dog’s behavior. The device acts as an event marker and you can use verbal cues with it. The click sound will let your dog know that they have done something that you like and a reward is immediately coming up. Remember that you can only use the clicker with desirable and good behaviors because it follows the principle of positive reinforcement.
A clicker is very helpful in dog training because it will tell your dog the exact behavior that caused them to be rewarded, and because of the reward, they are likely to repeat the good behavior.
The most important factors in clicker training are consistency and timing. You have to click at the exact moment your dog is doing the desired behavior. Timing is crucial in clicker training. You also have to give the treat immediately after the click.
How to introduce the clicker to your dog
If it’s your first time to use the clicker with your dog, you have to introduce the clicker to them first because the click sound doesn’t mean anything to them yet. You have to give the click sound value before you start clicker training your dog.
Have a few treats with you (10 would be enough) and do the steps: click – treat, click – treat, until you’ve used all the treats. This will help your dog associate the click sound with getting a treat. Now, when they hear the click, they will always expect a treat after.
Tips for clicker training
- Don’t click repeatedly. You only have to click once.
- Always follow a click with a reward.
- Deliver the reward within three seconds.
- Only use the clicker for good behavior.
- Get yourself a clicker that comes with a wristband, so it’s tethered to you.
- Do not use the clicker like a remote control, it doesn’t in any way, cue your dog to do a behavior.
The dog whistle was invented by Francis Galton in 1876. It produces sound in the ultrasonic range that is readily detected by dogs and other animals but won’t be detected by human ears. The sound of the dog whistle ranges from 23,000 to 54,000 Hertz, and humans can detect sounds up to 23,000 Hertz only.
How to introduce the whistle to your dog
If your dog was trained using verbal commands before introducing the whistle, it is easier to add the new tool to the mix. You have to remember that the sound of the whistle should precede the command. For instance, you can practice it first with the “sit” command. Do the exercise repeatedly until your dog associates the sound of the whistle to the verbal cue. Remember to do just one command at a time. Teaching your dog multiple commands at a time will just confuse them. When they master a command, you can proceed to the next one, and never forget to practice the command your dog knows.
When your dog masters the whistle signal, you can choose to eliminate the verbal cue if you wish. The whistle sound should act as a conditioned reinforcer. When the whistle is blown, and your dog does the desired action, immediately give them a reward. For your dog to learn the association, repeat the exercise.
Reasons why dog whistles work
- Anyone in the family can use the dog whistle for training your dog. Your dog will keep hearing different kinds of voices throughout the day if there are several of you in the household. However, it does not matter who’s blowing the whistle; it’ll just sound the same.
- The sound of the dog whistle lacks emotion, making the sound consistent. In dog training, consistency is crucial.
- When the dog whistle is used correctly, your dog will learn to love the whistle sound. They will be excited to hear the sound as they are when they hear a bag of chips being opened.
- Your dog can hear the dog whistle from afar. A dog whistle is a sharp and sophisticated way to communicate with your dog while you’re outdoors.
3. Obedience Training
When you train your dog, be it a puppy or an adult, it can be really challenging. Obedience training alongside reward-based training has been proven to be a more effective approach in fixing behavioral issues with dogs than using shock collars. The use of shock collars might cause distress in dogs, creating new behavior issues.
Basic obedience training involves teaching your dog to stay, sit, heel, lie down on command. It also involves potty training, which is one of the most essential things to teach your dog. When your dog masters all the basic obedience skills, you will enjoy the company of a well-behaved, well-adjusted, and happy companion.
Essential Obedience Commands to Teach Your Dog
Probably the easiest dog obedience command your dog can learn, so it is best to start with it.
You can hold a treat close to the nose of your dog, then move your hand up. Your dog’s head will follow the treat, which will cause their bottom to lower. When they are already in the sitting position, say the word “sit” and give them a treat and praise.
Repeat the exercise a few times daily until your dog gets the command.
This command helps keep dogs out of trouble. They can return to you when you lose your grip on their leash or when they accidentally go outside.
To train your dog, have them on a leash. Go down to your dog’s level and say, “come,” while you gently pull on the leash. When your dog gets to you, reward them with a treat and affection.
When your dog has mastered the command on leash, you can remove the leash and practice the command in an enclosed and safe area.
It is one of the more difficult commands your dog will learn because the posture is submissive. You have to keep the training relaxed and positive, especially with anxious and fearful dogs.
To train your dog, find a good smelling treat that they like and hold it with your fist closed. Hold your hand up near your dog’s nose. When your dog starts to sniff it, you can move your hand to the floor, and your dog will follow. You can then slide your hand on the ground in front of your dog – this will make your dog’s body follow their head. When your dog is finally in the down position, you can say “down” and give them the treat and praise them.
Repeat the exercise daily so your dog will master the command.
Before you teach your dog this command, they should’ve mastered the “sit” command.
To train your dog, as them to sit first. Open the palm of your hand and place it in front of you and say, “stay.” Then you can take a few steps back. When your dog stays, reward them with affection and treat. Slowly increase the distance before giving your dog the reward. You have to always reward your dog for staying put, even for a few seconds.
This command will improve your dog’s self-control, and it may take a longer time for them to master this command. Don’t be discouraged and be patient.
Tips for Obedience Training
- Keep the training sessions short
Training sessions can be around three times daily but shouldn’t be longer than ten to fifteen minutes each session. A long training session will cause your dog to grow weary and tired. When you don’t give your dog a break, they tend to regress as if they have never learned what you taught them in the first place.
- Be consistent
Consistency is vital in any method of dog training. You should avoid the urge to let a wrong behavior slide every now and then. You will only confuse your dog if you are not consistent.
- Don’t get frustrated or impatient with your dog
Never punish your dog of what looks like stubbornness. If you are feeling impatient towards your dog because they’re learning at a slower pace than you expected them, take a break first. You both need it.
- Train before food
Squeeze in training sessions before your dog’s mealtime. This will create a positive connection between rewards and obedience in your dog’s mind.
- Always reward a positive and desirable behavior
You can give belly rubs, treats, a scratch behind the ears, a toy, or a general cooing of approval as a reward for your dog for doing a great job. It’s in your dog’s nature to please you and make you happy. When your dog sees a positive reaction from you, they will likely repeat the behavior.
4. Using Distractions
When you want to deal with barking issues, you can use a different method to distract your dog from that certain trigger that makes them bark. When you do this regularly, your dog will learn that there are better things they can do instead, and the thing that makes them bark is not even worth their attention. The distraction method is specifically effective in stopping your dog from barking excessively.
For instance, your dog barks profusely whenever they see the mailman, you can keep a treat on hand the next time the mailman arrives. Use the treat to distract your dog and reassure them that they are a “good dog.” There will be tendencies when your dog will still be distracted by the mailman. However, you have to try your best to keep your dog interested in the treat. After the mailman passed by, praise your dog when they did not bark and give them the treat.
Techniques for Training with Distraction
- Start small
Start small if you want your dog to respond to your cues despite the distractions reliably. You can make a list of possible distractions for your dog then rank them. You can rate the mildest distraction 1 and the more serious distraction 5. You have to bear in mind that distractions are cumulative, and they can add up quickly.
When your dog doesn’t respond to your command in a new environment, you can lower your criteria temporarily. If you are working on, let’s say, name response in an unfamiliar environment, and your dog doesn’t respond when you call them, you can go back to let’s say, clicking for eye contact.
- Higher value of reinforcement
You have to use better stuff for you to successfully distract your dog. The reinforcement you use has to be more appealing and smell better than a dog’s behind. For instance, your dog won’t respond to a kibble, you can try a hamburger, steak, cheese, liver, or whatever they like best.
- Higher rate of reinforcement
One of the effective ways to keep your dog’s attention despite distractions if increasing the rate of reinforcement. This means lowering other criteria temporarily for correct responses. For example, you are teaching your dog polite leash walking, and they average around 20 paces in a low environment for a single reinforcement. When training your dog in a new environment, you can decrease your criteria to about 5 paces for a single reinforcement. In a situation where it’s more distracting, you might need to click ever step in the beginning, then you can slowly increase the criteria for distance depending on your dog’s success.
- Increase your speed
For instance, your dog loves a good jog or run. It would be much easier for you to keep your dog focused around distractions if you move past them swiftly. If you are teaching your dog to heel and they suddenly get distracted by a squirrel, you will have more success if you start moving together at a swift pace rather than walking slowly.
- Play your way through distractions
Several dogs find play to be a high-value reinforcer in the presence of distraction. If your dog loves to play, laying with them way past distractions will be more effective than increasing the value of food reinforcement.
- The Premack principle
It shows that a higher probability behavior is able to reinforce a lower probability behavior. Here’s an example for you to understand it better: Several parents use Premack unknowingly with their small children, saying, “If you eat your vegetables, you can have chocolates for dessert.” Eating dessert (higher probability behavior) is very desirable for the child, so they will eat their vegetables (lower probability behavior) first, so they can eat the dessert later. Premack is used in pretty much the same way in dog training.
5. Adequate Exercise
When your dog has excess energy, they will usually act out or misbehave, especially for hyperactive dogs. For instance, when your dog sees a passerby outside, barks and runs to the front door, they might want to be outside and use up their built-up energy.
A dog’s misbehavior could have nothing to do with a barking issue at all, rather having too much energy; that’s why they want to be outdoors, run, play, and exercise. Dogs with high energy need regular exercise until they are tired, for them to behave. So, instead of using shock collars to stop unwanted behavior, you can try to increase your dog’s daily exercise.
Fun Ways to Exercise with Your Dog
- You can run with your dog up and down the stairs. The stairs can be a great place to exercise your dog. The steps will add a challenge to your dog’s workout because it will engage different muscles than those used for regular walks. The change in elevation will add a level of difficulty.
- You can set up obstacle courses. You can look around the house for things that can be repurposed. For instance, you can use that old hula hoop for your dog to leap through or cushions to make a tunnel for them to navigate.
- Make your dog work for their treats. You can take your dog’s most favorite treats and hide them around the house. Your dog tracking down the treats will make them physically tired during the hunting process.
- Get your dog on the treadmill. If you have a treadmill at home, you can use it for your dog, as well. First, you have to allow your dog to be comfortable with the sound and sight of the treadmill. When they are already comfortable, place your pooch on the treadmill then give them a treat. Turn on the treadmill at its lowest speed, and just give your dog treats to keep them on the treadmill. You can use a leash as an aid, however, do not tie them to the treadmill. You can also stand in front of your dog, rewarding them with treats will make them feel comfortable. When your dog has already adjusted, you can slowly increase the speed for a more challenging workout.
- Play tug of war. Keep in mind that you need to have control over the power and instincts of your dog before engaging in this game. The game of tug of war can bring out the predator in them, which can be unhealthy if you do not have respect and trust to begin with.
- Run with your dog. Both of you can enjoy the outdoors, strengthen your muscles, and increase your stamina at the same time. If your dog wants to stop, then stop. Let them greet other dogs and other people.
- Enroll your dog in an agility class. This is excellent for dogs with high energy. Agility classes will also help develop your dog’s confidence and allow them to gain new skills.
- A simple game of fetch might be precisely what your dog needs for daily exercise. You can do it in the yard or in the nearby park. You can even play the game in the comfort of your home when it’s raining outside.
- Let your dog play with other dogs. When dogs get together to play, they are able to create their own game and exhaust their extra energy the way they desire.
- Exercise your dog’s brain, as well. You can find some fun, silly behavior you can teach them, such as bowing on command, high fiving and more.
6. Desensitization and Counter Conditioning
Desensitization is one of the excellent ways you can help your dog work through behavioral issues. This process involves exposing your dog to upsetting stimuli, which can cause them to act out. The exposure should be gradual and should also include plenty of treats and praises. This will help make them realize the positive connection with the stimuli and that can be eventually reinforced. Your dog’s repeated exposure to positive reinforcement ultimately modifies how they see a particular stimulus.
This method gets to the root of the problem rather than punishing the behavior with the use of shock collars.
Creating desensitization or counter conditioning program for your dog
- Go slowly
The program must be carried out in small steps that the behavior issue never happens during the program. This means that you have to identify all the stimuli that cause unwanted behavior. You should also find a way to lower the stimuli’s intensity until your dog does not react to them.
- Identify what is provoking your dog’s reaction
For instance, if your dog is scared of being picked up, you have to figure out precisely what they are afraid of. Is your dog more fearful of men than women? More scared of adults than children?
The common factors you should consider include loudness, location, distance, length of time near another animal or person, speed of movement, the response of another animal or person, and the body posture of the person or animal who causes aggression or fear.
- Arrange those characteristics from least to most likely to generate a negative response
The program needs to start by using a mixture of those stimuli that are least likely to create a fearful reaction.
- Start with characteristics that will be least likely to evoke the problem behavior
Start with the easiest mix of characteristics and work up to the most difficult gradually. Do not make all aspects more intense at once.
- Think of ways to make every characteristic less intense
If your dog is scared of the sound of a hairdryer, that sound should be presented to them at a low intensity that will not provoke the unwanted behavior. You can turn the hairdryer on and off swiftly before your dog shows fear. You can also cover the hairdryer with towels, or turn it on in another room.
- Pair each level of every characteristic with a positive consequence
Make your pet associate good and positive things with the circumstance rather than negative or bad things. Great choices are treats, toys, and social reinforcements such as attention, praise, and petting. If you use treats, they should be in small pieces and one that your dog really loves.
- Your dog should be able to clearly anticipate the reinforcement before you move on to the next level
The number of times you need to repeat each intensity level will completely depend on your dog. They should show that they are indeed expecting positive things to happen. Perhaps, your dog looks at you for a treat, looks around for their toy, or wait for you to pet them. Your dog’s current reactions should be contrasting to their previous reactions with the stimuli, such as tensing up, trembling, excessive barking, or aggressive responses.
- Progress slowly
The process will take time and must be done gradually. You have to think through every step you need to take. Instead of expecting your dog’s progress in bounds and leaps, notice the incremental, small changes more. It would also be helpful if you keep a record of the results because day to day changes won’t be very big.
Since using shock collars have negative implications in the world of dog training, you can use the methods above instead. You can also combine these methods to fit the needs of your dog. You just have to figure out what method suits you and your dog for you to successfully eliminate their unwanted behaviors. It will be a long and gruesome process, but it will be worth it in the end – you will have a well-behaved and well-balanced dog.