My Friend's Shock Collar Troubles
One of my friends contacted me about shock collars and I thought they were asking for tips about negative and positive reinforcement training. The next images she sent were somewhat horrifying, showing her dog having half of its neck skin swollen and furless with two ulcered wounds dripping with blood and pus. For a second, I thought she was going to blame me for it, but thankfully she was asking for help about what happened. The first thing that I said was to take the poor dog to the vet ASAP.
My use of an electronic collar had apparently reached my other friends and one of them bought one that, like Pet Resolve's, doubles as a bark collar. The training was rocky as they didn't know much about what do to, but they managed to stop some bad behaviors quickly. On day four, that horrible wound started to happen and they thought that the shock collar burned the skin and caused it to swell.
Concerned, I went with my friend to the vet because I wanted to see if I can get any kind of insight as it could happen to Maui, or another dog if I decide to own or train another one. On the ride there, I asked about the collar. I didn't recognize the brand but based on how much they spent, it might be one of the budget remote training collars. I wanted to raise that up. Devices like these are practically made the same way, the only difference is parts and certain processes like quality checks.
When I asked about the training, I then learned what they did horribly wrong. They watched a couple of videos about how to teach basic obedience commands, how to do negative reinforcement and some basics of shock collar training. What they didn't do was remove the training collar from the dog. The collar was on the poor dog for four days. It should only stay there for a maximum of 8 hours. 10 hours is stretching it.
I used the time to teach them a couple of things about safety, like using the lowest level of electric shocks, combing the hair on the neck, and all of the small minutiae I learned from using my electronic dog training collar. She wondered if she would use the shock collar again after that, as apparently, she bit off more than she could chew and her dog is paying for it. I replied that we need to hear what the vet has to say.
There weren't any patients when we arrived so the vet got to look at her dog as soon as we arrived. She explained the situation to the vet and the vet confirmed that these were not caused by burns, but are in fact, infected pressure ulcers. The vet explained that some owners who use a prong collar, pinch collar, or tight chains on their dogs get these same problems.
The prongs press on a small part of the skin too much, which causes it to lose circulation. Due to lack of blood, the cells in that area die off and create a hole where bacteria can enter and infect the skin around. This was why it's important to only keep the shock collar on for 8 hours with routine rotation. Not only will owners save the dogs from physical pain, but also a medical bill.
The vet sedated the poor dog and shaved the fur around the infected area. They cleaned the wound off as best they can and applied what I assumed was a topical antibiotic. They then prescribed her antibiotics for a week to keep the infection off and keep the wound dry and clean. They patched the wound up before confirming that we can take her home.
Considering the size of the swelling, the vet also warned us that her dog might be allergic to the prongs somehow.
On the way home, she asked me if my collar produces a painful shock. I told her about how I tried it on myself and only felt a somewhat intense prickly sensation. Since she had the collar with her she asked if I could test it. I agreed. After all, what's an electric shock between friends. I did make it clear that I don't want her to think that I'm some sort of masochist.
I had her first sanitize the prongs with some alcohol and tissue, then after drying them, I placed a finger on each prong and set the level to the lowest. I had her trigger the shock and it hurt. It was not like my shock collar at all. It was powerful and made my fingers bend reflexively. I explained that shock collars are supposed to be like abdominal energizers, just enough current to make the muscle twitch. I tried it again by placing it on my arm instead of my two fingers. The shock triggered and it was quite strong but something was amiss. She did not trigger the shock. I placed the collar again and made sure her fingers were nowhere near the remote. I could feel something mild, then another shock came, it was more powerful than the other one.
The receiver had an issue, a bad one. It was sending random shocks, sometimes strong, sometimes a trickle. We did some troubleshooting and turned the remote off while the collar was on my arm. It was still delivering nonstop shocks at random intensity levels, so it's not the remote's fault. I tried turning the device off, then on, like any good troubleshooting process, then placed it on my arm. I had to remind her that I was doing this to help, not because I'm a masochist. It was fixed for a while, then it started happening again.
We were not sure if the receiver was problematic before, but from the looks of it, she needs this replaced or better yet, refunded. She asked if we could go to my place and see how Maui is trained. She still wants to use the collar because her dog is a handful but she loves her dog too much.
Back at home, I showed her the electric shock collar I have and politely asked her to test it on herself. This is so she knows how a shock collar would feel. (Also for some odd justification of the physical pain I felt.) According to her, it hurt, but it could be because my skin was drier than hers. I explained that modern shock collars are usually expensive because they have optimized features like a weaker static shock on lower levels. Her shock collar had a range of 300 yards according to the website, but she comments that if she's in the house and her dog is out, the collar won't respond unless she places it close to the window. Nearly anything can dampen radio signal so getting a collar with higher ranges is always better.
I suggested letting her try a spray collar, the one that uses citronella. She immediately said no, as her mother doesn't like the smell.
I showed her how to use the remote collar on Maui. I had to give Maui some love afterward because she made some timing mistakes like pressing the shock even before she got his attention. She marveled at how quickly Maui responded to basic commands but I clarified that it took weeks of shock collar training to get him to do things in a snappy fashion. I also reiterated that static stimulation is not for punishing undesirable behaviors. It's only used for specific training methods, one of which is negative reinforcement and any other aversive methods out there that I'm not yet aware of.
It was clear that she needed to do a lot of homework before trying to fix her dog's behavior. Her dog is extremely territorial, jealous, noisy, and apparently a biter. Yep, aggression is the kind of behavior that should be stomped out fast. She tried using a muzzle on the dog, but it did everything it could to take it off, even resorting to whining nonstop.
She also needed a different electric collar or at least another product that could mitigate the strong shock once she has it replaced. I suggested silicon caps. Not only will it keep damages from pressure to a minimum and it would also weaken the stimulation, hopefully enough to lessen the pain.
The conversation went into animal rights and how a majority of people feel about using shock collars. I didn't want to take a stand but ultimately, I said that as long as one does great effort in taking care and responsibility for their pet, they can use a shock collar. I also added that any animal can feel pain differently. What's painful for us might just be annoying for them and vice versa. If electronic training collars are used responsibly and safely, it's no different than other aversive methods out there.