The Government has proposed a ban on electric shock collars which some people use to train dogs.
Many experts believe they do not have the desired results and are likely to cause pets distress and confusion.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines told The Guardian: “These cruel devices are used to train and control cats and dogs using pain and fear. Not only is this unacceptable but they are also unnecessary to achieve long-term behavioural change.”
It may take time and effort but the best way to train a dog is often through positive reinforcement.
Here are 9 alternatives to electric collars and things owners need to think about when training a pet.
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Using a clicker, you can teach your dog to associate the clicking with treats or praise.
Use the clicker, accompanied by a command, and offer a treat when your dog performs the desired action.
Once the association is created, you will be able to use the clicker to divert the dog’s attention from unwanted behaviour, as it will come rushing for a treat instead.
2. Reward behaviour with treats
This is the bread and butter of positive reinforcement. Experts believe that dogs respond much better, and learn quicker, through being rewarded for exhibiting desired behaviours than through being punished for misbehaving.
When training your dog, helping it understand the meaning of a command by demonstrating the desired behaviour, and rewarding it with a treat when you do so, can create a positive association between the activity and the pleasure of getting a treat.
3. Puppy obedience classes
The key to obedience training is to start in puppyhood. It is also key to go to a class led by an expert and attend classes with your puppy.
For older dogs, you will need to arm yourself with extra patience. Sometimes your puppy or adult dog might benefit from a private trainer.
Hiring a professional to help with your dog’s training can be extremely beneficial as expert trainers have a lot of experience with behavioural issues and are capable of uprooting the problem completely by identifying the causes for it and working towards resolving them.
Obedience classes are relatively accessible. It is easy to find a local trainer by searching online.
4. Distract barking
An effective way to stop undesirable barking is to provide a distraction that is way more interesting than the thing your dog is barking at/because of.
Entrancing them with a treat and waiting for the irritation to pass until you give it the treat is a much better way to reduce excessive barking than using a shock collar.
What many owners might consider bad behaviour could simply be a sign of unused energy and boredom. Common side effects of lack of enough daily exercise are excessive barking, destructive chewing, irritability and hyperactivity.
Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise will provide it with the opportunity to expend energy in a non-destructive way and maintain its physical and mental faculties.
6. Leaving TV on at home while you’re away
A lot of dogs exhibit destructive behaviour when they suffer from separation anxiety. Punishing a dog for chewing your furniture and wreaking havoc in your house when left alone for hours is not a productive method for dealing with the problem and might even exacerbate it.
Leaving the TV or the radio on might make your dog feel happier by alleviating its feelings of loneliness.
7. Safe space
Dogs often misbehave when they are anxious or scared. If you notice that something particular sets them off, you can teach them to use their crate as a safe haven from it.
The safety of a cosy den is also an effective way to help dogs cope with separation anxiety. Fill the crate with soft blankets and toys to make it comfy and inviting.
Remember, the crate is not a place for timeout but a way for your dog to self-sooth and should, therefore, be positioned in a social corner of the house, not an isolated one.
8. Clear rules everyone in your family follows
For positive reinforcement to work, everyone in the family needs to follow the same pattern of praise and treats. Together, agree on what behaviour should be praised and what not. Avoid sending mixed signals to your dog.
9. Fences and baby gates
Electric dog collars have been used to limit the space a dog can explore, by delivering a shock every time it ventures outside of the desired area.
A much kinder way to restrict your dog to a particular area is to use fences and baby gates.
That way, not only will it successfully be limited to that space, but it won’t have unwanted visitors such as the neighbour’s dog or your mischievous toddler.
Whichever method you choose to use, arming yourself with a lot of patience and compassion can be beneficial to both you and your dog.
Eschewing punishment and providing lots of praise and treats to encourage the desired behaviour will not only help your dog learn faster and easier but will also build trust and strengthen the bond between you two.