Easy high value training treats recipe. Highly customizable!

Recipe: Easy high value treats. Perfect for training. Customize your flavors.

There are no measured ingredients.

You’ll need your 
-flavor base(s), 
-one egg, 
-oil or water, 
-flour (with NO leavening agents!),
-Gelatin, optional (It helps the pieces keep their integrity and is a natural source of highly absorbable chondroitin), and
-Preservative, optional. I use potassium sorbate and ascorbic acid. You can use vinegar or lemon juice if you don’t have anything else on hand. 

I like to mix it all in a food processor with the chopper blade, not the mixing blade. You need to have everything very finely blended.

Flavor base: Use whatever your dog likes. Cheese and chicken. Tuna fish from a can. A can of dog food. Apples. Whatever. The stinkier for dogs and cats, the better. Must be moist. If using something from a can, include the oil or water. 

Add an egg. Size doesn’t matter. 

If you want chewy treats, add about a tablespoon of oil. If you want crispy treats, add about a tablespoon water or broth. If your flavor ingredients were dry, add more water or broth as needed. Now would be the time to add your preservative. Now stir so everything is broken up and ingredients mixed. 

Now you add flour. I usually use rice or potato flour, or tapioca starch. But you can use corn flour, oat flour, wheat flour, whatever. It’s your binder. You need it to help glue the flavor base together. Don’t use any flour that has leveners (baking soda, baking powder, yeast, etc.)! You don’t want this to rise or become spongey with air bubbles.

You should have added just enough flour so that when you stir the ingredients, you get a spreadable paste with a rich flavor base (should be mostly your flavor ingredient). The thinner your paste, the easier it is to spread it even. If you make it really thick, it’s probably easier to use a second parchment lined sheet and press your paste between the two cookie sheets.

Spread your paste THINLY onto a non-stick tray or parchment paper. Bake at 350 degree F until it starts to dry up a little. I.E. It shouldn’t stick to your finger if you press it. If it does, it’ll also stick to your pizza wheel cutter and you don’t want that. Put it back in the oven for a little longer if this is the case. DON’T turn off your oven but do take it out.

Now get a pizza wheel cutter and score it vertically and horizontally so that you’re making bite sized squares for training, or larger if you desire. A good training treat size to aim for is the size of your pinky nail.

Shove it back into your oven and cook until done (about 10-15 minutes) for soft and chewy, or longer for crispy. 

After it’s cooked, you can easily break it into the bite sized pieces that you’ve scored earlier, the baking will have helped separate the pieces. If you wait for it to cool, you can GENTLY rub the treats between your hands to break the pieces apart a lot faster. 

*Note* that your treats will be somewhat soft when piping hot from the oven but will firm up when cooled, but IF you made your treats too wet and they’re VERY soggy on one side, try flipping sections over CAREFULLY with a spatula and baking for a bit longer so dehydration takes place on the wet side.

I like to make different flavors and put them into the same bag in the fridge so that I have a trail mix. A variety is exciting.

Are pinch/prong collars magic?

pinch collar 3                                                  *

There’s a lot of information going around about training tools. Some factual, some less so. A lot of it is heavily steeped in emotion and bias. I suppose I would be lying if I didn’t make it clear that I’m biased myself, I don’t advocate tools that use pain, fear or intimidation to function. I don’t need them, and if a person is willing to learn, they won’t need them either. But that aside, I feel that it’s important to give factual, unbiased information so that consumers are armed with accurate information in order to make an informed training tool decision. If something uses pain to work, people should be aware. So where do pinch collars stand? How do they work, and why do they work?

You have several variations of the pinch collar. Most have thin prongs of uniform thickness, while a few have triangular projections, ending in a point. Most are metal, while a few are plastic. Most of these collars are martingales, which means that they’re looser at rest, but tighten when pulled on by the handler, or when the dog pulls against the leash and applies pressure. The correct placement is high on the neck, under the ears. In order to stay in proper placement, high on the neck (weakest, most vulnerable point), the collar must fit snug, so tight enough not to slide down, and then even tighter when the collar is being actively utilized.

When a correction (yanked on by the handler or the dog straining on the leash) is given, the collar tightens and the prongs dig in, the standard prongs (not the triangular projection type) also pinch together at the ends. If skin is caught, the skin is pinched between the prongs. Fur and hair isn’t a protection, the smooth metal prongs or smooth plastic triangles part all but the most matted fur/hair and make full on contact with skin.

Handlers often use the collars as positive punishment. This means the addition of a punitive stimulus. An example would be, if a dog is doing an undesired behavior, you’d yank on the collar in order to motivate the dog to decrease this behavior. You can also keep pressure on the collar until the dog gives into your directions. This would be negative reinforcement. This means the removal of the stimulus is reinforcing (rewarding). An example would be keeping the collar tight until the dog stops straining against the leash. The collar pressure being removed is nice by comparison.

You’ll hear a lot of arguments for and against pinch collars. They don’t hurt, it’s like a mother dog’s bite (correction) to a puppy, and so on.

The mother’s bite claim mentioned here is somewhat funny to me. You see, bitches use what’s called muzzle grabbing. You can read about it here. So to keep in line with the logic that the collar brings back old memories of being corrected by their mother when they were pups, the collars should be worn on the face for this to make any sense. Assuming an adult will actually make this leap in logic and memory. I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to remember much from when I was a baby.

The other mentioned argument for pinch collars is the claim that they don’t hurt. And that can be correct, they don’t always have to hurt in order to work. You can use a lower level of application if you first develop it as a conditioned punisher, by pairing non-painful levels of correction WITH painful levels of correction, to give the non-painful levels meaning. “A conditioned stimulus that signifies that an aversive is coming. Used to deter or interrupt behavior; if the behavior halts or changes, the aversive may be avoided. For example, a trainer that says “ack” to interrupt a behavior, or the warning beep of a shock collar when a dog gets too close to the boundary of an electric fence.” If you don’t first condition these non-painful levels as a punisher, then all but the most sensitive of dogs will easily ignore it because it’s not motivating enough to change behavior. An non-painful correction just isn’t inherently aversive to the vast majority of dogs. You have to make that level aversive. Else, why should the dog care and not just ignore it?

This doesn’t just go for pinch collars, it also applies to other punitive devices and collars. Your shock collars, choke/slip collars, head halters in some cases, some harnesses that act like a noose, and so on.

So yes, initially it must hurt to lend meaning to the non-painful levels. It doesn’t just end there though, you must repeat the pairing (conditioning), or up the ante and increase it, periodically in order to prevent or fix a punishment callous. This is when tolerance develops for the current level, and thus this level no longer serves to motivate behavior change in order to avoid it.

It’s a good idea to try the tool on yourself. While you’re not a dog, and you’re not likely to try it around your throat, although this would be the CLOSEST comparison to a dog’s experience and I DO recommend you get on the floor, put it on your throat and have someone correct you, trying it on your arm is an okay test if you keep some factors in mind.

1. The arm is significantly less sensitive than the throat. This is why most glucose meters have evolved to take blood from your arm now instead of your finger.

2,. The arm doesn’t have fragile structures, such as the hyoid apparatus, thyroid gland, vertebrae, etc.

3. Humans have thicker, less sensitive skin than dogs.

“Canine skin has several layers, including an outer epidermis that is constantly being replaced and an inner dermis that contains nerves and blood vessels. Canine skin is thinner and much more sensitive than human skin.” *

“The epidermis of a dog is 3-5 cells thick however in humans it is at least 10-15 cells thick.” *

4. You hopefully don’t have as much hair or fur on your arms as a dog has on their neck. But remember, the fur doesn’t really play a part as it gets parted by the points. The argument that fur somehow softens the effect is moot.

5. Most dog’s necks are lower than your hand. This means you have to deliver the correction to your arm at an upwards angle.

6. The collar MUST be fitted to your arm’s circumference! A collar much bigger than your arm won’t apply as much pressure as a collar that fits your arm. Your dog is more than likely wearing the appropriately sized collar fitted to his neck’s circumference, if not smaller to apply even more pressure, which will inflict an even greater degree of pain.

For the sake of getting photos, I did the pinch collar test on my arm today.

pinch 1

The first picture is immediately following varying levels of pressure, all of which I’ve observed used in training. From somewhat gentle to much harsher. And yes, at the levels of application that motivate, it does hurt.

pinch 2

 The second picture is several hours later.

After all, pinch collars aren’t magic. If they don’t hurt, and the lower levels don’t promise painful levels if not heeded, why should the dog care? Pinch collars utilize pain as their motivation factor. Pain doesn’t suddenly make the dog understand what you’re trying to teach him, better teaching does. Pain doesn’t solve behavior problems, pain just suppresses the outward signs.

Dogs are strongly associative learners. This means that they can associate what they’re experiencing, say the pain from a pinch collar, with what they happen to be near or even looking at. They lack our human logic and reasoning. For all they understand, yes, the pain did happen because they were near a child, dog, stranger, etc. Hello new or worse behavior problems. Professional trainers who utilize tools such as pinch collars will usually use the collar for this as well, in order to suppress the dog communicating their defensive fear towards whatever they think is causing them the pain.

All in all, not such a great tool after all, in my opinion. But what do you think?

Update! Nope, I still haven’t changed my stance on pinch collars. But I’ve been informed that there is a rare creature called the “Elusive Prong-Collar Loving Dog”.* This not often seen creature will actually jump for joy when the prong collar comes out because he just can’t wait to feel it around his neck! Well, why is it? Is he a masochist? Is he a glutton for pain?

Nope! This dog just can’t wait to go on walkies or whatever other activity the pinch collar signifies. While the pain from the pinch collar is indeed punitive, the enjoyment of getting to go for a walk trumps the unpleasantness of the collar. It’s why we can train animals to participate in their own health care. In your local zoo, the resident lion doesn’t enjoy getting stabbed with a needle for his blood draw, but he’ll willingly back onto it, because the juicy steak reward makes it worth his while.

* Photo credited to Judith Beam, who pulled an old collar out of storage for me. She does NOT actively use pinch collars!

*http://www.clickertraining.com/glossary

*http://www.merckmanuals.com/pethealth/dog_basics/description_and_physical_characteristics_of_dogs/description_and_physical_characteristics_of_dogs.html

*http://www.vetwest.com.au/pet-library/skin-the-difference-between-canine-and-human-skin

*http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/cryptozoology-101-hunt-elusive-prong-collar-loving-dog

“I only correct my dog when he knows what he’s supposed to do.”

“I only correct my dog when he knows what he’s supposed to do. Or when he knows he’s doing wrong.”

For clarity’s sake, a correction would be some kind of (at best) unpleasant action taken to enforce a behavior or stop a behavior.

It’s something I hear all too often. But unless your dog can actually tell you in words that he actually understands what you’re asking of him, don’t assume! Dogs aren’t humans and they lack our human logic and reasoning skills. They learn a lot like us, but they also differ in some key ways. They lack our morals too, by the way. The concept of “right” and “wrong” is a human concept, largely determined by society. To hold a dog to our belief that they grasp that concept would be anthropomorphic.

There are a LOT of reasons for non-compliance that a correction won’t even begin to address.

And if the choice to comply wasn’t conditioned to be reinforcing enough, that is trainer error too. A positive reinforcer is a tool, and any tool needs to be utilized correctly.

Unless you know better, it’s too easy to hold animals to a human standard of doing things. But they’re not humans. We need to remember that.

Many a trainer who advocates and uses corrections will tell you that the dog “knew better” and the correction was justified. But there’s something many of these trainers have in common; a willful lack of an education in their field.

Some trainers feel that experience alone should be enough. I’ll share a secret with you, sometimes I make the same clueless mistakes over and over again, until I learn different. With experience alone, there’s nothing to prevent this from occurring. And at your dog’s expense.

It’s widely accepted by most people that an education is beneficial to your efforts. Because, scientia potentia est! Knowledge is power! It’s the lack of ignorance. What is a professional in the field of animal behavior doing without an education in their specialty anyways? Without knowing the science and theory behind behavior, the why’s, the how’s, and the what’s behind what’s occurring, more mistakes that could easily have been avoided can be made at your pet’s expense, as well as your own.

Here’s an example:

Trainer A. puts Spike through his obedience paces. First they work on downs, then sits, then leaving cats alone. The session soon goes downhill. Spike started off well enough, but he was never taught duration for the down and sit behavior, nor was he taught these behaviors in different settings and situations before taking it on the road. Spike gets confused and makes a lot of mistakes. Also, Spike is started at a proximity to cats where he’s not in control of himself, and it takes many corrections to get him to stop trying to go for the cat.  This session didn’t set Spike up for success, in my opinion, it was a failure.

Trainer B. puts Sophie through her obedience paces. First they work on leaving cats alone. Sophie is started at a proximity where she notices the cat but is still easily in control of herself. She gets moved progressively closer as she accomplishes self control at each progression. Then they take a break. Then they work on downs, Sophia is taught duration, and is taught the behavior in many different settings and situations. Then a short break. Then they work on sits, and the same goes as it did for learning downs. The session started out well and ended well. Progress never flagged. This session set Sophie up for success, in my opinion. This session was a success.

Why was there such a glaring difference between these two scenarios? Trainer B. has experience AS WELL as an education and can apply her learned knowledge to her training. Trainer B. knows that the research strongly suggests that humans, as well as dogs, have limited amounts of self control that must A. Be well rewarded and B. Allowed time to recharge. Trainer B. also knows that in order for Sophia to succeed, she must be working at a level where this is easily possible before progressing onwards. You don’t learn to run before you learn to walk. Trainer B. is aware of thresholds, a neutral or near neutral level of exposure to a stimuli that can be tolerated. And further more, Trainer B. also knows that dogs need to have criteria (the different components of a behavior like degree of difficult, duration, distance, amount of reinforcement, and so on) split, and they also need the behaviors generalized to different settings and situations. Dog generally do not generalize behaviors well. This needs to be taught.

I’m not a nurse. I don’t have an education in health care. Nurses have the expertise that I lack. That’s what I’m paying a health care professional for! I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to shell out my hard earned money for a professional, I want my money’s worth! I would want a dog trainer who would understand what went wrong, if it happens to occur, and was able to set my dog up for success in order to constructively address the actual cause behind the failure. The goal shouldn’t be to set the dog up for failure when you train. In fact, the goal we should be striving for is called errorless learning. Why practice unnecessary mistakes that we can easily avoid? But just as dogs are dogs, humans are humans, and therefore, we’re not always exempt from mistakes, no matter how careful we may be.

Let’s explore why it’s not safe to just assume that your dog “knew better”. Please take a moment to view some video examples that explore the possibilities behind your dog not complying with what you’ve asked of him, or otherwise behaving in an undesired way. And then ask yourself, would issuing a correction have been beneficial, or even relevant for that matter? How might you have instead addressed the learning deficit?

Elieenanddogs presents a series of four videos where a dog misses cues (traditionally known as commands).

This dog is uncomfortable and fearful of the grooming process. He doesn’t understand that grooming is necessary for his hygiene. He is put over threshold (how much of the stimulus he can handle without reacting) and then is corrected in order to try to control him. Mr. Millan grabs the dog’s head to stop the behavior, but the dog won’t stop biting at the brush so he has to resort to putting a muzzle on, because he can’t figure out how else to get the grooming done.

You can fast forward to 10:10 to see this in action.

The corrections don’t change the dog’s fear for the better, it will only compound the dog’s dear. This can either cause the dog to shut down, or continue fighting. Shutting down  is not “calm”, as Cesar Millan often claims on his shows.

Dr. Sophia Yin, a board certified Veterinary Behaviorist, shows a dog with a similar problem, yet Dr. Yin shows how a qualified behavior professional might handle the situation. She pairs what the dog finds unpleasant (grooming), with something that the dog really enjoys (food). The dog is shown over threshold at the beginning for demonstration purposes (most people wouldn’t believe the dog fights grooming unless seen with their own eyes), but as you can see with the counter conditioning procedure, the dog is kept under threshold so that he doesn’t need to be corrected in order to keep him under control.

She enables the dog to become familiar with being brushed and also conditions a positive emotional response to it via what’s known as desensitization and counter conditioning.

In case you’re wondering, Dr. Yin is not rewarding the dog for being fearful. There is a science behind behavior, and those who have studied it will know how to handle situations in a constructive and relevant way.

Here Dr. Yin has a video and an explanation on why counter conditioning doesn’t reward fear.

http://drsophiayin.com/resources/video_full/counter-conditioning_a_dog_to_blowing_in_face

There are many, many reasons why a dog may not do what you ask. Your dog may not be ready for practicing recall in a high distraction environment if you haven’t built up to it. This is called lumping criteria. Your dog may not sit without a treat if you’ve used food incorrectly and turned it into a bribe. Your dog may have forgotten some of their skills through lack of practice. These examples, and the examples shown in this blog, are just a few of the many reasons why a dog may fail to do as expected.

Here is a perfect example of a trainer assuming that a dog “is very sniffy” and just isn’t paying attention. So he corrects the dog for this behavior.

What this trainer doesn’t seem to know is that excessive ground sniffing is a displacement behavior! A displacement behavior is brought on by stress, designed to appease the other individual and direct their attention else where. This dog wants to show that he’s busy minding his own business by sniffing the ground and doesn’t want any trouble and isn’t a threat to anybody. However, the dog isn’t even allowed to communicate his stress. He’s punished for it.

You can be sure this is stress by looking at the rest of the dog’s body language. His ears are held low and far back on his head, his head is lowered, he’s walking in a semi-crouch to appear as small as possible, his tail is semi-tucked, and his eyes are very squinty.

You may be able to suppress the ground sniffing by correcting the dog for it, but you do nothing, except to often compound the emotional state, that’s causing the behavior. What good does this do? At best, the dog just gives in and continues to be stressed. At worst, the dog’s stress builds until he reaches a breaking point and puts those sharp teeth to use.

Note that I don’t think that this trainer is malicious, I just don’t think that he’s armed with the pertinent information to know what is going on behind the motions.

Just putting a dog through the motions, without understanding what’s underneath, is more like puppeteering than actual teaching. But we’re dog trainers, not puppeteers. We’re being hired to teach your animals.

A behavior professional who is both educated and experienced will be armed with the pertinent knowledge needed and will be less likely to blame and punish the dog when they’re not at fault.

However, while a dog might very well know better, the likelihood that that’s the case, in my professional opinion, is very small and the dog more than likely hasn’t been set up for success in the way that he’s been taught. But we can change that. Instead of using corrections that doesn’t really address the underlying issue and serve any real purpose, we can train better and set up dogs up for a higher rate of success.

Do You Have Any Business Punishing a Dog?

Those who can teach, do. Those who can’t, punish.

Fearfuldogs' Blog

cocker spaniel sitting in a garden facing a wallHow would you justify going to a surgeon who claimed to be really good at cutting out tumors but had flunked out of classes on physiology and biology? Maybe some of their patients survived the surgery and went on to live full lives without a tumor, but what about the others? What about that nerve bundle that the surgeon nicked because they didn’t realize how important it was to walking? Or that the tests ordered prior to surgery were read incorrectly and the wrong blood type was requested? If someone was desperate and grasping at straws I could understand how they might use this surgeon. But how does that surgeon explain putting themselves out there as a professional?

At a seminar I was attending a young trainer described how she explains to potential clients how she trains dogs. It was along the lines of; All dogs are different and I…

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8 Common Dog Training Errors: Cautionary Tales

Better to own up to your “mistakes” and become a better trainer for it, than to blame and punish the dog and learn nothing.

eileenanddogs

As the great trainer Bob Bailey says, training is simple but not easy. The principles are very simple and straightforward, but actually applying them in practice can be very difficult.

I’ve mentioned many times that I am not a professional trainer. But I hang out with some phenomenal ones. Plus, I am a student of life and tend to do lots of observation of myself and others. (What, you had noticed?)  And I don’t mind sharing my own errors if it can help somebody along.

Here are eight of the top booboos in dog training. All of which I have done myself, and many of them on camera! (And guess what, I have 15-20 more! You can expect more posts on this if people enjoy this one.)

And by the way, these are errors made by trainers who are using the most humane methods they know and can learn. The…

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Seeing Stress Means Feeling Stress

More on why coercion in animal training just doesn’t make for a highly conductive learning experience.

Science and Dogs

Cover - Seeing Stress S0006322311X00471_cov200h

Humans don’t have to directly experience trauma to be deeply affected; seeing someone else go through a distressing event can often be equally stressful. The vicarious experience is often sufficiently stressful to produce negative long-term effects resulting in PTSD, depression and other mood disorders.  For humans, seeing stress is often the same as feeling stress.

To study the biological basis of vicariously acquired stress disorders in humans we need a good animal model but our models are based on physical stress. The first question then becomes, is there an analogous response to vicarious stress in animals. To answer the question researchers subjected a group of mice to the physical stress of social defeat while another group witnessed it.

One group of mice were put in the same cage with a larger (40g vs 28g) aggressive mouse (CD-1) and the smaller mouse was subjected to physical stress (PS) via social…

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Cheap DIY pet toy and enrichment ideas

When you think about it, life for most pets can be pretty boring. They kind of just hang out at home all day, not having much to do. So this is why toys are great to entertain them, the more the better! You can always provide an assortment, while putting away extras so you can keep up a rotation so that when the current toys are put away and the others come out, they’re novel and exciting in your pet’s eyes! The good news is that you can make many of your pet’s toys for cheap.

And sure, toys are fun but what if I told you that you could cheaply combine toys and food so your pet can play with his food?! Instead of food being served in a boring dish and getting gobbled down or picked at, your pet can forage for his food. He can learn to focus, practice impulse control, and use his noggin to figure out how to get at the food. I’m sure you’ve heard that a tired dog is a good dog. That’s not entirely true. A dog that’s tired, BOTH mentally and physically is a good dog. But this applies to any pet, dog or not!

While it may feel odd at first, not just handing over food in a dish and instead having your pet forage for their meals, you can rest assured that animals in the wild spend the vast majority of their time on their quest to obtain food. There’s no one there to serve dinner in a dish. If they want to eat, they have to work for it. And for some species more than others, it can take up to 90% of their waking day. This is a whole lot of enrichment. These animals aren’t bored if they’re focused on finding food. While many of our pets are domesticated, trust me, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to show their wild side and work for their meals.

In this blog, I’ll be posting instructions for cheap, DIY pet toys and enrichment ideas. Some toys involve food, others don’t. Please supervise your pet with any toy as there’s always going to be an individual who will find any way to get into trouble. I do not assume responsibility for your pet’s well being as a result of trying these ideas. I had to write it, although these ideas are meant to be safe!

Gourd Toothbrusher:

This toy is great for scrubbing your pet’s teeth, or if you have a parrot, it’s just lots of fun to shred and tear.

1. Take an untreated, UNCUT, natural loofah (also spelled loofah or luffa) gourd. You can grow your own or buy these from various places really cheap. If the gourd still has it’s shell on, let it dry a bit and then flake it off so you only have the spongy, mesh “skeleton” left. Then let it dry completely.

2. Look at an end of your gourd and you’ll see channels where the seeds are located. Using your finger, clear a passage to about your finger’s width to the channels. ONLY do this one one side. There should be three or four channels, depending on your gourd.

3. Stuff these channels with treats that really get your pet going. Using your finger, make sure they’re jammed down in the channels so they don’t just shake loose. You can also try making slits in the outside of the gourd with a sharp knife or scissor (be careful) and insert more treats.

4. Give it to your pet and enjoy. While your pet rips into the gourd to get the treats, the mesh scrubs their teeth and the gourd has a satisfying crunch. This is a fruit and your pet should be able to pass small bits of the mesh if consumed. If your pet thinks the gourd it’s self is for eating, not tearing apart, trade your pet for it so you can safely take it away. By trade, I mean offer something better or of equal value in trade so your pet doesn’t feel like he’s losing out.

Angel really mangled her gourd a bit later trying to get to pieces of low fat string cheese.

Image

Can you think of more gourd-errific (sorry, I promise to stop using words like these) ideas? You can string a whole gourd on a rope for an awesome, teeth cleaning tug toy, cut the gourd into slices and string them on pet safe rope, you can flatten them and shape them, tear it up and scatter it over a bowl of food for your pet to dig through, you can dye them with food safe coloring (but be careful because of staining floors, clothes and furniture). The ideas are endless and the gourds are easy to grow in your garden: In full sun, insert seeds like a penny about 1/2″ deep in soil, water well until the first true set of leaves appear.

Pit Falls of Electric Dog Fences

Something for pet owners to keep in mind when considering the options for containment for dogs are the pit falls of electric fencing. These pit falls should be carefully considered and weighed against the pros and cons of other containment options, which include (either alone or used in combination, especially for escape prone dogs):

  • Positive reinforcement boundary training, which I highly recommend. Contact me for a consult if interested in training this. (Supervised use only, please.)
  • Tie out lines (I recommend that these are attached to a back attach harness to prevent any potential neck trauma). Also a good idea to use only when supervised.
  • Real fences (green chain link virtually disappears against the green background of your lawn).
  • Runs or exercise pens.
  • Keeping your dog leashed for outside access (hey, it’s what people who live in big cities do so it IS possible).

Dogs get out quite frequently from their electric fences, animal control picks up dogs still wearing their collars all the time. They can develop a punishment callous (the dog gets used to the current degree of punitive stimuli, the electric shock, and requires increasing strengths of the stimuli to maintain motivation for the behavior) to the shock and choose to go through the line at any time, for any reason. Or without punishment callous, they can just all of a sudden decide that what’s on the other side is more rewarding this time than the shock is punishing. Often times, they then won’t go back because of the shock awaiting them for crossing back over. Then obviously, there are the perils awaiting them off their property, cars, rat poison, wildlife, etc.

Even if the dog stays on their property and respects the line, it doesn’t protect them from outsiders coming into their yard.
Dogs are associative learners and can frequently develop dog or child or stranger aggression when they associate the shock from the fence with whatever they’re near or even just looking at. Dogs aren’t human and lack our human logic and reasoning skills.
Receiving electric shocks, even if just once, can create generalized anxiety in some dogs, or anxiety just when the dog is put outdoors and this can lead to nuisance barking or house soiling if they no longer feel safe relieving themselves outside. Many dogs feel vulnerable going to the bathroom.Sometimes, depending on the company hired or even how the dog’s owner does it, training can be traumatic, consisting of dragging the dog over the line repeatedly to shock them in order to teach them not to cross it.

After considering all the pit falls involved, you may just find that electric fencing isn’t such a worthwhile option after all.

I highly recommend that you read http://www.squidoo.com/invisible-fencing and also
Leah Robert’s compilation entitled Shock Collars/Invisible Fences, and just about anything else on her page in general. 
http://dogwilling.weebly.com/articles—alphadominance-theory-and-other-training-myths.html

Points of consideration regarding shock collars

Click to access The%20Shocking%20Truth.pdf

This is worth a look. It may be tricky to wade through the all the slick marketing that some trainers and manufacturers apply in order to pull the wool over dog owners’ eyes. But the fact of the matter is that it’s really rather simple if you can look beyond their sly tactics.

Shock collars deliver an electric shock to your dog. Your dog must find this significantly aversive in order for it to effect their behavior.  Otherwise, it would implement no motivation for the dog to alter their behavior. Although, sometimes a system is used where a lesser shock is conditioned as a warning system indicating an impeding stronger shock if the dog continues to fail to comply. But this is initially achieved by pairing the weaker shock with a stronger shock. An interesting factoid here is there’s a study in which researchers used electric shock collars on low settings to simulate arthritis pain, which is just a lovely kind of sensation, isn’t it? *

Some trainers go so far as to use multiple shock collars placed on multiple points on the dog’s body. The high throat and soft under-belly are favorite targets as both are quite sensitive areas. Some people will argue that the dog’s fur or hair protects the dog from the worse of it. This isn’t true. Some also argue that dog’s thick skin protects the dog from the brunt of it but this also just isn’t true if you look at the science of the matter.

Shock collar electrodes are two metal points, more narrow at the ends than at the base. They part the hair or fur in order to make direct contact with bare skin. Hair/fur offers the dog no protection from the stimuli and at times, injuries can develop on the skin due to irritation from metal on skin. This holds particularly true for collars that are worn for extended periods of time, like electric shock fence collars.

It’s a point of fact that dogs actually have thinner, more sensitive skin than humans.

“Canine skin has several layers, including an outer epidermis that is constantly being replaced and an inner dermis that contains nerves and blood vessels. Canine skin is thinner and much more sensitive than human skin.” *

“The epidermis of a dog is 3-5 cells thick however in humans it is at least 10-15 cells thick.” *

Electric shock collars are used in two ways:
The first way is positive punishment. Positive denotes the addition of a stimulus and punishment denotes the decrease of a behavior. So this would be the addition of a shock in order to decrease a behavior. An example: A dog barks and is shocked in order to decrease barking.

The second way would be negative reinforcement. Negative denotes the removal of a stimulus and reinforcement means the increase of a behavior. So the removal of prolonged shock (holding down the button to provide duration of shock) in order to increase a behavior. An example: Shocking a dog until they sit down. (Yes, the dog is often shocked until they chance upon the correct response.)

Some claim that there’s a third way but this is misleading and in my opinion, rather cruel. They claim that it can be used as a marker (a signal to denote that the desired behavior has been performed, to mark that specific behavior). Some even claim that this can serve as a “reward” to the dog.

This is accomplished by giving the dog only two choices. A weak shock for compliance, or a stronger shock for disobedience. Not much of a choice, is it? This is done mostly to try to convince people that electric shock doesn’t have to be perceived as an aversive stimuli. Again, this isn’t giving the dog much of a choice. Which would you prefer to get for the correct decision? Personally, I’d go with what hurts less. Or better yet, no electric shock at all.

Now that you know how it’s applied, let’s look at why it’s really not all that great.

Your dog has a behavior problem. Let’s say he growls at other dogs. You can shock him for this aggression but that doesn’t address why he feels the need to be aggressive towards other dogs. It doesn’t treat the cause for the aggression. The cause is merely swept under the rug while the symptoms of the underlying problem are being suppressed. Not cured, but suppressed. And for who knows how long? The reason why your dog was acting this way is still very much present and unresolved. It’s slapping a bandaid on a problem. It also doesn’t tell the dog what you want them to do instead. Wouldn’t teaching the dog an appropriate way to cope be immensely helpful? Why would you pay a professional trainer to do a half-asked job?

Not only does it not resolve the underlying issue, but dogs are associative learners. They lack our human reasoning and logic. They don’t understand how shock collars work. Your dog could very well associate the electric shocks with other dogs (or whatever else he may be near or looking at, perhaps children? Yes, it happens often) and this can serve to compound the issue or add on an entirely new issue. The fact is that most aggression is caused by fear and insecurity. Some trainers attempt to tie up these loose ends by implementing an even stronger shock to suppress the outward signs of this problem as well. What must it be like to be in your dog’s shoes? All behavioral problems have a cause that need to be addressed in order to be effectively treated.

What if your dog’s undesired behavior is due to a health problem? Will electric shock fix a slipped vertebrae? Will it balance a dog’s thyroid? Will it correct a dog’s brain chemistry? No, but you may succeed in teaching your dog that it’s not safe to let you know when they don’t feel well. Do you want your dog to hide signs of illness?

Does electric shock make a person a better teacher? If you don’t teach a dog how to perform a behavior in a way that they can understand, will shocking them clear up their confusion? Might the added stress just add to their confusion? What’s more is that shock collars will sometimes misfire, causing even more confusion. * Even the most expensive and most recommended shock collar models are known to do this. Further more, often the pain from the shock is enduring, lasting even after the dog has effected a behavior change. The punishment lasts even if the misbehavior does not. If a dog is set up for failure, will electric shock increase their odds of success? Perhaps, but why would one set a dog up to fail and then punish the dog for the human’s poor training? Why not just train better?

Does electric shock ensure safety? No, it really doesn’t. A dog can always choose to put up with the shock if the behavior they’d prefer to perform (like leaving the yard) is more reinforcing than the shock is punishing. Dogs escape their electric fences every day and are picked up by animal control, still wearing their collars. That is, if they survive traffic and other perils of running loose. Is a life worth this gamble?

Electric shock collars might be advertised as quick, easy and effective but when you delve deeper into their application and use, they’re really not the answer to anything that a health check, management and better training couldn’t accomplish without fear and pain to your dog.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j858BbGL2RI&feature=youtu.be
http://www.merckmanuals.com/pethealth/dog_basics/description_and_physical_characteristics_of_dogs/description_and_physical_characteristics_of_dogs.html
http://www.vetwest.com.au/pet-library/skin-the-difference-between-canine-and-human-skin
http://barksfromtheguild.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/two-shock-collar-experiments-carried-out-on-people-not-dogs/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B6KHpvC-Ww