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How a Shock Collar Changed My Relationship with My Dog

I’m not going to sugarcoat any of this. You should consider using a shock collar to train your dog only if you’ve reached the limits of positive reinforcement, and even then only after enlisting the help and expertise of a professional trainer or veterinarian. But if your dog has a persistent behavior that is limiting its ability to lead a happy, full life, then you may find that a shock collar can help. 

My wife and I adopted Teddy a year and a half ago from a little rescue organization in northeast Montana. She was five months old and had lived a hard life. The rescuer thought she was a Great Pyrenees–German shepherd mix. It took us a solid year of consistency, patience, and unconditional love to get her to feel comfortable in our family. Watching all that hard work pay off as Teddy blossomed into the sweetest dog we’ve ever owned was totally worth it. 

But it turns out that Teddy is not a Great Pyrenees mix. She’s a purebred Anatolion shepherd. Anatolians are a livestock guardian breed that originated in Turkey and are known for their athleticism and fiercely protective, loving nature. There’s a famous photo—well, famous among Anatolian enthusiasts—of a sheep licking the wounds of one that’s covered in blood after defending its herd from a pack of wolves. Teddy’s not the worst dog to end up owning in a part of the world known for its large predators. But there’s probably one thing you’d want to know about an Anatolian before adopting one: they are to barking what an Arabian Stallion is to running. 


I think it was about the time that the mayor of our little town threatened to call the cops on us that we realized we had a problem. That was about a year ago, and we’ve since invested a lot of time in trying to redirect Teddy’s attention to other, more positive things when she starts barking. And that worked; there’s a noticeable difference in how often and how persistent Teddy will bark now. Compared to last year, it’s dropped probably 20 percent. 

But while reducing an Anatolian shepherd’s barking by 20 percent may be a huge accomplishment from an owner’s perspective, the result is still a lot of barking. And that threatened to derail our ability to include Teddy in our life. For our wedding, we went to great lengths to find a dog-friendly location and then planned a 5,000-mile drive there and back, staying in dog-friendly hotels and camping along the way so we could bring all three dogs along. At hotels, we’re obviously careful to never leave the dogs unattended in the room, but we still feared we’d be bad guests if Teddy made too much noise. To bring her along, we had to find a way to not just reduce but totally stop her barking, at least for a night or two at a time. 

While we were trying to figure that out, our friend Ty flew in to visit for the weekend. It was winter, so a lot of the far-flung hiking trails weren’t accessible, but I still wanted to show Ty a part of Montana he’d never seen. We ended up taking the dogs to a trail I’d never hiked before. It was overcrowded, and it did not go well. 

Teddy used to ignore other dogs on hikes, but as she’s grown in confidence, she’s also started to realize that she can make friends outside of our immediate family. That happened slowly, first with human houseguests, and then with dogs we’d meet at the dog park. But even as she’s learned about the possibility of friends, Teddy hasn’t necessarily learned about dog politics. Not every dog is friendly, not every dog wants to play, and not every dog or dog owner understands that a fierce-looking, intently focused, 115-pound Anatolian shepherd bounding up to them at full speed is really just excited to lick them on the face. 


Ty watched at least five different people scream at me on that hike and then told me to get a shock collar. He had to invest in one a few years ago after wildlife officers almost shot his Karelian bear dog when Sansho chased a baby bighorn sheep up a cliff and was closing in for a kill. I told Ty I was afraid of ruining Teddy’s sweet demeanor with harsh correction techniques, but he was insistent that the outright need to use the collar was very infrequent, because it delivered training results almost immediately. He bent my ear about it the entire way home, so I bought a $250 Garmin Sport Pro training system

The Sport Pro includes a collar-mounted training device with automatic bark-correction capability and a handheld controller with a 3/4-mile range. In automatic mode, the collar detects barking and will initially warn the dog with a vibration before starting at the lowest shock level, then progressing upward if the barking continues or intensifies. The handheld controller allows you to apply that correction manually, giving you both vibration and beep cues, as well as ten selectable levels of shock to choose from. It can control up to three collars, and the batteries in both the collar and handheld last up to 60 hours. 

Does shocking your dog cause pain? I tried it on myself first: in the lower settings, it starts as an unpleasant tingle before ramping up into something that causes a muscle spasm in the highest setting. I was holding the shock collar in my hand, and at that highest level, the shock spasmed my entire forearm and hand, causing me to drop the device involuntarily. It’s certainly not a pleasant feeling, but it’s momentary and not so much painful as it is intense. 

Still, it’s not an experience I want to give to my dogs more often than necessary. Fortunately, it does appear that Ty was right: you don’t need to use it much at all. 

After a couple days of trial and error figuring out where the device’s prongs needed to be located on Teddy’s throat to detect barks and how tight the collar needed to be for those prongs to penetrate her thick coat, I got to watch the automatic bark correction in action. During an evening walk, Teddy barked loudly at a passing dog on the other side of the street, then immediately let out a short whimper. She barked again, whimpered again, then made it through the rest of the walk with no further sound. It didn’t otherwise alter her behavior at all; she displayed no fear, wasn’t any less curious about smells or sounds, and acted like the same vibrant, happy dog we love. She’d just stopped barking. 

Importantly, the collar does not seem to have discouraged Teddy from barking in circumstances that genuinely merit it. We don’t want to deny her nature, nor do we want to stop her from being a good guard dog. Even though it has curbed her overall instinct to bark—even when she’s not wearing the collar—she will still enthusiastically roar at anything she perceives as a threat. We’ve never been safer from the cottontail that lives under our deck.


I also wanted to use the device to stop her from focusing on other dogs so much while hiking. If I called her off, I needed her to listen. So, on hikes where other people were present, I started by keeping her on the leash. If we passed another dog and Teddy focused on it too much, I’d call her to try to refocus her attention on me. If she didn’t comply, I’d shock her at level four (of ten), which is her threshold for responding to the stimulus. On a leashed hike where I called her, she didn’t respond, and I shocked her; she listened the rest of the time, with otherwise unaltered behavior. 

Garmin instructs users of the Sport Pro to determine their dog’s sensitivity to the shock with an initial trial. Fit the collar correctly and begin applying brief shocks starting at level one, then work your way up until it elicits a response from the dog. Teddy’s response is to whimper; there’s no flinching or cowering. Once you find that level, there’s never any need to apply a stronger shock; you’ve found your dog’s training threshold. The point at which your dog responds to the stimulus is all it needs to learn from it. Testing level four on myself feels like only a moderate tingle. 

After those first on-leash hikes with the training device, I’ve begun to allow Teddy off-leash again while wearing the collar. If she spots another dog and runs toward it without listening to me call her off, I’ll shock her. She never fails to respond to that but hasn’t yet progressed to the point where the issue is totally cured off-leash in absence of the shocks. It’s a big improvement regardless and something I have no doubt will prove effective with more time and consistency.  

Is this cruel? I’d instead call it effective. Training with the shock collar, even for a very brief time, ensured that we were able to successfully bring Teddy along on that monthlong trip to southern Baja and back. She didn’t bark in a hotel room once, and all the rest of our positive-reinforcement training meant that she was reliable in all her other behaviors. Even off-leash around other guests at a fancy hotel. 


We didn’t get to that remarkable level of reliability through shock training alone, of course, but rather trough a never-ending program of positive reinforcement and deliberate, scaled socialization. I employ the shock collar only for the two behaviors described here and ultimately have to apply remarkably few shocks. Right now, as we continue to work on Teddy’s focus toward other dogs, I’d say I’m shocking her maybe once every two weeks. And simply wearing the collar is enough to entirely prevent her from barking. Teddy has learned that she shouldn’t bark when it’s on, so she isn’t receiving corrections in that circumstance, either. 

Even if Teddy experiences pain from the shocks in a way that testing the collar on myself did not reveal—an unlikely but worst-case scenario that is worth considering—then the return on those very few momentary instances of pain has still been enormous. She’s living a happier, more fulfilled life where she’s included and trusted throughout our travel and experiences. Heck, she got to live at that fancy hotel for ten days, off-leash, being fed and pampered by her new best friends: the hotel staff. And who knows? Maybe our mayor will even stop threatening to call the cops on her. 


Is a shock collar right for your dog? That’s a decision I’d encourage you to make carefully with the help of a professional trainer. And if you do decide to use one, make sure you identify the express circumstances in which its use can fit into your overall training program. That program should still be built around positive reinforcement, even if a shock collar may help you resolve a specific, particularly challenging and important problem. 

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The Science of Staying Safe

COVID-19 is all over in the United States, however the alarm over the infection isn’’ t similarly dispersed. The San Francisco Bay Area remains in its 3rd week of shelter-in-place guidelines, California and New York remain in their 2nd (though New York chooses to call their guidelines ““ NYS On Pause. ” As of Monday 31 states had actually revealed simialar guidelines, and the scenario keeps altering .

Not much in this nation’’ s approach to COVID-19 corresponds. Some schools are closed till April; some are closed up until May; some are still open. Analyses of what ““ social distancing ” may mean differ extensively. For the last couple of weeks, whenever I’’ ve checked out the supermarket there have actually been brand-new preventative measures: now just a little number of consumers are enabled within, individuals line up outdoors 6 feet apart, and every shopping cart is sprayed with sanitizer and cleaned down prior to it’’ s passed to the next individual. Other shops in the community do no such thing. Recently, cycling down the street, I saw 2 pedestrians edge around each other on the walkway, cautious to keep the WHO-recommended 6 feet of range, just to be hit by a number of sweaty joggers, who appeared uninformed that there was even a pandemic going on.

This is a worried state to be in, however in the lack of a meaningful nationwide policy (or perhaps meaningful social standards) what we do have is science, even if much of it is still an operate in development. Here’’ s what the researchers are informing us about alleviating these brand-new dangers we’’ re all dealing with.

Masks can’’ t secure you totally, however even the low-cost kind will most likely safeguard you (and individuals around you) more than no mask at all

Scientific agreement is, significantly, opposing the recommendations provided by the U.S. Surgeon General, the CDC, and WHO, all of which recommended that individuals must just use masks in public if they feel moderate cold or influenza signs. ““ Seriously individuals,” ” composed Jerome M. Adams , the Surgeon General, on Twitter, on the last day of February. “ STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT efficient in avoiding public from capturing #Coronavirus , however if doctor can ’ t get them to take care of ill clients, it puts them and our neighborhoods at’threat! ”


This was horrible guidance, and might have backfired and triggered individuals to hoard masks , particularly because Adams didn ’ t trouble to compare routine masks and the N95 masks that were currently in frantically brief supply. Even really low-tech face masks offer more defense than no mask at all, as long as individuals take care to prevent touching them and moving the infection or germs to the mask itself. While there are lots of elements affecting these numbers, up until now in the COVID-19 pandemic, nations where mask-wearing in public areas is commonly practiced have actually revealed lower infection rates.


The factor for this, which is too dreadful to ever be unlearned as soon as you have actually discovered it, is that an unexpected quantity of being a living, breathing human being includes breathing in other individuals ’ s spit fog. Under the majority of situations, it ’ s sort of inevitable. You certainly desire to do your finest to prevent this throughout a pandemic.


As Roxanne Khamsi just recently described in WIRED , when public health authorities explained COVID-19 as mainly being sent through surface areas and not being an “ air-borne ” infection, they were utilizing an extremely particular technical meaning of the term. COVID-19 is brought by fairly big beads of wetness, so– unlike some infections– it can ’ t hover in the air and contaminate individuals 30 minutes after somebody coughed it out into the world. Big beads can still be brought by the air and into your face. Out of 60 individuals who participated in a choir practice on March 10th, in Washington ’ s Skagit Valley, 45 established coronavirus signs, regardless of cleaning their hands vigilantly and taking what were then thought about suitable warns for preventing transmission of the infection.


In the United States, using a mask is frequently translated as “ I am an ill individual out in public, exposing everybody to my bacteria. ” Especially in the early weeks of the epidemic ’ s arrival in the United States, some frontline employees at centers and supermarket who enter contact with great deals of individuals were informed not to use masks to work, on the premises that it makes clients or consumers unpleasant.


In nations that have actually embraced mask-wearing in the last couple of years as a public health practice, using one is more of a friendly gesture — a method of signaling that you are a thoughtful individual who is keeping an eye out for the health of individuals around you. Since COVID-19 can be spread out by individuals who put on ’ t feel ill yet( or never ever reveal signs ), using a face mask and sensation no embarassment to do so would minimize spread of the infection, the exact same method that appropriate hand cleaning does.


Hand cleaning with soap and water is much better than hand sanitizer


When the COVID-19 infection leaves somebody ’ s body looking for brand-new hosts, it ’ s covered in a protective blob of mucous like a small spacesuit. Cleaning your hands correctly with soap and water finishes the mucous– without it, the infection is vulnerable, and quickly damaged. Attaining a comparable impact with hand sanitizer takes more like 4 minutes . Sanitizer benefits circumstances where—you wear ’ t have any other choices, however if you have access to soap and water, utilize it.


Act like you ’ re currently contaminated and you put on ’ t wish to pass the infection on to anybody else. Imitate you ’ re not contaminated and everybody is’attempting to pass the infection on to you.


We now understand that COVID-19 can be sent a number of days prior to individuals really start to reveal signs( and for a long time longer if they are asymptomatic ). We likewise understand that if we might simply freeze everybody all over the world in location for 14 days while sitting 6 feet apart , the entire epidemic would stop– without any neighboring human hosts to make more of itself, the infection would pass away out on every surface area.


We can ’ t almost do that– there are ill individuals who require to be looked after, crops that require to be tended to, food and other needs that require to be dispersed. The closer we can get to the freeze tag suitable of pandemic management in the next vital weeks, the smaller sized and more workable it ends up being. Now is not the time to go outdoor camping with your other quarantined pals , or otherwise get innovative with the meaning of what quarantine indicates. You are a huge, lovely community that rather most likely has actually been colonized by an intrusive types at this moment– and you ought to treat yourself with the very same level of eco-friendly care.


Take care of yourself and others


Being completely healthy is not going to safeguard you entirely from COVID-19 , however considering that the present proof reveals that— individuals with pre-existing health problems battle more to ward off the infection, there ’ s no damage, and lots of prospective advantage, in keeping yourself as healthy as possible throughout quarantine. Don ’ t beverage( or consume extremely seldom ), wear ’ t smoke, wear ’ t vape, consume your veggies( tidy them well and prepare them initially unless you definitely trust their source) and entire grains, and specifically make certain that you get enough sleep , given that sleep plays a considerable function in how well your body can ward off contagious illness.


Another thing that science informs us: It ’ s difficult to alter your routines. COVID-19 is altering our routines whether we like it or not. Over the next couple of weeks, really few people will be living life as we are accustomed to living it– because area of interruption, there ’ s space for brand-new practices to form.


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9 Gear Picks Under $150 for Adventure Dogs

My pet dogs, Hitch and Porter, represent 2 extremes when it concerns taking a trip with family pets. Porter, a saved Lab-boxer mix who’’ s scared of his own shadow, is an outright delight in the cars and truck. He snuggles silently in the rear seats, doesn’’ t make a peep, and sometimes rests his head on my shoulder or balances on the center console to get a keep an eye out the windscreen. Drawback, an 11-year-old Lab-pointer blend with the personality of a young child who enjoys everybody simply a bit excessive, is an awful road-tripper—– he barks persistently each time he gets in the automobile. It got so bad that our veterinarian suggested a moderate sedative for long flights. To our terrific misery, we discovered on a 14-hour journey that it just revved him up more. Unbelievely, my marital relationship endured that drive. A couple of months later on, I purchased a truck , in part so that Hitch might ride in the camper-shell-covered bed and bark to his heart’’ s material, far from our ears.

Over the years, we’’ ve taken a great deal of journey with our puppies and experimented with a great deal of pet equipment . While I’’d argue that purchasing a pickup was the very best thing I ever provided for my canines, due to the fact that they get to go more locations and I wear’’ t need to stress over them destroying the rear seats, there are a couple of other things I’’ ve utilized for many years that keep all of us—– 2- and four-legged animals alike—– pleased.

.Orvis Dog Weekender Travel Kit ($ 89).

 pet equipment( Photo: Courtesy Orvis)

Keep your puppy’’ s food fresh, dry, and arranged with this rugged set . It includes an airtight nylon-canvas bring case that holds a four-to-five-pound food bag and 2 bowls, ample for a vacation. The interior lining is Easy and bpa-free to tidy, and outside pockets keep devices like leashes arranged.

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.Lazaga Ultrasonic Bark Controller ($ 25).

 canine equipment( Photo: Courtesy Lazaga)

I never ever believed I’’d have the ability to ride in a car with Hitch once again, however the Lazaga made it possible. This small box connects to your pet’’ s collar and discharges an ultrasonic frequency when they bark that human beings can’’ t hear, however frustrates the pet enough to get him to stop. It ’ s really efficient however safe.

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.Ruffwear Pack Out Bag ($ 35).

 canine equipment( Photo: Courtesy Ruffwear)

I am not a fan of leaving bagged canine poop on the side of a path to get when you return —– I’’d love to see the numbers on just how much of it really reaches the dumpster. This waist pack fixes the issue by making bring your canine’’ s poo on the path hands-free and simple. Its water resistant nylon lining keeps a complete bag from smelling, and the low-profile style fits easily versus your waist.

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.Nemo Helio LX Shower ($ 150).

 pet equipment( Photo: Courtesy Nemo)

Rubber flooring mats can assist keep your cars and truck tidy throughout an experience, however if you’’ re on a especially muddy or long objective, you—– and your animal—– are going to require a bath. Unlike other portable gravity showers that require to be hung up and supply very little pressure, Nemo’’ s light-weight building rests on the ground and is pressurized by a foot pump; a couple of stomps offer you a seven-to-ten-minute full-power rinse. The difficult, 5.8-gallon polyester bag won’’ t leakage, and the setup functions as an excellent tool for washing equipment and meals.

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.Nite Ize SpotLit LED Carabiner Light ($ 9.50).

 canine equipment( Photo: Courtesy Nite Ize)

These battery-powered, weatherproof lights are important for outdoor camping. They’’ re very little larger than a pet dog tag however put out enough light to keep an eye on your puppy in the dark from lots of feet away. Like a headlamp, you can set it to flash or radiance, and it lasts as much as 20 hours prior to you require to alter the batteries.

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.Carhartt Chore Coat ($ 40).

 canine equipment( Photo: Courtesy Carhartt)

The quilted nylon lining in this coat assists pet dogs remain warm on cold nights, and its duck canvas external has a waterproof finish that keeps them dry if things get windy and damp. Crucial, this workwear-inspired task coat will make your furry buddy appearance method more elegant than all the other canines at the camping area.

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.Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag ($ 100).

 pet equipment( Photo: Courtesy Ruffwear)

Dog beds are large and too huge to take a trip with, however this pup-size, synthetic-fill sleeping bag weighs simply over a pound and loads down into a 12-by-7-inch stuffsack. Your family pet can lay on top of it in the automobile and huddle inside it on cold nights.

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.Whistle Go GPS Tracker ($ 100).

 pet equipment( Photo: Courtesy Whistle)

Whistle’’ s most recent tracker is water resistant approximately 3 feet deep and includes real-time GPS area tracking by means of AT&T ’ s cellular network and Google Maps. Aside from providing fantastic comfort when on the roadway with your family pet, it can be set to track veterinarian consultations and medication in addition to display scratching, sleeping, and licking.

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.Yeti Boomer 8 Dog Bowl ($ 50).

 canine equipment( Photo: Courtesy Yeti)

Don’’ t trouble with lightweight, retractable, or material canine bowls; they won’’ t withstand long-lasting abuse and will ultimately leakage. Like all things Yeti, this bowl is constructed to last. It holds up to 8 cups of food or water, and the double-walled, non-insulated stainless-steel building guarantees it will hold up to difficult journeys (and the dishwashing machine) for many years to come.

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