Mr A B
I am writing to you in the light of recent lobbying against electronic collars. The extremism behind this activity appears to be blind to the self-evident truth that an individual who intends to be cruel to an animal will go down that particular road, whatever. A walking stick, a lead, a catapult or any other implement can be used in a cruel fashion. In an ideal world there would be no cruel humans nor would dogs chase sheep, deer or other wild life or be aggressive. Unfortunately, all these conditions exist and it is therefore in the best interests of canine welfare that a sensible balance is found.
My wife and I own two English Pointers. Carlos, who is now three years old and who came to us as a puppy, displayed an inclination to chase sheep, seagulls and deer. He is an intelligent and strong-willed dog and would disobey as the fancy took him. We live in the country and there are many opportunities for him to get into trouble. The very nature of a Pointer requires lots of off-the-lead exercise. We therefore need to have the confidence that he will respond to the whistle and that he can be described as being under our control.
We took him to the usual dog training sessions where we only achieved limited success. It certainly did not stop his inclination to chase. On one occasion he got himself into a potentially very dangerous situation by chasing seagulls over rocks where he got cut off. The tide was rising and there were big breakers. Fortunately he found a spot where there was a rock-pool which, although deep, was calm, and he managed to swim to us. On another occasion we took him on to Dartmoor, where there are numerous sheep. It was quite evident that he would have chased them into the next county, given the opportunity. We then found an area where sheep were absent, but he took a great interest in the Dartmoor ponies and was on the point of getting kicked by a stallion. He would always chase any game bird that he happened to scent. It was in this context that we looked for solutions.
We went to a gun-dog trainer who assessed Carlos as a strong-willed dog. Together with the trainer we began training him to the whistle but it was evident that something was needed which would stop his chasing. I happened to see your advertisement and spoke to you on the telephone. You explained that the collar was not a disciplinary implement but a training aid that should be used sparingly. In fact, it was a mild form of aversion therapy that should be used responsibly. Used properly, the dog connects the sheep/deer or the act of chasing with the shock and not the collar. I then wished to speak with an animal behaviourist and contacted the Canine Defence League for some names. I explained the reasons behind my request and it became obvious that the person I was speaking to was full of opinions, but totally bankrupt of any practical solutions. However, she did give me the name of a Mr B E (a dog behaviourist and trainer) with whom I spoke on the telephone. He expressed the opinion that a collar was an acceptable method in certain situations, provided it was used properly. He also indicated that a dog could be ruined if a collar was used in an irresponsible way. By the time we actually met Mr B E, we had purchased and used the collar. He saw Carlos and stated that he believed him to be a happy and well-balanced dog.
The effect of the collar was instantaneous, and its use over the last two years has been extremely limited. In fact I cannot recall when it was last used. We now own a happy and reasonably well behaved dog, which does not chase sheep or horses and will hold back from running in to game birds. He can roam freely off-the-lead without getting himself into potentially dangerous situations. Our second pointer, Pablo, is not so headstrong and has learned to respond to the whistle – without recourse to the collar – but by following Carlos.
My brief contact with the Canine Defence League did not leave me with a favourable impression. On the other hand, the PAC electronic collar has done a great service to our dogs by making it possible to enjoy the freedom that their nature requires. The world seems full of people who feel it is their right to force their opinions on everybody else by “in your face politics”. I speak as I find and have no particular axe to grind in this matter.