Electrifying Moments in the Great Outdoors-Tom Lounsbury
Thu, 19 Sep 2013 09:17:28 EDT
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Electrifying Moments in the Great Outdoors
By Tom Lounsbury
Personally, I don’t care much for dealing with electricity. This relates back to when I was a farm kid and I went out to the barn after dark to check on some critters during a rainstorm. Unbeknown to me the storm had loosened a siding board near the electrical box and light switch in the barn, allowing rainwater to leak all over everything, which was a rather antiquated wiring system. When I flipped the switch there was a blinding flash and I was literally slapped down a set of stairs. Fortunately a fuse blew and the barn didn’t burn down, and I was forever left with an enlightened, so to speak, respect for electricity.
I never really became acquainted with electric shock collars for dogs until a couple decades ago. I certainly knew about them, but didn’t feel I needed them, and with a lifetime experience with dogs, I believed I could always work out a solution in communication through patient training. Then came my Brittany spaniel “Rambo”, who turned out to be one of my finest hunting dogs (all three of my sons shot their first birds over Rambo). Rambo was an astute learner from the beginning and gave me no problems at all, until age two, when he happened to bump into a bedded whitetail buck. The chase was on, and Rambo could care less what I yelled over hill and dale. He was in his utter glory chasing that buck, and from then on deer suddenly became his priority, and hard as I tried to correct the situation, Rambo remained steadfast in his devotion to running deer. It was a perplexing situation for me to say the least.
That’s when I contacted Kim Anthony, owner of the Rooster Ranch near Ubly for advice because I knew he had plenty of dog experience on his hunting operation. Kim let me know I could borrow a shock collar and that his brother Kevin, owner of the Trophy Ranch just down the road had a penned up whitetail buck that would provide the perfect setting. I went right over and in no time at all Rambo was fitted with the shock collar and turned into a fair sized pen containing the buck. Kevin was holding the controls for the shock collar while keeping a sharp eye on Rambo.
Rambo at first was a bit confused as to why he had been tossed into the pen, and then he spotted the buck standing a few yards away and his compulsion to chase automatically set in. When the dog began his lunge Kevin touched the control button and it was like Rambo had hit a brick wall. He didn’t yipe any and froze in his tracks, but the deer-chase compulsion set in again, and Kevin hit the button again, which caused Rambo to come to the firm conclusion to turn around and leave. The 10 feet high fence blocked his exit and Rambo turned to look at the deer and Kevin hit the button again, which caused Rambo to decide to try climbing the fence, and the deer started walking toward Rambo, which clearly put the dog in a panic. He wanted nothing more to do with that buck and didn’t even want to look in the direction of the deer.
From that day on for the remainder of his days, Rambo never chased another deer and I have ever since used (electric) shock collars in training my dogs. Certainly misusing a shock collar can be abusive but when properly applied it will humanely allow that long reach out when needed, like an invisible check cord. It is an important tool for me in immediately curbing any bad tendencies (such as chasing deer) when they occur, and certainly it can also be considered a safety device when near a road or highway by preventing dogs not responding to voice or whistle commands from running out into traffic. What I have found is that the shock collar is there to reinforce commands when required and most dogs quickly adapt to responding without the need of a reminder via the shock collar. The end result is the shock collar becomes a basic backup tool that is rarely used, but there if ever needed.
Most shock collars have various settings in the amount of “juice” being applied with the highest setting really getting a dog’s full attention and the lightest setting generally isn’t more than a slight vibration effect meant to clue the dog in. I have personal experience with how a shock collar feels to the dog, and I’m pretty sure it was the “high” setting. This occurred when I purchased my French Brittany “Hummer” as a fully trained five year old dog.
Hummer performed so well during preseason practice sessions that I believed he didn’t even need a shock collar when the pheasant season opener arrived and he did quite well at first. Then he got an independent streak and began ignoring my commands and I realized he was one of those dogs that knew whether or not it had a shock collar on, and could be a bit of a rascal, an alpha dog thing. We were hunting on my farm, and when I finally managed to catch Hummer, I had my hunting buddies hang onto him while I went to my kennel and got the shock collar. This particular collar had a battery that required a cap to be screwed down to engage everything, and I normally I did this with the collar placed on a hard surface and using a screwdriver. With friends waiting with Hummer out in the field nearby and hunting season in full swing, I decided to cut corners a bit.
I was walking fast and holding the collar in my one hand while using a coin in the other hand to turn the cap down onto the battery, obviously something I should not have been doing, because I had a full and tight grip on both electrodes and obviously triggered something (I had shoved the controller in my pants pocket and may have inadvertently engaged it). The fact that it was raining and I was wet probably enhanced the electrifying moment. The only thing I can compare this experience to is being slapped on various parts of the anatomy with the broadside of several two by fours at the same exact instance. It was a very abrupt jolt, but it made a real impression on me, and for a brief second I felt a bit confused as to my immediate surroundings.
According to my hunting buddies when I reached them, I tended to be babbling a bit (speaking in tongues) but I recovered by the time I got the collar on Hummer, who immediately went about doing his job properly without any “reminders” at all. Needless to say, even though I have always been prudent about applying a shock collar, that firsthand experience was another enlightening fact for me about electricity.
I now use rechargeable (made in the USA) Tri-Tronics shock collars that don’t require screwing any caps down onto batteries, and the system can handle up to three dogs with over a half mile range of effectiveness. It certainly works for me - and my dogs too.
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