Electric Dog Collars & German Shepherds: Why & How to do it right

GSD owners are no foreigners to disobedience issues in their pets, especially common with younger German Shepherds who’re still in their pre-BH days. Even the puppy who you had trained so well over the past few months and one who knows how to follow all commands, starts behaving like an altogether different animal as soon as he steps into young adulthood thus landing you into a tight spot: the BH trial dates are coming closer and your GSD is behaving as if he never knew any of these “sitz“, “platz” and “fuss” gibberish. By now he’s also gotten pretty used to the tugs on his prong collar that you used to train him with and you can never bring yourself to training him on an electric dog collar or an e-collar; of course you don’t want your fur baby to learn his lessons by giving him electric shocks. But are e-collars really so bad and inhuman? Not quite, here’s why.

Why use an electric dog collar

1. They’re more humane and effective than prong collar

Instead of tugging and pulling at the prong collar and imparting a choking and gagging feeling to your pet, this momentary correction is less painful and produces a longer lasting impact on his memory, thus offering a better ROIC on your training effort.

2. Helpful for training distracted dogs with a very high prey drive

This is especially true for young working line GSDs from a good lineage; their prey drive is usually very high, but if they’re not that obedient and still struggling to learn to focus their attention on one particular command, this distraction can cost them a lot during Schutzhund trials. Such behavior may even result in expulsion from trials in some cases where they get too aggressive towards fellow canine contestants and refuse to obey the owner. E-collars will come handy in training such distracted high drive GSDs.

3. May help ensure your pet’s safety at times

Pet parents like us who love traveling with their GSDs will find this useful. This is even applicable to you if you often take your pet to play in the large parks or open spaces. If they’re not on leash (they always can’t be held on a short leash if we really want to let them play and enjoy the area), are playfully running away from you, not responding to your “Here” or “Come” command, busy chasing another canine or a prey, or just out exploring an interesting new area, you never know when he’s going to get lost or land up in a dangerously precarious spot like an overhanging narrow edge of a cliff over the icy Pacific waters. E-collars can be helpful in sending out warnings at these times.

4. Reinforcements can’t be always POSITIVE

Dogs have both reward and punishment centers in their brains just the way we humans do; while positive reinforcements should always be the first and foremost choice, it’s important for GSD parents to remember that these “land sharks”, especially the working ones, have a very strong mind of their own and never give up pushing boundaries to assert their dominant characteristics. Hence, no matter how much I hate to write it, from an objective point of view and also for your dog’s own good, negative reinforcement is essential at times. After all it’s your duty to teach your GSD how to channelize his energies in a constructive fashion.

How to use an electric dog collar

  • Once you get the e-collar, make your GSD wear the collar (TURNED OFF) for 5-10 minutes every day so that he gets used to the feel of it and gets to know the collar. This can go on for several days until he seems comfortable with the feel of it. Remember, at this stage of training, the e-collar should remain OFF at all times.
  • Moving on, this is what you can do if you’re really concerned about how much pain the collar is going to inflict on your fur baby. Since we were feeling super guilty, we tried the e-collar on our own bodies. We wore the collar on our wrist, turned it on, and played with the different shock levels to get a feeling how it feel on human skin (given their overcoat and undercoat, the shocks will even feel milder on your GSD than it feels on your bare skin).
  • Nick vs. Continuous Stimulation: we always opt for “Nick” for greater impact, better stimulation, and least pain inflicted.
  • Convinced that we’re not committing any sin, we made Enzo, our working line GSD wear the e-collar, turned it on, and started the training session. Whenever Enzo disobeyed he received something like a tick or a bug bite around his neck (he of course felt we had nothing to do with it; it’s just that a bug will bite whenever he disobeyed his parents); so he figured out to ward off the bug forever, he has to listen to his parents. Rest was easy!



Article written by

Born and raised in Kolkata, the Indian City of Joy, I immigrated to the United States as a graduate student in 2005. I now live in Danville, California with my husband, two gigantic German Shepherd puppies and a bunch of Discus fish. An engineer and MBA by background, a marketing designer by profession, a voracious reader and a compulsive movie addict by hobby, I can't stop talking about interesting, exciting, intriguing and inspiring stuff I stumble up on.

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