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Do they stop dogs chasing sheep and other livestock?

It seems to me that few pet dog owners elect to use electric shock collars, (euphemistically known as impulse or training collars) but their use is becoming more common among professional trainers of pet dogs who see them as a quick fix solution to sheep worrying. Gun dog owners and gun dog professional trainers are the most likely group to use shock collars but in this article I am dealing only with pet dogs that chase sheep and other moving targets, and I am suggesting that there are many ways of stopping dogs chasing that do not involve shock collars. I have worked as a shepherd and my training speciality is stopping dogs chasing sheep but although sheep worrying is a big problem which can lead to the dog being killed I will not use shock collars. Why?

Shock collars are banned in many European countries including Wales, with Scotland likely to follow. This legislation results from consultation with welfare organisations The kennel club and the British Veterinary Association, and I respect their combined opinions. Although shock collars have improved in the last ten years they can, in the wrong hands cause extreme psychological and physical damage. The more they are promoted by professional trainers the more they will get into the wrong hands. Think guns.

Every species of animal the dog is likely to chase will need its ‘own’ shock, dogs do not generalise either context or the prey animal. An example of this is Molly, a dog who came on my course who had been previously ‘shock trained ‘not to chase sheep, but she went on to kill a goat in a garden and following re-homing in town ,she killed a cat. Administering a shock to a dog definitely will, if severe enough, stop him chasing that particular species of animal, or jogger, cyclist etc. at that time. However, it does not tell the dog what you want him to do instead.

Positive methods which incorporate impulse control, and re directing chase behaviour through play and other rewards clearly show the dog alternatives to undesirable chase behaviour. The skills needed to teach a dog in this way then transfer to all areas of the improved dog/ owner partnership, and willing compliance results. With over twenty years teaching clients how to stop their dog worrying sheep I believe strongly that if you are a good enough trainer you don’t need to use a shock collar. You don’t need a sledge hammer to crack a nut.

                                             Please see my photographs illustrating some of the things we do on my courses

                                                        SUE HARPER FETC. MIACE. KCAI. member (pending)


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