Your gun is cleaned and oiled, your gear is laid out, and you’re ready to hit the backcountry for bird hunting season. But is your dog as ready to go as you are?
Year after year one of the most covered topics by the shotgun shooting world is the next best ultra light or feather weight shotguns for upland hunting. For many years, after long days in the field, I would spend hours researching lighter weight shotguns. Choosing the best gauge for hunting dove, pheasants, quail, ducks or geese is a never ending debate...
People often see a great pointer or lab and say to themselves, I want a great hunting dog! They agonize over what breed to go with, finally make a decisions and go pickup selected breed pup. What a lot of people don't consider is what type of person and hunter they are themselves. All well bred hunting breeds are capable hunters but finding one that matches your style will...
By Ryan Kirby
When buying a shotgun, there are many different factors to consider. Gauge, size, type and brand to name a few, but one of the first things you must consider is what type of shotgun is best for you. There are four basic types of shotguns, all of which accomplish the same goal which I have briefly described below. Each type has its own pros and cons; you must carefully consider each type and what the gun will be used for.
Pump-action shotguns are the most common type of shotgun, they are reliable and typically on the lower end of the price range. These guns hold multiple shells and require you to pump the forend after each shot to eject the spent shell and load a new shell.
These guns are also known as semi-automatics and use a variety of different automatic systems to eject the spent shell and load a new shell with only the pull of the trigger. This type of shotgun also tends to have less recoil (about 30% less) due to the automatic cycling action absorbing some of the recoil. Automatic loading shotguns generally are more expensive than pump-action and depending on the quality of the gun, they can be as reliable as a pump-action.
A double barrel shotgun is a gun that only holds two shells at a time and can be found in one of two styles; over/under or side-by-side. One of the main advantages of a double barrel is that a hunter or shooter can insert a different choke into each barrel; this increases the chance of a successful shot which can depend on the distance of the target. Due to reliability and usability, double barrel shotguns tend to be the most expensive of all the shotgun types. Magazine fed guns need about 3 extra inches of barrel to allow for the action cycling of the gun which makes the barrel of a double barrel shotgun shorter and lighter. These guns are usually well balanced and swing effortlessly with a natural feel to them. Without a place to hide, a shell can be seen at a quick glance, making this gun type one of the safest. Due to the fact that the barrel is not connected to the firing action, double barrel guns may be broken open when you're carrying your gun around camp or to your hunting spot without the chance of an accidental discharge.
Some owners find that the electronic devices work when other behavior modification solutions fail. The negative feedback of the static electric shock, combined with proper training, can help curb unwanted behaviors. These devices have been used to control hunting dogs in the field, to keep dogs from nuisance barking, and to prevent dogs from entering certain, off-limits areas. In addition, there are specific situations where containment is needed and above-ground fences are not allowed. In a case such as this, buried electric fences are the logical alternative. Finally, there are times when shock deterrents are the only form of behavior modification that work to correct a problem. When other attempts fail and the dog's behavior may lead to removal from the household, electronic collars are a viable alternative. This is often the case with dogs that bark incessantly.
If one is considering the use of electronic correction collars, it is important to learn how they work, how the dog needs to be trained, and which options are available. These training collars work on the concept that an animal will learn to avoid the discomfort of a static electric shock by avoiding the situation that caused the shock. The use of a transmitter and a collar allow the correction to be administered when the owner is not visibly present or touching the dog. Ideally, the dog will believe that the correction is caused by the behavior, not the owner, and learn to avoid the behavior, and therefore prevent future corrections. These types of collars are primarily used to control unwanted behaviors that occur when the dog is physically separated from the owner.
Not all training collars are the same. When choosing a remote-training collar, it is important to identify the stimulus that sets off the correction, the type of correction, and the size of dog that the collar is intended to be used on. Also, check if the collar can be set to different levels of sensitivity (what triggers the correction) and different levels of stimulation (intensity of the correction). Other concerns would be the type of battery (rechargeable, replaceable), the weight of the collar, and whether or not it is waterproof. The combination of these traits will allow you to choose the most appropriate collar for your pet. These collars are available either as training collars, which allow the owner to remotely administer a corrective stimulation in response to an unwanted behavior, or as anti-barking collars, which administer a pre-programmed correction in response to barking and do not require the owner to be present.
Electronic training collars consist of a hand-held transmitter and a receiver attached to a dog collar. Usually, the collars have several levels of stimulation. Many have features that allow the owner to alter the length of the static correction as well as its intensity. Some have a 'good dog' tone that the dog is taught to associate with a correct behavior. These collars require training of both the owner and the pet to avoid problems. It is possible to administer a correction of too great an intensity or too long a duration if the collar is inappropriately sized for the dog, or if the owner becomes frustrated during training. It is also possible for the dog to misunderstand the correction and associate the shock with items around the dog, not the behavior. Accurate timing of the correction and the 'good dog' tone will reduce any misunderstandings and increase effectiveness of the collars.
An alternative type of training collar uses a different type of correction to stop the dog from unwanted behaviors. With this collar, the static electric shock is replaced with a citronella spray. The dog wears a collar with a small container of citronella attached to it. The owner remotely triggers a puff of citronella when the dog is caught performing unwanted behaviors, such as digging or jumping on the table. The citronella works because it smells, sounds, feels, and looks odd, and basically startles the dog into stopping its unwanted behavior. Coupled with obedience training, citronella remote-activated collars often work well to stop incorrect behaviors. The remote training trigger can work up to 300 feet and the collars come with training information. The collar's citronella canister is easily refilled once it is emptied.
Anti-barking collars are a specific type of correction collar designed solely to stop nuisance barking. They work on the same principles as training collars, but do not require a person to activate them. Instead, the correction is triggered either by throat vibrations or the sound of barking. A dog that coughs should never wear a collar of this type, as the vibration or noise of coughing can set off the collars. Unfortunately, some environmental sounds can do the same thing. When using an anti-bark collar, it is important to initially monitor the dog to make sure that no environmental noises or vibrations inadvertently trigger the collar.
Basically, there are three types of anti-barking collars or devices. All deliver a correction that is triggered by barking and stops when the barking stops. However, they differ in the type of correction delivered. Electronic collars deliver an electrostatic shock if the collar senses the throat vibrations that accompany barking. Ultrasonic devices and collars respond with a high-pitched tone that is triggered by vibration or sound. Citronella collars respond to the sound of the barking by releasing a puff of citronella in front of the pet's face.
As with training collars, anti-bark electronic collars may come with different levels of sensitivity and shock levels. They are available with different types of batteries and some are waterproof. Some have built-in safeguards to prevent accidental triggering of the device. Make sure that the collar is appropriate for the size and weight of the dog to avoid problems.
The second type, an ultrasonic anti-bark collar, is also sized to the dog, but usually has only one level of response. Ultrasonic devices are also available as free-standing units that do not require the dog to wear a collar.. They usually work within 25 feet of the dog and respond to barking by emitting a high-frequency sound that disrupts the dog's behavior and stops when the barking stops. These units do have sensitivity adjustments to allow them to be tailored to specific situations.
The third type, a citronella collar, works by releasing a puff of citronella if the dog barks. The citronella is contained in a small canister on the dog's collar and released in response to the sound of barking. The citronella stops the dog in mid-bark with an auditory "puff", a visible spray, and the smell of citronella. The citronella is easily refilled when the collar canister is emptied.
No matter which type of anti-bark collar is used, dogs learn when their anti-bark collar is on and working, and will resume barking if the collar is removed or not working. This means that most dogs will need to wear them every time they are in a situation that triggers barking. So dogs with electronic collars will resume barking if the batteries stop working and dogs with citronella collars will resume barking when the citronella canister is emptied. If these collars are only used when the owner is absent and proper replacement behaviors are not taught, the dogs may need to wear them for the rest of their lives whenever they are left alone.
Other electronic devices are designed to keep pets in certain areas and out of others. The most widely accepted use is in containment fences, often called electronic fences or underground fences. These systems are designed for outdoor use and basically fence the pet into a yard or area without the use of an above-ground fence. They are highly desirable in communities that do not allow fencing structures, as they allow the pet to run around the yard without the fear that the pet will run away.
These fences use an electric shock to keep pets from crossing a buried wire that runs the perimeter of the area that they are allowed to run on. Basically, after the cable is buried, the dog is shown where the perimeter wire is buried. Small flags are used to temporarily mark the boundaries. The dog is outfitted with a collar that emits a warning tone when the boundary is approached. If the dog continues toward the boundary, an electrical shock is created by the collar. As with other training collars, the intensity of the shock can be regulated. All systems require a collar with receiver, a transmitter, and boundary wires. The system you purchase should come with a training manual, instructional video, and boundary flags. The collar should be adjustable and suited to your pet's size. Variable intensities allow you to adjust the static electric correction for sensitive dogs.
As with all training collars, it is critical that proper training of both the dog and the owners take place prior to use of the underground system, so that the system can work properly and the dog can learn without becoming frightened. The dog needs to learn the boundaries and understand the use of the warning tone. Several practice runs with verbal cues need to be performed prior to using the transmitter. The video and manuals should be followed. Improperly used, the dog may not understand the point of the shock and become frightened of the yard or outside.
Electric fences have several advantages. As mentioned, they can be used in neighborhoods where fences are not allowed. They are also an economical method to 'enclose' a large area of land for your dogs to run and play on. They can be used to section off a section of your yard for your pet. They cannot be brought down in a storm, and can give you peace of mind that your dog will not suddenly run into the road. They cannot be dug under, jumped over, or gnawed through.
There are a few concerns to be addressed when using an underground fence. They really are designed to be used when you are present to prevent difficulties that can occur in your absence. Be aware that other animals can enter and leave the yard as they please, even if your pet cannot. This means that wandering animals can cause problems for your pet. In addition, a great stimulus can cause your pet to 'forget' its training. If a cat runs through the yard or a biker goes by, the dog may endure the shock and bolt from the yard. Finally, the shock is administered by distance from the wire, not location. If the dog manages to leave the yard and tries to return, it will be shocked when it approaches the wire from the outside of the yard. Also, it is critical to remember where you buried the fence to prevent accidental shocks. For example, if the fence runs under your driveway, do not drive out it with the dog in the car unless you have removed the collar!
When purchasing an underground containment system, be sure to find out the length and gauge of the wire, whether or not the battery is rechargeable or replaceable, and whether or not the system is equipped with lightening safeguards. Use the heaviest gauge wire that you can afford and do not mix types of wire. Make sure that the collar is appropriate for the temperament and size of your dog. Read the manual, watch the videos, and get training tips from others that own the fences to increase your success.
The concept of the electric fence is no longer used only out-of-doors. Several adaptations of the collar allow these systems to be brought inside to keep pets away from rooms or areas that are off limits. There are several available on the market. A good example is a simple system from Innotek called Zones. Cordless, battery-operated 'zones' are placed near areas to be avoided, such as a trash can. If the pet approaches one of these zones, the pet's collar emits a warning tone. Just as with an electric fence, if the pet continues to approach the forbidden zone, an electric shock is emitted as a correction. The pet learns to avoid areas that trigger the warning tone to avoid the correction. The diameter of each forbidden zone can be adjusted from 2 to 12 feet, so a smaller zone can be set to keep the pet out of the trash and a larger zone created to keep the dog away from the dining room table.
As with all the other electric training devices, indoor containment systems work best if accompanied by obedience training. Dogs are smart enough to know that the devices only work when they are wearing the collar. As previously discussed, a dog that is corrected without being taught an alternative behavior will rapidly revert to the unwanted behavior if the correction is discontinued. So a dog that is taught to sit quietly or chew a toy instead of getting into the waste basket learns a better 'replacement' behavior and will eventually leave the basket alone at all times. A dog that is merely shocked when it gets near the waste basket may learn to avoid it while wearing the collar, but may very well return to it the minute the collar is removed or the batteries need replacing.
Whether a containment system or an anti-bark collar, none of the remote correction devices are designed to replace obedience training, exercise, and time spent with your dogs. They are not a 'quick fix'. However, when used correctly, these devices can protect your valuable pets and your valuable property. They are most effective at preventing unwanted behaviors that occur when the owner is absent, such as getting into the kitchen garbage can. Anti-bark collars can be especially useful, as nuisance barking usually occurs when owners are not present to stop it and is extremely difficult to stop even when the owner is present. Anti-bark collars can stop barking when nothing else works and may prevent removal of the dog from the premises.
If you decide to supplement your training regime with a remote-activated correction device, do your homework. Read, ask questions, and talk to others who have used the devices. Formulate a training plan that will allow your pet to learn acceptable behaviors while learning to avoid the bad behaviors that trigger the corrections. Examine the difference between ultrasonic, shock, and citronella units. In many cases, citronella collars may be preferable to electronic collars for control of barking or unwanted behaviors that occur when you are present. Static electric devices are needed for buried fences and often used to keep pets away from designated rooms or objects when the owner is not present. Choose carefully and follow all label directions to ensure success.
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In an era of high speed Internet access, cell phones, and palm pilot organizers, it was only a matter of time before dog trainer would adopt the electronic training collar as an acceptable and humane way of training dogs. Notice I did not use the term "shock collar". The reason will become clear after a brief look into the evolution of "The Dog Training Collar".
More than 30 years ago, electronic collars made their way into the dog-training scene. However, because the first generation of dog training collars were only capable of delivering one level of stimulation to the dog, they where appropriately nicknamed shock collars. These collars required the trainer to select the level of correction by inserting an "intensity plug" into the collar (before putting the collar on the dog for training, once the collar was on the dog they could not change the intensity level). This plug would then cause the collar to emit the same level of stimulation for all corrections issued during the session, regardless of how small or large the infraction - hence the nickname - shock collars.
The term shock collar had a very negative connotation that dramatically decreased their widespread acceptance in the dog-training arena. It was commonly stated that, "Only hard headed dogs that could not be trained by traditional means where run with shock collars". As a result, very few professional trainers were public about their use of electronic dog collars fearing that clients would not entrust dogs to their care. However, some professionals, including legendary Rex Carr, where up-front about their use of electronic collars and worked diligently at developing a training program that utilized the collar in a way dogs could understand. Rex quickly became know as a pioneer of training retrievers with electronic collars. In fact, most if not all training techniques used today with retrievers are derivate from Rex's original work.
Recognizing the limitations of the first generation of electronic dog training collars, manufacturers worked to refine their design. It was only until the release of the second generation of electronic collars that allowed the trainer to vary the level of intensity from the hand-held transmitter. The trainer could now select from one of three levels of intensity for a particular "intensity plug": high, medium and low. This design still had its shortcomings. The trainer still only had 3 levels of stimulation to choose from and the lowest level of stimulation was typically inappropriate for simple corrections.
While the second generation of electronic collars was a great advancement in dog training collars, this technology was replaced in the last decade by collars that gave the trainer the ability to select multiple levels of intensity from the transmitter. This single advancement combined with customer education has done more for the widespread acceptance of the electronic collar than any other advancement in the collar's history.
Manufacturers quickly recognized that a great design alone was not going to give their product the acceptance needed to support their newfound industry; it was only through education that new customers would understand how to use these training devices to advance their dog in a proper manner. The most significant form of education came when Tri-Tronics released a book written by Jim and Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodward, Tri-Tronics Training Retrievers. This book focused on incorporating electronic collars in all phases of training retrievers and walked the reader through a series of detailed steps, bringing a dog from A to Z.
As a result of the technological advancements and the educational support provided by manufacturers, the days of the "shock collar" are gone, giving way to the remote training collars. Today, like cell phones, its becoming more difficult to find someone who trains without an electronic collar.
The remainder of this article will focus on the technology found in many of the collars manufactured by the industry leaders and explain how each is applicable in training gundogs and your selection of an electronic collar.
Let's start by defining the two forms of stimulation available on the market today. First, there is continuous stimulation; this method of stimulation delivers an electronic correction to the dog for as long as the trainer presses the button on the transmitter. If the trainer holds the button down for five seconds the dog will receive five seconds worth of stimulation. However, most models on the market today will timeout after seven to ten seconds of stimulation has been applied to the dog.
The second form of stimulation available on some collars is momentary stimulation. Momentary stimulation, sometimes call a "nick", is different from continuous stimulation in one simple way; no matter how long the trainer depresses the button, the dog will only receive a short electronic correction, the duration of which is measured in a fraction of a second.
Continuous form of stimulation can be used in training when you need to extend a meaningful correction to your dog and re-establish control of a training situation. A great example of a training scenario where you might need to apply continuous stimulation is when you need to gain control over your dog on a runner. In this situation, a simple "nick" or short burst of stimulation may do nothing to stop him on that illusive cock pheasant. Often, a dog might just run through a short burst of electronic stimulation because he is too excited about the prospect of fresh scent to listen to your sit or "hup" whistle. The continuous level of stimulation is what is required to stop him in his tracks. Because the correction is applied to the dog for as long as you hold the button down the effect to the dog is a stronger form of correction. Another example of when continuous stimulation would be a valuable training tool would be when teaching a flushing dog to turn on the "come around" whistle. Here you would use a much lower level of stimulation and apply the stimulation in conjunction with the "come around" command/whistle, only releasing the pressure when he complies with your command. In both training scenarios, the dog has to be taught the way out of the pressure (or the correct response) before utilizing a collar.
Momentary stimulation can be used in training when you need to apply a short, light form of correction. A classic training scenario where we would use momentary stimulation is when utilizing "indirect pressure" during training. With indirect pressure, you want to apply a short, quick correction for not compiling to a command after you have gotten control over him through attrition. For example, if your dog refuses to take a "right-handed angled back" command on a blind retrieve, momentary stimulation can be used after stopping him with a firm "sit" whistle, "nicking" him once he is sitting for refusing to take the "right-handed angle back" command, then re-issuing the "angle back" command. In this case, the momentary stimulation applies a short less intense correction that does not "rock the boat".
Upon first consideration, you may not think that you would need an electronic collar that has a range of one mile. However, if you are hunting over a big running pointer, in the thick backwoods of New England, you might be better served with a collar that has an effective range of a half-mile or greater than a collar with less range. Most manufacturers quote "line-of-sight" range for their collars. However, the effective range of an electronic collar can vary according to terrain and environmental conditions. For basic obedience and most yard work, a collar that is capable of extending to 150 to 300 yards is more than adequate. However, if you are training in the field or working in any type of cover, more range is needed to produce a reliable signal.
Maybe the most important advancements in the electronic collar in the past ten years has been the change in the design of the electronic collar to allow a trainer to change levels of stimulation at the transmitter, rather than at the collar. In days gone past, a trainer could only change the levels of stimulation by physically changing the "intensity plug" and/or contact points on the collar itself.
Today, virtually all quality dog training collars on the market allow the trainer to select the level of stimulation from the transmitter. The old term, shock collar is no longer accurate, the term "electronic training collars" has since replaced this term primarily due to this single design change which allows a trainer to select just the right amount of stimulation necessary to correct the dog making the electronic collar a humane approach to training dogs. Now you can select a mild level of stimulation (barely noticeable by human touch) or a severe level of correction that would make even the toughest man take notice. The responsibility is now with the trainer to select the appropriate correction for the dog.
Probably the most important factor in regards to usability of an electronic collar rests within the transmitter design. Most transmitters on the market today fit easily into your hand. However, differences exist in the design of the transmitter. Some manufacturers make transmitters that are small, lightweight and can be hung on a lanyard. Other manufacturers make transmitters that are larger but extremely easy to use. Like most things in life, it comes down to personal preference. In order for any collar to be an effective training device it must be easy to use and be able to apply the correction at the exact moment it is needed. The last thing you want to be doing is fumbling for your transmitter, setting an intensity level when you should be delivering a firm correction that the dog will understand.
The last feature to take into consideration when evaluating the design of a transmitter is the resistance of the transmitter to weather. Some transmitters are water resistant while others are waterproof. If using an electronic collar while waterfowling you might want to consider a transmitter that is waterproof and can endure a "fall in the drink".
The final consideration when choosing an electronic collar is the design of the collar/receiver unit itself. Some earlier models of electronic collars, intended for upland use, had external antennas that extended beyond the body of the collar and often became caught up on or became damaged by heavy brush. This design has since been replaced with antennas that are self-contained within the body of the receiver unit.
Like the transmitter design, collars also come in units that are water resistant and waterproof. If you intend on using your dog in or around water I would highly recommend purchasing a collar that is waterproof. These collars can be fully submerged in water while in the field without harming the internal electronics, a must for most hunters.
Used correctly, the electronic collar can be an invaluable tool when training your gundog. There is no other tool that can help you effectively apply a correction to your dog than one of the many electronic collars on the market today. The days of chasing down your dog to apply a traditional correction (only have lost the significance of the timing) are long gone. Now you can effectively and reliably apply the correction at the moment when it is needed.