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Lessons from Langston: Opinions and E-Collars


(Todd Langston)

The pronged collar – a chain with a set of links pointing toward the neck – gets a lot of negative publicity because it can hurt a dog when used incorrectly. I often hear people condemn this device without ever having used it, meaning their ideas are based completely on opinion. For Mason and I, this tool has helped us save the lives of several fear aggressive dogs.

At its core, the collar is a simple device, based on a simple philosophy. When a dog misbehaves, we jerk the leash, making the chain tighten, which applies pressure to specific points on a dog’s neck. According to Cesar Millan in Be the Pack Leader, this misunderstood tool is one of the most “organic” devices on the market for controlling canines. The prong’s nip mimics animal behavior, and most dogs respond to it almost instantly. Every mother in nature – from bears to wolves – nips her young to show displeasure, not hard enough to break skin but hard enough to cause a reaction, a way of getting their attention. Basically, all a prong collar does is communicate to dogs in their own language.

Not surprisingly, I can be just as much of an opinionated a-hole as the next person. For years, I had the same negative impression about shock collars a.k.a. e-collars that many of my neighbors do about the pronged version. Luckily, I met Todd Langston, a dog behaviorist, who not only told me I was being a hypocrite, but schooled me on the benefits of e-collars. Needless to say, I wish I’d known Todd when we were fostering that maniac Bentley because I would have slapped on e-collar on him in a second. For this Lesson from Langston, our exchange about shock collars:

Melissa: We fostered a fear aggressive dog last year that we couldn’t break for anything. My husband I both got bit. Now, the woman that adopted him uses a shock collar.

TL: Do you see that as a bad thing?

Melissa: I don’t like shock collars.

TL: Have you ever used one?

Melissa: Yes, years ago on a fear aggressive German shepherd.

TL: If you’re calling it a shock collar, then there’s a there’s a good chance you weren’t using it correctly. There are a lot of ways to use that tool. E-collars are a brilliant device but it shouldn’t be sold to people that don’t know how to use it. It shouldn’t be sold in pet stores. Don’t sell that tool short. That tool has a very emotional history. It’s misused so it gets a very bad rap. Just like a prong collar does, but the people that have those opinions are often times just providing an opinion. And they don’t understand how it works.

If I could show you how to properly use the e-collar, you might possibly question why every dog owner doesn’t use one. You can use that tool more efficiently than you can use food. And you can use that tool with food together and it becomes the most beautiful tool that exists on the planet. But it’s not for everybody and it’s not for every dog. Not every situation needs it. Any human that lacks the ability to control their dog but is willing to put in the time and effort to learn a way, can take that tool and become the supreme pack leader without using corrections. It’s not going to replace effort. And that’s the problem; it’s been used as a moneymaker. You get a lot of trainers that say give me your dog for ten days and I’ll charge you $1500.00. I’ll make your dog sit and stay and be perfect. I don’t agree with that. I don’t appreciate that particular method. But if you understand dog behavior and psychology, then the [e-collar] is the best tool that exists and the least accepted.

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