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Let’s Talk About Aggressive Dogs and E-collars

Bee chair

We finally broke down and put an e-collar aka shock collar on Bee last night. We’ve witnessed aggressive behavior on several occasions, but we were easily able to correct her. Her outburst yesterday was way over the top. Frankly, yesterday’s behavior qualifies her as a borderline red zone dog because it was dangerous.

Mason and I were sitting on the deck, enjoying the pleasant temperatures of a late summer evening. As usual, Meadow, Adriana, and Bee were throwing down in the mosh pit. Occasionally, we’d glance at the dogs playing, but mostly we were enjoying the sounds of the numerous birds chattering back and forth, the cicada’s underlying buzz.

Adriana’s frightened screeching broke through our peaceful evening like a car alarm. From my chair, I saw Bee on top of Ade. I don’t know what started it, but Bee clamped onto her neck and whipped Ade’s head back and forth. Our deck sits at the top of the yard, about fourteen feet off the ground. Bee and Ade were fifty yards away. It took Mason fifteen seconds to get off the deck and down to the yard. The whole time Ade’s screaming got louder and louder. Those fifteen seconds felt like a hundred years, every second ticking like a decade.

Finally, he grabbed Bee, wrenched her off Ade. Adriana bolted for the rusting swing set, taking cover under the sliding board. The second Mason released Bee, she shot at Ade, clenched onto her ruff and shook her like a ragdoll. Some trigger had gone off in Bee and she wasn’t stopping until she inflicted pain. Bee outweighs Ade by twenty pounds. And Ade isn’t a fighter. She assumed the same submissive pose wolves have assumed for hundreds of years, crouching down on her back. But Bee wouldn’t stop. Ade’s weakness only infuriated her. She just kept attacking.

By the time Mason got Ade in his arms, I was in the yard, my sight zeroed on Bee, who circled Mason and Ade. I tried grabbing her, but Bee is way faster and easily skirted my reach. Even with Ade in Mason’s arms, Bee wasn’t done. The moment she lunged at Ade, I got a hold of her and threw her down, pinning her against the ground. I’m not a strong woman, but adrenaline is like a power surge, and someone was hurting my girl. Bee instantly submitted.

As soon as we got everybody inside and calmed down, Mason dusted off the e- collar and strapped it on Bee. I’m thrilled to report that Ade is fine. Her neck was pretty bloody last night, but the wound isn’t nearly as bad as it initially looked. She’s been avoiding Bee, but who could blame her? As far as Bee is concerned, I’m worried about her future. Who is going to want a dog with that kind of trigger? Who is going to be responsible enough to handle a dog like her? Ninety percent of rescue agencies in the United States won’t accept a dog with aggression issues. In the worst cases, euthanizing them is the only option.

I’m trying to remain hopeful about the e-collar. I keep thinking about Todd Langston’s advice. He says e-collars can produce amazing results, even with the toughest dogs. Let’s hope he’s right because I don’t even want to think about the alternative.

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.