Jake’s new shock collar

A package arrives in the mail and I am excited as I fumble with the packaging, trying to tear the envelope free from its glue. I want this to work. I want this to work as well as it did in the training video and in the advertisement. I want it to work as well as it did for strangers in a forum and for yet more strangers with blogs. I want it to work because I want Jake to be a happy part of our family, not a problem to be managed while I wait to see if his instinct to kill grows strong enough to drive him to tear into the chicken house after them.

Because that is when we gave up on Pepper and had her rehomed.

But as I screw on the little metal knobs that actually deliver the shock, I hesitate. Jake is napping peacefully in the corner. He lives to please me. I was already harsh with him and even now, a few days later, he approaches me submissively with his shoulders low, his wagging tail sweeping the ground, and those great big eyes that just say, “Do you still love me, Mommy?”

The first thing I ever read about remote shock collars, or e-collars as their proponents prefer to call them, was about training dogs to leave chickens alone.

“Set the shock high and walk away. You don’t want the dog to know you are delivering the shock. You want her to think it is the chicken. When she goes for the chicken, the shock should knock her off her feet.”

That recommendation from a total stranger soured me on the use of a collar and actually was the first thing that made me seriously consider giving up Pepper. Because a new home away from chickens was surely better than treating her that way just so she could stay here.

But Jake isn’t Pepper. At least not yet.

So I call him over and fit him for his new collar. I read a little more about just exactly how I am supposed to do this and finally take him outside. With the remote in my pocket, I watch him sniff around the front yard and deliver the first shock.

Nothing.

I increase it. Still nothing. I’m looking for that point when he takes notice, but nothing more. I increase it more. And more. And I start to think maybe the shock cannot penetrate his thick coat but then finally he stops sniffing to scratch his neck. He resumes sniffing, as if it were only a bothersome fly. I try once again, in case it was just a fly. Same response.

And now it is time to introduce chickens.

We walk down to the henhouse to release the chickens and start our morning chores. Because right then, when the door is first opened and the chickens come racing out, right then it is the hardest for any dog to remember that they aren’t allowed to chase chickens.

He’s immediately alert as the tension gathers in his shoulders for a possible strike. I tap the remote in my pocket with no effect. I increase it by one and see the reaction in his eyebrows and ears as they make a slight jump. His gaze never leaves the chickens, but I decide to work with him at this level. I tap the remote again, his ears lift and he runs to my side.

“Hey, Jake!”

I rub under his ear and continue chores as if I didn’t notice what just happened. On the way to get water, he notices the pullets, small females still only half the size of the hens. Before ordering the collar, he killed one, lunged at one and caught yet another I rescued from his jaws. These are the ones that get him excited.

And yet it takes only one little tap on the remote in my pocket and he is back at my side, enjoying scritches behind the ear and the sound of my voice as I tell him about my plans for the day. He trots back down to the henhouse with me and lays down when I start to walk toward the garden. I leave him surrounded by chickens.

As I fill the five gallon waterer for the goslings, he gets up and walks around the barn. He’s out of sight, but through the open door, I can see the chickens coming around the opposite side. They aren’t running, but they are nervous, so I walk slowly to where I can get a view of Jake. He’s just standing there, staring at a chicken perched on the water dish. I’m not sure what to make of his stance. I’m not actually sure whether he wants to go after the chicken or if he just wants a drink of water.

I give him one more tap and that is it. For the rest of the day, I can’t get him to pay any attention to the chickens no matter how hard I try. Whether I sit on the porch or watch through a window inside, he goes about his business as if the chickens aren’t even there.

And I couldn’t be happier with his new little e-collar. Not just because he is learning (and quickly!) but because I was able to relax while doing chores with him. He went after the chickens three times and yet I didn’t have to scold him once. All he heard from me was praise.

And I really think this is going to work.

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19 thoughts on “Jake’s new shock collar

  1. Thanks, Jen! I don’t really need to be able to trust him around chickens (though it sure would be nice!), but he is a large and powerful dog and if he decided to go through the fencing that keeps our chickens in, it wouldn’t hold him back. So I really needed something to make him at least think twice!

  2. Those mean chickens developed the ability to peck from three feet away. 🙂 He’s a pretty submissive dog. I always thought if the chickens would just turn and peck him on the nose, he’d leave them alone, but chickens don’t do that. The guinea fowl sometimes will, and he won’t go near them. I’m afraid he may end up scared of the geese when they’re full grown because they can be aggressive toward dogs.

  3. Oh thank goodness. I didn’t know what to say after your post of him killing one of them. We live in a subdivision and long for a farm. Our friends have agreed to house our 24 laying hens that we purchased as little chicks. We have lost 3 of the 110 purchased (24 are ours). The last one, around the time of your post, was due to a rogue cat that came out and walked through the barn. My friend went out after seeing it walk through and found one of the chickens had been killed. We think one of the other 2 may have been killed by a rat. It’s so hard as I know it’s an animals instinct, however, it made me realize my stomach may not be up to the challenge of a working farm. Not sure how I might have responded to seeing it. Glad to hear your success story. Prayers it keeps up. 🙂

  4. Yeah, that’s the hard part. I’ve always grown up in the suburbs and when we moved out here with our chickens, your whole view of wildlife starts to change. Those raccoons are cute enough in the woods, but after they tear the roof of your neighbor’s henhouse to kill all their chicks, your views start changing.

    I still like raccoons and still think they’re cute, but my feelings about our dogs killing one by the henhouse were different than what they would have been in town.

    A good dog is invaluable. I know they are the reason we haven’t lost more to predators. As close as the coyotes have come and as many hawks as we have around, it is amazing we are able to free range without worrying about anything but our own dogs. Everyone’s big enough to escape the rat (whose home we found . . . but that doesn’t do much good when you can’t set out poison because of the cat and the poultry).

  5. Great post! I’m going to have to consider that for our dogs. They’re currently penned while the chickens free range. That’s partly because one dog is an incurable runner but they also chase the chickens. They haven’t managed to kill one directly yet but the younger dog did scare one off into the forest and it never came back.

  6. Uggg…since writing you, my friend saw the cat again and another chicken nearly lost it’s life. She rescued it and cleaned it up after it’s tail end had lost all of the feathers and had a few holes chewed into it. Now we have to figure out what to do about the cat who finds enjoyment in “playing” with the chickens. Problem is, it’s a stray. We are thinking a live trap and a new home. Hmmmm….

  7. Aw, poor thing. A live trap is probably best. Being a stray is a hard life. I hope you guys are able to figure it out to protect the chickens!

  8. Thanks for your post. My 3-year-old dog has suddenly learned how to get lose when I’m away at work. She has killed 2 roosters, a hen, and a duck so far. Two ducks have broken wings. I have advertised to rehome her. Just last night someone suggested a shock collar and training. Then I read your post. Maybe she is teachable. I may have to give it a go.

  9. Dogs wearing E-collars generally become walking
    disasters. When a large dog rams his E-collar into
    your shin, it hurts. If he rubs it against the wall,
    it can scrape off the paint. E-collars may knock
    over furniture or priceless vases. They make walking
    and climbing stairs difficult.

    1. Dana is referring to an Electric (shock) collar, not the e-collar/cone that is put on a pet to keep it from licking stitches, etc.
      Dana, having been involved in animal rescue for many years, I applaud your efforts to help Jake overcome this instinct. Too often I see people take the easy way out without making an true effort to modify the dog’s behavior. Some animals can’t be changed, but many can. I wish you the best, my friend!

  10. I have no idea what kind of e-collar you have had experience with, but I don’t even see how it could knock anything over or would make walking or going up stairs difficult. Tails sweep things off tables, but not a collar. You can’t even tell this collar is any different than his flat collar through all his fur. And I’m not sure how he would ram it into my shin.

    It doesn’t have any sort of external antenna. Is that what you are referring to?

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  12. I stumbled across this post and it gives me so much hope for my dogs! We have two lab mixes, and 10 chickens. They have not mingled, but the time is coming when I’m sure they will! I’ve heard that using a shock collar can work wonders but was scared. I love my dogs so much, and I don’t want to hurt them, or break who they are! I just want them to ignore and respect chickens and any other livestock we have eventually. Needless to say this makes me feel so much more at ease, and I do think we’ll be trying this soon. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing!

  13. Thank you for this post, I have spent years and years in animal rescue. I have spent years and years training dogs with positive reinforcement. I have in the past shunned shock collars. Now that I have my own working farm, and animals to milk, tons of money into my poultry, kids to watch, stalls to clean, water to haul- etc etc- yes, the dog stays with me and does not have free roam when I am not watching, but I can not stop my chores over and over again, nor is it fair to tie him. Anyway, yes, I am clearly torn here. Those are the choices I felt I was facing, rehoming a dog I really to like ( and I have rehomed a dog in the past for this same reason, I felt he was too good a dog to be miserable around chickens and I have too much into the poultry to risk them) ANYWAY! I found your article, and I feel better reading that someone can understand how I feel. That I am not just looking to NOT train my dog, but chores need to get done, and I need to not loose any birds. Thank you for your article. If you see this, what brand of collar did you find you liked? Thank you

  14. Glad to hear about your success with Jake, and his new collar. I ran across your post trying to find out if they actually work. Our year old Rotty, Tank.loves to chase the chickens…..he hasn’t killed one yet, but its only a matter of time before his chase game turns deadly.

    I’ll be ordering one of these collars ASAP……..thanks for sharing your experience!!

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