With the recent ban of electric collars in Wales just being announced I thought I would air my experiences.
We already had a mongrel rescue dog who had had the most awful start in life being shut in a kennel for over two years. When rescued by the RSPCA she was so thin and had no muscle and couldnít walk. She became the most fantastic family dog ever and came on holidays caravanning all over the country as well as being the most lovable family dog who was never a moments trouble.
While working one night I met the lady from the kennels who remembered I had had German Shepherds before and said she had a lovely cross breed in that needed a good home and it was mostly Shepherd, and twenty two months old, the seed was sown. We went to have a look the next weekend and Boomer found a new home.
He was a bit thin handsome strong as hell and not a functioning brain cell in place. He did not know his name and had had no training unless it was in another language.
He would not come back, walk to heel at all. I enlisted the help of a friend who was a police dog handler and he trained me to train the dog and provided us with many hours of help and tuition.
But despite effective work on the recall once Jack as we had renamed him smelt sheep he was off often way out of sight.
A few things of note occurred at this period. My son while walking Jack lost him, on gaining the crest of the hill he saw Jack, in a field with a flock of sheep, two sheep dogs and a farmer. My son was running up calling him frantically. The farmer said leave him alone look, Jack rounded up the flock moved them on through the gate which the farmer shut. Great he said these two sheep doge have been at it for forty minutes and failed to do that, fortunately Jack came back when called. But on another occasion he brought my wife a cow back, God knows where from, which was not a welcome gift though he seemed pleased with himself.
Every day had become a night mare, walks were dreaded not enjoyed, our life was spoilt by this dog.
Despite trying to walk on sheep free routes he could scent them miles away and the slightest distraction he was away. Then he came back with blood round his mouth and we feared the worst. Now rarely was he off the lead not much fun for a young active dog.
While out with my wife he escaped and was found with a bleeding sheep. We were frantic, as responsible dog owners drastic action was required immediately.
A farmer where I shoot said lets put him in with a big tup that will sort him out, and while being the traditional method there are risks to tup and dog. A friend of my wifeís had a PAC collar and was prepared to lend it to us once she had heard our story.
We read the instructions and watched the DVD carefully a couple of times. The dummy collar was put on Jack to start the process.
It was about this time of year just after lambing and I lost Jack in the woods near our home. I am a calm bloke but was very anxious, there is a local urban legend of the farmer here shooting several dogs.
I called him I whizzed about the wood looking, then I heard barking in the field below the wood. My heart sank, It was just above the farm house. I fastened the other dog to the fence jumped over and started to look for him, despite clear barking it took me a while to find him and he had penned a ewe and her lamb in a fold in the corner behind the house. I called him to no avail and when I tried to go to him he danced away, I backed away calling him, the barking continued. Then to my horror he moved the ewe and lamb out into the field to join the flock and started moving the flock slowly around the field.
The farmer came out. His first words in a belligerent manner were shall I fetch my gun. I replied calmly, I would rather you didnít but wouldnít blame you if you did, if you do I will shoot him.
Why would you want to do that he asked. I replied because I know I can shoot and if he has to go its to be a clean job. I told him about the shocking collar. He looked at me ok he said Iíll help you catch him.
Half an hour later the sheep are still gently circling the field. Iíll get my brother to give us a hand he said. So then there were three of us one dog and fifty eweís and lambs moving around for another half hour. I apologised profusely, well the farmer said no real damage as they have already lambed heís just giving them exercise. I may have looked at him like he was stupid but was grateful . He then said Iíve been thinking about getting my sheepdog out. Thatís great I replied they will come to us together then. Ar, but you donít understand he said, she is nasty she might hurt him. Hurt him, hurt him, I thought we were going to shoot him an hour ago. Just get the dog I said, and so it was done in two minutes he was back on the lead. I thanked them and nipped to the supermarket and dropped off a case of beer, to thank them for there help and attitude.
The time came for the dummy collar to come off and the live one to go on. Then after the prescribed period we took Jack up to a farm I shoot on with lots of sheep and into the field we went well away from the sheep. After a few minutes Jack was animatedly interested and off he went I called once he kept going half way to the sheep I pressed the button on full power, he yelped lifted vertically off the ground landed and came pelting back to my feet.
The collar stayed on but he showed no interest sheep even walking down the same path off the lead he would be close to my side. But a clever dog can revert. They realise after a time that they have been close and nothing has happened to them. After six months Jack was watching the sheep again and taking steps towards them when called back, nothing bad happened but there had been a change the collar went back on. One shock close to sheep on low power and the job was done. Its eight years later and he is fantastic, another great dog, he has been our pride and joy except for those first few weeks where it was a living hell of worry and torment. Good dog training and the judicious use of a shocking collar have transformed a bone of head of sheep killing muscle into the most loyal friend anyone could hope the have.
There is massive scope for misuse of these collars, but there is scope for the misuse of everything, a dog lead or a stick can both cause suffering to a dog are these to be banned. Our collar was used for two shocks of less than a second each and have turned this dog round completely. So I donít think a ban is the answer. We found out that Jack had three owners in his twenty two months of life before we got him, often he was kept on a patio from where he often escaped to do his own thing round the housing estate. His previous owner took him to the vet to be put down as he was unmanageable. The vet refused to put down a health dog and so he came to us. The real crux of the matter is there is no substitute for responsible dog ownership and adequate training which would have negated the need for such drastic behavioural aversion therapy. But where required it works.