I recently moved to New York to try my hand at the Big Apple. Submerged in an entirely new (and huge) city, I was happy to not have come alone: I brought my 1 year old lab mix Huckleberry with me. I was concerned at first that she might not enjoy the city dog lifestyle, but happily, I was able to score an apartment within walking to distance to the Park. When I learned about the off leash rules in Central Park, I was thrilled- I was definitely not expecting that kind of relaxed policy in Manhattan. But I was also nervous to test it out. Although Huckleberry is well behaved, and extremely friendly, I didn’t feel comfortable just setting her loose in the middle of the biggest city in the country, and hoping that this would be one of the times she listened well. Coupled by the fact that she is still young, and already feeling restless after being shut in the car for so long during the move. I called a trainer for advice, and possible help on “urbanizing” a dog.
As soon as the trainer heard my story and a description of my dog, she launched into her theory that I might want to try an electric collar (‘remote touch”) collar. This was not what I was expecting- I was thinking more along the lines of a doggy play group or help with establishing a set of calls that she’ll really respond to (both my dog and myself need to be trained on consistency.) I do think that training a dog with treats is a little ridiculous, since it just rewards them for behaving poorly, and I lost all faith in it after watching a woman trying wave a treat in her dog’s face as the animal literally dragged her across the park to say hi to a poodle. But I wasn’t sure if I could trade the proverbial carrot for the stick- surely there was something more middle ground than electrocuting my dog? Still, I agreed to a free trial session with her, just to see what she had in mind.
So one early weekend morning, I meet her at the park. She has this little thing that attaches to a dog’s collar, and she wants me to feel it. I agree, since I really wanted to know the, um, voltage we’re talking about. And you know, it didn’t feel like much. Just a little buzz, more annoying than anything else. I had been expecting much more, and was happy to feel that this was at least humane, in the sense that it wasn’t torture. But it got me thinking. I don’t plan on having kids, so my dog is pretty much it. And people can do what they want to train their “animals,” but mine do mean a lot to me. I would never attach a buzzer to my children; why would I do it to my dog? Sure, the kid would listen if I buzzed them every time they were about to do something wrong. And my dog probably would, too. But she’s not a bad dog, and I know I can make it work without the buzzer, so really it would just be making my job easier. Instead of training her, I would shock her.
The trainer didn’t agree. She said that there was plenty of training that still went into it, but I didn’t see that, and I didn’t have interest. She seemed to think that I was being squeamish, and perhaps I was. But with a little more effort on my part, we are making it work. Huckleberry now goes off her leash once a day in the park, and I haven’t had a problem. And out of the two of us, I’m the only one who has ever been attached to a buzzer.