DEAR READERS: I have raised the issue of using remote-controlled, bark-activated or fence-line triggering shock collars on dogs, voicing my disapproval of such devices -- with rare exceptions, such as their use by sensitive and experienced dog handlers, including many veterinarians.
British veterinarian Dr. Mike Smith, from my natal county of Lancashire, had fence-line triggering collars on his two Labradors, and by the age of 12, they both developed laryngeal paralysis. He wonders if there is a connection between this malady and the electrical field created by the capacitor in the collars. The collars were rarely triggered once the dogs were conditioned to keep away from the electrical fence line.
Any experiences from readers whose dogs have developed laryngeal paralysis, and had been wearing these kinds of collars, would be appreciated.
Apparently, laryngeal paralysis has recently become quite a common condition in dogs in the U.K. Genetics may be involved, as well as the dogs’ environments. Many, left alone all day, bark and howl for hours. Could this, and the use of various shock-collar systems, be contributing factors? And if addressed, might this condition be preventable?
We should also consider possible damage caused by dogs pulling hard when on a leash, and wearing narrow collars and choke-chains. Tracheal collapse, especially in small breeds, can be avoided by putting them in a harness instead.
DEAR DR. FOX: My wife and I are retirees with a young dog. We have two off-leash dog parks near where we live, but our dog will not go and run or play with the other dogs. She just stays close to us, but we want her to get some exercise. She’s a rescued 2-year-old Australian heeler, and has no interest in chasing balls or Frisbees. What would you advise? -- R.M., Minneapolis, Minnesota
DEAR R.M.: My wife and I have the same problem with our dog, also a rescue and mainly Australian red heeler. On rare occasions, she will have a game of chase with a friendly dog, but that is the exception for her.
You might try what gets our Kota running: On walks, my wife holds her leash while I walk way ahead, and then she lets Kota go, who runs like the wind to me. Then I walk with the dog and eventually let her run back when my wife calls her. In the off-leash enclosed dog area nearby, we stand about 50 yards apart, and Kota is happy to run from one of us to the other. She has never been a “runaway” kind of dog -- truly a heeler. She knows she has a forever home, and her attachment to us is probably in part due to some PTSD and fear of abandonment.
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