There IS a time and place for E-collar training!
We are not the type of trainers who slap an e-collar on the dog and leave it on. That is, in our opinion, lazy. And what happens if for some reason you can’t wear the collar on the dog? We believe, a dog should fully understand what is expected of him, learn the command, the desired reaction, and respect his handler. MOST of our obedience is obtained this way.
That said, there are a number of situations for which the e-collar is the BEST tool for the job.
Counter surfing (can also be effectively corrected with mousetraps!)
Running away, not returning (after the foundation recall work is completed)
Dogs with HIGH drives are a blessing and a curse. A dog with drives loves to do stuff. They also LOVE to do stuff. Not necessarily the stuff you want them to do.
I recently had an email from a puppy owner who is having an issue with her dog chasing wildlife. She busts out the door past the children, and then it’s game on. Recall is useless. This dog has drives, and your biscuit means nothing when there is prey on the run. <— Insert E-collar HERE!!!
It is important to do some foundation work with the e-collar before ANY corrections are made, or you will have to leave the collar on the dog. A smart dog will quickly learn the collar controls the correction, and thus, no collar equals FREEDOM! So to make the collar and the corrections as effective as possible, you need to fool the dog. For a few days before you plan to begin setting up the problems, put the collar on the dog, as tight as it will need to be for correction. Put the dog’s regular collar on as well. Or put a box link or slip chain on too. Randomly take off and put on all the collars for a few days, until your dog really has no idea what he is wearing, or why. Be sure to move the e-collar around so the contact points don’t cause any rub sores. Please understand E-collars DO NOT BURN or otherwise cause damage from the electric shock. Rub sores can occur if the collar is too tight or sits in one spot for too long, or if the dog is digging at it. The use of an e-collar is NOT inhumane, as many bleeding heart dog “trainers” would have you believe. E-collars are effective training tools when used properly and CAN save your dog’s LIFE. If your dog is running towards the road and doesn’t come back when called, a quick buzz from the collar can interrupt that thought process and prevent a tragedy. If your dog is the cause of an accident, you are liable.
There are several problems that can be corrected with the use of an e-collar in this situation. Each requires setting up the situation and teaching the desired behaviour.
First step would be setting up the “busting past the children”. Once the foundation work is done, as described above, then it’s time for the setup. Decide as a family what the new command should be; something simple that the children can articulate, and unique to the situation. Our command of choice for doorways, gates, crates, stairways, etc. is “Wait”. It means, wait there until you’re given information otherwise. It is different from a stay command in that they don’t have to hold the last position given. “Sit-stay” means hold that position until the next command is given. “Wait” simply means do not proceed. If the dog gets bored of standing and waiting, they can sit or lie down without having broken a command.
So, with the command of choice agreed upon, next is setting up the situation. This can also be accomplished using a leash or long line, but for fast moving dogs, e-collar is cleaner. Do some practice with the dog, teaching the new command and response. Open the door; give the command, if the dog proceeds through the door, correct. Use all your tools for the first few times; leash and collar, and a stern verbal correction if the dog makes a move through the door. Once he has learned this with you, then set it up with the children. Have them open the door; you still issue a firm command, at the same time the child gives the command. Dogs do not usually respect small children, so it will take some extra commands on your part to get him to respond to the command regardless of who issues it. Once this is accomplished, then comes your proofing with the e-collar. Set up the situation, child opens door, normally gets pushed out of the way. This time however, you’re going to stay silent, allowing the child to command the dog; you’re simply going to make the correction with the collar’s remote IF the dog disobeys. Always start with a low correction level to begin with. If it’s ineffective, then move to the next level until you get the desired correction. Sometimes a dog will react to their first e-collar correction by running away from the spot where they were corrected. It’s not a bad idea to have a long line on the dog until you can gauge the reaction.
The separate exercises of chasing, in this case deer, but any other animal, person, bicycle, skateboards, cars, etc, is also easily corrected with the e-collar. The command for this correction is simply NO! No means NEVER. Never chase an animal, person, or vehicle. If for some reason you WANT the dog to rid the yard of deer, or rabbits, etc, you could choose the word Stop, or Leave it, or simply recall the dog to you. Come! or Here! At the exact same time as the command is given, in other words, no command is given and then time for the dog to respect said command, give a strong correction with the e-collar. Remember drives are HIGH when your dog is in chase mode. You need to interrupt the thought process immediately. If the dog doesn’t react to the first correction, up the level and re-command at once. Always PRAISE for the desired behaviour. If the dog stops, or returns to you, make a big deal of it. Lots of praise, pats, “good-boy”s. No need for treats. Your voice and your affection are the greatest reward.
To proof your recall, go back to your training collar, box link, slip chain or flat collar, and use your long line. Make sure your dog fully understands the command and the desired response. We have two recall commands. Come is formal. It is used when the recall is urgent. It means: stop whatever you’re doing, return to me as fast as you can, and sit in front of me until I give you the next command. It is NEVER allowed to be ignored, and therefore must be taught well with your leash, and then with your long line. We also use Here. It is less formal, but still means return to me. It might mean I want to pat you, or I want you in the house, car, crate, etc. It doesn’t require the formal sit in front. It’s also acceptable if the dog stops to pee (not mark) or pick up a stick, or grab a toy, on the way back to you. If the intent is there, then no correction is given. Once the foundation work is done, then you can offer your dog more freedom with the use of the e-collar. PRACTICE this, so that you know your dog understands what is expected. Add distractions. Recall your dog away from the playing children, or the birds on the beach, or the bicycles on the trails. Don’t wait for the make or break situation to find out if your dog will respond. You might not be wearing the e-collar THAT time.
The investment in an e-collar can be as little as a hundred dollars or so, up to several hundred. The collar you choose should be based on your needs. Do you have multiple dogs? There are systems for that. Do you travel dense wilderness, or use your dog for hunting? There are systems for that too. Sometimes you can borrow or rent a system from a friend or a trainer to fix a specific problem or try it out. Choose a collar system to match the needs of your situation. The most trusted brands are those chosen by bird hunters. They will be waterproof, durable, and adaptable.