E-collar dog training: What the Sharpie had to say.

Last weekend I taught a workshop on advanced concepts in e-collar training. The workshop hosted by Flying Colors Canine touched on many topics. We discussed improving precision, adding tricks to the repertoire, how to deal with behavioral problems like aggression and anxiety, how to begin with puppies plus a bit more. While all the topics had the use of remote collars as a common denominator there were other messages I was trying to convey in my teaching.

One of the challenges of teaching is finding a way to assess if you’re doing a good job communicating the message. This is a big deal to me because….well, because I don’t want to suck at it. If people are investing their hard earned cash and precious time to come hear what I have to say I want them to get a decent ROI.

In order to judge if there was some clarity around the concepts I spoke on I asked the attendees to sign my T-shirt (given to me as a gift by Flying Colors) with three words or concepts they took away as valuable from the weekend.

While the theme was e-collar training there was so much more I wanted to be memorable than just how to push a button.

In no particular order here are a few of the comments written on the shirt to give you a participants overview of what we did in the Beyond the Basics: Taking Remote Collar Training from Last Resort to First Choice.

Slow Down, Shut Up & Envision I loved this threesome because becoming quieter and more subtle in our motion is such an effective way to communicate with our dogs. Dogs are far more visual than auditory. It is important we remember this because all too often in our data over loaded world we forget that some silent space is a very good thing. With some silence and intention in our movement we actually gain our dogs attention more quickly.

Motion Dissipates Stress One of my favorite mantras. Movement is often the overlooked key to success. Success in terms of both general, physical activity to have a calmer dog but also 1) as a starting point for e-collar conditioning or for 2) when a dog “gets stuck” comprehending something ….instead of locking in the moment trying to hammer home a point… move, switch gear to something easy/known consider the change of direction a “restart button” and then try again. And finally 3) when dealing with rehabilitation cases be cautious with stationary work around triggers. It is far easier to use motion toward and away from triggers to help the dog feel a sense of control.

Vision: Mine & Theirs Clarity of vision was a central theme we came back to often in the workshop. It is something I think is left out of most trainers workshops. Something left out of many trainers work altogether. Bottom line, we need a goal to shoot for regardless if we are training with a remote dog training collar or any tool. We also need to be aware that the vision we have as trainers may be vastly different than the one our clients have for their dogs. As professional dog trainers we must make sure we understand what our clients vision is, then lay out the sequence of how to get there. If someone’s vision of what is possible is a bit lower than what you know can be achieved, then boost them up for a clearer view! Every dog and owner under your tutelage deserves to reach their potential.

Do The Hokey – Pokey Sorry but you have to attend the workshop to learn this classified bit of information. 😛

What They Do, They will Duplicate That is my take on how to be an effective instructor. In general, what we hear, we will forget, what we see, we will remember, and what we do we will be able to repeat. I certainly believe in “telling and showing” my clients what to do, but I believe the most valuable part is getting them doing it repeatedly until it becomes comfortable to replicate on their own. Of course this is another reason I believe remote collar training is so effective with today’s pet owners. Most of us already have experience with remotes of one variety or another so that part of tool handling is intuitive. The key becomes teaching when to tap and how to assist the dog in understanding what the sensation is being associated with. The other part of “doing” is getting out replicating that good behavior in the real world. For me that means That’s My Dog! on the Go classes. The real experiences ingrain a new way of “being” with one’s dog.

As Fast As You Can, As Slow As You Need To This statement is in reference to how quickly you should progress a dogs skill set or his approach to triggers. We don’t want to repeatedly push dogs over thresholds and impede learning. But it is equally important that we don’t go so slowly that we remain plateaued, with limited progress toward our vision. There have been times I’ve seen trainers get “greedy” and try to go to fast, too soon, which therefore sets up a dog for failure. This can certainly happen with those using remote collars for training because progress does come fast by nature but we must be wise when we push to the next level. On the other hand I’ve seen some trainers (usually in the all positive camps) go so cautiously and with such limited expectation that they make no tangible progress toward a realistic lifestyle for the dog and owner. Regardless of our tools we need to know when a dog is ready for the next step and whether a gentle push to get there is warranted or not. That really is why great dog training is as much art as science. Some trainers have an incredible intuitiveness in these areas, others need to continue to hone those skills.

Where the Magic Happens This was primarily a quote in reference to our business skills and it references stepping outside our comfort zones to go to the next level. I’ll be talking a whole lot more about this on our Education At Sea event coming in February. But it is also about rehabbing dogs. Their comfort zones are small. If we want to help them it is our job to incrementally make their comfort zones bigger and more tolerant. It is outside the “old comfort zone” that the magic happens. My steadfast goal has been to expand dogs, owners and other trainers into new areas and help them get comfortable there so they can have and do more. Ready?…take a S-T-E-P!

There were lots of other thoughts jotted down on the T-shirt; Grounding, Clarity, Confidence and The Purple Cow…..It was my pleasure to work with everyone and to allow me to work with or advise about their dogs. You guys rock and thank you to Jen who signed “Best Workshop Ever!”  I know that in the moment lots of things can feel like “best ever” so I won’t let those words get my ego too big….but I am happy to know I delivered a decent return on investment. It sure isn’t just about pushing a shock collar button and everyone proved you totally get that. 🙂



1 comment
  • I like the article a lot! VEry helpful and entertaining. You really nailed it1 Kudos to all pet lovers who take their time to give love and attention to these four-legged creatures! They trully are a man’s bestfriend. Thanks!

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