Questions About Using Remote Collar Training: Q&A

Questions About Using Remote Collar Training

There are often many questions about using remote collar training. Today I thought I’d share a Q&A e-mail exchange that I had with a dog owner who had questions about using a remote collar to help have more control of his dog reactive dog. I believe this is a fairly common situation.

Plus, it is very important for others to understand that the remote collar not be used as a punishment for the lunging, barking behavior, the goal is to re-direct to a more appropriate behavior.

The e-collar can be used for that purpose so I figured it a good idea to just share the information exchange here on TASC.

Please note that in my answers to Brad my use of capitalization is for emphasis on key concepts, not yelling. ;-0

Q: I have recently tried your 1st dvd and found it to be very helpful.
We have a reactive dog that struggles with a few issues, but has had great
success in controlled situations on a long line with the remote collar.  My
questions revolve around 2 scenarios.  First, he pulls sometimes while
walking and does not respond the same to the e-collar as he does when he’s on
the long line.  He tends to try and avoid the taps and doesn’t come to my
side.  Should I be doing something different when he’s in front of me and I
want him beside me while walking?  Second, Frankie is very reactive at the
sight of other dogs.  He pulls, barks, whines, growls/lunges (some, not
always).  We have been to trainers, 2 reactive dog class series, tried
socializing and no one can seem to help us much.  He can calm down after
awhile but his initial reaction is always one of fear, distrust and anger.
We have had him for 1.5 years and don’t know what happened before but he has
been bit by an off leash dog since we have had him, as well as other off leash dogs running up to him that he really doesn’t like.  He does have 2 dog friends so I know he
is capable of being a sweet playful dog with other dogs, but he is AWFUL on
walks through our neighborhood if there are other dogs out.  It’s very tough
for my wife to walk him because he’s so strong, and we want nothing more
than to have a balanced dog that we can take wherever we go with us, but we
would be happy with a dog that could at least walk past another dog on the
other side of the street and not flip out.  Is there anything I can be doing
with the collar to work on this?  I don’t want to do something to make the
situation worse than it is.  Just to paint the picture a little more he also
can’t stand to see dogs walk by our house when he’s inside.  He will whine
and whine and eventually bark and run around the house whining about the dog
outside.  He just seems paranoid all the time.  Any help would be
appreciated,we LOVE our dog but we just don’t want something bad to happen.  After
watching your dvd and having the recall success on the long line I figured
it couldn’t hurt to reach out for some guidance.  Thank you for your time.

A:  Hi Brad, It is always a bit challenging to advise via e-mail since I am “guessing” at what is going on rather than actually being able to see it in person. However, from similar experience in the past here are some thoughts on how the remote collar can be used to move forward.

Teaching a Heel command is different than teaching the recall. Spend some time teaching the skill of Heel. Be very clear about what Heel is so you can be clear with your expectation of your dog. To me, Heel should mean that your dog’s head should always be positioned near the seam of your pants on your left leg. I envision a imaginary fence attached to my left leg and the space is about 18 inches in diameter.

Expect the dog to remain in that space (not whole body but his/her head) as soon as the dog begins to “leak” outside of that space I tap/tap/tap the remote collar and HELP (leash pressure, lure treat, pat my hip etc) the dog to successfully get back into that space.

As you practice make LOTS of turns (both left turn, right turn and about turns) to keep your dog paying attention and learning that Heel is a position in relationship to you that he needs to maintain. Once the dog understands this new command and it’s position THEN you can begin to expose to distraction and expect the dog to Heel past other dogs.
The idea is to teach the behavior first and THEN generalize or proof the behavior around distraction. As you begin the process of proofing the behavior you should keep in mind three variables: Duration (how long your dog can maintain a command) Distraction (how much is going on around your dog or: how many and amped up the other dogs are) and Distance (how close are the distractions: other dogs) Don’t expect to be able to combine all variables at once. It will overload your dog’s threashold for tolerance.
Begin by being farther away and hopefully around dogs that are more stable (which is why a well structured class can help more that the “real world” right at the beginning)
Gradually increase the expectations by upping the anti of duration, distraction/distance etc.  Keep in mind your end goal (walking calmly down the street past other dogs) and build up to it over a 4 – 6 week expectation.

The other key is to be VERY proactive in reminding your dog what TO DO when you see other dogs coming. This means you should remind the dog to Heel BEFORE he gets amped up/excited and breaks position. AS you see his attention elevate when he notices another dog that is when you give reminders. When his MIND is leaving the position BEFORE his body has. This makes it easier to regain control before it is actually lost. (the 2nd dvd talks more about this concept)

There is another blog post that further discusses being proactive when working with reactive dogs.

In addition, I would suggest a chiropractic visit for your dog. I have found that many, many dog reactive dogs have underlying body issues that make them more sensitive to body slamming, etc. that other dogs tend to do. Because there may be underlying tension/sensitivity they become very reactive about keeping other dogs away to protect themselves after having a bad experience in the past. Body work, massage, chiropractic and exposure to dogs that play nice help re-acclimate and build trust.

As with any training, your energy level about the situations is crucial. A dog needs calm energy and leadership to trust the human to be making the decisions (ie: “heel and mind your business near these other dogs because I got your back and I won’t let them hurt you”)  If you are transmitting negative, insecure or elevated energy through your voice, stiff body language or tension on the leash your dog will pick up on this and feel it necessary to defend. Make sure you breath, shoulders square and relaxed, eyes forward toward your destination and walk on confidently as you remind heel and move right on past.

In addition to my response to Brad, I would like to remind others that not all dogs want to “say hello” or “be friends”. Please be courteous to other dog owners and DO NOT allow your dog to run up to other dogs with out the permission of the owner. This can have devastating effects on a dog that has been working on impulse control. It is each individuals responsibility to maintain control of their dog.

Also don’t “force” your dog to be social or long for them to “want to play with other dogs”. If you have a dog that is tolerant but not a social butterfly accept that that is his/her personality and respect your dog as is. Not all people are social butterflies either. If a stranger ran up to you in the grocery store, grabbed you and hugged you cause “he’s friendly and wants to say hi!” …what would you think of that? You may or may not appreciate the “friendly” gesture. Keep that in mind when it comes to your dog. We all have our personal space “bubbles”. When it comes to strange dog’s running up to your dog, he/she has a right to have one too.

A remote collar can be part of the solution in dealing with reactive dogs but it takes a balanced approach that looks at the entire situation to find all the pieces of the puzzle.


    • Hi Andrew,

      In order to offer any suggestions, I need a little more info…what do you mean by “flips out”? Can you describe the behavior more clearly?

  • I have a scary issue with one of my dogs and I don’t know how/if the remote training collar would work. Chelsea is a mixed breed (golden, terrier, aussie, etc) that was found on the street when she was only 5 weeks old. She is 3 1/2 years old. She was fine with dogs, went to day care, etc. until @ 2 years old she became ball aggressive and attacked another dog that came near her tennis ball. She was expelled from day care. We have 2 other dogs, an 11 year old golden retriever and a 7 year old black lab. She always played with them until one day she attacked the golden retriever in the back yard and tried to kill him. We took away all tennis balls. She then tried to attack/kill the black lab in the house when the lab just walked by her. I took her to a behaviourist and then to a vet that deals with aggression. She is currently on Prozac. No toys are allowed. Today she just up and attacked the Golden Retriever again with no provacation. He was laying down asleep. The golden was crying and trying to get away and I had to pry Chelsea’s teeth off of him and pin her down. Since there is nothing that shows this is about to happen what can I do? Any suggestions and help would be so greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Ann,

      This is a serious issue and I suggest you seek professional help. Aggression cases are not something to try and tackle yourself.
      I’m not sure where you are located but you can check this list of trainers who have studied with me, perhaps there is someone in your area.
      If not than try the IACP and find someone who has experience and success dealing with aggression issues. Good luck.

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