Electric Collar Dog Training: It’s More Than Just the Tool

Electric Collar Training: Good Dog Training Is More Than Just the Tool You Choose

Anyone who spends more than 10 seconds on this blog can figure out that it’s primary purpose is to explore ideas and concepts surrounding the use of electronic collars.  A bit of browsing and you can find advice on some of the basic concepts for successfully using an electronic collar, read about other peoples experiences with this training and enjoy a guest post from some of my professional colleagues.

But when trying to resolve behavior problems it is important that we are also aware of possible underlying conditions contributing to the issues. Electronic collars are great tools, but  I want to make certain that we all understand that training and successfully solving behavioral issues is a complex process. There are a myriad of tools and techniques that are helpful in providing solutions, but IF there are underlying health issues that are unresolved or other foundational issues, no amount of work and practice is going to make a significant difference.

There are so many considerations to take into account when you are trying to resolve problems with your dog but I’d like to offer a foundation to consider before you move forward on deciding what direction to go. With that in mind, here are some questions to ask yourself;

Do I provide my dog with adequate exercise?

Having a big yard does not fill a dog’s need for exercise. Just because the dog has a large amount of space does not mean they will take advantage of it and diligently ‘work out’ on their own in order to release pent up energy. A dog who does not have an adequate exercise routine will generally work out their frustration in ways that we find unacceptable. Inappropriate chewing, whining, digging, and general restlessness are often resolved with an increase in exercise.

Do I feed my dog a highly nutritious diet?

The advertising on T.V. isn’t all what it is cracked up to be. Most of the slick ads you see in print and other media are for foods that range from barely adequate to lousy in terms of the nutrient requirements for our dogs. What you feed your dog is what fuels their body and mind. Junk in = junk out. Need to brush up your knowledge about dog food? Check out this site to see how your dog food rates in terms of quality. For those who are curious, here is what I feed my dogs.

Have I created structure and leadership routines in my daily interactions with my dog?

Dogs flourish best in environments that have clear leadership protocols established. They don’t get bored with routine and structure. They actually feel secure and exhibit far fewer behavioral problems when they have someone else (ie. the humans in the household) making the decisions about what is and what is not allowable. Our dogs don’t need us to over think their level of ‘happiness’. They need us to be fair, reliable leaders they can trust to keep their best interest at heart. That means rules, structure and consistency in their daily lifestyle.

Have I explored possible underlying health issues that may be the root cause of my dog’s behavioral problems?

In my experience this is commonly overlooked by many trainers and even many veterinarians. Too often, we leap to assumptions that the dog is ” very dominant”,  “just shy” or “fearful and reactive” or some other personality trait we label them with when the fact is there IS something physically wrong at the root of it all. A blood chem panel, a Complete thyroid test, a physical and gait analysis are just a few of the things to look for when evaluating many behavioral problems. Quite often dog-dog aggression has some root in past injury to the hind quarters that leads to the dog learning protectiveness when approached by other dogs. I’ve also seen tail chasing, OCD behavior resolve when the dog has realignment of the spine through chiropractic adjustments.

I’ve seen dogs labeled with “unprovoked human aggressive” behavior who are suffering ear or mouth infections that likely create such discomfort it is no wonder they bite someone who has tried to pet them. We’ve found dogs labeled by other trainers as “stubborn” to have Lyme disease with titers so high I can only assume their reluctance to do as told lies in the fact they are indeed in pain and have sore muscles. Shyness, odd fear reactions, unprovoked aggression problems, are just a few of the host of behavioral issues that can be related to thyroid disease, which according to Dr. Jean Dodds, a leading researcher in the field,  is often under diagnosed. Our dogs are not good at telling us they don’t feel well, at least not until the problem is so severe that it  becomes readily apparent. We need to be better detectives at exploring the possible underlying causes to some of these problems.

What I LOVE about training with an e-collar is that it is a fabulous tool that can truly enhance a relationship by supporting a solid training plan. What I HATE about promoting the use of an e-collar is when people jump to conclusions that they just have a bad dog and thus need to run to the store and purchase an electronic collar so they can take it home to “show the dog who’s boss”. That mindset needs to change. Do your dog a favor when you run into problems, hire a real professional who will help you rule out underlying causes and set you on the path of a solid training plan so you can build a better relationship together.

Whether it is a head halter, a clicker, a handful of treats, a leash, a prong collar, an electronic dog training collar, or a piece of rope…it is the tool between your two ears that is the most important, use it well.


*Updated 1/10/2016

Stress in Dog Training

Stress in dog training, is it necessary or not?

Stress in dog training was a topic touched on in one of our conversations on this Facebook page about the Banning of Training Tools .

One of the participants there, Mike, had a few words to say so I invited him to share them here on my site.

My personal thought is there is a significant difference between stress and distress, and this is what we must be conscience of in our training. It is my opinion that short term stresses designed to increase our coping abilities are a good thing. I believe that is the case for us and for our dogs.

What are your thoughts on stress in the paradigm of dog training?

Guest post:

Stress is something we all live with on a daily basis. Though is stress always such a bad thing? Ask yourself, when you hear the word stress what do you think of? For most the thought of high blood pressure, or ripping your hair out in frustration quickly comes to mind.

In the same way when one hears the word electricity we are often preconditioned to think of it in a negative context. I know I did when first hearing about remote collars, having been curious enough (or stupid perhaps) to stick a fork in a socket!

So we are left with the questions, can negatives have an upside? Is stress always such a bad thing?

Is stress always bad for mans best friend?

I believe in small doses it is not. It can even be beneficial. Many people work better under stress, and I am one of them. The same applies to dogs. On a daily basis we ask our canine companions to endure various stressful situations. Such as moving, bringing them into loud and busy environments, blasting our favorite songs, and the list goes on. So why is it that if stress happens in the name of training we are so quick to call it cruel? I understand that if taken to extreme it can cause psychological damage, but there is a happy medium. I believe it is important to teach our dogs how to deal with stress and how to respond in stressful situations.

Many positive trainers would have you believe that any compulsion used in training is too stressful, equates to abusive, and is morally reprehensible. There is a prevailing belief that all the answers to our training problems lie with cookies and praise of behaviors that are desired and ignoring behaviors that are unwanted.

This may be an extreme example, but imagine I walk up to a person with a fear of bats (the flying kind), holding a great big bat in a locked room and I am going to throw chocolate chip cookies at them while I do it! Is that really going to make them feel any better or make their stress go away? Of course not, they would need to be desensitized, and conditioned to act calm in such a situation.

The same is true when working with a dog that has anxiety, or aggression issues, avoiding stress is not only impossible, it is also counter productive. We can do our best to minimize it, but some is required to help the animal overcome such behaviors and be able to cope in our world.

Stress subsides when a dog (or anyone for that matter) begins to understand what is being asked of him/her, and what he/she should be doing. This is why I personally believe a leash correction is less stressful to a dog then negative punishment (which in simple terms is the removal of a treat as a punishment). A leash correction is a clear way of communicating to a dog they did something wrong. In the same way that a clicker is an auditory marker for a correct action, a correction is a physical cue to tell the dog they did something wrong, and does not need to hurt to work (in the same way a clicker works, but does not hurt).

Ask yourself, when are you more stressed? In a situation where you have black and white instructions on what to do, or in a situation with limited information when you are unsure of what to do?

The use of punishment techniques in dog training have become a controversial issue in recent years. Long standing training tools such as the prong collar, or remote collar are being labeled as barbaric. Though when rational thought prevails, it is easy to understand abuse does not stem from a tool, but from the one using it.

Take a knife for example. It is dangerous or not? I believe it depends on who is holding it and what the intent is. It could be used as a weapon or to carve the next Venus de Milo

It is the same with any dog training collar. Using a tool judicously to aid a dog’s understanding of what to do or what not to do may add some stress to the learning process, but once the learning has occurred there is no longer stress. There is comprehension and with that comes increased confidence and decreased stress over all.

remote collar training
Mike & friend.