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

Possessive behavior in dogs can be prevented.

Possessive behavior in dogs is dangerous but it can be prevented.

Big issues can arise when a dog becomes confident at defending bones, toys or other items. Some dogs even become possessive of people and won’t let others approach or sit next to “their human”. This is scary in a number of ways.

If a dog with resource guarding issues gets a hold of anything potentially dangerous it can be very challenging to try and take it away. It is now dangerous for the dog, plus dangerous that someone may get bit trying to remove the item. There is also a good deal of potential liability when owning a dog that has possessive behaviors. All too often it is the unknowing visitor or house guest that is the one who gets nipped or sometimes seriously hurt.

As with any behavior problem, trying to fix existing issues is much more difficult and time consuming than preventing them from ever getting started.

To help you get an idea of how to head off these problems of possessive behavior, I filmed one of the routine interactions we go through when dogs are here at the training facility.

We often have dogs practicing the Place command while we are attending to other tasks. For those who don’t know what a Place command is, we define it as the dog remaining on their mat or bed, (4 paws on) until given permission to go.

Today I noticed that the staff had given each of the dogs a food stuffed bone or rubber toy to chew on to keep them entertained. This was the perfect opportunity to see if any of the dogs in training had issues with possessive behavior and make sure we were heading off any potential problems.

Here is a quick look at what I did to help create the right associations for dogs being approached by humans when they had coveted items in their control.



Notice that I always approached bearing gifts. I moved toward the dogs with something to offer. It gave them reason to look up, sniff my hand and discover something yummy was there waiting for them. I offered them several treats before I ever touched the item they were chewing on. When I did take a hold of the bone or toy, I shared possession of it with them, rather than taking it away.

Then I gave it back and let them enjoy in peace.

What I didn’t do was approach with an attitude of “I’m dominate and I’ll take things away if I darn well please.”

While I do firmly believe we need to teach our dogs to relinquish anything to us, I don’t think that an aggressive attitude will gain us cooperation in the long run. Making a stand to prove you can remove something from your dog’s mouth is not the best way to head off future problems of possessive behavior.

Even if I prove to a dog that I am bigger, stronger and more dominate, that isn’t going to have any carry over with the next person or make the dog any safer with other guests, family members or children.

Let me explain the rational for my approach this way:

Imagine yourself, sitting in a restaurant, enjoying a wonderful meal. You’re fully engaged in eating, not anywhere near done and the waiter comes up, reaches in and takes away your plate. You try to take the plate back and he pulls it farther away and tells you No.

How exactly do you feel about that? I mean after all, it’s not yours right? You haven’t paid the bill yet. That food belongs to the restaurant and if they want to take it back, well, then they are entitled. Now let’s suppose that happens a few times. Apparently restaurateurs and waiters are out to teach you a lesson about not trying to possess food and that you should give up your plate willingly at any time.

How’s this lesson working out so far? I am guessing that you are starting to feel a bit apprehensive and perhaps even defensive when a waiter approaches your table?

Now lets imagine a different scenario. You’re eating your meal, the waiter approaches and offers you a sample of a very awesome new appetizer that just came out of the oven, then he offers to move your plate so he can make room for a new dish they want you to sample as well. Later he comes back to top off your drink and gives you a piece of dessert

Do you see how the waiters approach now has created anticipation of “what great thing is coming next!” rather than apprehension that you might lose something of value?

And if the waiter did have to come to take your plate away from you quickly because they just discovered their was something wrong with the food…you would not have developed the desire to hide or horde your meal. The waiter could remove the plate with little resistance or defensiveness from you.

Possessive behavior is a pretty natural state of being. Without some innate sense of it, I doubt any of us, dogs or humans, would have survived very long.

The thing is, we want to teach our dogs that it isn’t necessary.

The goal should be to develop a dog that trusts us enough to take away a coveted item. That trust is built by having a higher ratio of giving rather than taking when we approach our dogs.

The training takes a little practice and the ideal time to start is with a young pup that hasn’t learned (or at least hasn’t had lots of practice) with the habit of defensiveness yet.

If you have a dog that growls, snaps or bite in situations like this, please get professional help. By the time the dog is bearing teeth you are already having serious issues with possessive behavior.



Professional E-collar dog training: 72 hours to change a dog’s life.

This past week I’ve been busy teaching our 10 day professional dog trainers course, the TMD E-cademy. We are a week into it and I wanted to share a few reflections.

We started the week with 6 students and a variety of dogs to work with. Most of the students brought either their own dog or a clients dog, plus we had several of our training dogs in residence to work with. On day one none of the dogs were e-collar literate. They had little obedience,  no off leash reliability and a couple were highly reactive to other dogs and people.

A week into it and we’ve been on outings to the park, in group classes with 15 plus other dogs and teaching these dogs how to co-exist peacefully in the world around them. We start out with e-collar conditioning exercises in a fairly non-distracting environment teaching the basics of moving toward handler, away from handler and holding stationary. After the dogs are showing comprehension of those concepts we begin to increase the distractions present and move on to generalizing the behavior in a variety of environments. The speed of progress impresses everyone.

I’ve always told people to give it 72 hours of real effort and commitment and you’ll see a change in the dog and it holds true time and time again. That is not to say that all problems are eliminated or fixed with the e-collar training but it does mean you will see that what we are doing works and we’re moving in the right direction. A direction of having more control, less stress and a more balanced and happy dog.

Here are a few pictures I snapped at our Saturday outing to the park.


As for the human students; they tell me they are learning a lot and impressed with the versatility of this tool. I can tell that is true. The immense progress they are having with the dogs says it all!

I Love My E-collar and So Does My Dog!

I recently posted a request for cover photos on our I Love My e-collar and so Does My Dog! Facebook page. Whenever we post these requests there is a good response and often stories accompany the photos.
Such is the case with Oliver and his owner Kimberley. I appreciate being able to share these stories because I think it is so critical that dog owners understand there are options for tools and methods for training dogs. That concept really needs to be driven home in regards to dogs that need special behavioral assistance finding a forever home.
Kimberly is right on when she speaks of rescues not being able to take dogs that have issues. It is a common problem because they generally are not equipped to deal with behavioral problems. However, it is an issue I feel would be less problematic…

IF more rescues and shelters knew of the possibilities that e-collar training can provide.

Stories and myths seem to abound about e-collars causing behavioral problems. Many rescues and shelters have a policy eschewing anything other than a flat buckle collar and a bag of treats as the behavioral remedy that fits all. The reality is, e-collar training solves far more behavior problems than it causes. There are rescue organizations who know that truth and some who will work with e-training…but public perception keeps them silent about it and believing they need to “keep it quiet”. For those folks I say “we need you to speak up on behalf of the dogs, come on out of the closet!”

I firmly believe if more people understood the proper techniques for e-collar conditioning and how to use the tool as an informational training system…there would be fewer dog IN rescue and shelters to begin with.

So thank you to Kimberley for sharing Ollie’s story and offering some inspiration to others in similar situations:

“This is our newest addition, Ollie (Oliver).  He’s the fourth in our pack and the 3rd dog to be trained using an e-collar.  

We saw Ollie’s picture and story circulating on FB.  His owner was moving and couldn’t take him with her and because of some serious issues that he displayed she was having trouble rehoming him. Most local rescues only take in dog friendly, child friendly dogs,…and Ollie was neither of those things.  If nobody took him in, he was going to be euthanized the next weekend.  Fast forward….(two months later) thanks to his e-collar training he’s now a happy and social dog that loves going to the park and meeting new canine friends to play with.   We can’t imagine not having him in our lives and he impresses everyone that he meets. They find it hard to believe that he was once labelled aggressive.  He went to his first group class this weekend and impressed everyone.  He even stayed after class to play with two boxers he met in class that day.  We’re so proud of his progress,…he’s come a long way.”
This is a photo of Ollie practicing “place” in our local offleash dog park.
Halifax, N.S.
* If you have a story about e-collar training you’d like to share, please send the dog’s photo and story to Robin@ThatsMyDog.com

A former E-collar hater’s perspective on remote collar training

The following, was originally posted on August 18, 2010 by Sarah Smith of Paws N Motion in St. Paul, MN. I’ve asked permission to share it here on The Truth About Shock Collars. I think you will enjoy Sarah’s intelligent writing and interesting viewpoint on remote training collars and their use in dog training. Continue reading “A former E-collar hater’s perspective on remote collar training”