Remote Collar Dog Training Techniques

Remote Collar Dog Training Techniques: Toys and Tricks

Learning some basic remote collar dog training techniques will teach you that your dog can have fun while learning commands and discipline.

I bet that feels like a pretty big deal, especially if you’ve tuned into much of the propaganda that is out there about “shock collars” also known as remote collars. I’m sure it sounds like “rubbish” as Victoria Stillwell might say. (Victoria the actress that portrays a dog trainer on the television show, It’s Me or the Dog.

But the truth is, it’s not a big deal if you know some basic remote collar dog training techniques whether you’re focusing on training techniques to include toys and or tricks.

Knowing what you are doing means understanding that the sensation is just that, a sensation and it can be conditioned to mean whatever the trainer decides they want it to mean.

The e-collar stimulation can be “too high” and that might mean whoa, stop that right now, get away from there or any other reason to create an avoidance response in your dog. I’d say that sort of use is generally when people refer to the tool as a shock collar. Or the e-collar stimulation can be “too low” and you can push the button till you’re blue in the face and the dog won’t seemingly mind or even notice. Or the e-collar stimulation can be “just right” and you can use it to prompt your dog’s attention into a behavior you would like.

It is up to the person holding the tool’s transmitter to decide if it’s a shock collar or a remote training collar.

I prefer using a remote training collar and it’s what I’ve taught my staff and what many other professional trainers around the world are also doing. (click here if you want to find help in your area)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so perhaps a video is worth even more. Here you go, you can decide.

This is typical toy dog training protocol at our place, you decide if it looks this little one is having fun or not?

*Updated 1/11/16

Reasons or Results – Which Will You Choose?

Dog Behavior Problems and Solutions. Will You Choose Reasons or Results?

I recently wrote about 5 ways to mess up your dog. The list included obvious mistakes in dog ownership like not providing enough exercise or structure, but it also mentioned, “letting sympathy rein” regarding how we often view shelter dogs or dogs with anxiety issues.

To make my point about how useless sympathy is in helping rehabilitate dogs that have behavioral issues, allow me to share with you a bit of my personal story.

Years ago I had to go through some significant physical therapy after being involved in an auto accident.

On Halloween of 1997, I found myself careening down the side of a California mountain in a U-Haul that lost its brakes. Through deft maneuvering on the part of my sister driving, we opted to take the truck into the hillside rather than “off” of the cliff edge. It was the best choice available, and we both survived the impact. The challenge for the rescue team was extracting us from the crushed cab of the vehicle. Both of my legs got tangled and crushed into the wreckage, and it took the crew about 3 hours to figure out how to get me extricated. As a result, I had numerous broken bones and a cracked vertebrae.

There were a few months spent in a wheelchair before I proceeded to crutches and eventually to walking free of assistance (which the surgeon at the time of the accident wasn’t sure would be possible). I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the rescue team, the talented crew in the operating room and enormous credit to my physical therapist, Tony. He never really bothered to hear much of my story or invest time in lamenting what had happened to me to get me into that situation. He just pushed me forward day after day to learn to walk again and regain every bit of physical ability that I could.

So how does this tie into to helping a dog improve their behavior?

Well, as the title says, you can have ‘Reasons or Results,’ but the key word in that statement is OR. You simply cannot have both. You have to choose which direction you want to invest your time and energy into.

Unfortunately, I often see people who are more locked into the reasons their dog does XYZ (whatever behavior is of concern) than in actually working to create positive change.

The reasons are numerous and typically emotionally charged: “He’s a rescue dog,” “she was attacked by another dog,” “he never got socialized as a puppy,” “she came from a puppy mill,” “he lived outside tied to a tree,” or “we think he was abused.”

These reasons may be perfectly valid, but all too often owners allow those reasons to get in the way of helping the dog. The sympathy takes over and becomes an excuse for not doing the work needed to make the situation better.

Words have tremendous power. They influence emotions and emotions are what influence us to take action. For this reason, we should be conscious of the words we use to describe our dogs. Those descriptions create a fine line between simply becoming reasons or actually turning into results.

For example, how do you think about a training problem versus a training challenge? While they could equally be used to describe a situation, one feels more daunting while the other inspires us to take action.

This is what I meant when I referred to the mistake of letting sympathy rein in the 5 mistakes article. All too often dogs described as “rescue dog” or a dog “we think was abused” have been handicapped by owners who can’t put the sympathy aside. It simply does no good to keep that thought prevalent in our mindset. Whatever happened is in the past. It should not determine the dog’s future.

When I first met Tony for PT, he never asked me “what happened?” we just started working on the goal of getting me walking again. There was never a single moment of “poor Robin.” There was only the continual push of persevering toward a goal. I am eternally grateful for that.

Stay focused on the results you want to create with your dog. Don’t let speculation about abuse, rescue, neglect, etc. overtake your thinking and limit your expectations of what is possible.

Change your words and thus your thinking. Try exchanging “rescue” for “adopted,” switch “scared” to “shy” and drop abused altogether. I am not encouraging you to deny what was, but perhaps it is time to move on. Your dog has more potential and resilience than you likely give him or her credit for.

You can have reasons OR results. Which one do you choose?

Dog Aggression rehab? Commitment is the keyword.

Dog aggression is not a fun topic.

I know some dog trainers probably see it as sort of sexy and seem to take a lot of pride in repeating the phrase “I work with aggressive dogs” There has been a good deal of television culture and drama built around the buzz concepts of dog aggression, dogs that bite, and rehabilitation.

There is nothing sexy or exciting about it, IMO. It is sad. It breaks my heart a little bit each time I have to respond to a client inquiry about a dog that has bit someone.

The reality is, at that point, the dog human relationship is going through major breakdown and the real, day to day work that needs to be done to fix it isn’t all the glamorous.

The process of changing the behavior can be draining and often tedious. I don’t like to sound like a Debbie Downer because most of the time dog aggression CAN be changed. However, I like people to realize up front there is no quick fix.

Changing the behavior of a dog that is having problems with aggression means changing the behavior of the human(s) who live with the dog.

I want to introduce you to Si, a white GSD that some of you may remember seeing on the That’s My Dog! Facebook page back in the fall of 2014 when he came to us to start working on changing his mindset about the world he lived in. This is a picture from his first week in training.

white gsd

Si was under socialized, anxious and reactive to any sudden change in the environment. He had 3 bites in his short history when his owner found us and committed to a training program to try and help him.

I’d like you to focus in on the word committed in the sentence above. That has been the key to the story I’m about to tell. Si’s owner didn’t just commit to spending the money to have someone “fix” his dog aggression. She committed to doing the work and making the changes that would be needed. Without that firm intention being in place, we would have been doomed to fail.

A talented dog trainer can get most dogs to behave perfectly for them, but there is no magic pixy dust we can sprinkle or put in the animals food that will keep the improved behavior in place. The owner must learn to replicate the process and behave in a way similar to the trainer if we are going to succeed. And the commitment must last for the lifetime of the dog.

Si spent a couple weeks with us in a board and train program. The B&T program provides us a clean slate to start new routines without the interference of the dog being in his comfort zone at home where the inappropriate learned behaviors started. It gives the trainer an advantage because the dog is off kilter for the first few days. He doesn’t know the people, doesn’t know the terrain and doesn’t know the daily routine in this new place. That means he’s often a bit more hesitant and doesn’t react as confidently as he would on his home turf. It is the same reason kids are often better behaved at school then they are at home.

So, with an insecure dog who has learned to use his teeth to take care of anything “scary” the first things he learns with us is; if you want to eat, you eat from us, if you want to pee, you pee while out on a leash with us, if you want to walk and play, you play with us. You want an enticing treat, you must tolerate being touched before we will release it. Through successive approximation of closer and closer proximity, we build the dogs trust in humans by not giving the dog an option to do the daily necessities on his own.

Then we layer in obedience. We teach the dog that if: You want to go out the door, you must sit/stay first. You want us toss the ball, you must come when called and sit nearby before we will sling it again. You want to go for a walk, you will walk nicely by our side. Obedience builds the foundation for taking direction from humans.

Next we begin to take the obedience skills and expose them to more pressure in the real world. Pressure is the one thing an anxious dog has never been taught how to cope with. It is pressure when a dog who has never been off the farm, goes into the city.It is pressure when a dog that lacks confidence is approached on the sidewalk by a passer-by. Exposure to the ‘real world’ with the guidance of a calm, stable leader using obedience to communicate how he should respond in the moment actually takes the pressure OFF of the dog for making his own decisions. If I insist the dog sit when someone passes, he can discover that the bogey man in the big winter coat just passed on by, or maybe the bogey man even dropped a juicy tidbit to be enjoyed.

The other thing that obedience can be used for is to build exploratory behavior and confidence. I want an anxious dog to become more comfortable in his surroundings, not by using his vocalizations and teeth to drive everything away, but rather by learning to explore and trust more of the world around him.

Using obedience for “urban agility” is what I’ve found to be one of the best ways to get this task accomplished. Taking an insecure dog and teaching him to sit/walk/down/place and recall, all while going over, under and across obstacles in the world (picnic tables, downed trees, retaining walls, park benches, etc.) brings a dog out of his shell in the same way that teaching a kid to swim, bike and climb trees creates body awareness and confidence in oneself.

This was the essence of Si’s weeks with us at That’s My Dog! Each day was the layering on of just a bit more learning and confidence building. I took these pictures on Si’s first field trip away from the training facility.

si3 si4

You can see how difficult it was to get him to focus on me with the camera. His tight facial expression and his head was on a swivel concerned about any possible new thing or change in the environment. There were days of frustration, for both of us. But we kept at it. Each day, new outings, new experiences and we also used integration with other stable dogs to help expedite his processing.

In a few weeks we felt he was ready to go home. The key would be that his owner now follow through with all the new expectations. Once Si walked back onto his familiar turf, mom needed to make sure that the rules had followed him home and not allow him to fall back into old patterns of behavior. This is the critical stage.

We believe it is only natural for a dog to revert to behavior that was once acceptable. The solution is the human becoming aware and intervening before those patterns emerge again.

Si’s mom did her best not to let that happen and the photo at the beginning of this article is a testament to her commitment. He is so improved and you can see it in his face and expression. This is a dog that is learning to be comfortable in his own skin. A dog that is learning to trust more and react less. It is the visual reminder of why we do the work we do.

We are so proud of both Si and his owner!

It is so important to remember that commitment to change is the biggest factor in resolving dog aggression.


Remote collar dog training is more than just pushing the button

Congratulations to the newest graduates of our remote collar training E-cademy program. These ladies spent 10 days at That’s My Dog! Inc in Dubuque, Iowa learning more about my approach to using electronic collars and enhancing this part of their skill set. It is a challenging course. The days can be long so I am always proud of the endurance of students who are away from their homes, their dogs and their businesses. Job well done gals!




The training course starts out by laying a solid foundation of e-collar conditioning based on what has long been know to be the 3 Action Introduction…meaning we teach the dogs that stimulation can be used to motivate behavior in 3 directions: Push, (move away) Pull (move toward) or Stop (stationary).

Once dogs fully comprehend those 3 actions the training that can be accomplished with remote collar guidance is virtually limitless.

We spend a great deal of time talking about what really makes this training an art form; a trainers ability to have a deep reservoir of ideas on how to help a dog understand exactly what we’re trying to communicate through the tactile sensation. We covered the use of food luring, marker training, leash manipulation, body language that utilizes spacial pressure to shape behavior, using toys, manipulating drives and more.

In addition to working with the dogs we discuss how to solve the other half of the training equation: the humans. Teaching dog owners how to use the remote collar (rather than how to use a “shock” collar) is an essential part of the program. If the human can’t be taught easy to replicate techniques for working with their dog, no program will be successful regardless of the tool.

remote collar

Beyond the basics of how to use a remote collar for obedience training, we also discussed how the tool can be incorporated into rehabilitation programs. The cadence of tapping can be used to calm or to excite and thus change emotional programing. Much the way patting a baby can be used to lull in calmness or swift paced marching & chanting takes adrenaline to a higher level. Cadence has a purpose and it is a powerful influence once there is understanding of how to use it.

On the final written test I asked the students to share some of the most valuable lessons they learned during their time here. Here are a few of the answers:

* Opening my eyes to what I see as a much more fair, non-confrontational method.

* More solid ways to proof a dog’s reliability.

* The importance of obedience and how it can be used to redirect a dog’s mind.

* How important it is to help the dog when learning new behaviors with a remote collar.

* How to engage a dog who’s body may be with you, but his mind is not.

* Learning to read the dog’s body language.

and one additional comment that I personally gained satisfaction from.. That “the $3500 + for this learning experience was a very good investment!”

That makes me feel good. I never want to fall short on giving my students value for the time and energy they devote to coming here. Knowing that another trainer took time to study remote collars more fully means they can go forth and make choices for their clients based on experience, rather than hearsay.

The words Shock Collar make me cringe

Yes, it is a true, those two words, Shock collar, don’t sit well with me. Not because I’m opposed to electronic collars, but because they further a perception that is inaccurate.

I recently gave a presentation for Scott Mueller and 16 of his students at Canine Workshops in Columbus, OH. Early in the day I directed students to this blog but made an apology for it’s title.


shock collar



The words “Shock collar” bother me too but the title of the blog was born out of necessity.


Until people are better informed on the versatility of electronic training collars it takes continual effort to educate about all the none painful ways they can be utilized. Remote training collars are what you make of them, they are no more shocking than a medical professionals TENs Unit. If you turn it up too high, they are certainly uncomfortable and can cause a significant startle response. Used appropriately the stimulation is at worse a mild aversive and at best a unique sensation that can be associated with any number of meanings.

That is what I set out to demonstrate to my fellow dog trainers during our time together. We talked about my belief that there are only 3 true levels on any of the remote collars on the market: too low (the sensation is undetected or does not gain the dogs attention) too high (the sensation startles or disrupts the dogs ability to learn) and Just Right (the sensation gains attention and enhances the dogs ability to learn).


The words “shock collar” apply when we are “too high”. That is a level we are encouraging people to avoid.


Instead of frustration with a dog’s behavior sending one running to the store to purchase a “shock collar” to punish a dog for doing “bad” we talked about the critical step of understanding HOW to TEACH the dog what attention getting sensation means. Teach the dog how to respond and have control of it. The feedback the dog gains is much like the child’s game of Hot and Cold and it is why the learning is so rapid when a remote collar is properly applied.

We talked about the use of rewards, proper timing, how body language influences, how to work in drive for more flashy performance.

I had a wonderful time. Thank you to Scott for hosting me and thank you to all who attended. I hope that the overall theme became apparent to everyone who was there. Our perception of the tool is what influences how we utilize it. I hope we choose wisely. Electronic training collars can be used to teach or it can be used as a “shock collar”

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!

Remote Collar Training for Dogs: The Problem with the Numbers…

Remote Collar Training for Dogs Requires Skill?

There are several skills one must master in order to become proficient at remote collar training for dogs. Learning when to tap the button and how to help the dog understand the sensation are two of the main components for success. But the one that seems most intimidating for the novice handler is understanding how to adjust the stimulation level appropriately for the dog.

The e-collar instructional dvd’s  I created were titled “Just Right” for a reason. Just right is a level that is appropriate for the dog’s sensitivity and it is variable depending on the situation and distractions at hand.

The thing about “just right” is it is not a number. It is a sensation. The numbering system on the electronic dog collars are there to guide the human, they mean nothing to the dog. The problem with the numbers though is that humans tend to get hung up on them. As the numbers increase some people get increasingly uncomfortable. I supposed that has to do with our perception of linear systems and the idea of “higher”.

Too often I’ve witnessed handlers spend lots of time staring at the e-collar LCD screen making painstakingly incremental adjustments to the stim level. As a result, they aren’t actually watching the important part of the training equation, the dog. After all it is the dog that tells us everything we need to know about whether or not the e- collar stimulation level is Just Right or not.

When our clients become a bit obsessed looking at the numbers instead of the dog, we have a solution. We cover up the dial.

Now pay attention to the dog. Is the dog noticing the stimulation? Is there any sign that he/she feels it? An ear twitch, an increase pace in the step, a momentary pause in movement or a quizzical expression. Then you are probably at Just Right for teaching behaviors. Is the dog jumping, yipping or startled, then you are Too High. Is the dog continuing to sniff the ground, play with his toy, paw and jump at you, then you are probably Too Low.

That is the one question you ask yourself regarding the level and the answer is provided by the dog…is it too High, too Low or Just Right?

This is a technique I teach to all my students who are interested in remote collar training for dogs. It is absolutely the best way to learn to use a remote collar successfully. When I present an e-collar training seminar the question inevitably comes up, “what level are you working at?” and my response is always “just right”. I’m not attempting to be smart when I say that but I have no awareness of “what the number is.” I rarely bother to look at the transmitter…my eyes are where they are supposed to be when training, On the dog.

The best advice I can give others is to watch The Dog,  turning the dial to and fro according to what the he or she is saying.

The numbers on the transmitter are nothing more than a reference point. Take note of where your dog “typically works” and use it as a starting point but don’t get consumed with what number the e-collar transmitter is set on.

It really can be easy to learn remote collar training for dogs if you commit yourself to letting go of preconceived notions and just pay attention to the dog.

Happy Training!

Just pull the throttle and go…..

thought I’d share a photo from my recent vacation.

My partner and I were trying to decide on what excursions to take while visiting St. Lucia. While I gravitated toward the hiking, horse-riding and sail boat options, he was more interested in the high paced activities, like ATV’s, Dune Buggies & Jeep excursions.

Figuring vacation was no place for a debate, I opted to let him pick. ATV’s would have been pretty low on my list since my comfort zone is anything water or “earthy”…..but we ended up helmeted and bouncing through the mangrove. Up and down rocky terrain and then opening them up on a nice stretch of secluded beach on the north side of the island. The way back brought some good mud holes to burn through and a few hair pin turns. We had the local cuisine and ate food I would of considered “bleck!” before having them prepared St. Lucian style.

Previous to the start of the day I had no idea how to drive an ATV, felt a little intimidated when I was told, “pull the throttle and go” and certainly wouldn’t have lifted the fork to my mouth if I had over thought the ingredients.

I ended up having a blast and pondering how the experience related to dog training on the ride back to the resort. (yes, I do pretty much eat, sleep and drink dogs…even on vacation)

The tie in between the ATV excursion and dogs that I came to, was this: new discovery and new growth is ALWAYS about stepping a bit further outside our comfort zones.

Training your dog isn’t just about the tools that you choose, it also about the experiences you create during your time together. Too often we get stuck staying in our personal comfort zones. In regards to training that very well might mean limiting our dogs experiences and therefore their potential.

This is something I believe is being lost in the “art” of dog training in favor of making sure everyone understands precisely the “science” of dog training.

There is so much fear of taking the slightest risk and pushing a dog to do and try new things that we are surrounded by emotionally and psychologically crippled dogs. Dogs incapable of behaving comfortably and confidently outside of their tightly managed environment.

I think back through my years in this profession and recall the numerous stories of clients whose goals included:
“being able to have company without the dog submissively wetting each time someone reaches to pet them.”
being able to “walk through the pet store with the dog on leash without it freaking out at every person or dog in the store.”
having a dog who can “jump in the car or go down the stairs without coaxing or carrying”

or having a dog who doesn’t fall apart just because some less socially skilled dog comes running up, barking.

Unfortunately some become so consumed with the micro management of “what” to do: “when to click, when to reward, when to not get closer to a threshold”, “what does the exact moment of body language say”… that they miss the big picture. Perhaps they have forgotten their own childhood experiences and how they grew up to handle things they now take for granted. Like when their parents gave them a push on the bike and fear of going two wheeled was over, or when someone held their hand and jumped off the diving board and suddenly it wasn’t so scary anymore. Sometimes the best plan is just to carry on as if it really is no big deal.

This is the art part of dog training. The part where you know that taking a step (sometimes even a big one) into new territory will be a moment of fear followed by a lifetime of increased confidence that came through trying something new.

This same concept is what lead us to create a new event at That’s My Dog! called Open Gym. It is an opportunity to just try new stuff with the dog. With a variety of equipment that tests a dogs stability and teaches new proprioceptive awareness we’re helping dogs gain confidence and step into new comfort zones. We do a very similar thing with our group socialization and putting dogs into situations that are a little uncomfortable at first but they gain experience and thus confidence through the participation.

So I’d like to challenge you today to take a small step for you and one for your dog. Go a bit outside the comfort zone and Expand. Try something new. Just because there is hesitation or it’s a bit unfamiliar doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be explored. In fact, it is probably all the more reason to check it out. If you need a tour guide, try finding one here.

Does flooding have a place in the world of dog training?

I recently hosted Chad Makin for his Pack To Basics workshop. We had a wonderful event and many trainers went home with new skills and knowledge to add to their programs in helping dogs and humans deal with aggression issues.

Because the work involves immersing dogs into a group (“pack”) as a main part of the protocol for dealing with dog – dog aggression  issues, Chad discussed several concepts early in the day before we moved on to practical applications. The discussion facilitated greater understanding in how the approach served the dogs who would be participating.  I found Chad’s view on learned helplessness particularly interesting so I asked him to share those thoughts here on The Truth About Shock Collars.

Give it a read and let me know what you think:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” — Serenity Prayer

There is a term used often in dog training circles usually used in association with abuse.  The term is “learned helplessness.”  Generally, it calls to mind images of a dog so abused, that is has given up hope of anything from life other than abuse.  The image in my own head is one of a cold skinny dog shaking in the corner at the approach of an abusive owner but no longer trying to escape the inevitable beating.  Even the term itself has a hopeless ring to it.  “Learned helplessness.”

But what does it really mean?  The behavioral definition refers to the state where an animal learns that it is unable to affect it’s environment, and as a result stops trying.  It is a terrible thing when learned helplessness is a response to abuse, neglect or cruelty.  It is truly heartbreaking.  It’s heartbreaking whether we are talking about a dog, a cat, a mouse, a human, or any other creature really.  And it’s important to note that humans also experience this state.

When an animal responds to abuse with learned helplessness they usually “shut down”, meaning they retreat into themselves and stop interacting with the world. They can do this as a response to any number of stresses as well.  In training, any time an animal shuts down, it’s a sure sign that the trainer has pushed the animal too far.

But what I am mainly concerned with is the nature of learned helplessness.  Is it always a response to abuse?  As I’ve said, it is often considered to be synonymous with abuse, but is that fair?

I am writing this on an airplane.  There is a small child crying in the row behind me. He stops every now and then for a few moments, and I think I am going to get some rest, and then he starts again.  I look around, everyone seems a bit irritated by this and his mother looks both irritated and embarrassed.  I have my headphones on, and am listening to music to try to drown out the noise, but it’s not working.  He’s right behind me and it seems as if he’s screaming into my ear.  I’ve reached  a point where I am aware of it, I am mildly annoyed by it (like an itch that I can’t scratch) but I have come to accept it.  I live with it because I don’t have a choice.

In other words, I have moved into learned helplessness. Or as we put it with humans who aren’t abused, I’ve “accepted it.”  I’ve “gotten over it.”

When my three year old screams because I won’t buy him a toy, or because he doesn’t want a nap, or because he doesn’t get ice cream on demand, I let him cry, and eventually (every time so far) he gets over it.  He learns that he cannot change that aspect of his environment and makes a decision to move forward through life despite that disappointment. That is a variation of learned helplessness.

The reality is that all sentient organisms practice learned helplessness every day.  For us humans, our lives are full of it.  Every time we do something we wish we didn’t have to do we are practicing it (for example, paying taxes).  Life involves disappointments and hardships.  Those who cannot accept disappointment and hardship are never happy, and never can be.  Learned helplessness in the face of simple, or abject disappointment is a necessary life skill. Those who don’t develop it are likely to be frustrated and upset all the time.

I can hear some readers saying, “But dogs don’t have to pay taxes! Your examples are all constructs of human society! Dogs don’t have as many disappointments because they don’t have as many wants!  Give them a warmth, affection, and a full belly and they are happy.” To which I reply, “This is true, if they’ve learned to accept life on life’s terms.” Which is kind of my point.

When a litter of pups is dealing with the absence of mom for the first time it is often their first experience with learned helplessness.  Mom just gets up and leaves.  They scream and cry and try to climb out of the whelping box to no avail.  Mother ignores their frustration and anxiety.  Somewhere inside, her motherly instinct tells her that this is a good and necessary process for them.  Eventually, they all accept that they are without the warmth and protection that their mother provides them.  They calm down and get on with the business of exploring their immediate environment.  This is natural. This is healthy.  It aids in their emotional and physiological development (puppies exposed to low levels of stress early on develop stronger nervous systems).

What we don’t see is the mother dog practicing counter-conditioning, feeding food treats etc. She is instinctively doing what many trainers and behaviorists see as setting the dog up to fail.  She is practicing “flooding”.  The critics of this practice will tell you that flooding only results in learned helplessness. Based on the way I’ve described learned helplessness, I agree.  Where I disagree is in the assertion that such a response necessarily indicates abuse.   I don’t believe it does.  If they want to define “learned helplessness” in that way, they are more than welcome to do so. But at that moment, they need to exclude the act of acceptance outside of abuse from that definition and recognize that such a response is indeed a possible (if not likely) result of the entirely natural process of flooding.

Accepting that life will not always be as we wish it is part of the maturing process for all species.

So learned helplessness isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s the best thing. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that makes any sense.

The plane is starting to descend.  They flight crew has informed us that we need to shut off our electronic devices.  I am suddenly aware that the crying child has, during the time I have been writing this, stopped crying.  Unable to change his surroundings, he’s chosen to accept them.  Flooding, once more led to acceptance. Which is as it should be.

Marley: E-collar helps him go from anxious-aggressive dog to happy and content pet

A headline that claims an e-collar can help a dog go from anxious and aggressive to happy and content may seem hard to believe for some.

But for those in the know, it is a common occurrence.

I suspect the bigger question about using the e-collar to work with dog’s like Marley is why does it work so well? Science is going to have to jump in and provide more research but it is my opinion that using a low-level tapping rhythm to bring a dog back into focus when highly agitated or distracted works similar to tapping (EFT) techniques that many humans use to recalibrate their own nervous systems.

My speculation is that using a cadence with the e-collar taps that falls into sync with the natural timing of nerve impulses helps to calm the dog. Just like patting a crying, over stimulated baby on the back. The tapping, when done in a rhythmic way works in conjunction with the nervous system bringing the heart rate and breathing pattern back into a calmer state.

Don’t get me wrong it is not magic and not just anybody should grab an e-collar and strap it on a nervous dog and start using it…BUT with direction and understanding of how this works, it honestly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get these kind of results. (contrary to what many people would like you to believe)

It also take a paradigm shift and the ability to see an e-collar as something other than a tool that is strapped on the dog’s neck and used to SHOCK when bad behavior is exhibited. That paradigm shift is something Eileen learned when she studied here at TMD and I can’t say I am more proud of her and all the students who have gained a better understanding of what this tool can help achieve.

The more educated we become, the more we can work to ensure happy success stories like Marley.  It just doesn’t get better than dog’s being rehabilitated and being able to stay happily in their homes.


e-collar dog training

Marley was the perfect pup.  He was smart, sweet and beautiful.  He was the easiest dog to potty train.    But as he approached the year and a half mark, his behavior was developing into a problem.  He was always a little leery of strangers, but now he was beginning to show aggression.  He began charging the front door when someone would visit, barking out the front windows at anything or anyone passing by  and running the fence barking at all of our neighbors.  When we did have company over, he was fine until the company was about to leave.  Twice he attempted a bite when a guest hugged me goodbye.  We were not happy with Marley.  It was very frustrating for my husband, my daughter and myself.

Eileen introduced us to the e-collar. She worked with Marley and both my husband and me.  We established a whole new set of rules for Marley and our family.   The whole family became involved in showing Marley what was expected of him.  Eileen instructed us to use a place command with Marley.  We used this when anyone came to visit, leave and also at dinner time.  The e-collar made our communication with Marley possible.  He caught on quickly and seemed more content.

Eileen worked extensively with Marley and strangers.  We incorporated a reward system with guests.  Once our company was in our home, Marley was released from his place.  The company was given a small treat bowl and was requested to give Marley a treat reward once he did something for them.  It was comical to see what he would offer.  It might be a paw and if that didn’t work he would do his dead dog, roll over routine.  His behavior with company did a 180 all in thanks to the e-collar training pared with positive reinforcement.

We love Marley.  He is now a happy, relaxed member of our family.  Since our training with Eileen we noticed Marley sleeps on his back.  He would NEVER do that before.  I am convinced he feels secure and happy with his new life.  The e-collar provided a way to communicate  with Marley.  Our daughter, Lauren, who was never really fond of dogs, especially Marley, has also done a 180.  At bedtime, it is our evening ritual to read a story.  Lauren now requests Marley get up on her bed so she can  read to him.   Marley waits for permission to be invited up and once he is on the bed, he lays perfectly still listening to Lauren read.

Thanks to  Eileen and her knowledge working with all of us using the remote collar,  Marley is a wonderful dog.
Ann, Tim and Lauren