E-Collars for Dog Training: In the Spirit of Valentines Day

E-Collars for Dog Training


Using e-collars for dog training is often a common debate among dog owners and trainers. I have seen a few petitions in the past about banning e-collars and prong collars, a shop owner being targeted at Crofts in a campaign to slander and harass his company for even selling such tools. I saw a petition to not allow dogs wearing certain tools such as e-collars, be allowed at a dog event in a public park in Indiana. I read a piece written by a YouTube dog trainer lambasting “shock collar trainers” (his words) and calling one individual by name saying he  “deserves to be corrected very publicly.”

Is it just me or does it strike anyone else as ironic that some of the self proclaimed all positive types have so much venom in them? Their own professed ideology doesn’t seem to hold up when it comes to interacting with human beings.

I mean if you really, truly, in your heart of hearts believe that the MOST effective way to modify behavior is to reward what you want and ignore what you don’t want than how come that latitude is not extended to your own species?

After a bit of surfing I scratched my head, took a deep sigh and then proceeded with my usual course of action when I’m disgusted by the lack of common decency that is so often present on the internet. I clicked off the computer and went out to work with the dogs and our clients who love them.

That is when reality set back in. The internet is just a whole lot of noise. My life is about the dogs and their people. About trying to create a relationship that works. It is what I will continue to focus on. I don’t care what tool any person or trainer chooses.

I care HOW a tool is used and I care that ultimately we are helping dogs stay in their forever home and strengthening the bond between owner and their companion animal.

I am going to continue to chose a loving approach to my dealings with my clients, their dogs, my fellow trainers and even those of you who hate me.

Yes, I get your e-mails and your You tube comments that call me all sorts of ugly names.  I’ll continue to respond by inviting you here to my facility to see things for yourself. And you can continue to ignore those invitations. You can continue the war, for apparently you get some sort of reward from the feud itself. Not me my friend, the fight isn’t worth it. My rewards are far, far greater. Here are just a few of them from this week:

shock collar for dogs
remote dog collar
dog training collar
shock collars
Lincoln & Sawyer
remote collar dog training

Everything was summed up pretty darn clear early yesterday morning when I was out shoveling the parking area and one of our clients arrived to drop off his dog for our Day School program. We exchanged a few words of greeting and he said “this is so amazing, I love my dog now. We were both so stressed before, now we can actually enjoy each other.”

I don’t care how you travel that path folks. As long as you get their humanely. If that kind of dialogue is the outcome, then we are all playing for the same team.

Happy Valentines Day.


*Updated 2/1/2016

Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?

It is time for my Halloween post.I had so much fun dressing up last year, I knew I’d find a way to pull out another alter ego this season.

With that in mind, I decided we’d discuss if the use of aversives are necessary when training a dog. I know it is a topic that causes much debate amongst trainers. It is kind of like politics with the topic getting heated and people tending to gravitate to one side or the other…

That is the question that I was mulling over on a recent drive to teach an advanced remote collar workshop in Indiana. It is probably more accurate to say I was stewing on that question because I just cannot seem to wrap my head around the entrenched philosophy that some trainers have. That all dog training can be successfully accomplished through 2 quadrants of learning theory. Those being +Reinforcement and -Punishment. What that means to you dog owners is: You give the dog something to reward (reinforce) when he does what you ask and you withhold those rewards if he does not do as you ask. So a cookie if you come to me, no cookie if you don’t. The purists among clicker trainers will tell you; “The cue is an opportunity for reinforcement for the dog. If the dog does not do the behavior then simply withhold the reward.” I’ve also heard it explained that their is a significant difference between a  cue, (which they use) and a command, (which others use – “others” being labeled as “force and intimidation” trainers).

The lingo applied is meant to paint pictures of “who” is the kinder, gentler trainer. What I take away from the discussion is: with a cue the dog is not required to follow through. As an example, if we are teaching a recall and the dog comes to me when called I reward him. If not, then I ignore his lack of response. The dog gets to choose if he wants to earn “an opportunity for reinforcement or not” No other consequence is applied at least via the belief of those who follow this training theory.

I guess my question to a trainer who was proposing this idea to me would be; if my dog doesn’t have to listen when I tell him/her something than what I am paying you to help me achieve and how long until I can expect some level of reliability in response in my typical daily routine with my dog?

In theory I  do get it. I get it from the stand point of working with animals in containment (marine mammals, zoos etc) which is where the techniques were heavily developed and refined. If there is so little other option (such is the case in a pool full of water and nothing else) It limits any real choice that the animal has in the matter. You get the toy/food through your cooperation OR you get solitary existence (no contact, no mental stimulation, etc) We simply ignore you and you will come around to our way of thinking because that is how you get to eat and gain any attention.

On a side note…Isn’t solitary confinement considered one of the higher levels of penalty in our judicial system?

This is the theory of ALL Positive training. Ignore what you do not want, reward what you do. And it does work. But, what it requires is extensive management of environment. Which again, is relatively easy with animals in captivity. I realize our dogs are “in captivity” so to speak. We own them and can control their access to things..but how tightly are you willing to monitor that? And do you truly want your dog to live a life of highly managed access to…well, to the world around them?

I know that I personally do not micro manage my dog that way. I want to live my interpretation of a “normal” life with my dogs. That means I want to leave them un-crated when I leave the house. I want to un-hook their leashes and let them turn and burn at the park, I want to have friends visit my house without expecting my friends to have to “ignore the dog, don’t look at the dog, don’t touch the dog”…in short I want to spend some time teaching my dog what my expectations are and then. Only then, AFTER a period of teaching….I actually want my dogs to have some responsibility in the matter. I want my dogs to make choices that ultimately allow them to be fully integrated in my life without my continual micro-management of them and the humans and other dogs around them. Giving the dogs an opportunity to make a real choice, IMO, means they are going to be exposed to consequences other than “I will ignore your lack of response.”

So back to my drive…..how did I get to all this spinning in my brain?

and how does it tie into dog training, aversives and the use of remote collars?

October 5th, 10 am…..I’m heading down Interstate 39 through Illinois, jamming to Foo Fighters when I glance at my odometer and see I’m pushing 90 mph. So I ease up on the accelerator, glance in my rear view hoping not to see those red flashing lights (again) and when the reading drops back to 75 mph I set my cruise control.

I’ve confessed to you before.

I AM a speed junkie. Yes. I am.

I LOVE to go fast. Once I grew beyond 5 foot tall I knew my dreams of being a jockey were over…but by then I’d learned about cars.

Maybe it was early imprinting, I’m 8 years younger than my brother so when he got his DL, I was just a tyke. He often was charged with watching his little sisters so that meant we got taken along on many of his excursions. (I’m sure he was thrilled) But for me…sitting in the passenger seat, flying the back roads of Wisconsin…I was grinning ear to ear. And when he turned 21 and started driving in the local stock car circuit…well that was a pre-teenage girls dream. Hanging with the cool boys!

I’m not ashamed to say I encouraged one of my early dates to bury the needle from the back of his motorcycle. Watching it tick past 120 mph was awesome!!

The down side is this deep urge comes with a price tag. A rather costly one and as years went on and insurance went higher….well, I’ve learned to monitor my behavior.

That is what I was thinking about on my drive down I39.

I asked myself: What if those red flashing lights were to pull me over frequently and often when I was observing the speed limit and they would reward my cooperation with $50.00 would that increase my desire to drive by the rules?

My immediate response was No Way.

If someone told me going the speed limit was an opportunity for $50.00 reinforcement but my speeding would be ignored I can tell you with absolute certainty I’d be in the left lane flying by you with a big ole’ grin on my face.

If they upped the positive motivation to $10,000.00 per good behavior. I suspect I would take them up on it for a while. At least until I earned enough for this baby.

But then, as Dog is my witness I AM putting the pedal to the metal. There simply would be a tipping point where the reward was not as powerful as my urge to go fast.

You see it is quite simple. Some undesirable behavior is never going to go away by ignoring it. The behavior itself is too reinforcing in and of itself. No amount of reinforcing an alternative behavior is going to stop my speeding. The only thing that has held me in check is having some consequence for my actions.

And those consequences DO NOT make me afraid to drive, nor do they make me dislike law enforcement. They simply have made me aware of monitoring my own behavior. They demonstrated to me real choice between the consequence of losing my license or being able to continue to drive.

This is what I came to on my journey. The idea that ALL positive works for everything, all situations….well, it’s a bunch of malarky. There is absolutely nothing in the natural world that works that way.

Please don’t misinterpret that I am diminishing the need for rewards and reinforcement in training…but the thinking that aversives aren’t needed is truly laughable. Those same people that argue this point will also try to convince you that head halters, front-clip harnesses and body wraps don’t work with aversive principles…somehow those are magically “all positive” too at least in the world of rainbows and unicorns!


I’m off for a drive…can you hear the AC/DC blaring??

dog shock collar


* special thank you’s to Mike Keating set design and photography, Jessica Bowlng & Capri College makeup, Maddie MacFarlane Dog training and Tommy, my heart dog & one of the worlds coolest Malinois. 🙂

What do you think about remote dog training collars: Part 2

Last week I wrote about a questioner I was looking for volunteers to answer in regard to their e-collar training experiences. I want to hear from dog owners who are using this tool as part of their training program.

And I left you with the tidbit from one person who responded:

Q: In one sentence please describe how you felt about remote collars BEFORE you started training with them.

A: The only people that use them are police dogs and hunters dogs, it was too harsh of training for what we were asking for our dogs.

Plus I promised that I would reveal the next Q&A from the same person so here you go: Continue reading “What do you think about remote dog training collars: Part 2”

Remote collar training can work for fearful and anxious dogs: ya just gotta know how to do it.

remote collar dog training

A remote collar is not magic.

I say that just about every time I meet with someone for a dog training evaluation. And then I explain what it can do for enhancing the dog and owner relationship if used properly. The key being, it must be used with knowledge.

Electronic collars are not one of those tools that someone can purchase and  “do it yourself”. At least most people will not be successful because the commonly held perception is that you put the remote collar on the dog and “shock the dog” when they are being “naughty” or “bad”.

That idea is absolutely the opposite of how to train a dog with a remote collar.

I think that is one of the things that Sammi’s owners learned when they trained with us. That this tool is only a tool. It does not replace the need to teach, to practice, to exude calm leadership and to use various forms of praise and rewards for all the things the dog is doing right.

What the remote collar can do through (when used with the right knowledge) is make the communication between dog and owner much clearer.

It will reduce frustration with both the dog and the owner and it will speed up the learning and allow for faster results. And for those who think faster doesn’t matter….tell that to the people who are considering giving up their dogs cause they don’t think they can make it work any longer. Fast would of mattered to all those dogs who have been relinquished to shelters cause the human didn’t believe there were any options left.

Case in point below when another trainer said that Sammi was probably un-adoptable.

Fast matters. So does knowledge. If you are considering using a remote collar to train your dog take time to really learn how train with the equipment. After that you will never look back, you will have crossed over to real freedom, real results and a much happier relationship with your dog.



Matt and I wanted to thank THATS MY DOG for the remarkable training that we received for our German Shepherd, Sammi. Sammi is a rescue
that we adopted at 8 months old , and we realized quickly she had behavior issues. She was aggressive, would bite,  jump up and knock us down.We could not have visitors in our home because Sammi was hostile.  She would not obey any commands. Sammi was confrontational and hostile toward our four young grandchildren and could not be allowed in the house when they visited. She would not stay off the furniture and bed, and would become vicious if we tried to get her off. She often blocked doorways and stairs, growling and baring teeth if we tried to pass by.

We enrolled Sam in obedience school and she did not do well .We were told we should surrender Sammi and that she was possibly unadoptable. Our next step was to purchase an electronic collar. We had no clue how to use it properly and it did not help Sammi’s behavioral problems. We were at the point that we didn’t know what to do and realized we might have to give Sammi up. We were frustrated, angry, sad, scared and tired.

A neighbor mentioned THATS MY DOG. We called and had our free evaluation with Robin. She said Sam was “reactive” and fearful and that she could help us. We had doubts but were willing to try. Kelly was our trainer. Every week she would walk us through the lessons and give us homework to do with Sammi. If we had issues or questions during the week we were encouraged to call Kelly. She was very patient, knowledgeable, and confident. We loved her and so did Sammi.

Learning to use the e-collar properly took some effort…we quickly began to see results.  Sammi tested boundaries often, but as we learned to consistently use the remote collar, Sammi realized what was expected of her. We also learned PLACE and it has been so useful when Sam is overexcited and anxious. We learned that the word OFF replaced a hundred other phrases. We learned not to yell at Sammi, instead let the collar remind her of what she had learned.

We never believed, even after we began to see progress with Sammi, that she would be capable of off leash. Sammi used to drag us on walks, bark at everything. It  was not a pleasant experience so we quit walking her. Now Sam and I walk every morning and she is in  a perfect heel position with no leash….and me looking at her proudly and saying THATS MY DOG !!!!!!!!

Our four grandchildren come often now….and Sammi is loving, playful and gentle with all of them including the 2 year old…who likes to tug Sam’s ears and lay on her back. There are not enough ways to thank Robin and Kelly for all they have taught us. We know without a doubt that learning how to properly use the electronic collar to train Sammi saved her life. She is now happy, well behaved, and a  pleasure to have in our family. We thank you for that and for giving us a dog that other professionals never thought capable of such amazing obedience.

Matt and Kim Potter

The real Bzzzz about remote training collars

If you are looking for information on remote collar training or how an electronic collar should or shouldn’t be used for training a dog, check out this recent interview on blog talk radio.

Brad Phifer from Bark at Brad had some great questions for me concerning the common myths surrounding e-collar training. We discussed many concerns such a proper levels of stimulation, “shock collar burns” and can using a remote collar increase fear and aggression in the dog. Continue reading “The real Bzzzz about remote training collars”

Q: How do you use a remote dog training collar?

remote dog training collar

A: Lots of ways.

I hope that is what participants of our workshop discovered last weekend.  A remote dog training collar is so much more than just a tool used to correct bad behavior. In fact that really is one of the last options we recommend you use the e-collar for.  Continue reading “Q: How do you use a remote dog training collar?”

Two weeks of remote collar training turn mischeivious mates into precious pups again.

How long should it take to have well trained, well behaved dog?

For the Earl family it was 8 years of challenges before they found the right training and techniques to turn their two into a more mannerly duo. However, once they learned about how the electronic collar could help them it was only two weeks until the problems were solve. They were then on the way to the more enjoyable life they had envisioned with their dogs.

Continue reading “Two weeks of remote collar training turn mischeivious mates into precious pups again.”

Can remote training collars help dogs with anxiety issues?

Can electronic training collars be used to help a dog that has separation and anxiety issues?

The thought of using these type of training collars for behavior problems goes counter intuitive to what many may first believe.  But in actuality, the e-collar, or shock collar as some refer to it proves to be one the more humane and gentle solutions in helping dogs such as Willow, discussed below, regain a more normal and full lifestyle.

Bear in mind, I say that with the understanding that the user has knowledge of how to utilize these types of training collars in a motivational fashion rather than a punitive one.

Knowledge is one of the main keys to success in any dog behavioral rehabilitation case and if someone thinks the electronic collar is placed on the dog so you can “shock her” when she is “bad”…they are dead wrong. The e-collar is used at low levels (similar to a tap on the shoulder) to interrupt unwanted behavior and to redirect the dog’s focus to desired behavior. With repetition and consistency the dog quickly learns to extinguish many of the old behaviors that lead to increasing levels of anxiety (whining, pacing, barking, digging etc.)

It is not magic, but it works.

Does it work better than other types of training collars or methods?

I suspect that answer also lies with the user. However, I can tell you there are advantageous because the electronic pagers and collars of today are so adjustable that equal levels of finesse would be harder to achieve for the average pet owner like yourself. And one of the biggest advantageous is the techniques are quick and easily replicated. Sarah from Paws N Motion could do it, but more importantly she taught Willow’s owners to easily duplicate the training collars techniques which meant success for the training.

When we adopted Willow – we got a wonderful dog with some unknown history including separation anxiety issues. The first day we left her home during work, she escaped from her wire crate – twice.

We had signed up for a group puppy class, when after the initial class, Kim brought the issue of separation anxiety to the attention of the instructor as to gain more skills to help the situation. Instead of giving positive suggestions, she referred us to dog behaviorists and told Kim “don’t get too attached [to her dog].” That was the last class we attended.

Sarah came to help us teach us how to work with Willow to deal with the issues that had become apparent quickly after adopting her. Of course we needed to deal with the separation anxiety, but we also needed some help with obedience beyond sit. We chose to utilize the electronic collar. We felt the stimulation for ourselves before settling on this decision. Sarah taught us how to effectively teach Willow what the stimulation was reminding her to do with verbal commands and sometimes helping her to do the required command. Willow quickly caught on to what the stimulation was referring to.

Willow has gone beyond basic obedience and is noticeably calmer in all situations and she is frequently complimented in public on what a good dog she is. With Sarah’s help, we have made great improvement on the separation anxiety and Willow is no longer escaping from her crate. She is a great dog around the house and on walks, snowshoeing and on other adventures. She is off leash in our unfenced yard much of the time in the yard with us playing and bounding in the snow this winter.

Kim & Erik Laing, Eagan MN

Before you rule out tools or pass judgment on what is possible please make sure you thoroughly explore all the options. Kim and Erik seem pleased with what they have learned about remote training collars and how it helped Willow.

“My dog likes his e-collar!”

The idea of using an electronic collar for dog training conjures up many emotions in people. For those who have had negative experiences or no experience at all, it typically goes hand in hand with ideas of pain or fear.

This is understandable given that most people Continue reading ““My dog likes his e-collar!””

Have a SHOCKINGLY Great Christmas

dog collars trainingok, so I couldn’t resist with the headline. Shame, shame… Santa should leave me a lump of coal!

Diva, Tom and I want to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. We hope Continue reading “Have a SHOCKINGLY Great Christmas”