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

Woof!! and Happy New Year!

We’ve been pretty bogged down here in Iowa with cold, COLD weather and LOTS of snow….but it didn’t stop my 10 year old Malinois, Tommy from wanting to go out and play! A good reminder for me to just keep moving forward and making the best of what ever comes. Dogs are fabulous for being that constant ‘in the moment’ presence in our lives.

So what ever your New Year’s resolutions or hopes for self- improvement include this coming year  here’s my reminder to add a little something in there designed especially for your dog.

In fact I came up with a few possibilities for your consideration:

Learn a new trick or two.

Take your canine pal on a monthly visit to someone who needs their spirits lifted.

Include walks that allow you both to ‘just be’ and sniff out all the wonders of the woods, the beach or the quiet park at the end of the street.

Commit to a better weekly grooming routine (fur, feet, teeth and ears) so Fido looks, smells and feels good.

Upgrade to a healthier diet. Yes, for both of you! 🙂

Donate some time or resources to a rescue or shelter in your area.

Find a weekend get-away where you both can have some fun. (like our Dog Camp in June!)

More exercise. Yes, for both you! 🙂


robin macfarlane


or as the sign in my office says: Bark Less, Wag More & Play Often!
Happy New Year to everyone.

Robin, Tommy & Diva


This dog understands Tap = Attention!

Just wanted to share some photos from this weeks video shoot. One of our regular day care attendees, Sam got into the act while shooting some short clips for the  iQ Pet training collars.


If you think the idea of Tap = Attention doesn’t work then you need to have a conversation with this Golden Retriever!


photo 1

He nailed it by very effectively  interrupting our shooting numerous times.  When the director called “Action!” and we went to roll, he gave me the gentle paw nudge as soon as I started to speak. And it worked, I laughed, lost my line and we had to start again! He is most certainly, Tap literate!


Tap = stop that,this human needs to focus!

So, I pulled the tried and true move…hand on his collar to stop his interruption…but apparently couldn’t keep my eyes open and talk at the same time. 🙂

Tennis ball saves the day!

And finally we found the magic green orb. (note the tennis ball in director’s left hand) to solve the problem. Sam sat mesmerized for the total minute, we got the shot, he got his ball. 🙂




Island Dogs

Since I recently wrote a piece about my vacation adventures and how it pertains to my dog training philosophies I thought it appropriate to also share some of the dog photos I took while there. I’ve been blessed to visit several countries and get a feel of the dog culture and I was not disappointed in what I experienced in St. Lucia

From what I saw there were a significant number of dogs who had “families”. Although not all were collared, leashed and “on property” as we are accustom to seeing here in the U.S. most of those I witnessed were visibly “with” their humans. They were at the beach or walking behind or lounging in the road but always near their master. I’ve visited other countries that had a far higher volume of strays and very ill looking dogs than I saw in St. Lucia, so this was a pleasant reality to discover. I also saw a fairly large veterinary hospital along our route on one of the excursions.

I observed the little guy in this next picture for about 30 minutes as his owner played his Sunday soccer game with friends.

dog shock collar

He and another small tan terrier of some sort were both tethered just below the veranda of my room. He would carry on with a significant ruckus each time the game got close to him. My take on his behavior was, it was excitement barking and wanting in on the action rather than territorial stuff. The bark had that certain “let me in” pitch.  After 20 minutes of it though, dad came over (which is when I caught the best glimpse and photo) and with a quick clap of the hands and a vocal equivalent to what I figure was “knock it off” he was quiet for much of the remainder of the game.

A bit later I saw him running off leash along with his cohorts playing in the waves. Seemed pretty happy and content.

This next guy was sunning himself in the middle of the road in front of the farmer’s house were we stopped on our tour to sample all of the various island fruits.

island dog
He never bothered to move or investigate as 10 of us drifted around “his place”.



You could say he and two others a bit farther up the road could not have been less impressed with the visitors on their turf. Never got up, didn’t bark, not so much as a nod in our direction. It is the same reaction I’ve seen in many other countries where dogs are part of the culture but not given the same social status as here in the states. Dogs coexisting, no chaotic jumping, barking behavior with each visitor, no permanent existence in the juvenile state of development…

It certainly makes you contemplate our “intervention” as the root cause of most of the problems we see here at home. I am certain our often skewed perception that dogs are furry kids is the main problem…but I’m not going to wax on about it too much because I can guarantee someone will take my words out of context and tell me how cruel I am to not think these dogs are suffering a horrid fate by not being house pets…plus the reality is, that perception is pretty much what allows me to put bread on my table through profession training… and for this career I am truly grateful.


Invisible Fence for Dogs

Invisible Fence for Dogs: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Lots of people ask for an opinion about invisible fence for dogs and the system. Do they work, are they necessary, will they make a dog aggressive?

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you are already familiar with my general stance that it is never so much about the tool as it is about the person doing the training. As the old saying goes “It’s the fool, not the tool.”

Perhaps you’ve heard that electronic containment is cruel or it will make a dog aggressive. Some may insist that a physical fence is the only acceptable solution.

I tend to be a realist, basing opinion on what I see and experience rather than bending to the hype of what I hear others say. Reality is there are many residential locations that have codes against fencing or if they allow it, the regulations favor appearance over functionality of keeping a pet contained. My guess is this is how invisible fencing got so popular in the first place. It answered a need in the marketplace for owners with limited options but major concerns over a pet’s safety.

If given a choice, I also lean toward a well constructed physical fence. It is undoubtedly the most secure plus does the best job of keeping unwanted visitors out of the yard as well. However, when that isn’t an option I have no problem with electronic fencing. I understand people wanting the added security it can provide.

But here’s the hitch and what I do take issue with:

First, it has to be trained properly like anything else:

There is no magic with any tool used in training a dog. They all take time and committed effort. Installing an e-fence and then just letting the dog self discover the boundary line is completely unfair and pretty much a recipe for having a dog who is afraid to go out into the yard. Equally inhumane is dragging the dog into the line to ” show him”. Instead, take a few weeks to teach the dog what the flags mean and how to withdraw safely when the warning tone goes off. THEN after those weeks of early training proof the process by supervised, set up situations that teach the dog about the consequences of various choices.

Secondly, my biggest frustration with any fence is people using it as an excuse not to provide enough attention to the dog:

I don’t care if it is e-fence, 8 foot high chain link or the most beautifully constructed solid fence on the market. IF you allow your dog lots of unsupervised hours in the yard, don’t be surprised if behavior problems start up.

Third, it is not an invisible fence causing aggression:

It is territorial or barrier frustration that is not addressed and dealt with effectively. Either of those issues will escalate into an aggressive response.  There may be those who want to scapegoat e-fence but once we admit that the root cause is not the type of containment we can get busy working on the real problem…encouraging dog owners to spend focused, meaningful time with their dog rather than leaving them unattended outside for hours on end.

The recipe is pretty simple. Time well spent exercises the body and the brain, thereby reducing pent up energy and frustration, which in turn eliminates or greatly reduces most behavior issues.

Fourth, the “space myth” may be one of the most frequently touted beliefs about dog behavior:

The idea that somehow enough yard space ought to solve any problem…statements like: “..BUT we have a BIG yard for him to enjoy.” or ” she just needs more room to run.” make me cringe. Seriously, when is the last time you saw a dog lounging in the hammock reading a book or spinning around a 2 acre parcel working vigorously through a well designed exercise routine?

It just doesn’t work that way. Healthy, energetic dog’s left to their own devices are going to do things that most of us disapprove of. That list of behaviors includes barking, digging, lunging, chasing, and chewing. Unattended dogs are likely to do these things whether they have a big yard or not. The square footage is far less relevant than the quality of the time the pooch actually spends in that yard.


So regardless of what type of fencing (or no fencing at all) here’s what I’d like you to remember:


* You need to walk your dog. Daily if possible or at least multiple times/week. Walks include some part of it structured time, walking nicely beside you on a loose leash or off, but not just aimlessly dragging you here and there sniffing everything and peeing at each opportunity.

*If you have a big yard, that’s great, but use it WITH the dog! It can be simple stuff like fetch or frisbee, or more creative with some agility options like jumps or tunnels.  Just 20 minutes a day spent with your dog doing those activities will go a long way toward preventing behavior problems, including aggression.

* Don’t leave your dog out in the yard for long, unsupervised periods of time. It’s fine for him to go out to potty or lay under the tree if he’s already been exercised, but putting a dog in the yard for hours while you leave the premises or attend to lots of activity inside is a bad idea so just axe that one from the repertoire.

* If your in the yard doing small tasks (weeding a garden, reading a book) multi -task your time. Teach your dog to stay laying on a towel or blanket nearby. Your dog will actually be learning a valuable skill while exercising his brain.

So that’s my view on it. As long as you’re not using your yard as the daily babysitter, I really don’t care that much what type of containment system you chose. An invisible fence for dogs is not

What do you think? It doesn’t sound that difficult does it? I mean gee whiz, otherwise what did you get the dog for? (and please don’t tell me “to play with the kids”…we all know how quickly kids get bored with anything they’ve had for more than 2 weeks.)