Professional Dog Trainer Course

The next professional dog trainer course is going to be held October 12th – 22nd. The 10 day E-cademy program is geared specifically toward those dog training professional who want to learn more about incorporating e-collar training into their training business.

Since 2002 this immersion program has helped individuals to hone their training skills and greatly enhance their coaching capabilities. The curriculum weighs heavily on practical application, rather than just theory. Participants gain significant hands on experience working with a wide variety of dogs of varying temperament. Cases range from basic obedience to complex behavioral issues.

Robin’s many years of experience, not only with a variety of training techniques, but also her animal health background create an ideal learning opportunity to understand how remote training works in conjunction with other tools and a “whole dog” approach. While attending the E-cademy program, students witness first hand, both private and group lessons as well as work with day training and board & train dogs. Students also get considerable instruction on the “how to” of successfully coaching pet owners to carry through and achieve their goals. The hands on learning, plus instruction of how to more efficiently operate the day to day of a dog training, daycare and boarding operation has helped many trainers greatly accelerate their business potential.

The 10 day course is held at That’s My Dog! Inc in Dubuque, IA and limited to 5 participants to ensure the best possible learning experience and one to one time training personally with Robin.

Check here more information about the professional dog trainer course  or e-mail for complete curriculum.

Proper Fit of a Remote Dog Training Collar | Robin MacFarlane

Rule #1: Proper Fit of a Remote Dog Training Collar Is Essential

Proper fit of a remote dog training collar is one of the most over looked reasons for poor results. Viewers write and tell me the e-collar “didn’t seem to work” or it didn’t seem like it was working so they kept turning the level up and then the dog startled. When I’ve had opportunity to witness these problems in person I generally find that the e-collar is just not fitted properly and thus the dog is not feeling the sensation consistently

So I decided to make a little video tutorial to help paint a clear picture of what a well fitted remote dog training collar looks like.

Why is proper fit of a remote dog training collar so important?

Simply put, if the contact points are not touching the dog’s skin the remote collar will not work. Skin contact is what completes the circuit to allow the e-stim to move across the skin surface from one point to the other. (Note: the stimulation only emits from ONE contact point, not both)

Remember that good fit happens through 3 key ingredients.

1. Properly sized contact points.  Length and thickness of the dog’s coat affect how the e-collar will fit. Dog’s with heavy or long coats (German Shepherd Dogs, Malamutes, Akita etc.) need longer points placed on the remote collar. Most manufacturers create collars that have interchangeable contact points. Length of the contact points can range from 1/2 inch to 1 inch, with varying sizes in between. There is also an adaptation called a contact pad that works well for dogs who are sensitive to long days wearing the e-collar particularly those with very short, white coats on the underside of the neck or those dogs whose neck is small in diameter and don’t fit as well in the standard contact point set up.

2. Snug fit.  In general, people tend to keep most collars too loose on their dog. I’ve often seen basic flat buckle collars that slip over the dogs head as soon as the dog backs up or applies a bit of pressure. A loose fit with a remote dog training collar means that there is inconsistent contact which will lead to inconsistent results.

3. A clean and well brushed coat. Dead hair, matted fur, dirt and debris can all build up and create a mess under any collar. It is important to brush and inspect your dog’s coat on a daily basis. Regardless of length of hair, your dog will benefit from a few minutes of grooming attention each day.

If you are having problems start at square one and check to see if it is fitted properly. For more info on training check out my recent interview about using a remote dog training collar.


E-collar dog training: What the Sharpie had to say.

Last weekend I taught a workshop on advanced concepts in e-collar training. The workshop hosted by Flying Colors Canine touched on many topics. We discussed improving precision, adding tricks to the repertoire, how to deal with behavioral problems like aggression and anxiety, how to begin with puppies plus a bit more. While all the topics had the use of remote collars as a common denominator there were other messages I was trying to convey in my teaching.

One of the challenges of teaching is finding a way to assess if you’re doing a good job communicating the message. This is a big deal to me because….well, because I don’t want to suck at it. If people are investing their hard earned cash and precious time to come hear what I have to say I want them to get a decent ROI.

In order to judge if there was some clarity around the concepts I spoke on I asked the attendees to sign my T-shirt (given to me as a gift by Flying Colors) with three words or concepts they took away as valuable from the weekend.

While the theme was e-collar training there was so much more I wanted to be memorable than just how to push a button.

In no particular order here are a few of the comments written on the shirt to give you a participants overview of what we did in the Beyond the Basics: Taking Remote Collar Training from Last Resort to First Choice.

Slow Down, Shut Up & Envision I loved this threesome because becoming quieter and more subtle in our motion is such an effective way to communicate with our dogs. Dogs are far more visual than auditory. It is important we remember this because all too often in our data over loaded world we forget that some silent space is a very good thing. With some silence and intention in our movement we actually gain our dogs attention more quickly.

Motion Dissipates Stress One of my favorite mantras. Movement is often the overlooked key to success. Success in terms of both general, physical activity to have a calmer dog but also 1) as a starting point for e-collar conditioning or for 2) when a dog “gets stuck” comprehending something ….instead of locking in the moment trying to hammer home a point… move, switch gear to something easy/known consider the change of direction a “restart button” and then try again. And finally 3) when dealing with rehabilitation cases be cautious with stationary work around triggers. It is far easier to use motion toward and away from triggers to help the dog feel a sense of control.

Vision: Mine & Theirs Clarity of vision was a central theme we came back to often in the workshop. It is something I think is left out of most trainers workshops. Something left out of many trainers work altogether. Bottom line, we need a goal to shoot for regardless if we are training with a remote dog training collar or any tool. We also need to be aware that the vision we have as trainers may be vastly different than the one our clients have for their dogs. As professional dog trainers we must make sure we understand what our clients vision is, then lay out the sequence of how to get there. If someone’s vision of what is possible is a bit lower than what you know can be achieved, then boost them up for a clearer view! Every dog and owner under your tutelage deserves to reach their potential.

Do The Hokey – Pokey Sorry but you have to attend the workshop to learn this classified bit of information. 😛

What They Do, They will Duplicate That is my take on how to be an effective instructor. In general, what we hear, we will forget, what we see, we will remember, and what we do we will be able to repeat. I certainly believe in “telling and showing” my clients what to do, but I believe the most valuable part is getting them doing it repeatedly until it becomes comfortable to replicate on their own. Of course this is another reason I believe remote collar training is so effective with today’s pet owners. Most of us already have experience with remotes of one variety or another so that part of tool handling is intuitive. The key becomes teaching when to tap and how to assist the dog in understanding what the sensation is being associated with. The other part of “doing” is getting out replicating that good behavior in the real world. For me that means That’s My Dog! on the Go classes. The real experiences ingrain a new way of “being” with one’s dog.

As Fast As You Can, As Slow As You Need To This statement is in reference to how quickly you should progress a dogs skill set or his approach to triggers. We don’t want to repeatedly push dogs over thresholds and impede learning. But it is equally important that we don’t go so slowly that we remain plateaued, with limited progress toward our vision. There have been times I’ve seen trainers get “greedy” and try to go to fast, too soon, which therefore sets up a dog for failure. This can certainly happen with those using remote collars for training because progress does come fast by nature but we must be wise when we push to the next level. On the other hand I’ve seen some trainers (usually in the all positive camps) go so cautiously and with such limited expectation that they make no tangible progress toward a realistic lifestyle for the dog and owner. Regardless of our tools we need to know when a dog is ready for the next step and whether a gentle push to get there is warranted or not. That really is why great dog training is as much art as science. Some trainers have an incredible intuitiveness in these areas, others need to continue to hone those skills.

Where the Magic Happens This was primarily a quote in reference to our business skills and it references stepping outside our comfort zones to go to the next level. I’ll be talking a whole lot more about this on our Education At Sea event coming in February. But it is also about rehabbing dogs. Their comfort zones are small. If we want to help them it is our job to incrementally make their comfort zones bigger and more tolerant. It is outside the “old comfort zone” that the magic happens. My steadfast goal has been to expand dogs, owners and other trainers into new areas and help them get comfortable there so they can have and do more. Ready?…take a S-T-E-P!

There were lots of other thoughts jotted down on the T-shirt; Grounding, Clarity, Confidence and The Purple Cow…..It was my pleasure to work with everyone and to allow me to work with or advise about their dogs. You guys rock and thank you to Jen who signed “Best Workshop Ever!”  I know that in the moment lots of things can feel like “best ever” so I won’t let those words get my ego too big….but I am happy to know I delivered a decent return on investment. It sure isn’t just about pushing a shock collar button and everyone proved you totally get that. 🙂


A happy owner has a whole new dog with e-collar training (and a whole new perspective!)

When someone is delighted with the results of their e-collar training they can’t help but share their enthusiasm. The following is an e-mail sent to Eileen Balcom – Vetillo of A Whole New Dog in Earlville, IL. Eileen has been coaching Anna and her two dogs through a series of dog training lessons using a remote collar as one of the tools to improve communication and reliability.

I asked permission to share the note here because I believe reading the words from fellow dog owners rather than just dog trainers or behaviorists gives you a clear perspective on the outcome and value of e-collar training when it’s done right. I did take the liberty of highlighting a few of the sentences because it is important to point out things that help put to bed some of the myths and misconceptions that abound remote collars. These dogs are happy, their owner is happy and they have freedom they didn’t have before.

I know you have read these type testimonials before but I am going to continue to share them until this tool is seen for what it is, just a tool. One that can be used properly and without doing harm to the dog. One that can change a persons relationship with their dog for the better because it provides security without sacrificing freedom. Until the hysteria and over-reactions like trying to ban this tool go away….these words need to be seen.

Good job Eileen for coaching well done and good job Anna for putting in the time to do it right!

I have been walking Duke and Gracie and it has been just lovely…so nice…
I started taking them down by the dam here in Lake Holiday as there is a pretty open space there.
They can walk down by the water and it’s just something different. We still do our walk from pier back to house with leashes dropped in the AM.
What a feeling.. I still can’t get over it!

I can let them loose on leash and they play ball there , they run around, chase each other…I keep practicing the “let’s go” with them still And it is amazing….they come to me and life is good…They look so happy, which in turn makes me happy. I find myself smiling while we are walking.
People have commented on how nicely they are walking and when we come up other dogs, the other dogs look so out of control. Pulling and jerking the owners. Duke & Gracie wouldn’t pull and jerk me but I didn’t have them in control before.. I FEEL I do now..and that is more than half the battle.
They ask me what the ‘secret’ is… I tell them it’s “Eileen” J..I explain about the eCollar and the beauty of it..and then I do like you would.. I ask them..”Do my dogs look unhappy” when they give me a look about them not wanting to ‘shock’ their dogs…? I then ask “ so you’d rather pick them up off the street after they get hit by a car – God forbid – or run off and your heart is broken??” Then I say again “ do my dogs look unhappy or afraid?” I said to them you are probably doing more harm to your dog by jerking their neck back and forth than anything I am doing.
One guy I gave him a mini demo…I walked with Gracie – Duke was just laying down on side of road…sniffing grass….NOW that is calm,submissive..and guy’s dog is hopping all over..
So I walked with Gracie and did the turn around thing – 1st thing you showed me – “let’s go” and she turned and I said again “ does she look scared or hurt?” Of course I loved her up . I think he was impressed.
So I continue to spread the word…I had so much fun with them at the dam..we were all running and chasing the ball..I swear they were smiling!
Duke is really good with not even having to ‘stim’ him…I can say “Duke – come or let’s go” and his own portly self is coming my direction. Even in the yard other day when he was in hot pursuit of a squirrel.. this squirrel ended up falling off the telephone line and into neighbors yard but Duke came back …otherwise it would have been me, Duke and knocked out squirrel episode!
Update with dogs at the fence…Lexie the puppy and Gracie run/up down but I can see it is play and Gracie does come back when called…sometimes it takes a few times but much,much better
And we continue to work on place boards…even Wyatt – little boy next door, whenever he seem someone coming to the door,like UPS or mail lady – I hear him saying – the dogs are in training patient…so cute. Duke loves the place board for his naps.. I got the square one,it is bigger and hold both of them, even Bert from time to time – the 3 of them

Jim even does place board and find that it is a good thing. Let me know about the ‘walk’ if it comes together.
So wanted to share the news and keep in touch…take care
Anna and the gang in Lake Holiday

What do you think about remote dog training collars?


The main reason I started The Truth About Shock Collars blog was to share information with potential remote collar users. I want to provide insight that I have gained, share experiences from other trainers and most importantly share experience and opinions from other pet owners who decided to go the route of training with a remote dog training collar.

Because the big picture goal is to rid ourselves of the term and idea of a pain inducing “shock collar” and help people understand that an electronic collar should be used with finesse as a communication device.

The thing about blogging is…most of the words are my own and repeatedly hearing just my voice on the matter gets tiresome so I’ve asked numerous friends who are also professional dog trainers to distribute a simple questioner to their clients so we can gather more feedback on what other dog owners think about the “shock collar”.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting responses to those questions and expanding on some of the ideas presented. I hope you’ll join in the conversations. If you’re interested in filling out the questioner just provide me an e-mail address and I’ll be happy to send one your way.

In the meantime, here is one response I’d like to share.

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.

The next question on the form is:

Q. In one sentence describe how you feel about remote collars NOW.
If you are curious about the answer…stay tuned. 🙂

*Request this 10 question survey by e-mailing

The Abuse Theory: How Do You Use a Shock Collar?

How Do You Use a Shock Collar? Is it Abusive?

I’ve witnessed conversations by professional trainers regarding the average pet owner, that they don’t understand how do you use a shock collar for training a dog and therefore they should not be allowed to purchase one.

There is concern that without a high level of expertise and perfect timing JQ Public will use the tool abusively and thus harm dogs through application of *pain and fear*. Some trainers and behaviorists support the idea of banning e-collars because of these ‘abuse possibilities’. The thought process stems from the idea that dog owners purchase the remote collar, strap it on their dog and go about randomly zapping the dog every single time Fido does something wrong.

If that scenario were the prevalent case, I’d support limitations on remote collar use as well. However, I don’t believe it is the case. I’m not suggesting their isn’t the occasional circumstance where someone might use the tool abusively but it is certainly not the norm. An abusive person is going to take out frustration with the dog one way or another. Some people do cruel things. They do them with their hands, feet, a broom, a stick, rope, leashes, rocks, or a whole host of other things. If we are going to start banning stuff based on the “possibility of abuse” we have a whole lot of banning to do.

However, my main argument to the concept that the average Joe abuses this tool is based on my experience meeting so many people that have purchased a remote collar, took it home and then barely to never used it. Shortly after purchasing these folks realized that they didn’t know the answer to “How do you use a shock collar?” so they didn’t get much farther than charging it up or putting it on. Actually pushing the button was too far outside their comfort zone so the remote collar is gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere.

I clarified this point at a recent speaking engagement at the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers. During opening comments I invited the trainers to use a collar on me. Since this is a frequent snide comment made about my work (“Someone should put a collar on your neck and see how you like it!) I thought it only fair to demonstrate my commitment to the belief that the remote collar can be used as an interruption, a way to gain attention.

So to test my theory that limited knowledge of “how do you use a shock collar?” doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, I placed a live collar on my neck and had my assistant, Kelly make sure anyone who wanted to ask me a question push the remote collar transmitter button a few times in order to get my attention. This was the rule for my lecture, rather than the traditional raising of their hand. If someone wanted my attention they had to tap me to get it.

From my perspective it was a really cool experience. I got the dog’s eye view of how the remote collar can interrupt focus and redirect to alternative behavior. I’d be chatting away, focused on doing my presentation and would then become aware of the tap, tap, tap sensation on my neck at which point I’d stop presenting and say “ does someone have a question?” I’d scan the room trying to find the source of the interruption, and the controller of the transmitter would identify themselves and ask what ever it was they wanted clarification on.

From the audience perspective it was another story. The audience was more stressed about it than I was….can you guess how much my assistant had to convince these folks to just push the button?

She had to WORK at it and some people flat out refused. They wanted to ask a question but were “afraid to hurt me”. (of course it didn’t hurt at all because we use the Just Right level….) Near the end of the presentation I asked how many people had questions that didn’t get asked because they didn’t want to tap me or how many had to be convinced by Kelly to push the button….. a lot of hands shot up.

So the food for thought was… “if it took that much convincing to tap me, even when I willing agreed to the entire process, how hard is it to tap the button with a dog, the animal that you have a bond with, the pet that is part of your family?”

In reality most people don’t want to push the button, they are afraid too because they don’t really understand what does and doesn’t happen when they tap (and of course we need to fix that gap in knowledge about this tool)

The bottom line is when people don’t know the answer to “how do I use a shock collar?” they aren’t that slap happy to just strap a remote collar on their dog and start *zapping them*. The perceived rampant cases of abuse don’t exist. If they did, chew on this fact: In 2010 there were over 3 Million receivers sold in North America alone. That is JUST in 2010 and that only counts the collars sold by the three manufacturers who shared their numbers with me (Dogtra, Radio Systems & Tri-tronics). If we say that electronic collar use has been fairly prevalent for the last 10 – 12 years in North America and you do some extrapolating about how many units have probably been sold……where is the evidence of all these dogs living in fear and pain? Where are all the abuse cases?

People that purchase a remote collar actually care enough to try to train their dog or attempt to solve the problems they are having with their dog. They do so because they LOVE their dog. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t bother spending the money or waste their time trying to improve things.

I suggest we professionals devote our time and attention to creating more effective education and stop assuming that the average pet owner is not capable of using a remote collar or any tool for that matter.

remote collar
Tommy teaches Robin a thing or two

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.”

A Prince’s tale: what a little dog taught me about possibility

I’d like to share the story of Prince, a Boston Terrier who helped define my career as a professional trainer and particularly my learning curve about how a remote dog training collar can assist in rehabilitating dog’s with aggression issues. Continue reading “A Prince’s tale: what a little dog taught me about possibility”

“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!””

If He Ain’t Nakked, He Ain’t Trained! (Or: The Dog Trainer Wars on Electronic Collars)

Training a Dog to Come When Called: What Defines “Trained”?

The argument of whether or not a dog is *really trained* if he is wearing an electronic collar comes up frequently among dog professionals. The debate rages that a *trained* dog shouldn’t need to be wearing an e-collar. Continue reading “If He Ain’t Nakked, He Ain’t Trained! (Or: The Dog Trainer Wars on Electronic Collars)”