To Use an E-Collar or Not? Is It a Question of Too Many Dog Training Tools?

To Use an E-Collar or Not? Is It a Question of Too Many Dog Training Tools?

There are many dog training tools available to help us find solutions for training problems. I’m grateful for that, but recently I had an evaluation with someone who’s response to the idea of using a remote collar surprised me.

The new puppy owner was seeking help due to concerns over the puppy’s biting behavior. While play biting is normal puppy behavior, this little guy would resort to the higher end of the intensity scale if he decided he didn’t want to quit. The pup demonstrated a rather strong propensity for wanting to do things his way and yielding to human desires was not high on his list of priorities. Any type of restraint against his will brought out a willingness to use his teeth to assert that point.

There are several techniques and approaches to dealing with the issue. However, one of the possible dog training tools we discussed was the use of a remote training collar. I have found the e-collar to be an extremely easy way to interrupt puppy biting. In this case I felt particularly confident it would be a good choice because the owner also has her hands full with young human children.

My goal with puppy biting is to interrupt and then redirect. The redirection teaches the puppy what it is okay to chew on (and human skin or clothing is not included on the list of acceptable items) Interruptions need to be well timed, meaning in the moment the behavior is happening. OR better yet, the moment the thought is processing in the dog’s mind….so for a busy mom it is easy to have a remote collar TX on her person so she can tap a button (the vibration feature works well for many pups) as soon as those razor sharp puppy teeth make a move for the toddlers hands or pant leg. The weird sensation interrupts the dogs focus and mom can then encourage the pup to grab a toy to gnaw on. Behaviors that are interrupted and not rewarded tend to disappear rather quickly so it is a fairly fast track to teaching a young dog that chewing on his own stuff rather than the kid is a much better option.

It is not unusual for the suggestion to sound extreme to some people. But that is only because they have yet to actually experience how gentle the sensation is from many of today’s remote training collars. Visions of a shock collar and dogs jumping in pain or fear are still prevalent in some peoples mindset. Because of that misconception I am always aware of how the suggestion might be received.

However, I was more surprised by this young mom’s desire to not have to use a remote collar and try doing it other ways first because she seemed to feel it was a more valiant or authentic effort to try other less gadget oriented ways first.

This is a mindset I encounter from time to time and I sort of get it since I too try to be guided by a more holistic, less cluttered approach to life.

Yet, I certainly recognize the value that modern day conveniences add to our daily routine. I love my smart phone and appreciate driving to work rather than walking, especially now that the temps remain in the teens and 20’s most days. I also juice daily as part of my way of maintaining a better diet, but I know there is no way I would do it if I had to squeeze and pulverize everything by hand.

I think it is about deciding which gadgets actually serve to enhance our life experience and which just become extra weight.

As we discussed the pros and cons of various dog training tools and the approaches in using them, I pondered the idea of “is it more valiant” to approach training a dog through limited tool use?  The conclusion I came up with was a yes, in regards to professional dog trainers having a more thorough appreciation for all approaches and tools.

But for an average pet owner I don’t really see the point in taking the longer journey. I don’t believe it makes one a better person or makes for a better dog.

For me it is like believing Thanksgiving dinner is superior only when the cook raises their own turkeys, grows the root veggies & pumpkins and prepares all by hand over a crackling fire. Personally I don’t care if the turkey came from the freezer section as long as someone else does most of the cooking. I just like to eat and enjoy the final outcome. 🙂




Remote Collar Training for Puppies?

Training for Puppies: “Never shock a puppy?”

If you have a new pooch and you’re looking for some help with training for your puppy, you can find a lot of great information out there. You’ll also likely find some strong opinions like; “never shock a puppy”.

Those are some scary words, meant to entice emotion and title to one of the anti e-collar campaigns…and I agree with that sentiment. I would never shock a puppy. I would NEVER advise someone to run out, purchase an electronic collar put it on their 6 month old pup, wait for them to be “bad” and then push the button. That, in all likelihood would cause some adverse fallout including possible superstitious behavior around people, other dogs or even objects.

However, I would use an e-collar as a communication device to guide a pup into behavior that can be rewarded. I would collar condition a pup so they have an understanding of what the stimulation means and how they could control the sensation. Then I would use the tool to encourage behavior I want and discourage behavior I don’t want.

Now you might ask why I or others like me would do such a thing and the answer is “because if you actually know what you are doing with this piece of equipment it is the fairest, fastest, most humane tool you can use to train your dog.” As part of well-rounded training for puppies approach, the remote collar can be a wonderful addition.

I believe remote collar training done well works the way a GPS system works when you are driving your car. You receive information for when you are off course and information of what to do to stay on the right route. No one seems to feel it would be more appropriate to create a GPS unit that ONLY tells you when you make the right turn while ignoring your “off route” moves. If you think about that it is pretty humorous…but I imagine it would also be rather frustrating if you actually want to arrive at your destination on time.

Imagine for a moment that I tell you “hey, lets get in the car and drive to the destination I have in my mind and I’ll only tell you yes when we are on the right route and I’ll give you a dollar every time you make a correct guess in direction” we might have a grand ole’ time for a bit, but I’m thinking we won’t get there any too fast. Now add in the criteria that getting to the destination correctly also means only then do you get to get out of my car, go home and back to your life you might get a tad frustrated about how long the task will take. It seems that when time begins to matter…we prefer more constructive feedback.

That is my perspective on reliable training for puppies or training for any dog for that matter. It is feedback, yes and no are both communicated to the dog. The challenge with educating about e-collars is helping people understand that “no” does not have to be painful or startling. I honestly try to understand the viewpoint that the never shock a puppy advocates are coming from. I really get it that there are some who will use a tool out of frustration and I am keenly aware that there is some lousy equipment on the mass market. Neither of those points are going to be debated by me (in fact they are part of the reason I keep speaking out)….but those points alone don’t convince me that the tool should be banned from the market. If that is the “ban stuff” criteria, than there is a lot of stuff that needs to be banned in the world.

In place of e-collar bans we need massive education and we seriously need the manufacturers to step up and take a lead role in this…the quality e-collar trainers out here are doing the best we can but it is time for some support.

Now this is just speculation, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and question that perhaps what the anti e-collar advocates are really worried about is the fact that some of us can do things so much faster, with so much more reliability with this method of training that it is threatening to their careers. If they can’t compete with these type of results with their preferred tools and methodology then perhaps it makes sense that the easiest solution is to ban the tool that provides an advantage?

As far as making up your mind about if one should Never Shock a Puppy….tell me what you think of this little guy. He’s six months old. He came in because he puppy play bites, chases people, pulls on leash, does some nuisance barking, is scared of other dogs, jumps up a lot, and likes to play “catch me if you can”. This short clip was taken on the second day of his 2 week board and train program. As you are watching, pay really close attention and tell me how many times did I push the button on the remote collar? (cause Yes, I DID push the button, however I never shocked the dog)

Now here’s the disclaimer. If you have not used a remote collar before and you think this looks cool, it is but find HELP if you want to learn to do this with your dog. Training for puppies, or training for dogs, for that matter need not be that difficult. With a bit of time, education and commitment most anyone can achieve a well behaved companion.

Flyswatters and Shock Collars: A Question of Effective Dog Training Methods?

Effective Dog Training Methods

How do you define effective dog training methods? I know in the professional world we often get caught up in the scientific discussions of punishment and reinforcement and what constitutes effective use of each. That path of discussion can often lead to heated opinions of the necessity of punishment and for me that brings up the topic of the versatility of a remote collars. Are they only a tool of punishment as some assert?

More importantly, is the dog’s experience of a remote collar always that of punishment?

Is it always a “penalty imposed on an offender for a wrongdoing”? (definition taken from Websters New World College Dictionary)

Before you answer that question, let’s consider some other things that might typically be considered punishment when directed toward our dogs. Could I use a flyswatter as one of my tools for effective dog training methods?

What would you call it if you swat your dog with a flyswatter? Is it punishment?

What if you blast him with a squirt of water or hit your dog with a stick or shake noisy objects at them?

All punishment, correct? Right up there with shock collars…no if’s, and, or buts about it. You might even categorize them as effective dog training methods for punishment based training…

But, I happen to think differently. I believe what is aversive and punishing is defined by the recipient. And that the recipient’s expression of what is aversive is defined by the experience…which in the case of training dogs is created by the trainer.

If you wish to stay locked into the mindset that tools can only fit into one quadrant you may not want to watch the video below or bother to read further. Often what we “know to be true” is only true in our experience. It is false for someone else’s experience.

Stepping outside of our own paradigms can be disconcerting.

Ultimately, we have control over how our dogs perceive any tool we bring into the training scenario. We set the tone and create the experience. My dog’s react the way they do to these supposed “aversives” because of the way I introduced them and created their experience with the tools. Any good protection trainer, or bite sport competitor knows exactly what I’m talking about. A dog’s experience of any tool or situation is created through mindful application.

What made the difference? How come these “punishment” tools (water blasts, shake cans & flyswatter) don’t look very punishing to my dogs?

I believe the answer is: Intent.

Intent determines how one will use a remote collar or any tool and how it will be perceived by the dog. The mental attitude we take with us when we train will determine the majority of our outcome, regardless of our tool of choice.

My advice for anyone considering using a remote collar to train their dog is to check their intent before they put the collar on the dog or start pushing buttons.

If your intent is coming from frustration and wanting to “show the dog once and for all!” it needs to shift before you start training. Using the e-collar that way certainly fits the definition of shock collar and it is not what I want you to do.

Just as my dogs have learned that a blast of water, a flyswatter or a loud, noisy shake can means “play time” your dog can learn that the remote collar means fun learning together and interesting adventures to go on. If you’re interested in learning to use the tool as part of a balanced training program, you’re willing to spend the time and energy teaching your dog what to do rather than just what not to do, my guess is you’ll end up with a dog who loves his e-collar and is an eager and willing participant in your training time together.

It all starts with intent: Shock collar or remote training collar, it’s your choice of what kind of effective dog training method you want it to be.



Questions About Using Remote Collar Training: Q&A

Questions About Using Remote Collar Training

There are often many questions about using remote collar training. Today I thought I’d share a Q&A e-mail exchange that I had with a dog owner who had questions about using a remote collar to help have more control of his dog reactive dog. I believe this is a fairly common situation.

Plus, it is very important for others to understand that the remote collar not be used as a punishment for the lunging, barking behavior, the goal is to re-direct to a more appropriate behavior.

The e-collar can be used for that purpose so I figured it a good idea to just share the information exchange here on TASC.

Please note that in my answers to Brad my use of capitalization is for emphasis on key concepts, not yelling. ;-0

Q: I have recently tried your 1st dvd and found it to be very helpful.
We have a reactive dog that struggles with a few issues, but has had great
success in controlled situations on a long line with the remote collar.  My
questions revolve around 2 scenarios.  First, he pulls sometimes while
walking and does not respond the same to the e-collar as he does when he’s on
the long line.  He tends to try and avoid the taps and doesn’t come to my
side.  Should I be doing something different when he’s in front of me and I
want him beside me while walking?  Second, Frankie is very reactive at the
sight of other dogs.  He pulls, barks, whines, growls/lunges (some, not
always).  We have been to trainers, 2 reactive dog class series, tried
socializing and no one can seem to help us much.  He can calm down after
awhile but his initial reaction is always one of fear, distrust and anger.
We have had him for 1.5 years and don’t know what happened before but he has
been bit by an off leash dog since we have had him, as well as other off leash dogs running up to him that he really doesn’t like.  He does have 2 dog friends so I know he
is capable of being a sweet playful dog with other dogs, but he is AWFUL on
walks through our neighborhood if there are other dogs out.  It’s very tough
for my wife to walk him because he’s so strong, and we want nothing more
than to have a balanced dog that we can take wherever we go with us, but we
would be happy with a dog that could at least walk past another dog on the
other side of the street and not flip out.  Is there anything I can be doing
with the collar to work on this?  I don’t want to do something to make the
situation worse than it is.  Just to paint the picture a little more he also
can’t stand to see dogs walk by our house when he’s inside.  He will whine
and whine and eventually bark and run around the house whining about the dog
outside.  He just seems paranoid all the time.  Any help would be
appreciated,we LOVE our dog but we just don’t want something bad to happen.  After
watching your dvd and having the recall success on the long line I figured
it couldn’t hurt to reach out for some guidance.  Thank you for your time.

A:  Hi Brad, It is always a bit challenging to advise via e-mail since I am “guessing” at what is going on rather than actually being able to see it in person. However, from similar experience in the past here are some thoughts on how the remote collar can be used to move forward.

Teaching a Heel command is different than teaching the recall. Spend some time teaching the skill of Heel. Be very clear about what Heel is so you can be clear with your expectation of your dog. To me, Heel should mean that your dog’s head should always be positioned near the seam of your pants on your left leg. I envision a imaginary fence attached to my left leg and the space is about 18 inches in diameter.

Expect the dog to remain in that space (not whole body but his/her head) as soon as the dog begins to “leak” outside of that space I tap/tap/tap the remote collar and HELP (leash pressure, lure treat, pat my hip etc) the dog to successfully get back into that space.

As you practice make LOTS of turns (both left turn, right turn and about turns) to keep your dog paying attention and learning that Heel is a position in relationship to you that he needs to maintain. Once the dog understands this new command and it’s position THEN you can begin to expose to distraction and expect the dog to Heel past other dogs.
The idea is to teach the behavior first and THEN generalize or proof the behavior around distraction. As you begin the process of proofing the behavior you should keep in mind three variables: Duration (how long your dog can maintain a command) Distraction (how much is going on around your dog or: how many and amped up the other dogs are) and Distance (how close are the distractions: other dogs) Don’t expect to be able to combine all variables at once. It will overload your dog’s threashold for tolerance.
Begin by being farther away and hopefully around dogs that are more stable (which is why a well structured class can help more that the “real world” right at the beginning)
Gradually increase the expectations by upping the anti of duration, distraction/distance etc.  Keep in mind your end goal (walking calmly down the street past other dogs) and build up to it over a 4 – 6 week expectation.

The other key is to be VERY proactive in reminding your dog what TO DO when you see other dogs coming. This means you should remind the dog to Heel BEFORE he gets amped up/excited and breaks position. AS you see his attention elevate when he notices another dog that is when you give reminders. When his MIND is leaving the position BEFORE his body has. This makes it easier to regain control before it is actually lost. (the 2nd dvd talks more about this concept)

There is another blog post that further discusses being proactive when working with reactive dogs.

In addition, I would suggest a chiropractic visit for your dog. I have found that many, many dog reactive dogs have underlying body issues that make them more sensitive to body slamming, etc. that other dogs tend to do. Because there may be underlying tension/sensitivity they become very reactive about keeping other dogs away to protect themselves after having a bad experience in the past. Body work, massage, chiropractic and exposure to dogs that play nice help re-acclimate and build trust.

As with any training, your energy level about the situations is crucial. A dog needs calm energy and leadership to trust the human to be making the decisions (ie: “heel and mind your business near these other dogs because I got your back and I won’t let them hurt you”)  If you are transmitting negative, insecure or elevated energy through your voice, stiff body language or tension on the leash your dog will pick up on this and feel it necessary to defend. Make sure you breath, shoulders square and relaxed, eyes forward toward your destination and walk on confidently as you remind heel and move right on past.

In addition to my response to Brad, I would like to remind others that not all dogs want to “say hello” or “be friends”. Please be courteous to other dog owners and DO NOT allow your dog to run up to other dogs with out the permission of the owner. This can have devastating effects on a dog that has been working on impulse control. It is each individuals responsibility to maintain control of their dog.

Also don’t “force” your dog to be social or long for them to “want to play with other dogs”. If you have a dog that is tolerant but not a social butterfly accept that that is his/her personality and respect your dog as is. Not all people are social butterflies either. If a stranger ran up to you in the grocery store, grabbed you and hugged you cause “he’s friendly and wants to say hi!” …what would you think of that? You may or may not appreciate the “friendly” gesture. Keep that in mind when it comes to your dog. We all have our personal space “bubbles”. When it comes to strange dog’s running up to your dog, he/she has a right to have one too.

A remote collar can be part of the solution in dealing with reactive dogs but it takes a balanced approach that looks at the entire situation to find all the pieces of the puzzle.

What Do You Think of Remote Collar Training for Dogs?

E Collars for Dogs?

If you are looking for an opinion about remote training collars for dogs, ask someone who is using the tool what their thoughts are.

At least that is what we believe here at The Truth About Shock Collars…generally if you want a referral or opinion about something it makes sense to ask someone with first hand knowledge of the service or product, wouldn’t you agree?

What you will probably find out rather quickly is that actual users know that remote training collars don’t need to be shocking at all in order to work effectively.

Well, don’t just take our word for, watch the video and see what others have to say: Continue reading “What Do You Think of Remote Collar Training for Dogs?”

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”

“I love this shock collar!”

shock collar for dogs
Jasper and his family

Those are the actual words MacKenzie spoke about 15 minutes into our first lesson with her Labrador Retriever pup, Jasper, early Friday morning. In the discussion that followed Continue reading ““I love this shock collar!””

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?”

Generalizing a dog’s understanding of good behavior takes practice. (even when using the electronic collar)

There are many benefits to using an electronic collar; ease, convenience, distance control, quick results…there is a long list to the pros of e-collar training.

But I would be remiss if I did not point out that all these advantages do not alleviate the necessity to remember good training principles. Using an electronic collar to assist in teaching basic obedience or solve behavior problems does not mean Continue reading “Generalizing a dog’s understanding of good behavior takes practice. (even when using the electronic collar)”

E-collar dog training: Have your cake and eat it too.

The e-collar is only for lazy dog trainers and dog owners right?

I am sure you’ve either heard that one before or perhaps you’ve thought it. After all, if all you have to do is push a button Continue reading “E-collar dog training: Have your cake and eat it too.”