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. 🙂




Just Right E-collar dog training

A few years ago I created a very basic instructional DVD about e-collar training, Just Right Training.

The goal was to provide viewers with the basics of how to safely and humanly collar condition their dog. I hoped to help people understand how to properly fit the e-collar, figure out what level is appropriate for training and how to avoid creating confusion for the dog.

It was titled Just Right because of my continual reminder to users that there are ONLY three stimulation levels to concern yourself with when training the dog, Too low, Too high and Just right…and the dog makes that determination, not the numbers.

The DVD covers a few basic ideas (recall, loose lead walking, place) and helps resolve some minor, but frustrating behavior problems like jumping up and nuisance barking. The intention was to provide some simple, but solid instructional material to those who wanted to add an electronic dog collar to their training routine but struggled to find a knowledgeable professional in their area who could help.

Stefano is one of those people. We’ve been corresponding about the possibility of starting his dog on an e-collar. He was doing his research before starting (which I applaud!) and had several valid concerns like how to get a great recall without creating a dog who would be worried about leaving his side. After getting the Just Right DVD and a bit of e-mail coaching he got started and I was happy to receive the following message.


great techniques, I began the e-collar training today, my dog picked
it up straight away

I think maybe cause he already knew commands but starting the loose
leash walking it only took like twice changing directions then he was
shadowing me like crazy.

But then I said ‘release’ his free command and he went off straight

So then I just went for a walk and did about 3 recalls broken up over
about 10mins and he did great recalled away from water (which is
massive he is a lab that loves water)

no velcro dog at all except for when I gave the heel command, also I
was working him on 13 and only had to go up to 15 for the water
recall. And he came back tail wagging and everything for his treat,
wooohooo I’m sooo psyched.

I’m now going to train my cousins rottie x staffy with the e-collar,
his untrained mega strong and locked away in a backyard, my cousin
said if I can train him with this he will purchase one and I know it
will work. I know I could train him with other methods but its so
draining because its physically tiring but this is awesome, man I was
shocked how responsive he was on such a low level and I’m still going
to take my time working up and have the leashes attached for at least
2 weeks.

Anyways just wanted to let you know how excited I am and happy with
your dvd as it is an awesome easy way to train.

I’ll send a video in a couple weeks of both dogs my lab was already
highly trained but with selective hearing, but the rottie x is hardly
trained so will be awesome to see how he goes, I’m very patient so it
should be great.

Great job Robin


Stefano and his crew


I certainly appreciate his kinds words but what tickles me the most is that he took the time to research and learn rather than:

a) dismiss the possibility of e-collar training entirely because of the negative hearsay he’d heard.

b) purchase an e-collar and slap it on his dog without first learning how to use it.

Two thumbs up for Stefano plus ball tosses and belly rubs for the dog! Thank you for letting me know how your new training skills are going with the addition of the e-collar.

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”

Here they come!

One of the many reasons I like training with an electronic dog collar is because I believe it is a quicker path to off leash freedom for a dog.

Rather than using the tool as a “shock collar” and punishing a dog for none compliance, myself and many other professional dog trainers world-wide are using  e-collar stimulation as a prompt to gain a dogs attention in the midst of distractions. Once the tap on the shoulder gets the dogs attention we can then easily encourage and reward the positive behaviors we want, like coming when called.

Once a dog will reliably come when called they have tremendous new found freedom to run and enjoy many wonderful experiences. The electronic dog collar allows us to get to that point pretty quickly.

I shot a small video clip when working with two of our e-collar training dogs the other day. Both are relatively young pups and they loved playing with one another so we decided it was a perfect opportunity to practice their recalls when distracted.

Take a look. This was day 3 of training for the smaller white pup and week two of training for the bigger guy. We were using the electronic dog collar on both dogs, but I bet you can’t tell. There is no yelping, no fear, no pain…none of all those nonsense things you hear uneducated trainers warn you about. What you do see is happy dogs learning to stop their actions and respond when asked and the reward they earn for that is a bit of loving and then the freedom to go play again.

Teaching a dog to come when called when it is distracted really is the whole point as far as I’m concerned. That is what my version of electronic dog collar training is all about. I have a bit of  an issue with the idea of people thinking it is a recall when you ask a dog to sit/stay, walk 20 feet away and then call it to you in a fairly quiet and contained environment. That is what is taught in the majority of dog training classes and it is considered success. But seriously, how many of you pet owners actually find value in that? When is the last time you had a difficult time calling your dog to you when he was sitting in the house with nothing better going on?

Training should be about being able to call your dog when he’d rather dart across the street to see the neighbor kids, or when she would rather get the squirrel that is playing on the other end of the park. Or how about simply being able to call your dog when it is time to leave the dog park? How nice is it to call the dog to you rather than always having to have to go get the dog? Of course you can work your way to the “advanced” classes…just expect it to take months or perhaps years. That is the reality that very few are willing to tell you about when they take your money and sign you up for the next 6 week class session.

The goal we have at That’s My Dog! is to get you some real life results in a few weeks and it is what more and more people are seeking out when they inquire about training with an electronic dog collar.


Q&A about Remote collar dog training.

Questions & Answers: Remote Collar Dog Training

Recently I had a chat with Ty Brown of Dog Behavior Online about e-collar training.

We discussed some of the basic training concepts as well as some of the commonly held misconceptions such as; can e-collars be used with anxious dogs? Are they ok to use in the case of aggression issues. Are they really humane and how do they feel?

What does it mean to use the Just Right level? I remember what it feels like to touch an electric fence, is that what a remote collar feels like? These are some of the many questions that Ty asked me.

Want to know my thoughts on it all?

Click to hear the:  E-collar interview

Remote collar dog training

Hero listens in…

Remote collar training workshop in Texas

This past weekend I was in Texas presenting a remote collar training workshop with On The Ball K-9 Training. We had a wonderful group of participants, both pet owners and other professional dog trainers. The dogs ranged from young pups to older dogs with behavioral issues.

Regardless of age or past history, we started at the beginning and learned the foundation skills necessary to build better behavior. The foundation skills of remote collar training include teaching the dog that stimulation can prompt behavior to move toward the handler, away from the handler or stop and remain stationary. Once those three concepts are clear in the dogs mind you can use them to create good manners and manage behavior problems. The handlers worked on a variety of skills to teach those concepts including; loose lead following, recalls, going to a place, learning to heel & sit and how to play red light/green light to work on impulse control and train in drive.

We discussed a great deal about how such skills help us to convey to our dogs that we are the leaders or decision makers and they are the followers. It is a philosophy I feel is essential for having a properly defined relationship with a dog. It is how we keep our dogs safe yet allow them to enjoy being integrated into the world around them.

I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the pictures. I also wanted Continue reading “Remote collar training workshop in Texas”

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!

Dog e-collar training: a case for clarity and another life saved.

Emily Stoddard from Canine Sports Dog Training recently sent me a success story of how proper use of an e-collar helped a dog destine for euthanasia.
Guinness’ story is not an unusual one, a dog with a less than desirable upbringing, going to a new home and the new owner struggling to rehab an animal who has learned the wrong behavioral response to anything he perceives as scary. Unfortunately the sad stories like his aren’t hard to come by. The positive note is that Guinness’ owner found Emily, a trainer who understands the value all tools can have in helping clearly communicate with a dog and make the surrounding world and our expectations of how to behave in it, clear.
I’ve come to believe that clarity is the single more important aspect of having a “successful” life. Whether we are talking about our own personal successes or teaching a dog how to operate in our human world. Being clear about our goals, expectations and the steps needed to achieve them sets the framework so we can move forward and conquer the hurdles toward our destination.

The advantage an e-collar brings to the task of dog training is that much of the clarity is built in and not dependent on the handler.

The timing of WHEN to push the button and HOW to help the dog understand the sensation is handler dependent, but after that knowledge is acquired, the e-collar does much of the work in providing neutral information and feedback that can guide a dog’s decision making process without getting caught up in expressed human emotion that is often too confusing for an already stressed dog to interpret.
The resulting clear information a dog receives via tactile cueing allows the dog to process more quickly and gives the handler an easier way to redirect to and thus reward more appropriate behavior. Learning to use an e-collar as a tactile feedback mechanism is the future of the tool. There are those in the know, who understand this and those who still believe the e-collar is a mid-evil torture device. Fortunately for Guinness, he found Emily, one of the people in the know. 🙂
Here’s the story Emily gave me permission to share with all of you.

This is one of my all time favorite cases…

I met Natalie through an apprentice program I mentor for a local open door shelter. She came to me after class one day at her wits end with one of her dogs, Guinness. She’d purchased Guinness from a man at the park that was mistreating him, what she didn’t realize was how deep his psychological wounds were. She’d been training with a local “pit bull only” group and he was getting worse, way worse. By the time I meet him, he’d landed a nasty, deep bite on a passer by on a walk and couldn’t leave the house without being muzzled and double collared. He looked like Hannibal Lector. I did an evaluation with Natalie and Guinness and asked if she’d ever considered e-collar work. While hesitant at first, she was willing to try anything to help her boy. First lesson was amazing and eye opening, Guinness responded so well that we even trained her other dog, Athena, on the e-collar as well.
So here we are about a year later and Guinness is a model canine citizen. He no longer needs his muzzle, he’s been integrated back into play groups with dogs, goes on large pack walks, he even seeks out affection from strangers!!! I received a text from Natalie the other day saying that Guinness was able to be completely muzzle free for his latest vet exam, our last hurdle! Here’s a dog that was days away from being euthanized due to his aggression,

now he’s the wonderful dog that we new he always could be and it wouldn’t have been possible with out the e-collar.

Attached is a picture of Guinness from this past summer’s pack walk benefiting a local rescue. 🙂
If you have a story about your dog and how the e-collar assisted with your training efforts, please share by sending to:

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… 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. 🙂