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.
Robin. We have a Standard Poodle that is 13 weeks. He is about 20 lbs and I think is ready for E collar. I have been trained but never used it on a dog before about 6 months. I am not sure why I didn’t as it was very effective at getting consistent behavior. Do you recommend a certain age that it’s appropriate to start? We have had him since 7 weeks. Thanks for all the great work you do.
Just wanted to add why? He walks pretty well. He does puppy mouth that gets hard at times, jumps up on people that is getting slightly better. We also have 4 toy poodles that he can play with a bit rough, so we monitor that behavior so they don’t get hurt. I just want to start him on the fundamentals of your first DVD and get him to associate proper behavior as much as his puppy mind can absorb. I just am not sure what is too much for a 13 week old. thanks
Thanks for explaining “why”, that gives me a lot more insight as to what is going on and what your mindset is about getting started. As a generally rule I training many dogs via e-collar starting around 18 – 20 weeks of age. The reason for that is they then have the attention span to really do more focused work and can mentally handle a more “routine” session length when enrolled in a training program. My sessions tend to be about 15 min so by that age, most pups can handle that. BUT I have started a number of dogs at younger ages, including my own. The consideration is making sure we understand they can not focus for a long session at that young age, and that the mental requirements of what we are teaching are not over whelming. When I start that young I start with a very basic routine of moving toward me (ie. short, limited distraction recalls), no mouthing or jumping up unless invited (ie. Off command). Then, after a few days of learning that, I add in a Place command so they can learn to “hang/chill” in one spot for short periods of time. I use a lot of play and breaks in the training and leave it at that as far as the e-collar is involved at that age. I continue shaping everything else (Sit/Down/Heel/ect) with lure/reward and marker training and then add the e-collar to those behaviors when the dog is a bit older. Hope that makes sense?
Thanks for the reply. Makes perfect sense at his age. Yesterday I did about 5 minutes of just getting him used to the e collar with the moving towards me and I did use “come”.. He was extremely fast once we got the right level which was a 3 on the Garmin Sport Pro. No issue what so ever as far as him getting rattled. Tail wagging and it was fun. After we came in he likes to jump up and take a towel off the over rack. So I let him and tap, tap on the button and he dropped it. After 2 attempts he figured out that’s not something he wanted to do. Once again no issue with it effecting his happy temperament. I stopped there yesterday with any more e collar work. We did some treat work with basic sit, and down. I will continue daily with less than 5 minutes for a couple of days of the come outside on his leash and increase begin to use it inside for the “off” command with jumping or mouthing. I figured I would wait a few more days of the him getting used to the stimulation and knowing how he can turn it off. Thanks
You are most welcome. Sounds like you are on the right track!
Hello, I use a Dogtra collar for my standard poodle puppy who is 14 weeks old. I have used one with my previous dog, a toy poodle as well and he was professionally trained at Rplace kennels in South Dakota. I was hesitant to use the collar on my puppy because she is so young, but I had experience with using one before and I also ordered both of your videos. My 14 week old puppy needs a level 15 out of 128 on my dogtra collar, we only use it for biting, walking nicely on a leash now and sitting or lying down when we stop. I havent taken her off leash yet because I want to be sure she gets it 1000 percent. Also, before I got the collar (12 weeks of age) she would bite and bite HARD. She has stopped biting me and my husband now but when we are around other people she still bites(especially KIDS). I haven’t really figured out how to use it around other people without them thinking I am a terrible person. I have a friend who also has a puppy, same age, who bites her so much that she has holes in her jeans. She said, “I would never do that to a dog” when referring to the shock collar. I explained that it did have a vibrate setting and she was interested in that. I just don’t know how to explain to people that the shock collar is not bad. The only thing my puppy did with the collar at first was try to scratch it, The more we use it the more she realizes the way to turn it off is to walking nicely on a leash or stop biting. Do you think it takes more time with a puppy becasue they are young and may not “get it” as quickly? Does her scratching the collar mean it is set too high? I tried turning it down and she doesnt feel the lower number. I have tried it on myself at 16 and it doesnt hurt a bit. You almost dont feel it.
I think any training takes a lot of repetition and yes, puppies have short attention spans so it takes practice and repetition. As for how to help your pup learn not to bite/nip others…carry on in the same way you do in teaching the pup not to bite you. It is about being consistent. If worry over “perception” is causing you to not follow through than be prepared to manage in another way or to take a bit of time to explain the e-collar and let the nay-sayers actually feel and experience it for themselves. That usually solves most concerns.
A scratch generally doesn’t mean it is too high, just that the sensation is slightly annoying to her. I would also begin training her to sit for attention/petting. Just start out with lure/reward work and associate meeting other people with an opportunity for something good when she sits. That should also help and she’ll be learning not to jump up on others.
Robin, we received such a nice thank you letter from Linda H. in response to your article comparing the remote collar system to the use of a GPS system in your car. Your article helped her realize that the remote collars were an effective and humane training tool. Thank you for all that you do for us and the dogs.
Another brilliant article Robin. Good video clip, not a single stress signal. It’s a shining example of an e collar being used humanely. Needless to say, the second last paragraph is my favourite.
I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your balanced, common sense approach to dog training. I’m not a professional trainer like many of your regulars here – I’m just an average dog owner with an open mind to a variety of training methodologies. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that true balance and moderation seem to be incredibly rare commodities when it comes to dog training these days.
I trained my last dog (a Golden Retriever) for AKC obedience a number of years ago and recently got a new puppy (a GSD) that I’m interested in training in obedience as well. As I began to research current training practices, I discovered that “clicker” training is all the rage now. It seemed like a sound approach to positive reinforcement so I began reading more about it so that I could incorporate it into my training program. However, what I discovered was that many of the most ardent advocates of clicker training were virtually militant about a “positive only” approach. Frankly, any form of fanaticism, extremism or zealotry always turns me off and makes me suspicious of underlying motives. Not to mention that I don’t really want to be associated with zealots.
So here I am as a new dog owner, looking at different training approaches and the positive only crowd drove me away with their extremism and militancy. I get the sense that they only care about preaching to the choir as opposed to actually converting people like me to their views. I think they can make a valid case that you CAN train with an all positive approach if you’re willing to put in a high level of time and effort (I believe that’s true in many cases). I just wish they’d allow for people who’d like to use a more efficient and balanced approach. Wanting to train in the most efficient way possible doesn’t make you a bad dog owner!
Which is why I respect your message here, that e-collar training is an acceptable training approach when done correctly, while acknowledging that it’s not the only way to train; that people should be free to use a variety of training methods. It’s heartening to know that balanced trainers really do exist. The extremists on both sides of the issue are only preaching to the choir – you’re the one actually influencing people toward informed decisions. I may or may not use an e-collar someday, but at least I have the appropriate information I need from you to decide without having to rely on emotional hysterics.
I’ll continue to follow your blog with interest.
Thank you Chris, I appreciate those words. Have fun with your new pup!
Keep up the great work, I’m glad you don’t let uninformed people get the better of you.
The puppy is wagging his tail and watching you. Yes – how can you be so cruel? 😉
Thanks Ann. In my travels and meeting all sorts of people and talking very openingly about e-collars I’ve found that the vast majority of people who are opposed to e-collars or think they are cruel…actually have little to no first hand experience with one…they’ve “heard” stories, or their trainer told them how bad they were..but they have no experience for themselves. Not to say there are not people out there who haven’t had a bad experience, but that is why education of how to use these things is so important. There is a big difference in equipment on the market and a big difference is how it is used…course you already know that! lol. 🙂 …but that is why generally the name calling doesn’t get to me..I know they just don’t know. I also know that if people imagined themselves speaking face to face rather than sitting at a keyboard most would be more thoughtful with their words.
This is profoundly messed up. Who cares if it takes longer to train my puppy with positive reinforcement? It’s more bonding time with my dog, and I’m not being cruel to an animal like you are.
I can’t believe this is still legal.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I realize not everyone cares about outcomes or time lines, but some people do. Many of them are my clients, they want their dog to stop jumping on others, or come when called, or stop playbiting the kids. They have busy lives and the challenge is that if they don’t find solutions in reasonable time frames…well, reality is many people give up, thus our shelters are overflowing. I’m not attempting to make a case that people MUST train with a remote collar, only that it is a viable option and can be done humanely.
May I ask what you saw in the video clip that leads you to believe I being cruel to the dog?
Thank you for your time,