Is An E-Collar Right for My Dog?
Is an e-collar right for my dog?
Is it a fair and humane tool?
In the hands of an educated handler under the guidance of a trainer, this tool has the power to make your dog's life fuller and richer with more freedom, trust, and deeply enhanced communication between dog and handler. The misconception about these collars is that they are about punishment, and that those that use them are training with fear and pain.
That is absolutely not how they are used and in many cases they will never need to be used correctively. The collar works purely as a communication tool and is trained with food, toys and praise. Dogs that see their e-collar when you are getting it ready to put on them can barely contain their excitement.
How Does it Work?
The first step is finding your dog's “working level” or the first level on the collar that is tangible to the dog. This level is generally well below what can even be detected by a human. This tiny pulse is then paired with food. Pulse, food. Pulse, food. The result of this first part of the training is a dog that excitedly seeks you out when they feel you tap them at their working level. There is absolutely no pain, this is equivalent to feeling a fly land on your skin.
Since we will have already completed the dog's training on a long line, we then layer the pulse of the collar with the on-leash recall. Verbal recall command, e-collar tap, leash guidance, reward. We work this many many hundreds of times in many different scenarios, gradually increasing the level of distractions in the environment. When the dog is showing fluent understanding of what the tapping means, we let them drag the line so we can pick it up and guide them back to us if they need it. After many hundreds of training repetitions, the leash is faded out of the picture completely.
When the work is completed, you have a dog that reliably comes when called every single time, no matter how great the distraction. This means that your dog can enjoy the biggest reward of them all- freedom. There is no substitute for letting your dog enjoy the pleasure of open space, unencumbered by being on a leash.
If the Tap of an E-Collar is So Gentle, Won't He Ignore It?
No. The collars have 100 levels of stimulation. We use numbers that reflect the level of distraction the environment is providing. The adrenaline rush that comes with something very exciting blocks the ability to feel ultra low levels, so we work up until the stimulation of the collar is detected by the dog. The goal is that the stimulation level is detected by the dog, not that it causes them pain. To compare it to us, if a fly lands on our skin at night while we are trying to fall asleep, the sensation is very noticeable. However if that fly lands on us the same way while we are on a roller coaster, we would not even feel it.
Through the process of e-collar training, most dogs no longer become adrenalized to previous triggers such as chasing deer or other animals. They become accustomed to us interrupting them in their trigger moments, and learn to “listen” to the sensation of the collar, and to follow commands in those moments. They can then feel e-collar stimulation at increasingly lower levels in the face of distractions that previously would have captured all of their attention. In the end, the dogs learn to listen to their handlers in all moments- inside, outside, anywhere you want to go with your dog.
When Is a Good Time To Begin E-Collar Training?
Get started with training as soon as you get your dog or puppy. Puppy training and dog training is happening every minute of every day, whether or not you want it to. A good balanced dog trainer can get you started before the e-collar is introduced. All basic training is completed on leash before the introduction of the e-collar. As a general rule we wait until puppies are 6 months of age before we start their e-collar training, however some can get started earlier and some need a little bit more time to mature.
We all know that dogs need a chance to just run and enjoy the outdoors under supervision. Do not take a chance with your dog's life by letting him off leash without proper equipment and training. Give you and your dog the gift of off leash training, and for the rest of your dog's life you will have an outlet for physical and mental energy. It will be used every day of your time together, and you will have a more well rounded and well behaved dog for his entire life.