E-Collar Introduction Part 2

Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal

July 2011

In last month’s column, we learned that the modern e-collar is a very effective training tool. We learned that it must be introduced in the yard and not in the field. We also learned that e-collar stimulation is used for non-compliance to a command already learned and understood by the dog. We taught how to use the e-collar with a non-field command such as “kennel”.

This month, let’s add two additional commands to the training process; they’re the two most important commands for the field. First, we’ll teach the “here” command. Start with a 20’ check cord. Give the command “here” and pull the dog to you. Then use positive reinforcement and reward with a treat. As we learned last month, dogs should be taught in sets of three or seven. Do this exercise seven times twice a day. Continue this exercise until the dog fully understands the association between the command and the required action. We now introduce the e-collar. As with the “kennel” command exercise, we stimulate, command, stop stimulation when command is obeyed and then treat. We then flip the process by commanding, stimulating and then turning-off the stimulation as soon as the dog gets to you. By flipping the process, we’ve completed the association.

Now let’s teach the “whoa” command. I highly recommend a training table for teaching this command. Build a table 2’ wide by 12’ long and, with legs, elevate to 2 ½’. Put ramps at both ends. The training table will save your back and allow you to more quickly demonstrate to the dog what you what him to do. Keeping the dog on your left, lead him up the ramp, across the table and then down the opposite ramp. Do this two times. On the third trip, about half way down the table, command “whoa”. Don’t yell the command…just use a normal voice. Simultaneous to giving the command, put your right hand on his chest and left hand on his rump and force him to stop. Make him stay still for four or five seconds. If he squirms, pick him up and set him down and, as soon as his feet touch the table, give the whoa command and hold him in place. Continue this exercise seven times and then stop. Repeat another set of seven again that day if possible.

Once the dog understands and obeys the “whoa” command, buy a suitcase handle from Lion Country Supply (http://www.Lcsupply.com). Use the suitcase handle to continue teaching whoa but now do it while walking the dog on the ground. Continue until you have 100% compliance. Now it’s time to use the e-collar. Many professional trainers prefer flank placement of the e-collar for teaching the “whoa” command. This simply means putting the e-collar around the belly rather than the neck. Once learned and used in the field, the “whoa” command is often used around birds. The theory is that stimulation should be kept as far from the bird as possible. In other words, from the dogs point of view, the stimulation cannot be coming from a bird so no need to become bird shy.

On a check cord, lead your dog around the yard. As with the “kennel” command we learned last month and the “here” command above, we start by stimulating first, giving the command and then turning off as quickly as the dog stops to whoa. This process should go very quickly. Do a set of three exercises and then three later in the day. The next day do three in the morning and then, in the afternoon, flip the process and give the command, stimulate as quickly as the dog stops. We’ve created complete association between the command, stimulation and action required. Both the command and stimulation are now interchangeable.

Both you and your dog now understand the basics of e-collar training and use. In last month’s column, I mentioned that I would explain why we introduce the e-collar to a command that has already been taught. Professional trainers talk about something called the 70% or 80% rule. This means that no matter how well trained your dog is, they violate that training two or three times out of ten. I won’t go into all the reasons, however, from simple distraction to “hey, I don’t feel like it” are reasons why a command is not followed. The e-collar provides the only method of delivering immediate correction when a learned command is disobeyed. And the correction is delivered without the emotion of a screaming voice. 

At this point in the process, a beginner may ask, “when do I use momentary and when do I use continuous stimulation?” Continuous stimulation is used to force a dog to stop. Momentary stimulation is given when a dog is moving and you want him to continue to move. An example would be if you had a dog on a long check cord and were teaching a criss-cross pattern in the field. You might give a momentary stimulus and then give the command to “turn” or whatever commands you might use for this exercise.

After a command has been fully taught in the yard and understood by the dog, it’s time to move the training to the field. The next time your dog is racing toward a highway, chasing a deer or busting birds, you have the tools to make a correction. Remember, always use the lowest level of stimulation to get the desired reaction. This frequently will be within the first three levels on your transmitter dial.

One last comment. After your dog understands the e-collar, a common training method is to use the tone or vibration feature on your collar as an early warning system…in other words, pre-stimulation. Most dogs that learn the meaning of the tone or vibration will never need stimulation.

Good luck with your e-collar training. Please use it wisely.