After more than 13 years training dogs, there are a few things that I have learned … too slow is always better than too fast, birds make a bird dog, and there is no magic formula, just to name a few. The last one here is the one that keeps me up at night, and quite frankly, is the reason that I am so passionate about teaching how to PROPERLY introduce the e-collar.
Let me paint the picture of how I usually see this play out. A loving family gets a new little puppy. For the first few months, everything is great. The puppy is growing, learning, and the treat training is going fantastically. Then it happens … treats are no longer enough to keep the pup interested and he/she starts pushing every button you have. You have had enough! You need to do something about this, so you go down to the local retail store and pick up what seems to be a magic wand in a box! You take it home and say, “Let’s see what a level 3 does.” The pup has no idea what this new feeling is so he runs back to where he feels safe – you. You think “This thing works great!” Or does it?
I will be the first person to tell you that the e-collar is a fantastic training tool if used properly, but the situation I just painted is NOT proper introduction. If your dog is running back to you when you push the button, it more than likely means that he doesn’t understand what the stimulation is. What we really want is for the dog to think of the e-collar as an invisible leash. Nothing more, nothing less. The value of this tool is that you can have control while at a distance, and if you need to, have the capability to stop the dog from getting into a dangerous situation (road, chasing deer, etc.). When a dog properly understands what the collar is and how it is used, you will be able to work on stimulation levels that are so low that you may not be able to feel them on your own hand.
In order to achieve this low level stimulation response I am speaking of, we are going to use a process that we are simply going to call “Pressure on/Pressure off.” The idea here is to first teach the dog what pressure means (a correction) and how to turn it off (comply). This may sound difficult at first, but if you have ever had your dog on a leash, you are already using this very technique. If you ask your dog to come to you what do you do? More than likely you apply pressure on the leash. When the dog comes to you, that pressure goes away. Yes, it is that easy to start! When you ask your dog to sit (my pointing dog friends that don’t teach their dogs to sit will have to excuse me on this example!) if the dog doesn’t sit, you pull up on the leash. As soon as the dog sits down you release the pressure. This is only a start to the process but the point here is this is something everyone can do, and once the process is played out, you will be thrilled at the end result of what a great tool the e-collar can be and how well your dog responds to it.
To learn more about the process of introducing your dog to an e-collar, see Josh Miller training in action in the upcoming Bird Dog Boot Camp presented by SportDOG Brand and Purina Pro Plan. Miller is also an annual participant on the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage at Pheasants Forever's National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic
Josh Miller is the Product Training Specialist for SportDOG Brand and owner of River Stone Kennels. Josh has more than 13 years of training experience, and has been successful running in horseback field trials, AKC/HRC hunt tests, and is a 5 time NASHDA Championship winner.