RETHINK E-COLLAR TRAINING | A MESSAGE FROM A SWISS FRIEND

E Collar
We had our hesitations when it came to training Ryka with the e-collar. Early on in our training, a Malinois trainer had recommended it, but we chose not. We wanted to set a solid foundation without it.
Now, Ryka is 7 months, and we are revisiting e-collar training. While she has the basics down, we are really looking to fine tune her training.
We shared our doubts on Instagram and our dear Swiss friend, Boris, changed our perspective. Here is his message:
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Hi Jillian

I had a lot of the same questions and insecurities around tools specially as prong and ecollars are forbidden in most of europe. I also thought about them like torture devices before gaining experience and knowledge about them. That's the common starting place for almost anyone. People don't know the tools and they think the tools are really mean. But leashes and doors are really mean tools that steal the dogs freedom.

The reason prong and ecollars have been forbidden is because pet owners and some trainers misused them. They used them as extreme punishment because they wanted fast results without putting in the training work. Why train for weeks if you can just press a button.
The problem however is that the ecollar is a new sensation that the dog does not understand. It's like if somebody was talking to you in a foreign language. No matter how loud they scream you wouldn't understand what they want from you. Same with the leash, prong or ecollar. We need to teach the tool or new language to the dog before we can expect them to follow.

Don't let negative comments discourage you. Most of these people have no experience with the ecollar or with a high drive Malinois. Yes a Labrador or small pet dog may never need a prong or ecollar. But some working dogs would be uncontrollable without the proper tools. Those people think an ecollar is a shock collar which is absolutely wrong.
Modern ecollar training is happening on very low, almost not perceivable levels. The stimulation can be used like a verbal command or hand sign (i.e. come to me when you feel the stimulation), it could even be used as a clicker (barely anyone does this), it can be used to reinforce behaviors or to immediately stop behaviors (punishment). The vibration is stronger and can be weirder for the dog than the stimulation btw.

Now most people only think about that last part: Shocking the dog to stop them from chasing cats, biting, barking, etc. And honestly I've used my ecollar ONE TIME on level 40 out of 100 when my Malinois started to chase a cat. She made a sound and immediately stopped chasing. Cats have not been a problem after that. Also deer and other wildlife, ducks, birds, etc. would trigger the hunt drive and it happened twice that my dog was gone hunting and only returned 15-30 minutes later. I was completely helpless and had no control over my dog.
The ecollar can be LIFESAVING for both the hunted animals as well as your own dog when he'd mindlessly cross a street.

But the ecollar is so much more. It can REALLY be a pleasant tool for the dog if you introduce it the right way. My dog LOVES whenever I grab the ecollar because she knows she will get treats, playtime or off-leash time (super valuable to dogs). Same deal with the leash. She gets excited because the leash predicts that we're going for a walk.

Wouldn't you like it if someone sent you a barely perceivable electric stimulus and when you went to see them you'd receive 100 dollars every time? The dogs don't care about money but if you pay them with treats, playtime and praise they will love it.
Larry Krohn displays how to introduce the ecollar on his daughter with skittles as treats. Specially pay attention how he is using the leash to translate the ecollar stimulation. That's where most owners go wrong: They use the ecollar without the leash and there simply is no direction or guidance with the electric stimulation. The dog doesn't know what the stimulation means but if you pull the with slight leash pressure after the stimm the dog will quickly learn. Also an elevated "place" platform is super useful.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmcA1NKKph8

Another good 9 min video from Larry with a German Shepherd
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-Rm4SqEET4
Proper and humane e collar training for any dog
You're not a professional trainer so you don't need to turn around a dog within days or few weeks.

TAKE YOUR TIME.

Go slow. You can't break or hurt your dog if you focus only on low-level stimulations. (lower than level 15 on a e-collar technologies mini-educator). Don't be afraid. But also don't try to use the ecollar for punishment in the beginning. Let the dog have a GREAT experience with the ecollar stimmulations for a couple weeks. No rush. You will also gain experience and confidence. Your timing will improve. The electric stim will be another part of the communication with your dog.
I'd suggest you focus the next couple of weeks only to get Ryka understand the new sensation. Train her to come to you whenever she feels the stimuation as seen in Larry's videos. Because a solid recall even when your dog can't hear you can be invaluable.

After a couple of weeks you can start to use the ecollar as an off leash enforcement tool to make your dog come to you even if she doesn't feel like it. Level 10-15 on the mini educator should probably do the trick. If that's not enough put a long line back on the dog. If she can get away from you without obeying she will learn to blow you off more in the future because there's no consequence.

Later you can use it to force the dog to do certain commands or behaviors THAT THE DOG ALREADY KNOWS!

Never ever use the ecollar to train the dog new behaviors.
And after that you can use it for positive punishment. But again outside of the cat chase punishment I rarely ever go above level 15-20 even for punishment. If the dog doesn't comply it needs to be on a leash (or long line so you can make the dog comply). It's important to know that the dog will need higher levels if he/she is excited and there are a lot of distractions around. So introducing it is best at home. If the ecollar doesn't make contact the dog will not be able to feel it. Instead of dialing the levels higher and higher change the position a little and maybe put it on the other side of the neck. Also the ecollar should be nice and high. If you use a prong collar at the same time the prong is above the ecollar on the neck.

And lastly: The ignorant fool that said you shouldn't be using an ecollar if you're not doing bitework couldn't be more wrong. He only knows the tool as a shock device to force the dog to let go of the decoy. Shameful :-(

All the best,
Boris

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