How did We get here?
If you haven’t been following this series on E Collar Training, it is crucial that you start from the beginning and ensure the proper foundation has been set before you put a collar of any sort on your dog and begin to use it. Previous blogs from this series, in order, are:
All Caught Up On The series?
Let's Dive In!
What You Need:
Lastly, you need to make sure that you have trained your dog to the requisite level. Check out 5 Things You Should Do Before Introducing Your Dog to an E Collar. In it I discuss the training we believe is requisite before adding an e collar to the equation.
Location (and Contact) is EVERYTHING
Two huge aspects of E Collar training are positions of the collar and ensuring it has solid contact.
An Ounce of Prevention
It is important to note that with a quality e collar, even at the highest level, it will not cause any physical injury. Yes, at high levels it is unpleasant. I’m not one of those trainers who is going to say that punitive levels feel great or that you won’t ever have to use them. But the device does not cause physical harm.
What happens all too often is that the collar is not rotated. As we just discussed above, the collar has to be snug. Due to this, the skin under the contact points isn’t receiving oxygen. Not a problem if this is for a brief period. But think bed sores. Even laying on a bed made of down, you will eventually get them if you are not moving.
This is a non issue with even a modicum of cognizance. Just rotate the collar. We make it a point to do so every hour that the dog has the collar on. They can wear a collar all day like this with absolutely zero irritation. This is important, so one last time, the mantra is:
Be sure to rotate your dog's collar frequently to avoid irritation or sores.
- 1Make sure both the receiver and transmitter are charged and turned on. Put the collar on the dog snugly, as described above. I like to have the dog wear the collar for a while before we start the introduction.
- 2Make sure you have a space with plenty of room to work. I frequently like to do introductions outside.
- 3Start with your dog on a 6 foot leash, attached to a snug martingale (the martingale is a no slip collar so a dog can’t back out of it. This collar can’t do its job if it is sitting loosely on the dog).
- 4Skip the meal previous to your training session so your dog is more interested in food. Have a treat pouch with high value treats ready to go. I like Red Barn Food Roll. It’s a legitimate food as opposed to the equivalent of Doritos for dogs and there are very few dogs who don’t go bonkers for it.
E Collar Introduction Video
Finding your Dog's Level
During an introduction, we are not looking to compel a dog to do anything using the collar.
The purpose is to teach them that when they feel the new, mild sensation and move towards the handler or perform a known command you’ve given, the itch goes away.
We are conditioning them, teaching them the rules. This is why it is a requisite to teach your dog the basics mentioned in the previous blog, so that we are simply overlaying things with the collar. The dog already knows what is expected, we are simply adding a new element to the equation. Setting the stage for later.
Don’t get frustrated at the mechanics of this. It takes trainers and new clients time, sometimes a lot of time, and repetition, to get comfortable with all of the little movements, such as holding the remote and leash, operating the remote, getting and giving a treat, marking appropriately, etc.
(Side note: On the E Collar Technologies collars, if you have the collar at 0, you can’t engage the stim. It’s their programming level, so you have to make sure the dial is set to 1. Dogtras, you can start and engage the stim at 0.)
Exercise #1: The Step Back
We use the constant function for this exercise, the stim being engaged at the lowest level level possible until the dog moves towards the handler.
- 1Holding the leash, give your dog your release word (we use “yes” so that’s what I’ll use here) so they are free to roam about at leash length. This is the only exercise where I actually want the dog to get distracted and pull on the leash, so we can teach them that awesome things happen when they move away from the leash pressure and back towards the handler. Doing this outside on the grass provides more distractions and more likelihood that they will get move away from you. Let them. I will even go so far as as to toss treats on the ground so a dog will move away from me and we can work on this exercise. Many times, especially if you’ve worked on leash pressure and done this with the pinch collar already, I only ever do this once. Some dogs, you have to do this exercise multiple times over multiple sessions.
- 2As the dog moves away from you, try to orient yourself so that you are directly behind them and facing them. (once you start moving backwards, if you are directly behind them, they are more likely to easily move back towards you than if you are both facing each other, where they will sometimes plant and pull against you. We want this to be as simple and smooth for them to learn as possible.
- 3Watching the dog, with collar at 1, engage the stim and slowly dial it up. You are looking for a turn of the head, as if they heard something, a scratch at the neck, every dog is different, some display less indication than others that they are feeling the collar. We need to know they are feeling it, but don’t want it too high. Take time on this part. It’s important. With a new dog, if I get to 10 with no indication that they are feeling it, I’ll bring it back down and double check to ensure the collar is in contact. Once you get an indication that they are feeling it, walk backwards away from, but facing them, with steady light tension on the leash. The second that they take pressure off the leash, turn towards you, and commit to moving towards you, release the button and stim, mark (good is our verbal marker) show them a treat as you walk backwards, stop motion when they get close, and reward once the get to you. Give your release marker (Yes), then repeat. You have found what we call their working level. It will fluctuate, when the novelty wears off it may be higher. When there are high value distractions it will be higher.
- 4ALWAYS FACE THE DOG for this exercise. Especially as you are moving away from them and they are moving towards you. Guide them in with a treat. You are their target, their goal, the beacon. You must be facing them.
- 5When the dog is in motion towards you, praise them up! Make this an awesome exercise. Once they have taken the pressure off leash, DON’T PULL THEM TOWARDS YOU. Lots of people do this. It’s almost human nature. But remember, they did their job, took the pressure off and are moving towards you. That’s what we want. Applying pressure again defeats the entire purpose of the exercise.
Most of the time, you will find that the dog starts turning towards you from distraction the moment you begin to move backwards away from them. Before you feel leash pressure and before you engage the stim. AWESOME! Mission accomplished. You’re ready for the next exercise. Make sure to still mark, praise, and treat. They have learned what you wanted them to.
Side note: This is exactly the same as our “come” exercise, the Random Recall, or recall from distraction, with one simple but crucial difference, we don’t say “come.” We are simply moving away from them and teaching them to respond to the collar. The distinction is crucial. The only thing we are saying is our markers and praise. Resist the temptation to say their name, call come, say let's go, etc. It defeats the purpose of the exercise.
Exercise #2: Loose Leash Walking / Handler Relevance
We use the momentary, or nick (on Dogtra collars), function (simply tapping and releasing the constant button) for this exercise, as opposed to keeping the stim engaged. See my blog, “How Do I Use an E Collar,” here, for a better description on momentary/nick functions and buttons.
This is what many people do inadvertently when attempting Exercise #1, when they fail to remain facing the dog. But both are distinct exercises and we don’t want to confuse the two. The step back is for leash pressure, to teach the dog to respond when they feel the low level stim and to teach them that they control the collar and can shut it off at any time.
Important: Our goal is a structured heel. Dog at your side, loose leash, their head even with the seam of your pant leg, not sniffing, scanning, or targeting any distractions. A dog who has little experience at actual heeling with an appropriately used pinch collar will have a learning curve. We aren’t looking perfection right away, though you’d be shocked at how quickly most dogs get this. But start small. Not letting them pull, not letting them move past you, then expecting them to stay closer to you, slowly shaping, bringing their “bubble closer to you and making it smaller until they are where you want them.
Practicing Loose Leash Walking and Handler Relevance
- 1Operating at the working level, holding the leash and remote, start walking with the dog at your side.
- 2Have your arm relaxed and leash should be relaxed with "J" loop between your hand and the dog's collar.
- 3As soon as the dog gets a little ahead of you, you are going to turn 180 degrees and tap the momentary button three quick times, *tap tap tap*, until the dog has switched directions and returned to the heel position.
- 4Repeat the heeling and turning as necessary giving the three quick taps on the momentary (nick) button as you do a sharp 180 degree turn whenever your dog gets out ahead of you.
- 5The goal of this exercise is to have your dog's head even with the seam of your pant leg, giving them plenty of time to be aware of your direction changes, without tension on the leash, and allowing them to pay attention to you instead of engaging with their environment.
The biggest problem we run into, is handlers who let the dog creep further and further forward. This is the most common issue and the one that is guaranteed to keep you from EVER getting a solid, reliable heel. The reason dog’s walk so great for good, experienced handlers is because the dog never wonders where the boundary is, where they should be.
Commit to the Process
Training takes time, consistency, and clear communication. When you embark on any training goal, make sure you have committed to seeing it through. That you will be able to get the training sessions in every single day, and that outside of formal sessions, you maintain unwavering expectations and are always in a position to reward or correct. Don’t put the collar on just when you are going to train, or go for a walk, or when you think your dog is going to act up. Have the collar on your dog at all times when they are out of the crate and interaction with any humans.
If you, or a member of the household, are always present and reinforcing training, then it simply becomes a way life for the dog to do what you are asking of them. They do not need to have the collar on in the crate or when you are gone.
Try to stay consistent with your training. Commit to continuing training and take time each day to invest in improving your relationship with your dog. The introduction of your dog to the e collar will take time but introducing them with these exercises will help you prevent bad habits with your dog.
Remember the e collar is a tool, we as handlers need to utilize the tool effectively in order to get the desired results. By taking the time to practice these exercises with your dog, you are one step closer to having a more meaningful relationship with your dog.