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Dog Training

Electronic Dog Trainers

. . . . . . the do's and the do nots

Electronic Dog Trainers - they are readily available, reasonably priced and advertised 'to solve most dog problems'.

Some of you love them, some of you think they don't work or ruin dogs, and some of you are dead against them because you think they are cruel.

What do I think? I think they are better than sliced bread.

Electronic Dog Trainers do work and are a god send if used correctly. Most of you have absolutely no idea how to use them correctly.

A knife is a wonderful tool when used with intelligence but a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands - do you get my drift?

The first 'electric dog collars' were large, heavy and had one level of electrical current. They were cruel and more often than not, harmed and ruined more dogs than they cured.

Not all dogs are the same, not only do their natures vary but so too does their sensitivity to the electric shock. By that I mean, you can have the same (mild) voltage and one dog won't react and yet another will yelp and run for home - literally.

There is also varying degrees of intelligence with dog owners - the brainless variety purposely leave their finger on the button and take pleasure from seeing their dogs screaming and turning summersaults in pain. Yes, sadly that is true.

Thankfully the manufacturers realized there was a huge problem that needed to be solved and solved it was.

The Electronic Dog Trainers of today are a far cry from their earlier counterparts.

Now they have various intensity levels so that you can actually "train" rather than punish your dog. There is also an automatic cut out for the heavy handed barbarians.

For those of you who think Electronic Dog Trainers are cruel, I say they are not. If the right intensity level is used it is far more humane than most other forms of punishment.

And for those of you who think they don't work - you haven't been using them properly, and hopefully, by the end of this article you will have the knowledge to do so.

Firstly, not all dogs need them - as I have said before, softer natured dogs often respond well to just a gruff voice.

Secondly, if you can't control your temper and actions don't ever use one.

And finally, if you think that it will magically train your dog - think again - it won't.

Your dog has to be trained first - he has to have been taught basic commands and to have a good understanding of these commands before a collar goes anywhere near his neck. Please re-read this last statement.

Imagine - a young dog has never heard the word 'sit'. The handler puts the 'trainer collar' on. He says 'sit'. The dog doesn't sit. He gets a shock - he has no idea why.

Stupid isn't it? And unbelievably, many of you do it.

The dog must be trained first.

I have been using these collars, off and on for years, but only as a last resort.

And, by using cunning means, my dogs have no idea when they are on - they do not associate the collar with the 'feeling'.

Here's how I do it ...

Young "Lass" has had all the lessons - with the rope, stick, sheep etc - described in previous articles.

She has a thorough understanding of the following words - no, behind, sit, get in, over, off, right, left, away, walk, up, careful.

Not only will she obey them on the rope, but she will also obey them in a small yard, holding paddock.

She is praised when she does the right thing, 'good girl' and corrected when she doesn't - 'no, the repeated command' and when she does it 'good girl'.

Everything has been going well - most of the time she does what I ask, and doesn't when feeling confused - this happens with all young dogs and you must make allowances. By repeating, clearly and insisting by tone, she gets it right.

But inevitably the day will come when she either knows better or refuses to listen in her enthusiasm to work.

If she gets away with it, she will do it again - it’s only natural - children are the same, so it needs to be nipped in the bud before the habit of disobeying is formed.

Because you can't reason with a dog and because a minute or so after the event it won't remember, getting hold of it for 'a tune up' doesn't have a good success rate. By the time you have walked over to the dog it is too late for it to associate the reprimand with the act.

And that is why the electronic dog trainers are so good - it is immediate. Also the dog associates the discomfort from the act, not from you - therefore still trusting and being unafraid of you.

Don't ever, I repeat - don't ever, call your dog over then punish it. Ever wondered why your dogs are reluctant to come to you? The dog thought that it was punished for coming to you. The last thing it remembers is happily coming to you and the next thing you kick or beat it.

Old canine saying - once beaten, twice shied.

An Electronic Trainer kit consists of - the collar, a charger and a dummy (non working) collar plus instructions etc.

If you put the collar straight on a dog and give it a zap it will soon work out that the heavy odd feeling thing around its neck delivers an uncomfortable sensation and before long it will obey you only when it is wearing it and go back to its old tricks when it is not.

What you want is obedience each and every day regardless of what it is wearing, and this is achievable though it does take a bit of fluffing around. Believe me it is worth it because a dog that is 'collar shy' is a pain to say the least.

Now back to Lass - at the first sign of the 'adolescent know it all phase' plan B is underway.

I don't want her working and getting away with disobedience so she has a few days off and I put the 'dummy' collar on her. She needs time to adjust to the new weight and feeling of the collar without any repercussions.

She will wear it for a few hours, then have nothing, she will have it taken off and then put straight back on again, she will have an ordinary collar put on.

What I am trying to do is confuse her by regularly playing with her neck and what is around it.

Lass is now blissfully unaware of her neck adornments and ready for work, so the 'real McCoy' goes on. This time when she ignores me she will be corrected, and naturally not associate it with the collar because she has become accustomed to the 'feel alike' dummy.

Incidentally, when you fit both the dummy and 'the collar' make sure they are neither too tight nor too loose. The probes need to be in contact with the skin but not so tight that it is uncomfortable.

It is vital to check the dog's neck daily and to have time out from either collar otherwise you will end up with an infected neck where the probes have irritated the skin. This is important - remember it!

Prior to putting the collar on Lass, I have tested it to see that it is working and put it on the lowest correction level. I have found that most dogs need only the lowest level.

The next statement is of critical importance - you do not want your dog to 'overly' react when corrected.

If your dog yelps, jumps sideways, runs away etc the shock is too strong and you will ruin everything and possibly your dog.

You know you have the right level for that particular dog when you see no reaction except it stops doing what it was doing wrong. It's almost like the dog says "oo, what was that?"

Not "where the hell did that come from!" as it leaps in the air.

However, some misdemeanors do require harsher punishment and a higher voltage eg bolting, severe biting, chasing cars etc.

Another important fact - only correct one thing at a time. Do not zap it for not sitting, not walking up, going too fast, cutting a sheep off etc, all in the space of quarter of an hour or even the same day - you'll ruin your dog - permanently.

If you have trained the dog properly chances are it is either not stopping, running out before being asked or not coming back.

If it is doing all these things, you have let it get out of hand - you should be wearing the collar, not the dog.

I strongly advise playing around in the holding paddock in a non work situation and have things going well again before going back to work.

Here's an example - Lass won't sit (stop) when told. "Lass, sit" - nothing -"Lass, Sit" nothing, now I hold my finger down on the button saying "sit", at the same time, until she stops. As soon as she stops I release the button - immediately.

Let's look at this. I say the command once, a second time, still nothing - now she gets the shock as I say the word, and continues to get it until she obeys. Because the shock stops as soon as she 'sits' she associates everything - the unpleasant feeling with disobedience, relief when obedient.

If the intensity was too strong it would be counterproductive because she would be running away from the pain, that's how animals react and you would achieve nothing - that is why it is so important to start on the lowest level.

If there is no reaction what so ever either the collar is too loose or the level too low for that dog - check the collar first before raising the level.

You can see why it is important that the dog fully understands the command asked, before employing the aid of the collar.

The above principle works for most problems - remember to hold the button down until the dog obeys, and the second it does - release.

Another example - she won't come when called. 'Lass, behind', nothing 'Lass behind' nothing - now I press the button until she starts coming saying 'Lass behind' as I do so. The second she starts coming, the button is released - 'good girl'.

Once I put the collar on a young dog it will wear it every time it goes to work, probably for a month or two, so that it never gets into the habit of disobeying me. When it isn't working (in this period) it will wear the dummy collar off and on so that it is totally used to the extra weight.

I might add here that I won't zap her willy-nilly - dogs make genuine mistakes, and sometimes they genuinely don't hear, but it is there, and used, for outright disobedience. She may not need a reprimand for a week or two, but if she does, I am able to do it immediately.

Remember - patience, understanding, control (of yourself), consistency and common sense when using these training devices on young dogs.

And if a dog becomes collar shy, hardens to correction, sours, runs for home, becomes a nervous wreck etc it is not the collar, nor the dog at fault - it is you that is at fault because you have abused the Training Collar, you have abused your dog and you have abused your position of power and control.

The electronic dog collars that I now use are from Dogmaster Trainers 0800 364 627

They are fantastic! I have a system with 4 collars - that way I can easily take out several young dogs that I am working on. The system, collars & hand control, are very easy to use especially for this aging brain of mine. I cannot speak highly enough of them - I'm totally wrapped in them!