Some people swear by electronic collars (also called “e collars,” “stim collars,” or “shock collars”), and
some would never even consider putting one on their dog. Recently
several countries in Europe have begun banning them; the Humane Society
of the United States and the American Veterinary Association have
officially recommended against them, and the number of both professional
trainers and pet dog owners who use them is greatly reduced.
So how do they work? And what makes some people such believers in them?
Once your dog has received basic training, great!
You have put a lot of time into training your dog. He’s functioning at a
high level. You’re having a great time taking him out and about and
doing all kinds of fun things together. Your friends and neighbors are
jealous. Everything looks great.
As the months go by, however, there’s a little
slip here and a little blip there. Your dogs once good leash-walking
skills are now “usually” good leash-walking, but sometimes he pulls
towards things he really wants.
Every so often there’s a dog who does not
really care to work for treats or toys or praise; it may enjoy those
things but not care enough for them to have a motivational impact. What
do you do about these dogs?
The long answer is that you slowly, over time,
build up the “value” of the treats, toys and praise – hand-feeding meals
is a time-honored way to develop more food drive, or making the dog
work for some or most of his kibble (“no free meals!”), and spending
time encouraging your dog to play with you (in some cases, especially
with rescue dogs, you have to literally teach them how to play), and
building your relationship with your dog until your praise really starts
to have meaning for him.
I’m experimenting with a new system for homework –
one of the things that gets tough for more advanced dogs is just
keeping track of everything you need to practice. It’s easy to practice
the things that are easy and fun, but harder to remember to practice
things that are more of a challenge. And what about the things your dog
learned two months ago, but you haven’t really made use of; is he going
to forget all of those?
I tried making some flashcards for my own dog
Halo, and so far so good.
Throughout all training, you must respect the
dog. Respect the dog, its history and experiences, its learning process.
More than a few times, I have seen people rescue a dog, often a stray
off the streets, have it for a month or two, and be bewildered by its
fear and aggression. Their reasoning is the dog has nothing to fear now,
since it’s got a loving home, and the aggression is just plain uncalled
Now obviously you’ve got to change this behavior
(I’m not saying that it’s acceptable!
Although some dog training concepts seem a bit
technical and jargony, they can still be really helpful! I will try to
break down a few of them so you can keep them in mind and use them as
needed. First up:
“Neutral consequences tend to reduce frequency of behavior.”
What this means:
We all know that “good” consequences (treats,
praise etc) tend to make behavior increase in frequency, which is why we
use them so often! And “bad” consequences (time out, etc) tends to
decrease unwanted behavior.
A dog’s development can be categorized into
roughly three different stages: Puppyhood, Adolescence, and Adulthood.
There are “subcategories” of behavior within the three, such as the
puppy fear period, etc, but these three main stages can be helpful as a
Adolescence is usually described as the age
between 6 months and 1 year; depending on the breed that upper cut-off
limit can be 14, 18 or even 24 months. Many trainers refer to the
adolescent dog as a “teenager” and this is usually a fairly accurate
Training helpers (also called “decoys” or
sometimes “stooges”) can be invaluable in training your dog. They are
there to bridge the gap between initial training phases and “real world”
training. The real world involves things you can’t control, but since
you can to some extent control your decoys, they can provide a great
Here’s an example of one way decoys can be used to help.
Let’s say you are training your dog not to jump
up on people when greeting. You practice the routine – turning away when
your dog jumps, rewarding with attention when it remains standing with
four feet on the floor.
Group classes can be great – practice with high
distraction levels, learn new tips and techniques, usually save a lot of
money vs private training – but some people and dogs really struggle
with group classes. Too much downtime, not getting clear information,
the group is at a much higher or lower level than your dog is… all of
these can really interfere with the group class experience. Here’s how
to get the most from group classes!
1) Look at your dog.
Training outings (taking the dog out for training practice somewhere other than your home0 can be one of the most fun parts
of dog training! They can also be really helpful for all your long-term
goals. Here’s how to plan and make the most of a training outing.
Determine your goals for the outing.It’s
best to pick 2 or 3 things to concentrate on for each outing. That way
you can really focus on what your dog needs! Things you might choose to
focus on could be loose-leash walking, polite greetings to people,
obedience in distracting locations, “settle” at a café, etc.