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How E-Collars Work
The Beauty (and necessity) of Maintenance Training
What to do if your dog doesn't like treats or toys
Using flashcards in training!
Training with Compassion and Respect

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How E-Collars Work

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?

The Beauty (and necessity) of Maintenance Training

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.

What to do if your dog doesn't like treats or toys

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.

Using flashcards in training!

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.

Training with Compassion and Respect

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 for.
 
Now obviously you’ve got to change this behavior (I’m not saying that it’s acceptable!

Training Concepts #1: Neutral/No Consequence

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.

The Adolescent Dog

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 jumping-off point.
 
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 description.

Working with Training Helpers ("Decoys")

 
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 transition.
 
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.

How to Do Group Classes

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.

How to do a Training Outing

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.
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