What to do when your dog only listens when wearing an e-collar
The electronic collar marked a huge breakthrough for hunting dog training. It gave us the ability to make corrections immediately after an infraction and thus helping dogs to learn faster. Unfortunately, if a dog is not introduced to the electronic collar properly, the dog can become collar wise very quickly. And this can be a huge problem. If your dog is collar wise, you may be wondering how do I fix a collar wise dog? While not an easy task, here are some strategies that may help.
What is a collar wise dog?
A collar wise dog is a dog that has learned that the electronic collar is a correction device. Consequentially, the dog will behave and be obedient when the electronic collar is on his/her neck and will not listen when the collar is off. The dog is wise to the collar.
How does a dog become collar wise?
Dogs become collar wise quickly if the e-collar is not introduced correctly. If your dog is being naughty and will not listen, and you run and get an e-collar, strap it on him/her and give a correction, you have taught your dog that the collar is the correction device. That is why it is so important to properly collar condition your dog for a period of time (days or weeks) prior to using the collar for correction. Learn how to properly collar condition your dog.
Most dogs will become somewhat collar wise over time, no matter how much prevention you do. But there are strategies you can do to help delay this.
How dogs were corrected prior to e-collars
Before e-collars were invented, hunting and competition dogs were generally trained using Tennis Shoe Training (TST). TST literally means that if the dog was not obedient at a distance, you ran out to the dog, caught the dog and gave him/her a manual correction.
The problem with this method is that the correction happened minutes after the actual infraction. So, by the time you gave your dog a correction, he/she may not have understood why they were being corrected.
Many dogs were effectively trained using this method.
E- collars gave us the ability to reach out and touch the dog at a distance. The correction was delivered almost immediately after the infraction and the dogs were able to learn quickly what behavior they were being corrected for. A much easier and much more humane way to train dogs.
Prevention is the first step
Correcting or fixing an electronic collar wise dog is not easy. Prevention is really the best remedy since if you can prevent your dog from becoming collar wise, there is nothing to fix. Prevention starts way before you ever give your dog the first electronic collar correction. It starts when you purchase an electronic collar.
The first step to prevention is using the e-collar as part of your routine on a daily basis. This does not mean giving your dog a correction, it simply means that you put the e-collar on your dog each day. It doesn’t even have to be turned on. Just let your dog wear the collar and get used to how it feels on his/her neck and the weight of it.
Make the e-collar a routine for your dog
Make the e-collar a part of your routine. Each time you let your dog outside, put the e-collar on the dog. Or, each time you take your dog outside for a walk, put the e-collar on the dog. Or, each time you take your dog outside to train, put the e-collar on the dog.
In this way the dog will soon be excited to get his/her e-collar on because it means good things are going to happen. They get to go outside, or they get to go on a walk. Your goal is to make wearing the e-collar a positive thing.
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How do I fix my collar wise dog
If your dog is already collar wise, then you are probably a little bit frustrated with your dog. Here are some steps you can take to help end some of that frustration.
First, you are not going to completely eliminate your dogs knowledge of the e-collar. But there are some things you can do to help eliminate the frustration of your dog only listening when the e-collar is on.
Step 1: Make sure your dog respects you.
The reason your dog is not listening when the e-collar is not around his/her neck is because your dog does not respect you. I know, that is hard to hear, but it is the truth. Dogs do not obey because they love you. They do not obey because you give the treats or because you negotiate with them. They obey if they respect you.
So, how do you get your dog to respect you? Get consistent. When you command your dog to SIT, make sure your dog SITS. If you command HERE, your dog needs to run to your quickly and with purpose. And if your dog jumps on you, you need to immediately correct that infraction. Because jumping on you is the opposite of respecting you.
Step 2: Have your dog wear the collar but give manual corrections.
Many people think that the way to fix your collar wise dog is to do more work with the collar off. And you may have some success with doing that, but I think it is better to keep up the collar routine that you have established with your dog. But you do not have to turn the collar on, just put it on your dog.
We want to teach the dog that with the collar on or off, you (the owner) are in control and can correct the dog. The collar should be a secondary accessory to this. You need to move back to manual corrections. This means you are going to have to go back to that TST that I discussed earlier. If you give your dog a command and your dog obviously heard the command but is not listening, you need to act. The e-collar makes for easy corrections, but if you want to fix your collar wise dog, you need to show your dog that the collar is not the only way you have to correct him/her.
Step 3: Go back to the basics.
One way to get in a lot of manual (hands on) corrections is to go back and work on basic obedience in your home or in your yard. Start with on-lead walking, SIT and HERE work. If your dog is slow to respond to a command, give a correction. Your dog’s response should be quick. Do not allow your dog to give a defiant response such as a slow SIT, or a slow response to a HERE command. Defiance should be met quickly with a manual correction.
What are manual corrections?
Manual corrections are you physically putting your hands on your dog to make a correction. For example: a manual correction for SIT could be tapping your dogs bottom with a heeling stick or giving an upward jerk on a chain collar. A manual correction for HERE could be a sharp jerk on a long check cord and chain collar or walking out, grabbing your dog by the collar, and pulling them toward you as you back up and command HERE.
If you are unwilling to manually correct your dog, you are not going to be able to fix your collar wise dog.
Step 4: Stop correcting every infraction with a e-collar correction.
Overuse of the e-collar is what often leads to collar wise dogs. Try mixing it up. Sometimes you may use the e-collar for corrections but sometimes use manual corrections. This will keep your dog guessing and will help eliminate your dog’s wise-ness to the collar.
Your dog will learn that you are able to correct him/her with or without the e-collar and that will go a long way toward earning your dog’s respect.
Final thoughts on how to fix a collar wise dog.
It all comes back to respect. Your dog needs to understand that you have not only the will but the ability to correct him/her in all situations. It can be very painful to fix a collar wise dog. Especially if you have been relying heavily on being able to correct your dog with a simple push of a button. But the effort of reverting to manual corrections can make a huge difference in how your obedient your dog is both with and without the e-collar on.
Remember, if you really want your retriever to grow and progress this year, but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I’m here to help! You can email me (email@example.com) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time happy retrieving.