This is part two in the series of posts about how to train with an e-collar. The first part of this post talks about how to condition your retriever to wearing the collar and how to avoid making your dog collar-wise. You can read that post here.
In this post, I will give you steps to begin using the e-collar for enforcement of the basic obedience commands that your dog has already learned.
Before you start using the e-collar for correction
Remember, e-collars should only be used to enforce commands that your dog already knows. Do not TEACH commands with an e-collar. All commands must be taught to your dog using manual correction as discussed in Step 4 (in previous post) before you move to enforcement with the e-collar. Your dog must understand each command and what is expected of him or her BEFORE you ever start using the e-collar to enforce a command.
Moving from collar conditioning to enforcement
After you have collar conditioned the dog by having your dog wear the collar without any corrections for a few weeks, and after you have worked on obedience with manual pressure, you are now ready to start conditioning your dog on obedience commands with electronic collar pressure.
If your collar has not been charged, now is the time to charge it. Make sure and follow the manufacturers recommendation concerning how long to charge your collar.
What is the difference between a nick and continuous pressure?
One thing that you need to understand before you start using your e-collar to enforce a command is the difference between a nick with the e-collar and a continuous correction. Every e-collar has a different design, so you will need to learn what buttons on your collar will give your dog a nick and which will provide a continuous correction.
A nick is a very quick correction. If your collar has a nick button, taping that button will send a correction to your dog’s e-collar in a split second. Faster than you can put your finger on the button and take it off. The correction will be one quick shock and then the correction will stop. Most corrections when you are teaching a dog obedience will be a nick.
A continuous correction is a button that will deliver a shock or correction for the entire time your finger is on the button (up to the limit of your collar). Most collars will have an automatic shut-off of 5-8 seconds. These corrections are longer and harder on your dog. There are specific times when you would want to use the continuous button, we will cover this more a bit later.
If you have not already done so, please read through Part 1 of this post. You should follow steps 1-4 prior to moving to Step 5. Failure to do so will result in a very confused dog and will not get you’re the obedience results you are looking for.
Step 5: SIT with collar pressure
For this step, start your obedience training session as you did before, but now make sure that you have the transmitter for the e-collar in your hand. Put a lead and a chain collar on your dog in addition to the electronic collar. Make sure that you have turned on the e-collar and/if necessary, the transmitter.
Start your collar-enforced obedience session with SIT.
Start walking your dog at a HEEL position stopping occasionally to have your dog SIT. Do not use the collar to correct your dog on the first few commands. If your dog refuses to SIT, manually correct him, and make him SIT. After a few SIT commands, instead of manually correcting your dog, now use the e-collar.
Start walking, stop and command SIT. When you say SIT – give a nick with the e-collar – then say SIT again. The SIT-nick-SIT should be said quickly. There should not be a long pause in between. The last SIT command should follow the nick with the e-collar very closely.
You want to begin and end an e-collar correction with a command. You do not want the dog to have any confusion about why he/she is being corrected or shocked.
Continue walking and stopping occasionally to command SIT. You do not need to correct your dog on every command. Do it randomly, mix it up. But do make sure that your dog SITS each and every time you give a SIT command.
Spend one or two days on the SIT command. Each day walk your dog at heel and randomly command him/her to SIT enforcing with the e-collar occasionally.
What if my dog always SITs when I say SIT?
Some dogs are very responsive to obedience training. If you dog rarely or never fails to SIT when you say SIT, you still need to condition your dog to respond to the e-collar. So, for dogs like this, you want to speed the command and correction up so that even though your dog is starting to SIT when you say the command, you will still give the nick and the follow up SIT command.
This will speed up your dog’s SIT response and teach him to respond to the e-collar correction quickly.
Strengthening the SIT command
If your dog is performing SIT quickly and consistently while walking at HEEL, you can move to enforcing the SIT/STAY command while walking away or providing other distractions.
Here at Otter Tail Kennels, we don’t use the STAY command. For us, if we tell a dog to SIT the dog should remain sitting until we give another command. If you prefer to use the STAY command, you can start adding that command at this point.
Have your dog SIT (STAY) and walk away from him. Watch your dog carefully as you start to move away. If your dog moves at all, say NO, and take him back to the exact spot where he moved from and say SIT, nick on collar, say SIT again.
It is important that you return your dog to the exact spot from where he moved. Dogs are very place oriented and if they have success moving even six inches or a foot from their original spot, they will consider that a victory. So, if possible, mark the ground or position where the dog is supposed to SIT so that you can make better progress.
Always say the SIT or SIT/STAY command firmly right before you begin to move. Sometimes it can help to put the palm of your hand in front of your dog’s nose when you say the SIT command and walk away from the dog.
Once your dog is performing SIT consistently when you walk away, you can slowly increase the distance that you walk away from him.
Adding in distractions
If you are making good progress with the SIT and STAY commands, it is helpful to start adding distractions. Distractions can be almost anything that would encourage your dog to move. For instance, you could walk away and face your dog and squat down. This is often enough to cause a dog to break his/her SIT to come to you. Again, if your dog moves, say NO and take your dog right back to the exact spot that he/she broke from. Use the e-collar correction (SIT – nick- SIT) randomly to firm up the SIT.
Other distractions can be jumping up and down, patting your chest, moving your arms over your head. Test the strength of your dog’s SIT with as many distractions as you can think of.
Step 6: Enforce HERE with e-collar
If you dog is responding quickly and consistently to the SIT command, then you are ready to move to collar conditioning on the HERE command.
To collar condition your dog on the HERE command, start by walking your dog at HEEL and occasionally have your dog SIT. Say SIT and walk away from your dog about 4-5 feet. Turn around to face your dog and say the HERE command. Do this a few times using manual pressure (pulling on the lead or jerking on the chain collar) if your dog does not respond.
If your dog knows the HERE command and is being responsive to your command, you can move to enforcing HERE with the e-collar. It is best to do this with a long lead or leash on your dog, at least at first.
To enforce the HERE command with your e-collar have your dog SIT and walk away from him a few feet. Make sure your dog remains sitting until you give the HERE command. When you give the HERE command, do this saying HERE – Nick with the collar- HERE. Again, all e-collar corrections should start and end with a command. And they should be said in quick succession.
Like with the SIT command, do not use the collar to enforce every single HERE command. Mix it up.
If your dog is responsive at 4-5 feet, you can start moving further from your dog. Use a longer lead until you feel confident that your dog understands that the collar pressure response is to run to you.
Moving to off-lead work
Once your dog is performing consistently on lead, you can remove the lead and work on the HERE command without a lead. It is best to do this in a fenced yard or large empty field to begin with. Once you feel confident your dog understands, you will want to add distractions.
Distractions for the HERE command can be having another person come outside during the session. Or, waiting until your dog gets very distracted by a bird or squirrel and then call him on a HERE command. The more distractions you introduce into this training, the better your dog will respond to the HERE command in most circumstances.
Using electronic collars for undesirable behaviors
SIT and HERE are the most important commands to enforce with an e-collar. But an e-collar can also be useful in curbing undesirable behaviors like garbage raiding and counter surfing, but the process is a little different.
E-collars can be used to curb undesirable behaviors in your retriever. For many behavior problems, an e-collar can be used to create a “hot spot”. A hot spot is somewhere or something your dog perceives as giving him a shock. This is very effective training for some behaviors but NEVER use this technique when working on obedience or when fetching if you have a retriever. We do not want to create any confusion.
In addition, do not use the e-collar to create a hot spot BEFORE collar conditioning your dog. The goal is not to make your dog obedient ONLY when the e-collar is on. We want your dog to be obedient all the time! So only use the e-collar as a hot spot once your dog has undergone all the steps listed above. And never shock your dog with the e-collar right after you have put it on him.
Dog getting into the garbage
If your dog is getting into the garbage, an e-collar can quickly help fix this problem. Put your dog’s e-collar on him and do some normal stuff, chores around the house, or whatever. Keep an eye out for your dog to approach the garbage can. As your dog gets close to the garbage can, or smells the can, give your dog a correction. Don’t say any command – just give an e-collar correction. A nick may work but generally the continuous button correction will work better for these types of behaviors. Anytime your dog gets close to the garbage can, give a correction with no command.
If done correctly, this will create a hot zone near the garbage can. Your dog will think that the garbage can shocked him and will likely leave it alone in the future. Sometimes more than one correction is needed to enforce the lesson.
Correcting counter surfing with an e-collar
Correcting counter surfing (your dog eating or taking stuff off the counters in your home) requires a similar approach to the garbage can. Put your e-collar on your dog and proceed to do some normal things around the home. When your dog gets his paws or nose on the counter, give a continuous correction for a few seconds with no command until your dog gets down. Each time your dog does this behavior, give the correction with no command.
Make sure the correction is high enough to make your dog change his behavior. If you are giving your dog an e-collar correction and he is not moving away from the counter quickly, you need a higher correction. Higher corrections work better on correcting behaviors like this. The dog is going to associate the item they are next to or touching as the thing giving them the correction, so a good hard correction will correct the problem faster and the correction will last longer.
Too much correction
Sometimes when you are e-collar conditioning your dog, you may give your dog a correction that is higher than you intended. Or you may give a correction and your dog reacts very strongly with yelping and crying. The worst thing you can do in these instances is to go comfort your dog and tell him you are sorry. This will only reinforce the dog’s reaction in the future. Instead, ignore your dog’s reaction, but take note so that your next correction is at a lower intensity. Your dog will recover quickly, especially if you ignore his reaction.
Final thoughts on how you start training with an e-collar
E-collars are one of the most effective dog training tools we have. If used correctly, they can help your dog respond quickly and consistently to obedience commands and learn quickly. The beauty of the e-collar is that the dog is getting a correction at the exact time that he is choosing to be disobedient. This speeds your dog’s learning a lot.
But e-collar training must be done correctly, and your dog must be conditioned to the collar prior to using it for correction so that your dog does not become collar wise. Once your dog has been properly collar conditioned to the e-collar, you will be able to use it for obedience corrections for commands your dog knows as needed.
If you are still struggling, 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.