Dog Tip: ‘Invisible Leash’ Basics

November 22, 2010 | By | Reply More

Improper e-collar use could result in odd beahviors....

by One of our buddies

The electronic collar is one of the greatest inventions that anybody who wants to train a dog could ever wish for. But if used improperly, it can ruin a potentially good dog even more quickly than it can aid in eliminating unwanted behaviors.

It’s a training tool for reinforcement of learned commands, not an instrument for punishment. It should be thought of as a very long, invisible leash. So before anyone begins to use one on their dog, they have to understand it’s not a quick fix to make up for a lack of traditional training.

A dog should be “collar-conditioned” before the e-collar is used on a regular basis for training. A good way to start is with a check cord and the e-collar attached to the dog at the same time. When you give the dog its recall command (“here,” “come” or whatever term you use) and then tug on the cord, the dog learns to come to you quickly in order to avoid the nagging tugs.

Later on, you can overlay a couple of light taps of stimulus from the e-collar in conjunction with the tugs. The goal is to have the e-collar eventually replace the cord – the dog will discover (although he might need to be reminded occasionally) that even though he may be a couple hundred yards or more away, he’s still hooked up to the electronic “leash” and that your commands can still be enforced.

Two Warnings

A couple warnings:
> Be very careful when using any amount of electricity around birds.
> Don’t stimulate a dog that’s out of your sight.

A jolt of electricity when a dog is working a bird can send an unwanted message – that the bird is the source of discomfort. Similarly, if you shock him when you can’t see him in an effort to get him to return, you may buzz him while he’s on point and he’ll get the idea that pointing birds is something he shouldn’t be doing.

Stopping a dog from chasing undesirable critters (rabbits, deer, etc.) is one instance when the e-collar can be used a bit more forcefully. You can get the message across without having to say anything. Afterward, act like nothing happened and keep going about your business. If timed correctly, this will make the dog attribute the negative stimulus to whatever it was chasing.

People ask me if I ever “shock” a dog off of non-game birds, and I almost never do. Eventually they’ll just stop showing an interest in them when you’re not shooting them and they realize that there’s no incentive to go after them.

If it’s an older dog that’s been hunting for awhile and it starts to dink around with other birds, then I might use some very light stimulus, but it’s best to just avoid using electricity around birds of any sort.

Pay a Little More

I’d recommend buying an e-collar of at least a moderate-level price (in the $200 range) because you do get what you pay for. A $99 special might not work as well as you need it to.

If you put the e-collar on the dog every time you take him out for hunting, training or exercise, he’ll start to look at it as part of his regular “fun wardrobe.” And he’s less likely to become “collar-wise,” a term used for dogs that exhibit good behavior when it’s on, but unruliness when it’s off.

Your goal is consistency, so be consistent in the use of the tools at your disposal.

Category: Dog gear, Dogs in general

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