Ecollars : An Intelligent Discussion

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 4:34pm PST 
I am presenting this thread to debate ecollars intelligently. I am sure there will be passion, but hopefully, with what I am about to present, that which speaks from an informed viewpoint, i.e., that we do so understanding how they work, what applications they have, etc. Stressing here that I am not presenting myself as an expert. I do not use ecollars. I am not ecollar experienced. I am, however, aware of their use and why they work. Sometimes on Dogster, they get brought up and I am very aware of the misconceptions or misrepresentations. Some of which include ecollars being the choice for very "corrections happy" people, that ecollars "train through pain," and so on.

I used to be one of those people, so these points are easy to understand. But I also USED to be one of those people, and thereby equally know that sometimes enlightenment can go a long way. It hasn't changed my mind regarding my personal choices, but it has changed my willingness to consider their use by others. I have invited onto this thread someone who is an expert in their use to address any questions. He is a mentor to many, and extremely well known in the SAR community.

I came to learn that quite a few people I train with and who I would have thought....had I hazarded a guess....would have stayed far from them, use them. A surprise to say the least, and a dose of reality. Ecollars play a significant role not only in bite sports (which I knew) and field work (which I knew), but in fields such as SAR and OB. The latter I knew, but assumed there were ecollar people and non ecollar people, as opposed to those who train positively, with selective use of this training tool. Indeed, what I have found is that ecollars are often popular with those who want to go straight PR....yes, even with clickers....and refer to ecollars for corrections.

One thing I came to learn is that contemporary ecollar training is different. There are a myriad of settings. The higher ones are a concern, but contemporary ecollar training seldom refers to these. There is something called a "test for level," which is where the ecollar is placed on the dog, and settings are incrementally graduated. At first, there is no response at all. But somewhere in the sequence, the level is found, where the dog shows that first, subtle recognition. Normally, this recognition is the dog sniffing on the ground. Not frantically, just that moment you can see him say "hmmm, what was that?" This is a test for level. You can judge if you feel this is a calming signal or the former explanation. Before making that call, THIS is a group of children articulating what they feel. I would like to add in the world of punishers, nowhere can you test a dog's responses to a potential correction and assess your dog's response, see if you are comfortable with it, without jeopardizing the dog's sense of trust towards you, for he is not associating you with the stim. The pager function, a Dogster friend has told me, also is an option. Nowhere, too, in the world of punishers, can you have the punisher held safe from your emotion of the moment. It is here ecollars have particular interest to me, as something unique and in parts potentially safer.

Another way ecollar use has changed is that for many who use it, it is not used as a punisher for something incorrect, but in an avoidance approach against *doing* something incorrect. This, to me (and by me), has been grossly misunderstood. You do not zap a dog for doing something wrong. On commands or actions the dog knows, he will learn he can shut the low stim off by doing something different. This is called "escape training," where the dog learns by responding, he can shut the stim off. In time, this becomes "avoidance training," whereby the dog learns he can avoid stim entirely by his own actions. This is of course conducive towards having a dog who is very commands responsive and is extremely good for speed also as the dog is trying to control the stim.

Beyond this, there are life saving methods towards which the ecollar is employed. One of these is for things such as snake proofing for pets, or for hunters putting on a very sound recall. We have a Dogster here who now uses ecollars for such measures after having her beloved dog die in her arms, and as such is now adamant about this sort of proofing. Hopefully, she can offer her experiences. This is equally why ecollars are quite prevalent in SAR, where the dog is working in very risky settings, making compliance to the handler's commands much a matter of personal safety. I will add the ethical challenge I received, from SAR people, who train quite positively, that the issue isn't what they prefer but what works to the most reliable result given to the seriousness of the potential fallouts.

Ecollars also are used in life saving behavioral situations where truly ONLY the ecollar will do. I am presenting one such case for your review here, which in its total presentation should be quite informative. This is a case of a shelter dog with high aggression destined for the euth list. On Friday. There was only a four day period to reverse his fate. FOUR days. You will note in this study several things. First and foremostly, the narrator, who was the one determined to try to save this young Lab, is not an ecollar person. He had to that point rehabbed many dogs without the use of force. You will also note that not only was this training successful, but HOW, and perhaps most critically the completeness of rehabilitation in that this dog was adopted out, without the ecollar, and has remained with his adopter now for an extended time.

Ecollar Behavioral Rehab Testimonial....Click REHAB TRAINING on the bottom to see a breakdown of the approach

This I hope will open the door for intelligent conversation. On another thread, it was mentioned that ecollars "train through pain." You may now judge this for yourself, as to how they work and why. Bearing in mind as you do, that there has NEVER been an ecollar study that has evaluated its consequence on anything but HIGH settings, which invalidates such studies as contemporary ecollar training does not approach the use of that tool in such a way. CAN they? Oh surely....the setting is there. But this is preventable by any enlightened dog owner.

As you read and consider this case, an ethical challenge I present to you. Given that no training method beyond this one could have altered such intense behavior in four days time....would he be better off dead?

This is not a thread to recommend the ecollar, but rather one to dissuade those who question the humane or enlightened mindsets of those who use them, who I remind also include the majority of SAR dog trainers as well. Many hunters. Many OB people. Who are well versed in producing a very positive worker.

Edited by author Fri Nov 30, '12 4:41pm PST


When the night- closes in I will- be there
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 5:19pm PST 
I have 2 potential uses for an ecollar that I am looking at and you couldn't have brought this up at a better time. Sabi who is as steady as a rock but losing her hearing which makes off leash a risk and Shadow who with all her issues is running out of options for a normal life. Since my exposure to them has been really limited I have no real opinion on them. In the few cases I have seen them used they were a short term crutch. So please educate me.laugh out loud
Dennis- FDCH-S,- TFIII

I love agility- and flyball!
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 5:20pm PST 
His life was saved, so in my opinion it was worth it. I would like to know more about the intermediate e-collar training steps though, like how did he go from being trained to be a velcro dog, to then being ok when the handler was not with him?


Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 5:23pm PST 
Well said way to go

Nothing to add.....yet anyway laugh out loud

Couch Potato
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 5:25pm PST 
I'd be very interested in learning how they are used in OB and SAR. I also have been thinking of a use for one, as I have a dog who is an inveterate chaser of cars, horses, bikes, etc. Fortunately at home she is managed with a fence. If she does escape, which happens rarely, she tends to run to the sheep pen, thank dog. Food does not help her recall. And I certainly can't Premack her with the sheep -- it's too stressful for them to be herded all the time. But I consider it so dangerous as to be potentially lethal and fear for her life. frown

Be Scaredy of- Me, Dawg!
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 5:47pm PST 
Ecollar work is very new to me - never used it on my GSD, but it is invaluable on the Catahoulas when it comes to getting them to come out during a bay. These are 'cur' dogs with a HUGE pain tolerance, so it's certainly not "train through pain" - rather, in this one particular situation, it breaks the focus of the dog on the pig/coon/what have you, which allows them to process what you are asking them to do. I've never used a setting above 1.5, and mine has a tone feature also, which is helpful. I'm interested in learning more about their use.

Whippy- The- Whipador
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 5:52pm PST 
Sabi who is as steady as a rock but losing her hearing which makes off leash a risk

Wouldn't a collar that vibrates be better and more effective in this situation, Sabi? I've heard people recommend those types of collars here before with deaf dogs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I'm also interested in their use in bitework, SAR, OB. I think you'd be hard pushed to find anyone who has used the collar on SAR or OB dogs here so i guess my question would then be why train with one if it isn't absolutely necessary? There are people out there who use them i'm sure, but it's certainly not a popular choice. The OB one particular puzzles me because i'd have thought the handler would want their dog to be having fun and complying through mutual team work, not shocking the dog everytime it blows a command. Unless of course they're not used in that fashion.....

They're not very popular here, even banned in Wales, and i know quite a few other European countries have banned them too, or at least banned the OTC sale of them to your average joe public. They are also *i think* banned from use in police dog training establishments here. So yeah, all in all, not your "go to collar" of choice here.

Edited by author Fri Nov 30, '12 6:00pm PST


I always get the- last bark.
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 6:05pm PST 
I support the use of it in the case of the shelter dogs, it worked, and saved his life, and like the trainer said, he didn't have anything to lose, if he failed, well the dog was going to die anyway. And he didn't have to the time to do it through positive reinforement means.

I would be interested in more information on how he trained the dog (and I guess how others are doing it). It is hard to wrap my head around getting that kind of response out of a dog through shocking, albeit very light shocks.

When the night- closes in I will- be there
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 6:12pm PST 
Tyler the one i was looking at had a vib setting, however Sabi can get extremely focused and since her hearing is going she has the perfect excuse to ignore. As another poster mentioned I need to break that focus.

High-flyin' Pup!
Barked: Fri Nov 30, '12 6:27pm PST 
I've been nearly eaten alive for this before, so I'm posting very hesitantly...I do use an E-collar with Jasper. I feel like in a way this is the result of my failing...I went to the shelter to adopt an older dog who would be a quiet companion and wound up with a puppy with more than a little JRT in him. The shelter had him marked as an older dog because of the white around his muzzle, and I didn't know any better at the time. Looking back...he was 12.5lbs and gangly...now he's 25lbs. I don't know how I didn't see it. He's intense, brilliant, driven, and was wildly unfocused for years.

I worked HARD with a trainer who was really a poor match for us, and nearly gave up in frustration several times. Looking back, I can't believe how long I stuck it out with that trainer, but I felt like our lack of progress was 100% my fault so I kept trying. He was out of control, and I couldn't get him to focus outside of the classes for even a few minutes. Inside the classroom he was a star, and I think that was part of the problem...the trainer I was working with wasn't doing any lessons outside of the facility, so all she saw was Jasper at his very best. At home things were so bad that Jasper's behavior was causing fights between my husband and myself. (which no doubt made Japser's behavior worse)

When I found the trainer we work with now, the relief was almost immediate. My trainer held the collar for the entirety of the first two lessons to be certain I had correct timing and was adjusting the levels as needed. Once the collar was on Jasper, he was diferent within minutes. I could direct his attention to me swiftly, and keep it there. I never EVER use anything above the minimum level he responds to...and for the first few weeks, the effort of concentrating left him mentally exhausted after just ten to twenty minutes. We built up his mental strength slowly over the course of about four months.

Now we can go out for HOURS, and I generally won't have to touch the button once. He IS somewhat "collar wise", that is...he behaves if the collar is on him, whether I turn it on or not...but he occasionally goes wild if he's not wearing the collar. Still, it's leagues past where we were before finding our current trainer, and I continue to see improvement.

If Jasper had gone to a home better prepared for the kind of dog he is, I'm certain the E-collar wouldn't have been necessary. BUT - he didn't. I was inexperienced and unprepared. He was my first dog as an adult, and my childhood dog and I had worked together so well that it almost seemed she trained herself. I'm older and wiser now, but along the way I exacerbated the existing problems, and I really feel that this was the best solution for us.

I don't feel that this is something horrid for Jasper. He doesn't jump or yelp, he just turns his head back in my direction and we resume whatever we were doing.
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