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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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Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 6:32pm PST 
G2 - I'm not talking about just METHOD.. but also the trainer themselves - because let's be honest, experience can help too. And I'm aware that it happens on ALL sides of the fence, with all methods of training - people go and spout off that ONLY theirs works. I disagree with that and again, I did agree that I can see the use for an ecollar. What I don't understand is HOW ANYONE can guarantee their method, alone, with all dogs and any dog.
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G2

Be Scaredy of- Me, Dawg!
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 7:18pm PST 
"because let's be honest, experience can help too. And I'm aware that it happens on ALL sides of the fence, with all methods of training - people go and spout off that ONLY theirs works. I disagree with that"

I gotcha - and I agree with this. smile

Edited by author Sun Dec 2, '12 7:22pm PST

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Sabi

When the night- closes in I will- be there
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 7:19pm PST 
Charlie, you and I have a very similar mindset. I have had loads of people tell me that this way or that way is the only way. And I work my dogs using bits and pieces of many methodologys. In Shadows case I could leave things the way they are, but why should I if there may be a way to open more doors for her. Perhaps this is a chance for more for her. Years ago everyone told me to use a prong on Bud. It wasn't the right tool for him. I stood my ground and I was right. Before that I was told there was NO WAY to train a deaf Great Dane. I refuse to give up and again I was right. Its all about the right tool for the right dog. Many of the people on this site swear that any dog can be trained with their method. I have been repeatedly told that the failing is mine not the methods. I have gone back to clicker training a dozen times with Shadow. IT DOESN'T WORK. Is it my fault? Maybe, but Morri is doing well with it so probably not.
Lou never said ecollars worked on every dog. He said he hadn't met one it didn't work on. That makes sense to me because the method speaks to a level all dogs understand. They FEEL it. It isn't about intelligence, sight, smell, or hearing. It makes sense to me because it is the same principle as horse training, which is where I came from. Would I use one on every dog? No way. But I can see the value in them. I also have 2 dogs on flat collars, one on a martingale and one on a choke.
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Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 7:30pm PST 
That's true and perhaps I did misunderstand. I was mostly just getting confused because he went from saying that each dog is different, to saying that most people who talk to him end up going to ecollars anyway and that's where it was confusing me. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding and that wasn't what he was saying at all and if that's the case, I do apologize.

I do think it would be cool if you could find a way to open more doors for Shadow though. And yeah, I've used Halti's, Martingales, and flat collars. I definitely prefer flat, but will use Martingale's on escape artists, and have used a Halti to work on focus and LLW. But yeah, I also agree ANY tool can be dangerous if not used properly, including a flat collar.
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Bella and- Daisy CGC

I'm a Meanie
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 8:01pm PST 
Tiller/Lou, thanks so much for this conversation!

When I brought my Bella home she was so anxious she wouldn't eat. Like, had to be kept and force fed at the vet. I had very little dog experience at that time. I came here, to dogster, and was told I wasn't giving her good enough treats, and that clicker cures all. I had looked into a training program but it used aversives and I had learned those were evil and would traumatize my dog even more. I tried and tried. Did I mention I tried??

Luckily, by the time I decided Bella needed medication I had found places other than here! It is always touted as "the last resort" on here. But I found by getting her on it, her anxiety got to a level I was able to work with her. It has been 2.5 years. It has taken a TON of work to have her be able to live like a normal dog.

If I ever were to have such a horridly anxious/fearful dog come into my house again I'm not sure I would want to put them through 2+ years of rehab. Do I know it works? Yes, I have proof. But it is nice to hear that I might could use an e-collar, in a way that doesn't hurt the dog, and that could help them and not make them suffer for so long. I mean...even knowing they will and can get better...if there is a tool that can help them faster, why on earth would i not want that for my dog?

I have seen dogs trained with e-collars that are shut down. But for all I know their owners had no idea what they were doing when they strapped them on.

But, I have also seen many hunting dogs (mostly where I've looked since I have hunting breeds) that have e-collars that are very happy to work even with e-collar use. I have enjoyed reading Trigger's experience proofing recall with her bird dogs.

I just have a hard time seeing how an insect bite sensation now is so much worse than years of clicking and treating to reduce fear/anxiety. So thanks for coming on to discuss your experience and work with the e-collar as a tool.
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Member Since
11/27/2012
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 8:35pm PST 
Peekaboo wrote,
"Why would you recommend a dog be trained on your methods rather than be trained with a clicker or other positive methods? By this, I mean things that can be taught equally well through another method. If it is because you feel your method is superior to others, why is it?"


Remember that I said that most of my clients come to me with problems that others have not been able to solve. Those others have usually tried at least one method, many have tried several methods. Usually those methods involve the softer ones. They've already been tried and so I see no advantage to trying them again. I have no problems if someone wants to try "a clicker or other positive methods" as long as they give the owner results in a timely manner. Only the owner can determine what "timely" means. I know of one owner who worked with a dog for three years, trying to train a recall. To me, and to most, that's excessive. But I also think that six months to get a reliable, off leash recall is excessive. For the record, the word "reliable" means to me that the dog will recall from any distance that the command can be heard, seen or felt, that the dog will recall with one command and that it will work in the face of any distractions. I'm certainly not requiring 100% compliance, I don't even think that's possible but certainly 99% is.

FEW people have the ability to teach, even basic OB, as you say, "equally well" using those methods. We'll hear from several experts who have devoted years to learning those methods and are willing to spend months getting reliability with them. But as has been pointed out, many, if not, most, pet owners are not willing to do that. This is just a fact of life. Some folks love spending hours working with their dogs, but many pet owners do not. They want to (and will) own a dog but they don't want to spend huge amounts of time getting them trained. A visit to just about any dog park will confirm this, and you'll see FEW pet owners with good control.

Some will respond that those people should not own dogs and/or that they don't deserve them. But I'm a realist and know that's not going to stop anyone.

Someone who trains with an Ecollar can get a reliable recall and sit in a week or two by spending a relatively, very short time. This is done without any of the pain, scaring the dog or the rest of the nonsense that the anti−Ecollar crowd puts out. Yes, of course, those things CAN HAPPEN if the tool is not used properly. But using it properly, so these things don't happen, is easy. The instructions for this are on my site, they're free and they're pretty easy to do. Most people are amazed at the results they get in the very first session. Usually there are dramatic behavior changes there.

Peekaboo wrote, "You said in a previous post that you don't like it when a person trains the dog with a different method and then uses the ecollar for proofing the behavior. Why is this? Do you feel there would be harm in doing it this way and, if so, what harm?"

Maybe I wasn't clear enough. It's not that I don't like it, it's that often the people who train like this don't show the dog how to control the stim. I've seen this repeatedly. This method is even on the Ecollar DVD put out by one of the biggest sellers of DVD's on the Net. He turns the dog loose and gives a command that the dog already knows, while on leash. If the dog does not comply he hits the button. If the dog still does not comply, he turns it up and up and up, hoping and expecting the dog to guess right. Sometimes this works but often it does not. Even when it does, it subjects the dog to much more discomfort, probably tending into pain, than necessary.

The harm is that the dog becomes confused if he's not shown how to make the stim stop. Confusion leads to unreliability. Unreliability leads dogs into dangerous situations, the horrorshow being "the run towards the road" that I frequently trot out. The harm is also that he's subject to more discomfort than necessary. I like dogs. I don't like to hurt them. But I have no problem in imposing some minor discomfort to get reliable performance, that, in the long run, gives them the freedom to be off leash when it's appropriate.

Peekaboo wrote, "As has been mentioned, there is concern that the dogs be happy to train, to work. When working with aversives, we often see that the dogs aren't happy, that they lose that spark or they look like they really don't want to be doing what they're asked to do. What do you have to say about this in regards to your methods?"

I've trained for decades with the use of aversives and the dogs that I've trained have always been "happy" and had "the spark." They've always looked like they "really want to be doing what they're asked to do." It's my opinion that when you get the result you describe, it's because the aversives have not been applied properly and/or they've not been balanced with enough reinforcement.

Peekaboo wrote, "Do you have any videos of dogs that have been trained on your method?"

No, I don't. I'm not in the business of dog training, which makes "the financial involvement" claim, that some have made against me, all the more groundless. If I was, I'd have dozens of them up on the Net, so that I'd get more business. All of my advertising is word of mouth and I have more work than I want. I regularly turn people away, instead referring them to my articles, reassuring them that they don't need to spend the money to train with me, that they can get it done themselves. I let them know that if they give it a try but still are having problems, that I'll work with them. Usually the next communication from them is that they're very happy with their results.

I don't think that such videos of dogs being trained really show very much. You have no idea if the person even really trained that dog. It's not unheard of that a trainer will purchase an already trained dog and then will pass it off as if he'd done the training. And most of them have been heavily edited. Have they removed the bad work? No one knows.

I think the true measure of a trainer is not how good his own dogs are (again, we really don't know if he did the training). It's how well the dogs of his clients take to the training! If they don't, then I don't think much of his work. I think that word−of−mouth and testimonials are the best measure of this, not how slick his website is, or how many videos he has available to look at.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. Lou

Edited by author Sun Dec 2, '12 8:36pm PST

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Member Since
11/27/2012
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 8:38pm PST 
Alva BH wrote, "Remote-controlled electronic collars are considered illegal in Finland and I do not think it would be common among their agility training. Yet this country has collecter pretty many agility World Championship medals."

Not sure what this has to do with the topic under discussion. No one is saying that an Ecollar is required to win a medal, but I'm confused by your statement that Ecollars are "considered illegal in Finland." Something is either illegal or it's legal. Can you explain, and can you supply a link to this law please. Often in these discussions a comment is made to this effect, only to learn that Ecollar are merely "frowned upon" by some animal rights organization, that they're not illegal. To the best of my knowledge, only one country, Wales had actually made them against the law. In some places they're regulated but not prohibited.

Regards, Lou
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Member Since
11/27/2012
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 8:39pm PST 
G2 wrote, "We were quite a distance the dogs so normal snappy voice commands weren't really effective - there were things like "hiyee, cow!" to the lollygag dog, and "get back in there" to the poo rolling dog, but that's about all we could do. We train the dogs on a working ranch, but we also are considering competing in the NALC cattle trials, AND working cattle will not be how they earn their daily bread. Cattle herding - that's the one area we are lacking in as far as competition goes. So again, any thoughts you might have? All would be appreciated."

Competing with dogs that actually do real life work too, is a real challenge. So often there a clash between what's needed in real life and what happens on the competition field. Usually trials last a only a very short time and dogs who do well there are very intense. Such intensity is virtually impossible to maintain in real life, since herding events there may last for hours, even days, in some circumstances.

G2 wrote, "Rolling in poop is 'disgusting' instinctive behavior, especially when you start to pet the dog and come away with cow c&ca on your hand."

ROFL. At my seminars I often ask the question, "Who here has a dog with a problem?" Many hands go up. I respond, "You're wrong, your dog doesn't have the problem YOU have the problem!" No one knows why dogs do this. Some think it's to "camouflage" their scent. Those who understand scent, know that this doesn't happen. Dogs and other animals who still have all their senses (we gave them up in "exchange" for opposable thumbs – I’m not so sure that we got the best of the deal) can "scent discriminate." That is, they can still smell the dog, even though he's covered in cow poop. But it is "instinctive" even though we find it disgusting. It's probably our loss. lol

If it's really that important to you, I'd suggest doing the aversion training FAAAAR away from the herding work. Put the dog into a field where there are no cows, wait for him to find some enticing poops and as soon as he heads toward them with "rolling in them" in mind, hit the button. But this has to be at a pretty high level to make it more distasteful to him than his instincts to roll in it are. If your dogs lives in the house with you, this will probably be more important than if they're kenneled.

G2 wrote, "On the 'getting hard with a calf' - the issue here is that the dog should NEVER focus on the weakest link - when he did, that earned him a stim, refocused him, and he went back to the adults. I see what you mean re: this being a fine line - how to train that discernment, and hope that it holds when the dog is in the field. The lollygag dog is young - none of my dogs had seen more than two cows at a time, and that was in a contained area. We were working them yesterday on a small herd on some acreage. Very new situation for them. So, again, any thoughts you might have would be appreciated."

Since I don't do herding, I'm at a disadvantage here. Isn't it natural for a dog to focus on the weakest link?

As far as the "lollygag[ging]" ... there are many reasons that a working dog, even a highly driven one, will get distracted. Sometimes the drive drops off when certain distractions enter the picture. Such distractions may be food, a female in heat, a rival, an opponent, a threat, a call of nature (peeing or pooping) or many more things. It doesn't necessarily mean that the dog isn't driven, it just means that there's more than one priority in life. It COULD be an indication of a low drive animal but that would probably show up elsewhere. It COULD mean a dog that has only an "acceptable" level of drive for the work, rather than a "pronounced" level of drive.
Where are you located?

Regards, Lou
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Member Since
11/27/2012
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 8:39pm PST 
Sabi wrote, "I was interested in this thread because I have a dog with severe, potentially life threatening issues. I am not looking for a 'quick fix'. I would think that 2 years of trying makes that evident. But I have lost a dog because of a blown recall, and 20 years hasn't lessened that fear. I have at no point said that I WILL use an ecollar on Shadow. But I would like some information, and the input of someone with much more experience on the subject. To me anyone who isn't willing to try ANY method that may help their dog is being closed minded. We may not like the means, but if it ultimately saves a dogs life then IMO it is worth it. Maybe this won't work for Shadow, but could I forgive myself if I didn't try? Or at least explore the option? Never.
Anyone who calls themselves a trainer and isn't willing to at least learn about other methods does not deserve the title. Lou has been informative and polite, even admitting a changed perspective. I sincerely hope he continues to participate in this thread."


Sabi Nothing you've told me about your dog contraindicates the use of an Ecollar. The manufacturers recommend that they only be used on "healthy dogs" but they don't define what that means, and behind the scenes, the honest folks will admit that's a lawyer−driven, liability disclaimer kinda thing. Warnings about "passing an electrical current" through the dog have no basis in fact. For all practical purposes, the current only flows between the contact points, involving about 1 1/4" of skin and a very short distance below the skin.

Regards, Lou
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Member Since
11/27/2012
 
 
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 8:40pm PST 
Shane wrote, "Just wanted to say thank you for starting this thread, and thanks to Lou for the enlightenment. Gotta admit I was one of those that thought the E-collar was mainly used on high to deliver a punishing shock.
My dogs are mainly pets and companions and as others have said I have no need for speed or precision and can get them where they need to be quite nicely using positive reinforcement and mild corrections. While I can't foresee ever using an E-collar, I am thoroughly enjoying the education and having my blinders removed."


One of the problems with these discussions is that most people have the same preconceived notion that you did. That "the Ecollar was used mainly on high to deliver a punishing shock." While it can be used that way, it's not what I do. That last bit doesn't change anything and some people can't make the switch. And so when I say "Ecollar" some people get the mental picture of a dog screaming in pain, flipping over backward and becoming afraid of harmless objects and situations. They lump this in with what happens when other aversives are used badly, dogs working begrudgingly, with bad attitudes and a complete lack of joy. No wonder they oppose their use!

The problem is that with my methods, that show the dog how to make the discomfort stop, combined with low level stim use, these untoward things don't happen. What does happen is learning, fast learning without fallout. But some people who have opposed the use of Ecollars for a long time are incapable of changing. I've shown this to some of them first-hand, but they still don't accept it. I've never hoped to change the minds of those firmly entrenched against the Ecollar, although I've made some inroads. Mostly I'm writing for those who are either on the fence, or at least, are looking for information.

Regards, Lou
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