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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Member Since
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 8:41pm PST 
Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie" wrote,
"Do you then deny that other methods work, or suggest that anyone using ANY other method will suddenly one day turn to ecollars just because of the way you use them and your education on them? Do you deny that positive reinforcement works for many dogs? If so, I will agree to disagree. Some of your posts suggest that you are aware dogs are individual and what might work with one dog won't necessarily work with another, but then it looks like you turn around and say that after learning of your protocol, people will turn around and start using ecollars instead."

Of course I won't deny that other methods work. That would just be stupid. How well they work is what I will argue. For those who have spent years in studying their application, they work quite well. Not so much for the APO, the average pet owner (whatever that means). A child with a treat can get a dog to sit in the kitchen. It's when distance and distractions are added that problems arise.

I've argued with people for decades now on this topic. Many times people have said that they'd never use an Ecollar on their dogs. Several of those people have later called me and changed their minds. It's just a matter of them getting the right (wrong for their methods) dog.

Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie" wrote, "I STILL fully disagree of their use on my Maya, and if you say that, you deny that EVERY dog is individual and certain methods will or won't work on them(INCLUDING ecollars)."

If you don't want to use an Ecollar on your dog, that's fine with me. But it's silly to tell me that it won't work because your dog is fearful and/or sensitive. I've worked with many such dogs, I doubt that your dog was as fearful or as sensitive as Roma, CLICK HERE TO READ HER STORY. and there have never been any issues of any kind with them. You are entitled to your opinion as the saying goes, but mine is different and mine is based on a couple of decades of doing what you seem to think can't be done. Yours is based on what you imagine Ecollar training to be like.

Yes every dog is an individual. And every dog that I've ever come across can be trained with the Ecollar. That adaptation to each individual comes from the adjustability of the Ecollar. That allows it to be tailored specifically to the needs of every dog that I've ever worked with and there have been thousands of them.

People who use this argument against me, somehow forget that all the while that they're saying this, they're saying that their methods, WILL work on every dog. I've never understood this blindness.

Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie" wrote, " You did not know Maya personally, nor did you ever meet her or know the circumstances regarding her previous training before I took her in and cannot therefore tell me that ecollars would have worked/or done better on my dog. It's the same as I WILL NOT tell you that ecollars didn't work best for the dogs you worked with, I would hope for the same respect lest you met said dog of mine."

I’m sorry but I've heard this so often that it's become just about meaningless. Years ago when I started out, my response (if you'd have come to me with a problem that others had been unable to solve) would have been, "perhaps you're right. Let's see how it goes." But now, having done it thousands of times, I know that it will work. As I've said, "I'm sure that out there, somewhere, is a dog that my methods won't work on, but I've yet to come across him."

Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie" wrote, "I am learning a lot though, and I do appreciate that."

Education is key. I'm glad that you're learning.

Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie" wrote, "I will also disagree that any one training method will be the most 'reliable'. Considering the fact that dogs are ANIMALS and always will be."

The Ecollar is the only one that allows for instant corrections when the dog is at a distance from the handler. I'm sure that we'll agree that timing is important in training a dog. If you can't correct the dog at a distance, well, you can't correct the dog at a distance.

Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie" wrote, " I am not a trainer and will not claim to be one, however, I have worked through several issues with several dogs and come out the other side with a happy, well-balanced dog and never touched an ecollar. Do I deny their use? Absolutely not. Will I use one? Again, no."

That's fine with me. I don't require that anyone drop what they're doing and start using Ecollars. They're far from perfect. First of all they're expensive as heck. You can buy a lot of clickers, treats and dog toys for what a quality unit, that I recommend, costs. You have to remember to keep it charged. Although these days most people remember to keep their cell phone charged and the Ecollar has a blinking light to remind you each time you turn it on or off. You have to remember to turn it on! LOL. I can't tell you how many times with my own dogs, I've gone to put them up after a training session, only to discover that I'd forgotten this little detail. The dogs had worked so well, and my levels are so low, that I'd not been able to tell that it wasn't on. If you have more than one Ecollar, you have to remember to bring the right transmitter for the right receiver unit. Yes, I've mucked that one up too. Like any electrical/mechanical device, they can fail. But they're more reliable than the average cell phone these days.

Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie" wrote, "But I DO appreciate you coming on here, where many people are against its use, and I do appreciate that you are willing to educate people. I will thank you for that."

You're welcome. I truly appreciate your comments and the rest of those who have welcomed me here, even if it's only for the information I've provided.

Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie" wrote, "I would like to know HOW one can GUARANTEE their training will work on any dog. NOW THAT would be an education!"

I've read some comments from some here about trainers giving guarantees. Around here that means that if a client isn't satisfied with their results, the client gets to come to more classes for free. I wonder, if the method didn't provide satisfactory results in the first place, getting more of the same, isn't going to do much.

Like many other Ecollar dealers, if they don't like their Ecollar, if they return it within 30 days, they get a full refund, less shipping. I offer my private clients a guarantee. If they're not satisfied with the results I give them a full refund. They've lost nothing but a few hours of training time.

So while I can't "know" that my methods will work on every dog, I'm confident enough to offer this money-back guarantee. I've never had anyone ask for a refund.

Regards, Lou

Edited by author Sun Dec 2, '12 8:42pm PST


Member Since
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 8:43pm PST 
Mulder wrote, "Lou,

I'm curious, you say you advocate the ecollar for proofing... but what is your actual training methodology?"

Mulder the protocols are on my site. Basically the concept consists of three steps. 1. Make the dog uncomfortable. 2. Guide the dog into the desired behavior. 3. Make the dog comfortable. Step one is accomplished by pressing the button with the Ecollar set on the level that the dog can first perceive. Step two is done with the leash, hands or a combination of the two. Step three is accomplished by lifting the finger off the button.

Mulder wrote, "What do you use for enforcers? How do you actually TEACH a behavior?

If you need specifics, how would you (for instance) teach a dog focused heeling?"

Funny that you should ask about this particular behavior. It's funny because it's one of the places that I don't use the Ecollar. I use treats for this. I'm not a fan of it, so I almost never teach it. I work mostly with police and SAR K−9's and I won't want the dogs of either group looking at their handler. I want them paying attention to their environment. I advocate NOT teaching either group, precision OB. It interferes with their search work.

Instead let me give you the nickel version of teaching the recall, that's the most often called for training. I use a retractable leash and let the dog wander out to the end of it. Then I press the button, and pull the dog towards me at the same instant. As soon as he's moving towards me, I lift my finger off the button. Soon the dog gets the idea that he's supposed to come towards me and stay with me. Then I move to the next phase, that I call "walkaways." There I turn and walk in the opposite direction from where the dog is looking. As I do, I press the button. If he turns and comes with me, I release the button. If he does not, I lock the leash and pull him towards me. As soon as he's coming towards me, I release the button. This quickly becomes loose leash walking, which gets refined into a "heel."

Mulder wrote, "I admit I haven't dug too deep on your website... but on your article about teaching the "sit", you mentioned using a food lure to introduce the command, and then proceed to say after 4-5 times the dog is ready for the ecollar.

What you don't clarify, is if the dog actually knows sit after 4-5 repetitions with a food lure. From what I gather, you simply expect to lure the dog into position a few times first before moving to the collar."

Yes. That's correct. Most dogs know the sit before they come to me. I just want to remind them of the movement.

Mulder wrote, "Which is also slightly confusing, as proofing actually involves KNOWING the command being proofed. You do not mention if the dog is first supposed to know how to sit without use of the lure, which to me implies that by your methods the dog actually does not have to fully understand the "sit" before you introduce the collar. Which I'm not wholly convinced is 'proofing'."

I wouldn't call that proofing either. In order to "proof" the dog must clearly demonstrate that he knows the command. But I don't require that a dog know the command before starting the use of the Ecollar, as many believe is the only way that it can be used. I think those are the answers you're looking for. If not, or if you need some clarification, please do not hesitate to ask more questions.

When I teach the behavior, because the dog does not understand what the stim means, I teach it as if the dog had never received any training beforehand. I could be working a dog that had just come from a perfect 200 point performance, and I'd do the same thing I would do with a shelter dog, that had never been received a bit of training. The dog with previous experience will just progress faster because he already knows the commands.

Regards, Lou

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 9:07pm PST 
So you use NO rewards (with few exception) other than a release from stem when training dogs?
It, essentially, is strictly R-?

How do you build enthusiasm for the work? How do you make a dog actually enjoy working with the handler, when his only reward is not receiving stem? Do you not believe using a dogs natural drives, such as the desire to play or chase, is an effective method of reinforcing behaviors?

Is a dog's sole purpose in your programs to do as told without question, without receiving any non-negative reinforcements?

Does rewarding the dog with something other than release from stem really detract from your training, waste so much time in your program, that you actually avoid using it?

ETA- meant R-, not P-

Edited by author Sun Dec 2, '12 9:23pm PST



When the night- closes in I will- be there
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 9:36pm PST 
Can I just point out that Bill Koehler supported the use of ecollars and Koehler method trainers still do. He also did not support rewards believe that the reward was in doing the task correctly. The same technique as the diminishing line is used to wean the dog off the collar.
Now I already know that Tiller is a Koehler fanwink and I may fault some of his methods but 'the proof is in the puddin' I can't deny the methods are effective and widely followed. If the 'grandfather of obedience' is supportive of their use who am I to argue.

Because I'm- Duncan, that's- why

Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 9:52pm PST 
Still and all. I think, if I were a dog, I would rather not be trained via a method that (by definition) involves discomfort. I would rather not have to "do right" in order to avoid discomfort or get relief from it. I would rather be trained with rainbows and butterflies. Ooops, I mean rewards of treats, praise, attention, play, etc.

I'm not a dog, but it's hard not to anthropomorphize when we live so close to them. Besides, isn't relating to them as best we can, having empathy, the basis of being humane?

Be Scaredy of- Me, Dawg!
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 9:56pm PST 
"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."

True - the NALC cow trials last 25 minutes, in which the dogs are supposed to move the cattle down a fence line, "bay them up", i.e. hold them in a contained group, put them in a pen, then move them on down to the final holding area. They work in conjunction with the handler who is on horseback. Even in these trials, however, when it's hot, it's acceptable for the dog to go find water & lie down in it to cool off, so it's sort of like real life work from that aspect.

"...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."

Well, dogs live in the house with me, and I just figured that they rolled in poo because they liked it. big grin Not a deal breaker for me by any stretch, dogs wash off easy enough and so do my hands. wink

"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?"

Going after the weakest link is what a predator does - and you don't want your Catahoulas acting like a predator when it comes to moving the cows along. Additionally, the weak link/calf is not the one that is going to be taking off for the hills - that's the cow that it belongs to. A good Catahoula focuses on working/moving the strongest of the herd because once it's under control, the whole herd follows. The same holds true with hog hunting with these dogs - they need to control the biggest, meanest boar in the sounder, not focus on "coyote-ing" the piglets. If they don't, there is huge potential for injury - to the dogs and to the people. This is another reason the ecollar is valuable with these dogs - sometimes you need to get your dog out of there, and Catahoulas tend to be a bit hard headed and independent. When they're in high drive, they tend to not listen, or maybe they can't listen. Regardless, the ecollar helps to break focus for long enough for them to hear you and come out of a situation.

"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."

I think this dog just got distracted - new and bigger place, different dogs, more cattle - it didn't take much to refocus her & get her back to work. smile

"Where are you located?"

Texas - where else? laugh out loud
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 10:29pm PST 
It's funny you mention Koehler, Sabi. I am not a Koehler training fan, but rather very respectful of the man's accomplishments in a career way, and of his intentions when it came to pets and their people. Although I do thank him for his long line concept and his heeling method, which interestingly to this day I can lend to people who've done other training and still have problems with large strong breeds, and in a day they say *WOW*! "I cannot believe it, but in ten minutes my dog was walking better than he ever has!" That's about it, though, in terms of his text.

The Bill Koehler method, I always like to stress, was not "his" method....those who saw him work a dog said it was like poetry and extremely subtle with a fawning dog who was riveted to him. He clearly was a master trainer and I always like to remind that he also trained cats for Disney, with marker training. I think comparing the two "Incredible Journey" movies, they did away with the Bull Terrier entirely in the second laugh out loud A breed he had exceptional and legendary affinity with (and was indeed original to the book....much much does THAT recasting say!). For the second film, they went with a more biddable American Bulldog instead wink

His text, which is full of "molding," physically manipulating a dog into position and putting a command to it, and a behavioral section that is from the boughs of somewhere not very nice (reminding that back then few worked with dogs with serious behavioral problems and there was very little protocol) is nothing I'd recommend. We've moved way past that.

But it was his attempt to come up with a system so simple that it would inspire any pet owner to stop blaming their dog, shelter dumping their dog (which EVERYONE did back then....that was where "bad dogs" went), etc., and to get off their butts and TRAIN their dog. The fault was not their dog, but their own. Obedience was not common back then, and he took the time to set up a training club that was probably the best in the country.

He tried to turn pet owners onto pet training, which was less done then. He did not HAVE to do this. He didn't have to train one pet in his life. He was revered in protection circles, a go to for the military and the head trainer for Disney. He titled field dogs also and was revered there, too. There wasn't one reason on this planet for him to spend time with "those silly old pet owners" other than that he loved dogs and was greatly concerned that people would simply blame and get rid of dogs, so wrote out a system that was easy to follow and would yield the sort of "instant results" the non believers and lazy people could keep with.

And that's what I admire. Has some resonance here, too. That the primary point is that owners NOT get frustrated. I think training should be humane. Beyond that, whatever gets that dog trained is the big point, for this is a hugely common reason for people to get rid of their dogs. That's why I put up the link in the beginning that I did. It took four days to sway the shelter manager that work could continue on a highly aggressive dog. No other training can match that framework. I myself prefer the slow-n-steady, but ecollar training is out there, and I do think it's an important resource to know.

I do think I'll share this Koehler excerpt, however wink....

"Like most Koehler grads, that beagle and I could have walked into a Novice ring the day after obedience class ended and walked out with a qualifying score. Her spirit was not damaged by Koehler obedience. She was a spoiled, fat, happy little hound, as smart as any dog I've known, a beloved family member, an eager hunter, a champ at stealing food she couldn't get by begging, and the Koehler method, at least as it was applied by an eleven year old, didn't change any of that. The class made us both a lot smarter, and a lot closer. I loved it.

I think Bill Koehler was a genius with dogs. He taught every session of the class and worked with every type of dog and every type of handler under the sun. I saw no dogs ruined, no spirits broken, no "learned helplessness" — and I was an observant, kind-hearted youngster. I got the impression that Bill Koehler respected the intelligence and the character of each dog he worked with, and he wanted us to do the same."

High-flyin' Pup!
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 10:29pm PST 
I've been thinking about this thread a lot, reading and re-reading it since my first post. I'm glad to see it here, and thrilled to see a discussion of E-collars without the drama usually accompanying the topic.

Jasper's reward is "release"; when he's done well he's released to bounce around for a moment before we resume what we were doing. At first it was also a way to give him a break from the exhausting work of having to concentrate for more than 0.2 seconds at a time. Now he's VERY enthusiastic about training. We spent so much time training in dog parks when he needed to work around distractions that now he ONLY wants to work in the dog park; he won't play even when he's released! He bounds off for a second or two, then snaps back to my side and looks me in the eye as though he's saying "OK Mom, what's next?!"

One added benefit of the collar for me is that I can maintain control at distance if needed. Jasper yanked the leash out of my hand one afternoon when he spotted a squirrel and I was unprepared for his sudden leap from a loose lead to "Full speed ahead!". He was headed straight for a busy 4-lane, 45mph road when I hit what my trainer calls the "Oh ****!" button on the remote. Jasper jumped, stopped....and came safely back! That was the one and only time I've done anything with the collar that I think may have actually caused him pain, and I don't regret it. His recall is pretty solid, but a squirrel within catchable range is something my voice just can't compete with.

We catch an incredible amount of flak when we're out and about. People can see the little box on his collar, and they know what it is. Apparently I'm abusive, too lazy to train him "properly" (How many people would spend four years trying to train an out of control high-drive terrier without giving up?!), and he'd be better off with someone else, back in the shelter, or even PTS.

We also get a LOT of positive feedback. He's got incredible restraint now when we're out in public, and people are always impressed with his calm manner around bouncy puppies, bikes, skateboards, people, and all sorts of distractions. He comes to work with me and naps behind my register all day while people bring their bratty out-of-control dogs in and let them wreak havoc in the store.

Ironically, many of the people we encounter on a daily basis who are critical of my training choice have very little control over their own dogs. I find it comical when someone whose teenage lab is leaping up to try to lick the faces of everyone it encounters tried to lecture me about the way I train the dog sitting calmly at my side.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 10:46pm PST 
" I think, if I were a dog, I would rather not be trained via a method that (by definition) involves discomfort."

That's a debate in and of itself! wink One might counter that perhaps the dog thinks whatever the heck to make his humans happy so that he can frolic in meadows and chase bunnies, perhaps? Sort of like that otherworldly rapid down Chachi gave to get to play predator to his windup frog nemesis? laugh out loud

I am saying that quite specifically because recalls and control from a distance really are ecollar fortes. It is far from the only way you get these things, but there is not argument that the most consistently sound, impregnable result is gotten from the ecollar. The rest is dog dependent, to one extent or another. That's why SAR people use this stuff. Because they need to go with the most reliable method possible.

In terms of the other subject, I know the day I clipped the lead off my psycho childhood dog Hatteras was the day his aggression became more manageable, and I look back at it now jaw slacked, but when we summered in the Adirondacks he was loose and free to roam, and we never had one incident outside of direct family members. Not a one. Allowing him liberty, giving him the chance to run out and be a dog was good for his balance. He leveled. Too structured a life made him batty.

If you want to anthropomorphize, I think for us all, would we live in a land of lollipops and buttercups but be somewhat restricted, or live through a little discomfort, and then it's done and we can live a life of personal choice, unencumbered? For a lot of dogs out there, you totally don't have to pick one or the other. Certainly not you, Duncan....you can take your dogs to the park and do. But what if that weren't so? What if your meadow romps with your dogs and one wasn't possible because his recall continued to stink and he attacked other dogs?

Just speaking for myself, I think we do owe our dogs a life, and if we get to some bump in the road and we find them restricted, then there are some serious matters to mull over.

Edited by author Sun Dec 2, '12 10:54pm PST


When the night- closes in I will- be there
Barked: Sun Dec 2, '12 11:38pm PST 
Tiller, I was being just a bit sarcastic.laugh out loud
But seriously I use his heeling method more often then not, the tab is my friend and as we have discussed before I am certainly well trained in the Koehler Method given my mentor was a student.
Something he wrote most often pops in to my head when people talk about only positive, "'let's not deprive the dog of his privilege of experiencing the consequences of right and wrong"
I believe in that. It doesn't mean I want to beat my dog, it means I believe in the 'actions have consequences' idea. I have been on Lou's website diligently reading his FREE lessons. I see nothing there that is any more then just that. The ecollar gives the dog the option of do it or don't, but it also teaches consequences. And it follows through on those consequences IMMEDIATELY. I spent some time with an ecollar this evening, on me not my dog. Ever used a tens machine in physio? Same sensation. Same principle. Am I sold? Not even close. But I am borrowing one and in the house where she feels safest I will test Shadows response to it. If I see any negative reaction the collar will leave and never return, but if, as Lou claims, her reaction is annoyance or confusion then we will try it. I have never resorted to frightening, bullying or tormenting to get a result with any animal and I certainly wouldn't start with a dog that is this much of a monetary, emotional and time investment. If this tool can give me the joy of EVER seeing Shadow run across a field, or walk calmly beside me then I owe it to both of us to try.
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