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: Mon Dec 3, '12 7:51am PST 
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M wrote, "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 ..."

Koehler gets a really bad rap from those who favor the softer methods. Few of them have actually read all of his writings, instead focusing only on the harshest of his training. Most gloss over the fact that he advocated that level of harshness only as a last resort to keep the dog from being killed for its misbehavior.

Regards, Lou

Member Since
Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 7:51am PST 
Sabi wrote,
"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."

Some people who follow the ideas of the softer methods don't like this. They prefer extinction, where they ignore undesired behavior, believing that will make it stop. In some cases it will, but if the behavior is self rewarding, and most of them are, it won't.

Sabi wrote, "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."

The TENS machine is a very close analog to the Ecollar. It's used for, among other things, to help with the rehabilitation from injuries and surgeries. I've had hundreds of hours of it. I'm a sissy and can only take the lowest levels that the machine had. I often fell asleep while wearing it. It's also used during childbirth, at fairly high levels. The idea is to distract from the pain of childbirth. Isn't that like hitting your toe with a hammer so that you forget you have a headache? lol

Sabi wrote, "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."

Sabi it's essential that you do this with a suitable tool. I give the Dogtra and Einstein units my highest recommendation, followed by the Tri−Tronics (TT) units. Those are the industry leaders for their reliability. I favor the first two brands because they offer a very large number of levels, Dogtra has 127 and Einstein has 100. The TT's have only 15 levels. The difference is very important to my methods. It often occurs with the TT's and other brands that have fewer levels, that your dog feels (for example) level two-low but level two-medium makes him jump and scream. If you need to increase the stim level by "just a little" due to the presence of a small distraction, you can't. With a 15 level Ecollar, the difference between the levels is about 8%. With a 127 level Ecollar, the difference between the levels is about 0.8%. With more levels you have more precision in finding the level that the dog first feels. It's like the difference between a lamp with a three−way bulb. V. a lamp with a dimmer switch. You can go to a more precise level, exactly what the dog needs in any situation.

Regards, Lou

Member Since
Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 7:52am PST 
Mulder wrote,
"That's certanly not how I want to interact or train with my dogs. I want them to work with me because its FUN. Its REWARDING. Its ENJOYABLE. Not because it sucks not to.


And that's not even a comment on ecollars. That's a comment on anyone who doesn't find value in positively rewarding your dog for the very hard work they do. For all the amazing things these dogs accomplish, how much of THEMSELVES they give for us with everything they do... if you don't think the damn dog deserves a ball or a cookie or WHATEVER for that in the end then I guess I'm sorry, there's no more point in following along with this."

That may be fine for pets. I believe that it's a mistake for working dogs for several reasons. One is that it may become a distraction from the search. Many dogs trained with such methods lose their interest in the hunt if they come across a ball. I've seen it happen many times, when a dog finds a ball in a back yard during a search for a dangerous felon. They'll retrieve the ball back to the handler in the hopes of a game of fetch. Now the dog is no longer a hunting animal, instead, he's interested in playing.

And most importantly, I believe that the greatest joy in the world for a working dog, should be being allowed to follow his drives. Playing games sends the wrong message to those dogs. It actually damages the bond that needs to exist for a good working relationship. This is a fairly long separate discussion. I'm happy to have it, but it's completely off-topic for this thread. It has to do with wanting the search dog be the #2 dog in the pack, while the handler is #1. Initiating play, tells the #2 dog that either the handler is his equal or probably even lower in the pack hierarchy. People who dismiss dominance theory out of hand, will have problems with this, but I've demonstrated it time and again to LE handlers. Here, where most people have pets, rather than working dogs, it's even more off topic.

But I know that there are some SAR handlers here. I STRONGLY recommend that you take a look at my friend, Donn Yarnall's website. Donn formed the LAPD K−9 narcotics unit. A few years later he formed the LAPD patrol K−9 unit. He was its head trainer until his retirement about 20 years later. You can see the site by CLICKING HERE. If you're in law enforcement you can get access to the restricted side of the site. There are discussions there that non-LE don't need and are confidential. But the unrestricted side of the site has the rest of the information. At least read the sections on "Drives" and "Rank Drive." It's the most under−rated and at the same time, the most important drive, in working a dog that searches for a living.

Regards, Lou


Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 8:07am PST 
"I know dogs that will "wilt" if a treat is withheld. Ditto for the other things that were mentioned. With such dogs, the aversive (the deprivation of the "treats, praise, attention, play, etc." brings the discomfort and most who favor those methods use that technique if the dog does not perform."

Yes, yes, YES.

I haven't seen many dogs that level of soured by R+ but holy buckets KIDS nowdays.....and before anyone points out that children are not dogs, I am well aware rest assured. But if people here want to compare dogs to dolphins and chickens and tigers and whatnot I can surely compare them to humans if I see a parallel party

I've been providing various forms of childcare for for nearly two decades now...as a babysitter, elementary aide, nanny, foster care provider and as of late I am doing licensed daycare out of my home as well as having the opportunity to observe my own children's friends and teammates. I have seen sooooooo many kids literally to the point of NEEDING positive feedback just to function. Without it they become anxious, and even depressed. I have one kiddo in my care right now who needs me to tell her at every turn that she's "doing it right"....that her coloring is great, that she's sharing nicely, that she's making her pretend cookies perfectly, look at me, pay attention to me, tell me I'm awesome 24/7/365, me, me, me, me, MEEEEEE!!! It's absolutely exhausting, and sad at the same time because no being should have that little confidence in what they are doing in life. I usually have several other kids in my care and there are times I don't have time to massage her ego. To say she "wilts" when I am not 100% focused on her successes is an understatement....

Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 8:18am PST 
I am NOT a Koehler fan. But his training theories are definitely worth a read. I would never use any of his methods. But you have to remember, his job during war time was taking very bad dogs, and turning them into war machines. Soft dogs needed to be weeded out of the programs immediately. They took time, wasted food/board space.

His methods were not practical for the average pet/nor intended to be. His methods were designed to take bad unsocialized dogs and turn them into a war machine as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible, and he did just that in an amazing way. Most of us with dogs have the luxury of time.

Considering what he was working with, and the job he had to do, does not mean his methods are right for your dog. Certainly not for mine. But you gotta respect his accomplishments and what he did. His theories were pretty amazing, definitely worth a read. I have several of his books, and definitely gained insight to the dog mind by reading them, even though I would never use his methods

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

Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 8:26am PST 
Lou said, "Showing the dog how to get out of the discomfort that the Ecollar imposes, helps to establish the owner as the leader."

Oh, but I am not worried about that. I'm a huge alpha and as everyone here knows, I even make my dogs sit before their meals! wink
Jackson Tan

Lad about town
Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 8:34am PST 
I still think the Koehler long line method is very usable and applicable. It is a great way to train focus!

I also agree when Lou says a lot of his stuff gets blown out of proportion and a lot of his harder methods were for dogs with serious issues and on the verge of being put down.

Also annoys me when people say he supported 'hellicoptering' puppies, I don't recall reading that at all, problem dogs maybe, but not pups.

The man wasn't perfect sure but no trainer is and I certainly don't believe he was the demon some folk claim him to be.

Okay, my 2 cents, back to e collars. smile
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 11:33am PST 
For someone like Noah, aspiring trainer, not necessarily aiming to use everything but wanting to expand knowledge, Koehler is a must read. An amazingly accomplished trainer....the sort who seldom if ever will bother to write a text. Many outdated ideas, many things were not yet available....from the clicker(for dogs) to the ecollar.....he still ended coming up some remote training ideas, the longline concept, the forebearer of "be a tree," and the list can go on. To understand the approaches, and there's wisdom in there somewhere to root from and adapt, somewhere down the road, remembering that this is someone who had a tremendous ability and versatility.

I do think you need to train dogs as individuals. I do see dogs who are R who work from anxiety. Surely not all, but I think some it stresses and having too much of a concept that dogs need to be paid for a job well done and that they love their reinforcer may make you read anxiety (tension-release) as joy. As a trainer, a level-headedness is what I aim for.

Work with the individual. I think a lot of training out there....R, balanced, ecollars.....can be made to work on a vast array of dogs, but if you would have the optimum relationship and enthusiasm with all/any of these is a different matter. Check back with me in twenty years, though laugh out loud.....training methods lead to success and success leads to breeding, so perhaps we are building dogs who are more genetically wired to respond best to clickers and ecollars as those two things fall under more and more favor.

Trigger's statement resonates with me and can be seen in bite sport and OB equally well -

"I do not believe you can produce a happy, healthy minded dog under those circumstances simply because of what I've seen in the hunt test and field trial arenas. Handlers who are too soft usually end up with low drive goofballs and that equates to sloppy performance (I personally have never seen otherwise but will concede I've obviously not seen "it all"). Handlers who are too hard usually end up with the robots which may indeed be the distinct goal and dream for some....which, whatever floats your boat I suppose - OR - belly crawling cringers.....which, ewww. Handlers offering positive AND negative feedback always seem to have the most well rounded dogs IMHO. The perfect mix of happy, bonded, yet respectful and focused performance.

I always will start with praise and see how far that gets me. I am praise oriented, and to me that IS bond. I do feel dogs shoot praise back at you just as readily. That's my ideal world, I aspire to it, but my head is not in some hole. It's a pipe dream for some dogs, and I am ever there to branch out as needed. I have two Cockers, and one, Daniel, is the sweetest, most snuggly, social dog you can imagine. The other, Chester, is field bred, more independent, and has more timed affection...."here, let me throw this love at you for a second and then I am outta here" laugh out loud And of the two, which is praise based? You'd think it's Daniel, but he's a massive foodie and incredibly stubborn. Chester, on the other hand, is HUGE for praise. If I have praise and a ball, he needs nothing else, ever, to turn himself inside out for you. And in all my years of training, few have ever shot praise back at me to the level that he does. He is awesome

And speaking on Chester, my dirty little secret I suppose. An ecollar would have been a boon for him. I came to find he has massive drive out in the field. To Lou, I know in our debate before you said you seldom find pet owners who claim to have "high drive" dogs have any such thing, and on that we concurred even then, but Chester IS very high drive. And out in the field, for fear he would get himself killed for being as intense and caution-to-the-wind as he is, and also for my fear he'd kill a furry woodland creature, I have found myself constantly interrupting him, constantly collecting him, and all I can say is "I am sorry." And my dirty little secret is that while I started this thread, I have my ownfunk about putting an ecollar on my dog. Sabi is a braver soul than I am. I know all the rational and founded reasons why they are kindest in some scenarios. I can totally relate to the "oh, not on MY dog!" kneejerks. I have no doubt, NO DOUBT, in my mind that if Chester could be gifted speech and given the option, he'd say "strap that sucker ON!" laugh out loud Ack, too set in my ways, I suppose. Part pride (i.e., "whaaat, I have a dog who would NEED an ecollar" vs my own training skill) and part years of having it drilled into my head that they are about pain and punishment. So just spoken honestly. I know it's not rational. I know what I should have done (he's 13 now). And more to the point, I know what he would have opted for, in a heartbeat.

Edited by author Mon Dec 3, '12 11:40am PST

Augusta,- CGC, RN

Such a Good Dog!
Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 12:35pm PST 
What about when the work you want the dog to do IS the positive reward? Going back to the sheep, the decoy in the bite suit, the bird? And the dog is as you say in a state of discomfort because he's anxious to get to that?

In this video the ecollar is being used to help a dog that is having trouble with his out, which seems to be a sensible way to use the collar to me. But even as he's getting better, it does seem the dog is conflicted, he spins around the decoy before he'll go back to his handler . . . .

From the tactical K9 site:

e collar workshop camp lejeune

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Mon Dec 3, '12 1:15pm PST 
That may be fine for pets. I believe that it's a mistake for working dogs for several reasons.

I'm not sure what your definition of "working dogs" is, then, as you seem very honed in on "searching" dogs in your discussions.

My dogs, you would probably not consider workings dogs in that fashion... though I certainly do. My dogs most certainly WORK, even if not for a department or a team. Mulder did schutzhund, currently does agility, OB, and personal protection. Ridley is on tracking now, and will hopefully follow in Mulder's footsteps and do many things.

Maybe I am like Tiller and don't "need" my dogs to be any place at any certain time in training... but I do certainly still have very high expectations for them, I most likely expect no LESS than you do of them, but I also expect my "just pets" to get something out of the relationship too. I'm not a pack theorist, I do believe in dominance in dogs though I do not base any of my training around these ideas, as personally I believe dogs are very intelligent animals and know the difference between a human being and another dog, and thus have completely different social dynamics with us than they would have within themselves. For the same reason I believe my dog does not view me as his "mother" (which is actually more correct in terms of true wild canine pack dynamics), I also do not believe my dog sees me as his "alpha", or as you put it more gently, the "#1". At least not for those reasons. If my dogs do see me as #1, its because I do everything in my power to make myself the most interesting thing in their lives, to make them want to seek me out because I am the provider of good things in life, I am the one who will be there for them and make sure their needs are cared for. And, lets be real here, on an evolutionary scale of "who's #1", dogs have us beat by a long mile. Both in what they are as animals, and in how we treat and respond to them. I don't take in random shiftless hobos off the street... but I'll take in a stray dog. My dogs could easily kill me if they wanted to, by shear power and ability it wouldn't even be a contest, and yet rather they protect my life and my home with an unmatched dedication. So yes, I fundamentally think it is wrong to expect all this from dogs, with their only or primary reinforcer being NOT doing = unpleasantless.

But see, mine are "just pets", so they clearly work under different rules.

Perhaps that is a different discussion for a different time. But I did feel it important to point out that even when bred to have these characteristics that make them good for the work they do... they are still doing highly impractical (in a biological sense) things, often times things we ask more of from them than we do ourselves, and to imply that they somehow need no further reward for that beyond not receiving stem... well, again, I fundamentally disagree with that big grin
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