Collar Wise Dogs

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One of the great frustrations for amateur dog trainers is working with an electronic collar. If you're like me, I have only trained a handful of dogs. My personal experience training dogs is slightly more involved than the average bird dog owner and I have been blessed in that respect. However, the bulk of my training was done as a younger man with show dogs. The dogs were bred for the purpose and paled in comparison when it comes to the high energy dogs most of us hunt with.

With my current pooch, I went into it banking on years of experience training these show dogs and I was in for a rude awakening. Training a show dog is a lot different than teaching a high drive, balls to the wall fur missile. Add to that the addition in recent years of reliable E-collars and its a whole new ball game.

A great deal of new trainers including myself often will run into  phenomenon known as "collar-wise". Basically, the dog listens very well when he is wearing the collar and not so much when it's off. It's common and it's frustrating. Fortunately, its easy to fix.

Routine is a big thing when it comes to training dogs, doing the same thing over and over yields results. For many of us this equates to a training routine. Feed the dog, put his collar on, walk or drive him to your training area and commence your training exercises. One thing that we all have in common a lot of the time is that once we transition from check cord work, we charge up the collars and start working with them in place of the check cord.

This is where I failed with my current pup. Don't take the check cord off. Luckily I realized my mistake pretty quickly and immediately went to a combination of check cord and e-collar, for all training exercises. What this does, is it avoids putting the dog in a situation where he can fail. For example, when working a young dog on recall, give the "here" command along with light continuous stimulation and coax the dog towards you with the check cord. When he begins to move towards you cease the stimulation and continue to coax with the check cord until he is at your side or feet or wherever you want him.


Something I have done to avoid the problem is alternating my physical stimulation between the check cord and the collar so he is not expecting one or the other. My dog is fully broke when it comes to recall but I continue to do this work and all other work with both pieces of equipment and will continue to do so until he is fully broke with everything I am trying to accomplish. Basically, I am not setting him up to fail, he wears his collar whether it is on or not at all times other than bedtime. If I am outside he has a check cord on unless its playtime, in which case I don't give him commands that he may disobey or misunderstand.

It seems simple but it's not that easy. We get lazy, who wants to deal with taking collars on and off, and getting out check cords and leashes for every little activity? It's a pain in the ass, but it pays huge dividends down the road. Don't give your dog the chance to ignore you and he won't. Eventually, through a very long conditioning process you won't need them anymore.

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