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How to train a dog with an e-collar

Well, if you've been reading anything on this web site, you'll know that e-collars are something that I never condone. So, the short answer is


Here's why.

The first thing about doing anything new is to understand how something works and how to use it. Girls - we'll read the manual. Blokes - hmm? Well I'm sure you would. So, anyway, let's have a think for a moment and see what the 'e' options are....
Electric shock - a collar that emits an electric shock when a button is pushed.

Yes, an Electric Shock!! Really!! Using one means that we have made a decision that we want to teach our dogs how to do something by using punishment! If a dog is chasing sheep or livestock - hurt them with an electric shock! Well perhaps we can get our heads around that - I mean - it's electric shock or to be put to sleep. Last chance saloon! well….

Electrically controlled spray collar (remotely controlled) - a collar that emits either a burst of air or a burst of an unpleasant scent (usually citronella) when a button is pushed

Gentler, perhaps? If your dog does something wrong, blast them with some air around their face and ears and nose and that will interrupt them and stop them. It will teach them to stop doing what they are doing. Maybe we can think that a burst of air ain't so bad? Again maybe we're thinking last chance saloon. It's this or the dog will be put down, or at least need to be rehomed.

Electric collar that emits a burst of air or again citronella air when a dog barks

So, the dog barks and the collar is set off. This could be used if a dog is at home alone and the barking is annoying the neighbours. Again perhaps a last ditch attempt to keep your dog with you. Perhaps the dog warden has been at your door. What else can be done? You need to stop the barking or get rid of your dog! ..welll…

So these are all examples of using these collars to stop a dog when it's being "bad".

What about jumping? Is a dog being bad when they are jumping? Many times my clients tell me that they tell their dog off when it's being naughty. If it's jumping or barking or has stolen something and won't give it back, for instance. There is absolutely no need to use an e-collar to stop a dog jumping!

Here's a question: When does your dog growl at you (or snap or snarl or behave aggressively)?

Usually the answer is something along the lines of, when they're being told off or told to move, So we're asking why a dog is angry when they are being punished? We are asking why a dog is unhappy when we are unhappy with them? Perhaps the answer now seems obvious?

The thing is .... dogs are not children. They just don't do 'BAD'. Children can be conniving and devious and plan ahead to do something to spite you. Dogs just don't have that mental capacity. They live in-the-moment. They are very simply trying to make the choice in their head - what's-going-to-make-me-feel-better-right-now?

Ah ha!! So if a dog's jumping and we shock them then their choice will be - I want to not feel pain so I won't jump!

Here's the sad part though. Dogs also just want to feel secure. How are they going to feel secure? Perhaps they need to feel your body close to them? Perhaps they need to escape the pain and feel the comfort of your cuddles? One option here would be that they are just going to jump more; to try harder to feel your comfort. Or - perhaps they realise that when they are near you, they might feel pain or discomfort. What's the choice going to be then? Stay away from you!! Or, worse - keep you away from them - bark and snap and snarl and keep you away from their prized tissue.

Is that what we want? If our dog feels pain or discomfort near us, how are we possibly going to get a good recall or heel from them? How are they possibly going to feel safe and secure with you?

OK - so the remote control e-collars are designed so that they can be used when the dog is at a distance from you. Perhaps, therefore, they will indeed run away from what they were bothering with and run to your safety. Perhaps! But Perhaps Not! But they are also marketed to teach your dog to sit and to walk to heel!

Ask yourself the question - have you actually taught your dog what you want them to do? Do they actually know that you want them to walk nicely by your side or that they should keep their paws on the ground instead of on you? Do they know what's good and bad?

Again, many clients tell me - yes their dogs know how to sit, lie down, walk to heel etc.... Always? Usually the answer is... 'well if I have a treat or if there's no distraction around'. If that's the case, then any teaching that has occurred simply hasn't been sufficiently practised - in the right circumstances. Or, ofcourse there is the possiblity that the individual dog is really having difficulty retaining learning due to e.g. general anxieties or fears or because they become easily overly excited. Retaining learning is very difficult for an excited or anxious brain.

So if your dog doesn't actually know what to do to please you, then is it fair to punish them with a shock or spray? Or even to shout at them or tap their noses?

It's been proven time and time again that learning works best by positive association.

Teach!! Don't Punish! - Ditch the Shock!!

Top tips picture on stopping dog punishment

Read more on How Dogs Think here