eCollar for Problem Behaviors
We always encourage people to use eCollars in the sofest manner possible while still being effective. Much of the training we describe is based on what is known as escape training. Escape training involves using low levels of continuous stimulation that are annoying but not painful to the dog. The dog is taught how to "escape" the annoying feeling. We always recommend teaching a dog basic obedience via escape methods before solving problem behaviors with the avoidance method. You can read the Recall Article to understand our version of Escape Training.
There are exceptions to the rule where a dog might need to have a problem type behavior dealt with first. Those cases involve a dog continually putting his life in danger. This sort of problem needs to be repaired yesterday. These problem behaviors might include things like chasing of deer, investigation of poison snakes, dumpster diving (trash can) and counter surfing. Some of these behaviors can be life threatening so subjecting your dog to some temporary discomfort or pain is warranted in that it might save his life. A dog may only ever have one chance with a poisonous snake. The same can be said of a dog eating poisonous material out of a garbage can. In many places, Game Wardens will shoot dogs that "run" deer.
Lies Told By Other ECollar Sites
Our goal at Balanced Trainers is always to present material in the most accurate and truthful way possible. That involves describing our most honest beliefs.
Some sites will go on and on about how an eCollar is only ever a tap on the shoulder. That is true for the most part but that only describes the learning phase in Escape Training a described in our Recall article. Our problem with tap on the shoulder statements is that there is the sin of "omission of detail". The truth is that many dogs will need higher levels to proof them under higher distractions. This article doesn't delve into proofing commands such as recalls but more the sort of thing where your dog has a life threatening bad behavior. The levels used for proofing are often somewhat painful. Rest assured that even at high levels an eCollar will leave no physical damage.
A dog enduring a couple seconds of discomfort or even pain is much better than a horrible death.
In summary, the truth is that it does hurt but only for a short amount of time and doesn't do any physical damage. The training requires very few repetitions. Training may need to be repeated as maintenance at some point depending on the dog. All forms of dog training require maintenance.
Lies Told By the Pure Positive Community
The other massive lie that is told in the dog industry is that these extreme problems can be solved with Positive methods only. That is simply not true when it comes to any "driven" dog. Even among medium drive pets, that approach won't ever be acceptably reliable.
The big secret (not really a secret) in dog training is that dogs do things for 2 reasons. They want to get nice things and they want to avoid bad things. Understand the nice things that your dog wants and understand humane ways of making bad things occur and you will be able to handle all of your dogs behaviors.
The Pure Positive community insists that they can give the dog a different nice thing and it will prevent the dog from engaging in the bad behavior. This makes the assumption that dogs are stupid. They are not. Dogs very easily can figure out what is the more rewarding thing to them, regardless of what you think. If chasing a running squirrel is more fun that your dried up piece of cheese you had better find something that is more fun than a running squirrel. Unless you are going to keep squirrels in your pockets, you will more than likely have to resort to an eCollar for offleash behaviors.
How it Works
The concept of fixing behavioral problems via Avoidance Training is a simple one. We simply create a negative experience when the dog interacts with the item that could cause it harm. It is classical conditioning in that we are not giving any commands. We are simply creating an associaton. The dog should not associate the punishment with the human handler if things are done correctly.
If the dog determines that the previously good experience is now always a bad experience he gives up on the previous undesired behavior.
This type of training is best left to a professional but we understand that our site reaches all parts of the world and people might not always have an eCollar professional available. When doing this type of training it is essential to take extreme care to ensure that your dog does not develop superstitions.
Let's use a very practical example. Supposed you live on a hobby farm and have a dog that loves to chase horses. This of course is a very dangerous practice for everyone involved. The dog could get kicked by a horse, possibly resulting in his death.The horse could run into a fence and become injured. The horse could trample the human. All of these scenarios are bad and could easily occur. The behavior needs to stop "yesterday".
The training is simple enough but the devil in the details. We simply allow the dog to pursue the horse and when he gets reasonably close we blast him at a high level. It is very important to stim when the dog is actually focused on the horse. We don't want the dog to associate the stim with anything other than the horse. We don't give any commands. In fact it is best if the human is in a hidden location so that the dog has no way of making the association between the stim and the human. We want the dog to believe that horses are bad things and to be left alone. Be advised if you ever want your dog to run beside a horse, you wouldn't train this way. This sort of training is for someone who NEVER wants their dog and horse to socialize. Everyone has different needs. Even though this scenario might actually not be ideal for someone with a horse, that same person might want to apply it to a dog's interaction with cattle or sheep. There are ways to train a dog to be around horses without actually attacking them. That is beyond the scope of this article though.
This type of training has percolated down to more domestic type needs, one of the biggest being "dumpster diving" / "trash raiding". Many people have dogs that will steal items out of the trash. This of course could be very dangerous in that there could be a poisonous item in the trash or perhaps sharp bones. The dog could also eat something wrapped in plastic resulting in an intestinal blockage. The use of the collar to stop this behavior is warranted.
It is optimal if you can set up a webcam so that you can view your dog from another room. You will put something aromatic and tasty in the trash to ensure that your dog attempts a trash raid. When your dog is working hard to get down into the trash, you will stim at a medium to high level. Typically we don't have to go as high as the game or farm animal chasing because the dogs drive level isn't as high. We can also easily set up training opportunities on multiple days. If you prefer to play it safer, you could use a medium to low level and annoy the dog anytime he gets near the trash. Be advised this method is subject to have the dog occasionally fail and will need more maintenance.
Again be aware that despite the best efforts there is always a chance that you create a secondary superstition with any of this training. For instance you might get a dog that no longer wants to enter the kitchen. One must always be aware that there are pitfalls with this type of training. One must also weigh risk vs reward. If you are in an area where you can not get professional help with this, you might want to experiment with the low to medium levels. In the example given with the farm animals, using low levels would more than likely be a mistake. When a dog goes into drive, it takes higher levels to cut through the drive.