E-Collar Sensitivity


Plus, introducing a new pup to other animals in the household


(Problem) I am a fairly new subscriber and the owner of a great 11-month-old yellow Lab named Grady. I have always aspired to own a good hunting dog and, along with training him, learning the art of sport dogs.


From the beginning I was behind with training Grady because I purchased him when he was five months old. In six months I have adequately trained Grady in the basic commands, sit, come, stay, down, heel, along with force fetch, and working with the whistle. He loves to train and play out on the golf course I live on. Now to the problem.

When my fiancé Becky and I first purchased Grady, it was more for a companion dog and watchdog. But in the back of my mind I knew what he was going to be for me. We live in the city and I purchased a wireless containment system to keep Grady in the yard and not chasing golfers or those little white round balls. The system worked great. He quickly figured it out and no longer needs the system.

Then recently I purchased my next training tool, an electronic training collar. I let him wear it every time over the next two weeks when we went out to train and play without actually turning it on. Then the first day with the collar on out on my golf course he got a nick. He completely shut down and bolted to the house, covering the distance of a long par three faster than a 5 iron shot.

Over the next two weeks he wouldn't train at all out on the course or even chase a fun bumper. Once he worked back up to the point he was at previously I took him to my training site about 20 miles from my house. We started to work again and he got another nick. He didn't understand why and after a couple nicks he wouldn't leave my side where he stayed with his tail between his legs.

I have watched the training DVD and read all about properly conditioning the dog to an electronic collar. I did all the necessary steps to the best of my knowledge, but remember I am new at this and easily could've made mistakes. If you have any ideas or suggestions, it would be appreciated. Please tell me I didn't waste $300 on the collar.

(Solution) If you ruin Grady by using the collar, it would indeed have been a wasted 300 bucks.'‚ Put it away for a year or so and then if you need to use it, you can.'‚But for now, I would say you really lucked out and got a good, solid, intelligent dog whose temperament has just the right amount of sensitivity.'‚ He is apparently very easily trained because he possesses these characteristics.

I really don't know why you felt the need to buy an e-collar and I wonder even more why you used it.'‚The shock collar, euphemistically an electronic training collar, was invented as a remote correction device.'‚It delivers punishment, more or less harsh, depending on the setting used.'‚ It is negative reinforcement.

The only positive reinforcing quality it has is when the shock is stopped.'‚'‚And for that, the trainer's timing must be perfect. It takes a tough, hardheaded, uncooperative dog to get any training benefit from a heavy thumb on the red button.'‚The collar is far more useful if used as a correction tool.'‚ Your dog does not have the type of temperament to handle a heavy thumb.

The amount of training Grady has been able to grasp in six months is remarkable for today's dogs.'‚Your next step is to have him handle, to go back, go left, go right, and so on by voice or whistle or by hand signals. By the fall, you will have a finished gun dog for both upland game and waterfowl. There are several good training books; among the best is the James Lamb Free classic, Training Your Retriever.

I am not sure of what you mean when you say, "learning the art of sport dogs."'‚ If you mean field trials and similar dog sports where the dog must adhere strictly to rules,'‚such as having the dog swim a hundred yards in a straight line the length of a 20-foot wide slough to retrieve a thrown duck rather than run along the side of it, jump in and get the duck and run back to you with it,'‚you will need to use your collar.

But if you want your dog to do things the most intelligent and efficient way--and Grady is the type of dog that will--you would be making a mistake to try to shock him into not using his head and doing things the way that would be natural for him.'‚ I think you would prefer a thinking dog to an automaton.

Reading between the lines, I believe you feel the invisible fence has somehow intimidated or sensitized Grady to use of the collar.'‚ I would bet it hasn't. Most of the invisible fencing systems use visual cues in the form a small flags and the collar is equipped with a beep sound to inform the dog of the fence's location.'‚ Though the dog might get zapped a time or two, he will quickly associate the sound with the coming shock and so avoid the shock by stopping before going past the markers or as soon as he hears the sound.

If your collar is equipped with a sound-only button, and the sound is similar to that in the fence collar, the sound is all he will ever need from the e-collar because he won't want to keep doing something when you tell him to stop just to find out if a shock is coming.

He knows it is coming and will try to avoid it. He will obey the collar sound just as he does the fence sound with no need to get "nicked."'‚However, if there is nothing to associate with the shock or to precede it to warn a shock is coming, the shock will only confuse him.

That is probably what happened to Grady. There was no warning to respond to, no other stimulus to associate predictably with the shock. He was hurt and confused, and he reacted accordingly.

Keep training him as you have been, keep it positive; keep him wanting to learn more and you will have a great dog for hunting as well as a companion dog at home. Be sure you and your significant other are on the same page and you both are involved in his obedience training, especially.

He must relate to you both with admiration and not trepidation.'‚So hold off on the collar. Please keep me informed on Grady's training and how it progresses.'‚ I would also like to know how he does in his first season this fall.

(Problem) This probably isn't the most serious problem you have ever come across, but I still would like your help. This spring I will be coming home with a German wirehair pup that will be my first indoor dog. I currently hunt with a 10-year-old male English springer who is kenneled outside 24/7.

My question is: we have a family cat, a five-year old declawed female, who isn't very friendly, but never shows any aggression. How do I properly introduce the two so the fur doesn't start flying? I've seen pictures and have read where a dog and cat live happily together, but never knew how it was pulled off.

(Solution) First of all, you will have two problems, one with'‚the cat, but more likely also with the springer.'‚'‚For the springer, there might not be as much of a problem as I anticipate because he is kenneled outside.'‚ But he will be upset when he sees the pup romping freely in the yard and he is locked in a pen.

They will have to get along too because the pup will want to play'‚with the springer.'‚So the first thing you should do is go to this magazine's website, www.gundogmag.com, and click on Training. Then scroll through the selections until you find the article titled "New Pup Coming, Now What?" that I wrote several years ago for Gun Dog.

The article should answer most of your questions about bringing a new pup into a home where there is an already established dog.'‚ Read it carefully and send'‚me any questions you have after reading it.

The cat is a different story.'‚ The pup will want to chase the cat if the cat runs.'‚All pups will do that.'‚You will need to introduce the dog to the cat slowly, first with the dog under control as on a leash with a pinch (pronged) collar.'‚Do not use a chain collar because it can injure the dog's larynx.

A broad leather or nylon collar is okay but be prepared for the dog coughing in a choke reflex.'‚The halter-type collars are currently popular but'‚I don't like them because there is a chance of injuring the spinal column at the base of the skull.'‚ I prefer the pinch collar as it is the most humane and will do the least damage to the dog's neck and throat. Do not be intimidated by the looks of the collar.'‚It looks very diabolical but is really the least cruel of the bunch.'‚ Don't even think of an e-collar at this early age.

The easiest way to proceed is to let the dog approach the cat very early after coming home.'‚ The dog should be on leash.'‚ Keep excitement down to none.'‚ Be as calm and quiet as you can, approaching very slowly.'‚ Keep talking softly to the dog, telling him how nice the cat is.'‚ Calm the dog as much as you can, petting him and talking softly, always praising him for not pouncing on the cat.

After the initial introduction, before anyone gets bored or excited, break it off, pick the dog up physically and carry him away and at'‚the same time have someone get the cat out of'‚sight.'‚It is important to always praise the dog for not attacking.'‚ If he ever does want to pounce,'‚grab the dog, tell him "no" forcefully and shake him just enough so he knows you are displeased with him.

Wait at least 20 minutes to half an hour before resuming the introduction.'‚ It is a matter of teaching'‚the dog very early that the cat is not a chew toy, but is a restricted playmate.

Restricted in this sense means the dog is under your control and plays with the cat only when you and the cat'‚say so.'‚I don't really think you will have any big problem.

When I was going to school I lived in a house made into four apartments, two upstairs and two down.'‚I had a springer who chased cats.'‚ My downstairs neighbor got a kitten. From day one they obviously had to get along.'‚I introduced the dog to the cat in the cat's space the day after the kitten'‚was brought home.'‚I did it as explained'‚above.'‚ The two became real friends and when the cat grew up he kept all the dogs out of the neighborhood and my dog kept all the cats away.

Every morning the cat came to the door for breakfast and spent the day with the dog.'‚ It was far easier than I anticipated.'‚ The'‚approach must'‚be slow enough so the cat doesn't run, and you must keep the dog from getting excited.'‚ Then it will be'‚no problem.

I expect you might be worried because you have heard that'‚wirehairs are'‚predator-sharp and that they kill cats.'‚This is a reflex only if the cat runs.'‚Which cat'‚the dog goes after is dependent on'‚that cat running.'‚ If the cat sits quietly and the dog learns to keep calm, things will work okay, wirehair or any other breed.

(Problem) I could use your expertise on a problem I'm having with a couple of my dogs.'‚ I have eight gun dogs, and I exercise them daily.'‚ I have two that I cannot exercise together, a male and a female springer.'‚ They will run off and be gone for several hours (sometimes overnight).

I can exercise either one of them with'‚my other six dogs and have no problem; they stay with me at all times, but as soon as those two get together they are gone in a flash.'‚ One is three years old and the other is four years old.'‚ It's been a problem with these two for a couple of years.

What I've been doing is to put one of my "problem children" on a leash when I'm exercising my dogs and then halfway through the walk I call the other one to me and put him on the leash and let the other one get her exercise.'‚ When I'm'‚training or hunting'‚with either of the two individually, I have no problem whatsoever.'‚ They are obedient, work well with me, etc.

Do you have any ideas on why these two "partners in crime" are behaving the way they are when they are together?'‚ Do you have any suggestions?

(Solution) The reason they take off when together is because they have learned to do it and because it is fun; it is self-rewarding to them.'‚ This is called social facilitation; meaning one animal doing what the other is doing with some degree of mutual stimulation. In simpler terms, each dog is egging the other on.

There is one of them that is the leader, the instigator of the "let's take off and have fun" game.'‚ You probably know which'‚one it is.'‚ I would guess it is the four-year-old, and/or probably the female.'‚ But either one could be at fault.'‚ You are doing the right thing by leashing one and running the other.

I would like to see you do this with just the two bad kids without the other six dogs along.'‚ Start with the'‚leader in crime out running first and, after a half an hour or so, change them. With no one to follow,'‚I am sure number one will start to act up at first, but will quit quickly.

After a few days you can switch the one to go first for a few times.'‚ Then go back again to the leader first.'‚ With just the two and no other audience, I would guess that after about 10 days of one at a time, you will be able to run them together and they will stay in reasonable range. If not, repeat the "one on leash, one off leash" program for a longer time.'‚Eventually they will get the message.

For solutions to your dog's behavior problems or behavior related training problems, you can contact Ed Bailey at: edbailey@uoguelph.ca

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