Limiting range with E-collarHello,
I just recently read through your site and came across the area of flushing problems. BTW, this is a great site and I am glad that I stumbled across it. I have a 4 year old male black lab that I have been hunting with for the last 4 years. He is a large beast who is very good natured, my wife volunteers with the local humane society and our lab is a gentle pet therapy dog for people in convalescent homes. On the weekends, he hunts with me and is a very aggressive hunter who has a fantastic nose and likes to go into thick brush to find pheasants. At the end of last season, he began to roam out farther than usual and then decided that he would not obey my whoa or come command. I was devastated because he had been such a great hunting dog until this point. I tried working with him on a 40 foot check cord but this did not work out. I talked to a buddy who recommended that I use an Ecollar. I started to use it for the first time this fall. I have used it on about 8 outings with good success but I do not want to continue to have to rely on this thing. The dog now seems to accept the fact that the collar is there and is part of the hunting ritual. I keep hearing stories about how dogs can get ruined with the ecollar. My questions is this, will continued use of the collar increase my chance of ruining my dog? Or is there a period in the beginning where the dog resist the collar? Also, is there a structured way to wean the dog off of the use of the collar that you could share with me?
Your problems and concerns are fairly common. Most hard charging flushers will start to range as they gain experience in the field. Generally speaking a dogs range is dictated by it's genetics. That said, you can manage the range through training. The key is to set up a training plan that is structured and that you train during the off season so that you and the dog can focus on training. I will give you a brief training guideline but first I want address your concerns about "ruining" a dog with an e-collar.
Any idiot can ruin a dog with or without an e-collar by abusing the animal. the point of a training collar is to teach the animal to avoid certain behaviors. When the collar is used correctly by someone who has taken the time to learn how to use it, it is THE most effective dog training tool available.
Respect it as a training tool, learn how to use it, and listen to what experienced dog people have to say about it. Forget what the undereducated are telling you about this tool.
I use the collar to teach a "roaming fence concept." To do this you have to first teach the dog to come to you on command. Put the collar on a low level of stimulation and let the dog run free. Call (or whistle) the dog in. As soon as you call, apply low level stimulation until he turns toward you. The instant he turns, release the stimulation and praise the dog all the way back to you. Repeat the process over several days until the dog turns immediately. When he does, you can begin to call him without applying stimulation. If he ignores you, apply stimulation as before. The dog now knows that he must turn and come to you to turn off stimulation AND has learned to avoid the stimulation altogether by turning immediately. Note- I teach the dog to come in to a whistle because it can be heard more clearly and eliminates confusion.
Now take the dog to a birdless field with the collar on. Let him run. As he reaches maximum allowable range, apply low level stimulation but say nothing. The dog should turn and come toward you. Praise while he is coming toward you but continue to walk. He may come to you or he may just check in. Let him know it's okay to keep running. Again as he reaches max range, apply stimulation until he turns. Repeat this process until you see the dog start to turn on his own. You have essentially set up an imaginary box with a roaming electric fence. The box moves in front of you and as long as the dog stays in the box he avoids stimulation. He has again learned to avoid the stimulation instead of relying on it for direction.
In order to "wean" the dog off the collar you must make the behaviors you have created into solid habits. Take the collar off too soon and the dog will learn that you cannot enforce boundary lines and he will only perform when the collar is on. It can take hundreds of repetitions to create a habit. I would recommend that you spend the entire off season teaching and enforcing the concept to the dog before you even think of removing the e-collar. just FYI, all of my dog's wear a collar in the field so that they can be corrected at the point of infraction. This prevents confusion and is much more fair to the dog.
Best of Luck,
Highland Retriever Kennel
Highland Retriever Kennel
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