How to Train Your Dog to Obey with a Training Collar

Medium
2-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

A training collar, also referred to as an electronic or remote collar, can be a useful training tool to reinforce commands your dog knows, get your dogs attention if he has trouble focusing and is easily distracted, or keep your dog safe if he is engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as running out on a road or chasing other animals. 

In the past, training collars were limited in the ability to adjust the intensity of the electronic stimulus and were often referred to as shock collars, which gave them a negative reputation. Modern remote training collars feature a signal that can be used before electronic stimulation is applied, to alert the dog and act as a warning that a behavior such as 'stop' or 'sit and stay' is required before electronic stimulation will occur, and simulation itself is adjustable so that it can be tailored to each dog's minimum threshold for getting a response. If used correctly, training collars do not cause harm to your dog and can, in fact, result in less harm to the dog than if traditional negative reinforcement or punishment was used to stop or force a behavior. Also, if used to prevent a dangerous behavior such as running out into traffic, leaving the yard, or chasing livestock, it can be a life-saving device for a dog that cannot control his natural inclinations and may put himself in harm's way.

Defining Tasks

The advantage of a training collar is that your dog comes to associate the stimulus with the unwanted behavior he is engaged in. If your scent hound is not responding to verbal commands, ignoring his handler, signaling him and stimulating him to get attention becomes associated with not listening to his handler. A herding breed dog that will not stop harassing livestock and is stimulated when he chases animals, comes to associate the stimulus with the chasing behavior. This results in the behavior being suppressed even when the handler is not present, as the consequences are not associated with the handler, but with the activity. 

A training collar can be set to signal your dog and warn him that a correction is coming, allowing him to cease and correct behavior before receiving stimulation, which is a form of reinforcement, avoidance of a stimulus that is not delivered if the dog attends to commands or corrects their own behavior. This form of training can be very effective and is best used in conjunction with other training methods so that minimal stimulation is required. The stimulation delivered is adjustable, but is similar to a static electricity shock or can even be adjusted to provide a simple vibration to signal your dog and get attention. Training should be conducted at the lowest level of stimulation that elicits a response in your dog to be humane and effective, and to avoid negative side effects such as the development of aggression or anxiety, which can be associated with incorrect use.

Getting Started

Make sure you have a training collar that delivers a vibration only or an audible beep to warn your dog when stimulation is about to be delivered, to give your dog the opportunity to respond and avoid stimulation. It is suggested that you put the remote control for the collar in an inside or back pocket so your dog cannot see it.  You do not want your dog to associate you and the remote control with stimulation. Before training, figure out what the lowest setting is that will elicit a response from your dog and use the minimal setting. Whenever possible, use verbal or other directions to command your dog before using the training collar. Good obedience commands should be established prior to using the training collar and the collar should be used to reinforce commands or get attention for commands to be delivered, not as punishment for disobedience.

The Associate with Command Method

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Step
1
Avoid negative association
Put the training collar on your dog, and play with your dog before commencing training so your dog does not develop a negative association with the collar. Keep sessions short, and stop when progress is achieved so as not to frustrate or overtax your dog.
Step
2
Establish command
Teach the command you want to reinforce first such as 'come' or 'sit-stay' using traditional methods, verbal commands and positive reinforcement such as treats.
Step
3
Activate collar for attention
When your dog fails to respond to a command he knows, such as 'come', when off leash, alert the dog with a warning signal, then provide the stimulus on the minimal setting. Just enough to get your dogs attention.
Step
4
Repeat command
When the dog hesitates due to stimulation, provide verbal or physical direction so the dog learns what to do to stop the stimulation. At first, a dog can be confused and not focus on the command so some assistance may be required.
Step
5
Provide positive reinforcement
When your dog attends to the command, provide positive reinforcement such as a treat along with ceasing training collar stimulation, which also provides reinforcement.
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The Reinforcing 'Come' Method

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Step
1
Use flexi leash
'Come' is usually the solution for unwanted behavior, be it to achieve off-leash control or remove your dog from a dangerous situation or unwanted behavior. Start by putting a flexi leash on your dog.
Step
2
Command 'come' and stimulus
When your dog reaches the end of the flexi leash, say “come”, and provide stimulation from the training collar.
Step
3
Guide dog
The dog may do several different things when stimulated. Ignore them and instead guide your dog toward you with the flexi leash.
Step
4
Reinforce 'come'
When the dog steps toward you on the leash, release the remote stimulation button, ceasing stimulus and providing positive reinforcement. If dog continues towards you, reward. If he hesitates, use stimulus and guide again. Repeat until the dog understands. Walk away from your dog. Call your dog and press the button as soon as your dog walks towards you to stay with you, release the stimulation button.
Step
5
Provide distractions
Have an assistant provide distractions, like another dog, throwing toys etc. Practice calling your dog and depressing the stimulus button until your dog ignores distractions and comes to you when called.
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The Two Solutions Method

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Step
1
Teach 'come' and 'stay'
Teach your dog obedience commands for 'come' and 'stay', using traditional methods.
Step
2
Acclimatize to collar
Put on the training collar and leave it on while training. Do not take it on and off so the dog only learns to obey when the collar is on.
Step
3
Associate stimulus with 'come'
Apply the training collar stimulation on lowest setting and say "come". As soon as the dog takes a step towards you turn off the stimulation.
Step
4
Associate stimulus with 'stay'
Apply the training collar and say "stay". As soon as your dog sits and stays, cease training collar stimulation.
Step
5
Establish
Repeat so that your dog learns that when stimulated if he comes or stays as instructed, the stimulation will stop. This allows you to use the collar to control unwanted behavior such as running or chasing while off-leash.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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