To use a remote dog training collar or not? Is it a question of too many gadgets?

Jan 08

To use a remote dog training collar or not? Is it a question of too many gadgets?

Recently I had an evaluation with a new puppy owner regarding concerns over the puppy’s biting behavior. While play biting is normal puppy behavior, this little guy would resort to the higher end of the intensity scale if he decided he didn’t want to quit. The pup demonstrated a rather strong propensity for wanting to do things his way and yielding to human desires was not high on his list of priorities. Any type of restraint against his will brought out a willingness to use his teeth to assert that point.

There are several techniques and approaches to dealing with the issue. However, one of the possibilities we discussed was the use of a remote training collar with the puppy training. I have found the e-collar to be an extremely easy way to interrupt puppy biting. In this case I felt particularly confident it would be a good choice because the owner also has her hands full with young human children.

My goal with puppy biting is to interrupt and then redirect. The redirection teaches the puppy what it is okay to chew on (and human skin or clothing is not included on the list of acceptable items) Interruptions need to be well timed, meaning in the moment the behavior is happening. OR better yet, the moment the thought is processing in the dog’s mind….so for a busy mom it is easy to have a remote collar TX on her person so she can tap a button (the vibration feature works well for many pups) as soon as those razor sharp puppy teeth make a move for the toddlers hands or pant leg. The weird sensation interrupts the dogs focus and mom can then encourage the pup to grab a toy to gnaw on. Behaviors that are interrupted and not rewarded tend to disappear rather quickly so it is a fairly fast track to teaching a young dog that chewing on his own stuff rather than the kid is a much better option.

It is not unusual for the suggestion to sound extreme to some people. But that is only because they have yet to actually experience how gentle the sensation is from many of today’s remote training collars. Visions of a shock collar and dogs jumping in pain or fear are still prevalent in some peoples mindset. Because of that misconception I am always aware of how the suggestion might be received.

However, I was more surprised by this young mom’s desire to not have to use a remote collar and try doing it other ways first because she seemed to feel it was a more valiant or authentic effort to try other less gadget oriented ways first.

This is a mindset I encounter from time to time and I sort of get it since I too try to be guided by a more holistic, less cluttered approach to life.

Yet, I certainly recognize the value that modern day conveniences add to our daily routine. I love my smart phone and appreciate driving to work rather than walking, especially now that the temps remain in the teens and 20′s most days. I also juice daily as part of my way of maintaining a better diet, but I know there is no way I would do it if I had to squeeze and pulverize everything by hand.

I think it is about deciding which gadgets actually serve to enhance our life experience and which just become extra weight. So we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of various approaches and we’ll see where it leads. As I pondered the idea of “is it more valiant” to approach training a dog through limited tool use, the only conclusion I came up with is a yes in regards to professional dog trainers having a more thorough appreciation for all approaches and tools.

But for an average pet owner I don’t really see the point in taking the longer journey. I don’t believe it makes one a better person or makes for a better dog.

For me it is like believing Thanksgiving dinner is superior only when the cook raises their own turkeys, grows the root veggies & pumpkins and prepares all by hand over a crackling fire. Personally I don’t care if the turkey came from the freezer section as long as someone else does most of the cooking.  I just like to eat and enjoy the final outcome. :-)

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12 comments

  1. Robin – You always have wise words and have an artist’s touch when explaining tools and training. I particularly like your explanation and analogy for this article and this often and much asked question. Teaching is so much easier to do than to have to break bad habits. Time is not meant to be wasted with dogs. It is up to us to make the best of every moment with our dogs, and make every moment the best for our dogs. To steal a bit of a CS&N song, ” . . . Teach your puppies well . . .” Woof!

  2. Great post. I’m frequent told that e-collars are lazy and a shortcut. I see them like any other technology – more efficient. Being more efficient is not lazy. I like to work smarter not harder.

    • Thanks Guy, I’ve never understood the “lazy” comment either. Reflecting back on it seems rather funny that comment has never been sent to me via hand written letter and postal carrier..always e-mail. lol

  3. I have a remote collar for my pup and with the help of your video I have had a lot of success with training a very reliable recall with her. However, I have not had the same success with her biting. She is a Standard poodle who is 18 weeks old. We have started taking her to petsmart for puppy classes(the only puppy class in my area) because we thought maybe she wasnt socialized enough. Well it seems that my puppy is the only one in the class that bites. She will NOT stop either. The big problem we have is she doesnt bite my husband and I, so its hard to train her to stop when everyone she meets she lunges at and bits them hard(cant stop it at home if it doesnt happen at home). I am worried that I have an aggresive dog. The instructer of the class also said that she is concerned that our dog will become aggressive if this doesn’t stop. This has been the most frustrating thing about my dog, other than this one thing she has been the best behaved dog I own. I don’t think she is aggresive BECAUSE of the collar, because we got her at 7 weeks and she has been biting aggresively since we got her. We have tried EVERYTHING in the book for biting. I wish there were a remote collar training class near my area but the only thing they have is a positive reinforcement based method. I am not against positive reinforecement at all(that is how I train my dog all of her commands) but I have no help with the collar because they are clearly against them. For now I have stopped with the collar completely until I get this under control because I know that if used in the wrong way it could be a bad thing. When I did try to use it to stop biting, she bit harder. Any suggestions? I am to the point where if I cannot get this under control by the time she is 6 months and much bigger, I know I will have to find a home where people want a dog for protection because I have a lot of young children in my life. This is the last thing I would like to do.

    • Hi Becky,
      I’m pretty sure I responded directly your e-mail…yes, please check the trainers listing or let me know where you are and we will see if we can find someone to help you. I would be very surprised if this could not be fixed. It has been VERY rare that I have seen this young of a pup have a serious aggression issue. Usually strong play biting or a bit of defensiveness but both should be pretty solvable with the right trainer helping you.
      Robin

  4. i have a lab he jumps on you and he weight 100lb and hes wild in the house i have done everything so im going to try a shock collar hes only 7 months old

    • Hi Linda,
      Make sure you purchase a quality product. I’m a fan of the Dogtra remote collars. And then once you get it please take time to learn how to collar condition properly. Check the trainer listing here on this site or contact me to see if I know someone in your area. I also have a couple training dvd’s on the market that can walk you through all of the basics. I think you will be very pleased how well it can work if you get a little help with the learning process.

  5. Jonathan /

    Becky, have you checked the find a trainer link on this page? If you can give a general location, I’m sure Robin may be able to direct you to someone in your area. Trying to home this dog as a “protection” dog is probably not the right choice.

  6. I did find a trainer with 35 years of experince with training obedience dogs that uses prong collars. It worked on Millie right away and when I took her to the park I could even let little kids(her biggest play biting victoms;)) pet her. I find so much controversy on using a prong especially on a puppy. Any opinions here? I can try on poodle forum where I look for advice on my breed but I would get my head bit off if I mentioned the words correction, prong, e collar and so on… I’m looking for help, not a lecture.

  7. Also I should include that I am fine with people having a different opinion. I just find it useless when you look for opinions and advice on methods that are not all positive and you get responces that accuse any other method of being abusive.

    • Yep, there are a lot of us that hear what you are saying Becky! and we agree 100%. No one HAS to use any tool but the accusations and finger pointing as soon as you state you have an interest…well, it serves no one, including the dog.
      I have no problem with you using a prong collar, especially if you are getting good guidance. No tool is abusive. Only a handler can be abusive. If you are getting a good result, your dog understands the pressure on/pressure off, is learning and therefore gaining more rights and freedom because of the learning…then you are on the right track.
      The biggest difference I like between prong and e-collar is e-collar transitions to off leash much faster, but you can bring that back into your training when you are ready. Good for you for not giving up and for not just caving into those who wish to bully you into believing only their way is right.
      Give your pup a good belly scratch and ball toss from me!
      Robin

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