My Thoughts On Ecollar Training

So let's talk about the reality of ecollars.   Some people just fainted.  Some keyboard warriors are gearing up for battle to take down my business (fact), and others will be thankful to hear the truth.

Ecollars are not bad, painful tools.   They just aren't.

Have you ever been to the Chiropractor? I went for a while. Initially,  I was nervous about having someone snap, crackle and pop my back.  But the tension I had been living with for several years was getting worse with every dog that pulled like a freight train on their leash when they arrive for training.

I had no idea what to expect.  Would it be painful?  Would it do more injury?  What if this guy was a quack?

So after an exam and x-rays, I'm hooked up to a tens unit with 4 pads on my back (similar to this pic).  When the technician turns it on, it felt like little creepy crawlies scurrying across my neck.  No pain.  No anxiety,  No jumping off the table.    No fear of the doctor.

It felt exactly like the sensation we feel when we put on an ecollar.   Exactly like it.     She wanted to know when I felt it.  Then when it felt good, and if it was too much.   I actually asked her to turn it up higher than I thought felt good, and the neck muscle jumped.   Just like it does when we have the ecollar t a little too high on the dog.   We back down the stim a couple of levels and she left me alone for 15 minutes to relax.    Once I understood the stimulation, I did relax...closing my eyes for a rare mid-afternoon rest.

The point here is anyone telling you balanced trainers like me are shocking dogs is lying to you.  It's not at all what we do when it’s done well.

We teach skills first and the pair the ecollar with the skills at the lowest level we know the dog feels.   How do I know, most of them look like something landed on their shoulder and turn around to find it.   If I see the muscle twitch, we back off, knowing that the dog felt the stim at a lower level.     And we begin there.

No good, respectable trainer I know just runs around and zaps 'em randomly or without clarity.

We provide information to the dog, in very short durations.  Our dogs are not walking around wondering when the next big jolt is going to hit them.   There are no big "jolts" in obedience.   In fact, there are no "corrections" given that the dog wouldn't understand based on language and previous teaching.

Can we give a big correction -- of course.   But we don't give a correction higher than the dog would need.  It's never long.  And it's clear to the dog why it happens.  You also have to remember that if the dog is over-adrenalized, he's isn't going to feel the same levels at all.

With low-level stims, it's just information.  It's knowledge. It’s pairing a stimulus with a behavior. Initially with a good behavior. Literally, a tingle on the shoulder to prompt the dog to take action. Later it becomes a reminder to stop the dog from the wrong actions because we pair it with language and guidance.   

There are no more reliable means of training recalls and off-leash work than using one.

It's certainly faster training.   But it is not lazy training.

Responses are not because the dog is afraid of not performing.  Though I do know it’s possible to create a dog who is shut down and afraid of doing anything.

When we train with low-level stim, response is because there is consistent clarity of information that I can share from across the room, across the yard, without a leash.   I know many people who say, they would rather be patient and takes as long as it takes for the dog to learn with clickers and treats. And that may be ok for them.   But for me, I want the reliability and freedom it affords my dogs.

My own dog was off-leash trained by 6 months of age.

So, will I "correct" a dog at a higher level than the level we use for obedience work... yes. In obedience work, it’s just a marker that an error was made and to try again. If it’s a big mistake in judgement, like jumping the fence, lunging at another dog or human,   I'd much rather give a dog a bigger correction for 1/10 of 1 second to have them stop doing something dangerous than to beg and plead with them for months hoping the clicker and treat reshapes behavior.   Will I remind a dog his behavior is not appropriate and to make a better decision, sure.   Will I correct him for flat out disobedience on a skill he knows, yes.   But it's usually just a few points higher than his normal working level.

I'd also rather use these tools to help very difficult dogs avoid rehoming or death. Too many people are told to drug their dogs or euthanize their dogs without trying a training approach that utilizes tools and/or consequences.   Trust me -- they don't just "get that way" overnight, and effective solutions in a timely matter can be a difference in life and death.  Literally.

Most dogs are respond to stim level <10 on a scale of 1-100.  Most humans can't even feel that at all.

Can it go wrong - sure it could when used without love, respect, and knowledge on the tool and the language, needs & understanding of the dog.  But that's the handler not the tool itself.  Come to terms with that reality.

People can misuse their voices, feet, hands, and authority.   People even misuse our affection and food -- and create some really disastrous behavioral issues.  Believe me, I see it every day.   And I find that our training with ecollar is gentle and effective for happy go-luckies, fearful and aggressive dogs.  There is no argument with the result, when done properly.

So if you're struggling with your dog.   If you want off-leash freedom.  If some other trainer told you your dog was not trainable.  If you're looking at the last hope.... call us and let's give your dog a chance.


Still not sure you believe this side of the argument?   Come see us for a demo if you are on the fence about ecollars and we'll show you how we use them for low-level training.  You have nothing to loose and your dog may have everything to gain.

Dana Brigman