Rather than continuing to hijack another thread, I thought it might be appropriate to start my own here. Training is a subject that interests me, and I have experimented with many methods over the years, with both dogs and horses. I've learned a lot, and one thing I have discovered is that no matter the method, there is always something to be gained from listening to others, attending seminars and demonstrations, etc. I have picked up tips in the most unlikely places. Sometimes something I can use right away, other times something I file away in my memory for the right occasion. Not every horse or dog responds in the same way to the same method, and not everything is appropriate for every student. My Border Collie was a totally different proposition from my Basenjis, my Arab cross responded differently from my purebreds.
I never thought I would like clicker training, but I tried it and was immediately impressed, and it is now my method of choice for teaching new behaviours. I trained many off leash dogs (including three Basenjis, with varying results) before trying an e-collar, and now I wouldn't be without it for off leash work with Basenjis…...but would never consider using it with a Border Collie. Always something new to learn. I guess my point is, it pays to be open minded. Never say "never", at least until you have thoroughly researched the subject. (and I mean with personal experience, not hearsay)
For those who are interested......I decided to try an e-collar three years ago. I had worked with Perry on a long line, and loose, on my own property, and he was pretty good......but I could not trust him with major distractions. Yes, perseverance might have eventually paid off, but I'm not young anymore, and I didn't want to wait until he was old as well to be able to enjoy the fields and woods in relative security. So I went to observe an open house at the local "Sit means sit" franchise. I was impressed by the total lack of drama, the very low key approach, and the obvious results, so I booked Perry in for a free demo. I reasoned that if it really freaked him out, at least he wouldn't be blaming me! Seriously, I knew I didn't have the experience to try this on my own, so I thought I would just see if he responded in the same way as the dogs I had observed......and he did. The trainer fitted him with a collar (after letting me have a taste of the stim levels in the palm of my hand) Turns out, Perry's working level (the point at which he noticed the stim) was a level three, the same level at which I could perceive a tingle. The trainer attached a long lead and proceeded to let Perry wander around. Although I was watching closely, it was difficult for me to tell when the trainer gave a stim. Initially all I noticed was that periodically he used the leash to draw Perry back to his side. In a very few minutes, Perry was returning to the trainer without the leash being touched. He had learned the correct response to the "tingle" from the collar. No yipes, no drama, no fear, no pain. Just a subtle communication and an understanding of what was required to rid himself of a somewhat annoying tingle on his neck. I was impressed.
Long story short, I signed up for four lessons which included the collar (lifetime guarantee, and they honour it, too!) I took a couple of lessons, decided their method didn't suit me, (I don't like to "pick" at a dog.....or horse......I just need cooperation) and I continued on my own. I started in December, 2008, spent the winter practicing with Perry in the dog run, and by spring we were ready to go. I took him on a long line down the field......as a precaution. All went well, I took the line off, and he has spent very little time at the end of a leash since. We go days.....even weeks......when he never feels a stim from the collar. Truth be told, his recalls are stellar and I never use it for that. Mostly the collar is for safety, and occasionally to reinforce "leave it". On a few occasions I have used it to interrupt a cat or critter chase, and yes, it is effective for that. Certainly to interrupt a chase it is necessary to use a level he will notice, and yes, I am sure it hurts him momentarily. The point is that it does not injure him, leaves no lasting effects, and I reward him as soon as he breaks off the chase. He does not appear to resent it or to be upset by it. But it sure interrupts his focus on game!
Would I recommend an e-collar to others? Only if you are willing to spend the time to properly condition the dog, making sure he fully understands that he controls the collar. Then make that so, by being consistent in your use of the device. I would never recommend this technology to anyone who has anger management issues, but then such a person probably shouldn't have animals in the first place. For me, and for Perry, the e-collar is a safety device that makes it possible for Perry to enjoy his freedom to the fullest. Every time I see him flying around the field or down the trail, I am thankful that I attended that demo, that I was willing to check out something new.
I have mentioned that having an off leash dog changes your relationship. When you walk a dog on a leash, his focus is not on you (yes, I know you can make an effort to change this, but the average dog walker doesn't) The dog knows exactly where you are......at the other end of his leash. So he looks for things that interest him, and ignores you unless you demand his attention. When he is loose, he must make an effort to keep tabs on you. It changes the equation in a quite wonderful way. My dog pays attention to where I am. If he loses track of me, he immediately makes an effort to find me. I matter to him…...even more than the interesting smells in the grass. He doesn't have to be with me, he wants to be with me. I relish this attentiveness and find ways to improve it. If Perry is distracted, sniffing, I will hide and let him find me. He does this with much energy, and a huge Basenji grin on his face when he discovers my hiding place. We have far more fun than we ever did walking with a leash.
Another method of training I have played around with and been seriously impressed with is Charles Eisenmann's "education" method. If I had the time and dedication, I am sure much could be accomplished. Chuck's method is the antithesis of habituation. He wants the dog to respond because it thinks and understands what is being requested. This is very challenging for the trainer......and the dog. I have had glimmers of success, but lack the stamina to follow through. I do find his five basic things a dog should know extremely valuable: Pick it up, hold it, stand up, stay there, come here. Of which the most valuable is "pick it up". Simple, but the building blocks for so much more.....his most interesting point is "Do not use single word commands. They limit a dog's potential". Quite a different approach to what you will hear anywhere else, but I was fortunate enough to see Chuck in person with his dogs, and there is no question his training.....whoops, educating.....ability has never been equaled. For those unfamiliar, there are a number of news clippings about Chuck and his dogs at this link:
Page down a bit and you will find them. Yes, his dogs were really that well educated. I saw it in person and it was magic!