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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm trying to learn all I can about the pros and cons of e-collars to help with training my reactive dog Scout, who has shown absolutely no improvement after six-months of conventional reward training methods.

I've read numerous web articles and watched hours of youtube videos on the subject of e-collar training pros and cons.

What confuses me most is it appears that the dog owners/trainers who are adamantly against the use of e-collars, have never used them; and those who advocate the use of e-collars state they wish they had started using e-collars years earlier (especially with difficult dogs) because the e-collar vastly improved the quality of their lives together. So, I'm puzzled!

What's your personal e-collar success or failure story?

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Just a reminder folks: http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/forum-rules-guidelines-training-behavior-please-4330/

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Now my input:
Bad idea. (And this is coming from someone who has used e-collars in the past--regrettably).

Basically, you are going to make your dog's fear worse through the negative association (ie fallout), or you are going cause your dog to just suppress his behavior while still being afraid. Sure you might look more normal to others on your walks, but you did little to help your dog.
http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/suppression-modification-shutdown-fallout-4776/

This is our sticky on reactivity training: http://www.dogforum.com/training-be...y-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538/ Yes, it takes time, but it is well worth it. I would be curious as to what methods you did all try, and if you worked with a professional. If you'd like to start a new thread on that topic, we'd be happy to help! Also, feel free to join in on this thread: http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/reactivity-progress-techniques-suggestions-78554/ .
 

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First off, what is your dog reactive to, and do you mean fear reactive, or happy I just HAVE to go greet, or see, whatever it is that caught my attention reactive?

Second, are you planning to use the collar on vibrate, or shock?

Personally I don't like them, I think that there is way, way, to much risk or fallout. I can see a bit of use for using it on vibrate for a dog that is fixated on something, just to break the dogs focus, but other then that I wouldn't risk using one.

They do not cause a dog to change it's perception of the stimuli, it doesn't teach a correct greeting, it doesn't make a dog view the scary thing in a more positive manner. What it does is teaches a dog that the stimuli causes it to be hurt, or even worse it could teach a dog that barking and growling a warning is what causes it to be hurt, in which case you'll end up with a dog that could attack with no warning. It can also completely shutdown a dog that has a soft temperament.

Something else you have to keep in mind is that your timing with the collar has to be perfect, if it isn't you will be correcting the dog for the wrong thing.

Here's some sticky links that explain why so many on here don't like e-collars.
http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/suppression-modification-shutdown-fallout-4776/
http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/4-quadrants-operant-conditioning-23702/
http://www.dogforum.com/training-be...y-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538/
 

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I trained with an e-collar for years. I don't use one anymore. I got smarter. They would not be my choice for a reactive dog.

Can you describe, in as much detail as possible, exactly what the "conventional reward training methods" consisted of? Did you have access to calm, bomb proof dogs and an experienced dog handler for the other dog when you were counter conditioning, assuming that's what you were doing. Did you let your dog encounter strange dogs during the counter conditioning process?

Counter conditioning isn't as easy as some make it sound. I usually recommend people get the help of a professional who is experienced in dealing with reactive dogs.

The problem with e-collars is that they aren't as easy to use as it appears. Many dogs have been made worse with the use of a shock collar.

The fact is that dealing with behavior problems is tough. There is no magic tool that will make the training easy and fast. I've owned reactive dogs. I know how hard it can be to deal with the problem while you're trying to change your dog's emotional response. Trips to the vet must be carefully planned to avoid unexpected encounters. Walks are out, unless it's somewhere you know you won't encounter another dog. It feels crummy to see all the nice dogs walking around at the farmer's market all friendly and waggy tailed at the other dogs and wishing you could take your dog out and about without a care. But it's the way it is and all you can do is bear down and make up your mind that you'll keep working with your dog using methods that do work and without the danger of making your dog worse.
 

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I can see a bit of use for using it on vibrate for a dog that is fixated on something, just to break the dogs focus, but other then that I wouldn't risk using one.
On this note, IMO, re: the vibration option: it should be trained for and used only as a *positive interrupter* IF one wanted to use the collar (like some use for deaf dogs). No doubt, vibrations are gentle--and I am much more comfortable with them than shocks--but a) they can still be annoying (which might increase frustration) and b) they can still startle a dog. Personally, I don't think using even the vibration option is necessary--you can use a verbal positive interrupter or train an emergency/whiplash turn, etc to break attention.
 

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Geobonsai, your best bet is to do counter conditioning exercises like the ones outlined in the Reactivity, On Leash Aggression, Barrier Frustration sticky.

Also take Grabby's advice and hire a behaviorist to help you.
 
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I use an e-collar for one of my dogs, mostly as an emergency tool in case he blows off a recall. They can be great tools for certain circumstances. Your boy is not a good candidate, though.

Dogs' brains don't work the way ours do. We think of zapping a dog that's going off on another dog as, "Hey, you're doing something bad, this is a correction for that behavior." The dog, though, thinks, "Oh man I don't like that dog and I'm going to tell it so, OUCH HEY now I got hurt I REALLY hate that dog!" E-collars in reactive dogs tend to just make the problem worse.

Honestly there are pretty few situations where e-collars are really worth it, although I firmly believe there are situations that they're super useful in. They're really easy to ruin dogs with, though, and I wish people would have to take some sort of training course before being able to buy one.
 

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E-collar for reactive dog = terrible idea, as in the worst possible idea.

And this from someone who has (regrettably) been taught how to use an e-collar by a professional dog trainer.

I no longer use e-collars. The ONLY thing I would use one for at this point would be snake aversion training, but even in that case, only if I knew my dogs were likely to encounter life threatening situations with poisonous snakes.

I think several folks have done a good job explaining why you will make the problem worse with an e-collar.
Anything the dog is focused on when he is shocked, he will come to hate even more. Which is why snake aversion training is about the only good use for it.

Where are you getting information from people that it has helped their dogs?
 

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I've used it as an interrupter (vibration and sound only, though I did try the shock once on myself and her inside and didn't like the effect) and got fed up because it's too much effort when other methods are easier and more effective. Plus then you're dealing with batteries, and extra collar going out, etc...and other things happened to worsen her reactivity so she's no longer on a long line around other dogs, anyways.

On a reactive dog towards other dogs it would be a terrible idea. This is the opposite of what you want to do.

What 'conventional reward training methods' have you tried? I'm working on reactivity with my dog and she's improved leaps and bounds to the point where we are now starting to work on introducing other dogs quite often, without major stress signals from her. Have you tried using a clicker? Better treats? How consistent have you been/how much time do you work on this daily? How much time do you HAVE to work on this? I found when I was doing a lot of work all the time she showed improvement way faster than just maintaining her comfort level if I had to skip a bit. What type of behaviors do you get when your dog IS reacting, and from how far away? I think you need to expand on this a lot and we can help you from there with fine tuning your methods and making them more effective :)
 

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To clarify, when on-leash, my dog Scout reacts negatively only to other dogs.
The shock collar will make the dog more reactive. I would recommend clicker training. I have used it with my reactive dog and by counter conditioning with the clicker he is much better. You will get a much more positive result with this over the collar
 

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Sorry but no any "control" type collar for me.
Totaly against it.
(No short cut to training, takes time investments for any good dog)

So...
Think.

When using any control devices, is the dog really listening to you the trainer owner etc. OR really listening to the devices???
What happens when the devices is no longer there?

The very first dog owner (cave men time) never needed any modern devices to have that faithful man's best friend....
What makes one think one become the more superior in training of man's best friend vs one who can have that best friend without needs of any such devices???

Something to ponder.

"Happy New Year" All!
Another new year wish...
To wish all doggies to have the happiest carefree, worryfree and painfree year!
 
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Never tried to put an e collar on Roman but tried prong on him once when we first got him because he pulled... Like the first couple days we got him.

He never growled but bucked like a mad pony and yeah... Fighting the collar the whole time its on.
I wrestled the collar off (was a pain to even get off, I stick my own fingers in there to help ease the pinch and yes, quite painful).
I did apologize to my baby, remembered crying too.
But, I also showed him his regular collar and pinch side by side and he actually used his nose to point which he preferred.
I showed him the leash..telling him to walk nice... = why we tried pinch collar.
You know... To this day, that boy walks great on leash. Seriously.

Now, he will stay standing even free roaming to allow to be leashed N or collar put on if it got loose. (He goes naked in house and especially summer when its hot)

Prong collar, only ever used once.
Taught me one great lesson.
 

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I will only put this in as my 2 cents. (do not take this as an attack on any who have used this method)
If someone is using a e-collar/shock collar then buy 2 one for the dog and one for you. If you are not willing to shock yourself than you should not shock the dog.
There is way too many options to use to train your dog and yourself on how to react in dog encounter situations. I include the person cause alot of times we need just as much training as our pups on how to relax and actually pay attention to our surroundings on a dog walk.
And if I was so inclined to use one on my pup I would gladly put one on my wrist to prevent using it as a crutch during training.
Just my opinion.
 

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I don't the question to ask is whether "e-collar training is a good or bad idea." I think the question to ask is "will an e-collar be an effective tool for what I want to accomplish?"

I am not 100% opposed to e-collars. BUT, I think most of the time that people use them, it is out of frustration or impatience with other methods. And I think because it is true that e-collars can accomplish certain things much, much faster than rewards based training, they unfortunately have led many people who like fast results to feel they are "better" or "more effective". But "faster" isn't necessarily "better" unless you have a problem where you truly don't have the luxury of time - say, training to stay away from snakes in an area where there are poisonous ones. Those situations are pretty few and far between, though.

For a reactive dog, I think it's absolutely the wrong tool, because as others have already pointed out the reactivity is coming from a place of negative emotions already. So punishment of any kind, really, will either make a reactive dog more reactive or will appear to solve the problem in the short term by causing the dog to shut down/enter learned helplessness, which can explode later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
You guys are awesome!

Thank you all for your thoughtful and informative replies.

I've come to realize (and accept) that my dog Scout's reactivity is an extreme case, way, way, way beyond anything most people have ever seen in a dog. Also, I now know I don't want to use excessive correction methods or medications to modify his behavior.

I'm ready to just let Scout be Scout. I'm glad he's a little dog, though!

I just finished reading Ali Brown's outstanding book "Scaredy Dog!", which provided some brilliant insight to understanding reactivity in dogs. And, after reading all your helpful replies and all the resource documents you recommended, I've decided the best solution is to keep Scout off nature trails--it's just not a good environment for him and Scout is a proven nuisance to other hikers and their dogs. (Besides, I have another non-reactive dog Abby who is an absolute joy to hike with.)

Thanks for caring!

~~~~~~~~~~~

For those of you who want to read more about my thoughts and frustrations regarding Scout's reactive behavior, here are some of the gory details:

When walking my five-year-old Jack Russell Terrier Scout, he aggressively reacts to other dogs with explosions of violent lunging and snapping that terrifies other dog owners, and loud barking that I’m sure can be heard for miles!



After professional dog training sessions and six months of reward-based training every-other day (Scout and I do best with an off-day now and then), using consistent positive reinforcement methods, Scout is doing very well with "heel," "sit," "stay," and "look" commands, but only in places where there are no distractions. He’s good with other dogs if and only if he can perform his “greeting ritual.” After a brief frightful fit of rage, he quickly settles down and is happy to greet new dogs, but this occurs only in controlled situations where all parties are willing to take the time, risk, and patience.



When walking in the neighborhood, I can easily maintain Scout's tolerance threshold distance from other dogs (currently about 20 feet) by walking across the street or up a driveway. In these situations, Scout eagerly responds to my “look” command, accepts treats or his ball as a reward/distraction so the other dog goes by without incident.



That’s all very cool, but Scout still pulls at the leash. And most importantly (to me anyway), I want to take Scout on nature hikes. Yeah, I’m envious when I see so many wonderful, calm, cooperative dogs having a blast hiking with their owners in beautiful, wild nature areas, and I want that experience with Scout!


Currently (though it's about to change), I walk Scout on hiking trails three times a week. The problem is that on hiking trails it is difficult to maintain his critical threshold distance from other dogs due to the terrain and narrow paths. Also, it’s not possible to see a dog approaching beyond the next bend in the trail. Hikers and their dogs aren’t able to stop and take the time required for Scout’s “greeting ritual.” Once he's reacting to another dog, I cannot stop him or distract him and, worse yet, I can see that the other hiker is terrified for their dog's safety! Fortunately, so far, the other dogs we've encountered are awesome, well-behaved dogs with the common, canine sense to totally ignore Scout's outburst.


Nothing works to calm Scout. Verbal commands, treats, or even corrections don’t get his attention or break his focus on the trigger. It’s like he’s experiencing an adrenaline induced glucocorticoid overdose that takes hours (days actually) to clear from his bloodstream! Every time we hike, Scout's other-dog aggression gets worse and worse!


All this considered, I think the best thing to do is to keep Scout off nature trails--it's just not a good environment for him and Scout is a proven nuisance to other hikers and their dogs.


(BTW, I have another dog Abby who is an absolute joy to hike with).


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It sounds like you've made a wise decision for you and more importantly, for Scout. I know it's hard to accept our dogs with behavior problems and many problem behaviors can be mitigated with lots of time and training. Sometimes you just say, this is the dog I've got and I love him or her for what she is.

I've got a fearful dog. We've been working with a trainer and she's much better in many ways but she's never going to be a bold, confident dog. I think when we accept that our dogs are as unique as we are, it makes it easier to not try and force them to be something they can't be.
 

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My friend would not use e-collars with any dogs, but she has something to ask about them. She has read and heard horrible things about them and using them causes things that is told here: http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/suppression-modification-shutdown-fallout-4776

My friend has seen videos of them. She has seen only one video where the dog suffered from the e-collar. However, in many other videos dogs seems to be happy and excited to learn although they have e-collars. Not even those dogs that has behaviorial issues suffer from them. So my friend wants to know why the dogs that has been trained with e-collars doesn't suffer from them although she has heard and read that they would?
http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/suppression-modification-shutdown-fallout-4776/
 

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My friend would not use e-collars with any dogs, but she has something to ask about them. She has read and heard horrible things about them and using them causes things that is told here: http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/suppression-modification-shutdown-fallout-4776

My friend has seen videos of them. She has seen only one video where the dog suffered from the e-collar. However, in many other videos dogs seems to be happy and excited to learn although they have e-collars. Not even those dogs that has behaviorial issues suffer from them. So my friend wants to know why the dogs that has been trained with e-collars doesn't suffer from them although she has heard and read that they would?
Thats kinda odd... Granted I don't go out looking for e-collar videos, but I've seen far more vids with shutdown and/or stressed dog than "happy". Perhaps your friend is misinterpreting what she is seeing?

With shock collars one uses positive punishment and negative reinforcement. Either the dog is either getting shocked for an incorrect response (positive punishment) OR being shocked until the dog performs the correct response (negative reinforcement).

Based on what I've seen both in videos and in person (I do know several e-collar trained dogs) the "happy" dogs are offering appeasement gestures (basically saying in dog language "I'm friendly. Please don't hurt me") or a somewhat speedy response because they understand doing as asked is the way to avoid being shocked.

That said, if you have further questions, please start your own thread. :thumbsup:
http://www.dogforum.com/announcements/dogforum-com-rules-1606/
 
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