This week, we want to talk about some of the specific training that we do, along with explanations of training tools that we use with Emma.
Regardless of whether Emma is in heat or not, training is something that we are constantly and consistently working on. As important as it is, for us, it’s not so much about getting Emma to master any specific commands, but rather use training sessions as opportunities for us, as her owners, to actively engage and communicate with Emma. We believe that strengthening our communication and overall relationship has led to improved attention and focus during training sessions, as well as instances in which commands need to be used in practice.
The most challenging commands to train Emma were two “no”-based commands; stopping her from pulling on the leash and stopping her from jumping up to lick people’s faces during greetings.
We recognize and appreciate that there are so many different approaches to training, so our experiences may be vastly different to yours, but for us, training actionable commands were much easier than training “no”-based commands. Actionable commands can be taught by guiding a dog into a certain position or performing a specific action and rewarding them for doing so, which means that they can be taught at any time. “No”-based commands, on the other hand, are commands that are taught in response to an undesired action, and through repetition eventually prevent this action from taking place at all. This means that most times, “no”-based commands are taught when the undesirable action mistakenly takes place, so we have to wait for those moments to happen in order to teach them. To work around this, we “translate” any “no”-based commands into actionable commands after she understands that she shouldn’t be performing those actions. Let me explain.
One of Emma’s first commands she learned was “no”, so she understands that “no” means that her last action was something she shouldn’t have done. However, this alone doesn’t let them know what they should have done instead, so this is where we “translate” our intentions from a “no”-based command to an actionable command.
Let’s tie this back to our two examples – stopping her from pulling on the leash, and stopping her from jumping up, and also discuss the tools that we use simultaneously.
Stop Pulling On The Leash
We will get into the differences between different types of walks, such as off-leash heel walks, loose-leash walks, and structured vs unstructured walks in a later blog post, so for now, we will just be discussing our process of getting Emma to stop pulling on the leash on walks.
Whenever Emma would tug on the leash, we would voice “no”, apply pressure on the leash, and correct her positioning so she would “heel” by our side.
Once Emma understood that tugging on the leash led to the “no” and correction, we changed our training command from “no” to “heel” – an actionable command that can be worked on at any time. Now, if Emma walks too far ahead, a simple “heel” command brings her back to the desired position.
We worked on this training using two different tools. First, we used a standard leash and collar, just like our Original Leash and Original Collar. A firm tug on the leash leads to pressure via the collar around the neck, signaling to the dog that they need to focus on what the owner/trainer is trying to communicate.
And this is where it gets controversial. The second tool that we use is an E-collar, also known as a Shock Collar. This tool is very divisive, deemed harmful and unethical by one camp, while the other half finds a lot of benefit in incorporating E-collars into their training routine.
We believe that just like any piece or equipment or device out there, there are proper and improper uses of the E-collar. Take a car, for example – if used properly, it’s a very convenient machine that can quickly take you from point A to point B. If used improperly, it can be an incredibly dangerous machine that can cause injuries and deaths.
In the same sense, when E-Collars are used properly, they are a safe and highly effective training tool that allows for potentially more flexibility in the type of training that you conduct, compared to training with just a standard collar and leash.
In very simple terms, you can think of an E-Collar like the “wireless” version of a standard leash and collar. The electronic stimulation that an E-Collar gives off is mimicking the same sensation as a corrective tug on the leash and collar, meaning that it’s simply a signal that reminds them to be focused on the owner/trainer. Therefore, there needs to be an actionable command associated with the tug/electronic stimulation so that the dogs understand that when they feel the sensation, they will need to perform a certain action. Things go wrong when these E-Collars are used improperly, merely as a way to signal that what the dog did was undesirable or wrong, but with no follow-up command to teach them the right (or desirable) action. E-Collars are not meant to be used as punishment, but rather used as a tool to correct and undesirable action, and then teach the desirable action.
Stop Jumping Up
By the same token, we worked on preventing Emma from jumping up onto people by using the “no” command when she did jump (or was about to jump), alongside a corrective tug on the leash or an E-Collar stimulation, and then a follow-up corrective action to “sit”.
The slight difference here is that since “sit” was already a command on its own, we decided to introduce a new command, “stay down”, specifically for interactions with humans. Whenever we notice that Emma is excited to see a human or goes into a jumping position, the “stay down” commands keeps all 4 paws on the ground, which is the desired action we’re looking for.
As with the leash pulling training, we used both a standard leash and collar and an E-Collar, but in exactly the same way. If we see a jump position, we would command “no” with a quick tug on the leash or a short stimulation through the E-Collar, and then lead her to the “sit” (now “stay down”) position and heavily reward her own choice not to jump so that she learns that staying down is the desired action.
To close this off, we want to express that E-collars are not magical devices that automatically train your dog with the push of a single button. It’s a tool that is to be used in conjunction with verbal commands and other training techniques to help them out of stubborn undesired habits or overcome certain communication challenges between owners and dogs. Keep in mind that training is a lifelong process, and there are no short-cuts, but proper use of available training tools can be very beneficial for your dog’s learning!
- Mick (Emma's Dad)