We started a new training program with A.J. today. He had stopped responding to me when he was off-leash, to the point where he could easily put himself in danger. I contacted Jerry, the trainer who helped A.J. get over his leash aggression. I really trust him and believe he’ll do what’s best for A.J. and for me. So this rainy afternoon we headed out to Jerry’s house to learn how to use an electronic collar.

I was very nervous about putting an ecollar on A.J. I could just imagine zapping him and hearing him yelp. I didn’t want to scare him. But I should have known Jerry wouldn’t let that happen. We started the lesson by talking about what I wanted to accomplish, then talking about the collar: when to use it, how it works, how the training regimen will work. After getting the overview Jerry showed me how to fit the collar properly. Then it was time to give it a try.

I put the controller on the lowest setting. We were in an enclosed area and I let A.J. wander away from me. (This took a few minutes, he was a little uneasy and clingy when we got there.) As soon as A.J. wandered a few feet away I pushed the button on the controller at the same time that I called him to me. It was obvious he felt the charge, but he didn’t yelp or jump or do anything else that would have indicated it was painful. He came right to me.

Next we went outside. A.J. continued to cling to me. I told him to “Wait,” then walked away. I then pushed the controller button and called to him. He came running right to me. I had to step out of the way to keep him from crashing into me.

We tried this again, but this time A.J. refused to stay put when I told him to “Wait.” (Obviously I should have put more effort into working on that command. But, one thing at a time.) Jerry led him away on a long line and kept ahold of him until I could call to him again. A.J. doesn’t like being led away from me under any circumstances, and when confusing things are happening to him it’s much worse. He fought being led away. Greg was with us so he could learn too, and he tried leading A.J. away, but he didn’t have much better luck than Jerry. What can I say, A.J. is definitely a mamma’s boy.

We continued the exercises. A.J. quickly learned to try to “jump the shock.” He would be told to sit, but he’d take off running back to me before I called to him. He was trying to anticipate the call so he could avoid the shock. But either Greg or Jerry, in most cases, was able to hang onto the leash and get him sitting again so he’d stay put until I called.

Everything seemed to be going pretty well, so Jerry asked if Greg wanted to try. Greg pointed out that even if he called to A.J., A.J. would most likely still come running to me. So Jerry sent me into the house where A.J. couldn’t see me, but where I could watch what was happening. I watched as Jerry led A.J. out into the field. Greg pressed the controller button and called to A.J., A.J. ran towards him … and continued running straight past him to the door I’d gone in.

They tried again, but this time Greg stood off to the side rather than on a straight line to where I was. Jerry led A.J. out, had him sit, Greg called to him, and this time A.J. went right to him. They tried one more time. I saw A.J. take a quick glance towards the door as he was running to Greg, but he went to him.

We’ll practice this weekend, putting A.J. into situations where he’s more comfortable wandering away from me. We have two more sessions scheduled with Jerry next week. Hopefully we’ll quickly reach the point where we don’t need to use the shocker. I’ve been told that A.J. will never be able to be trusted off-leash unless he’s wearing the ecollar. I believe this. Right now he knows he has to listen when he’s on leash, but not when he’s off leash. He’ll quickly figure out that he has to listen when this collar is on, but that he can do whatever he wants when it’s not. But again, the hope is that he’ll have the collar on, but I won’t have a need to shock him.

Stay tuned for more shocking updates next week.