Before I continue with the story of A.J.’s latest training, I’d like to say a few words about the training methods I’m using. I know there are people who are adamantly opposed to training with electronic collars and prong collars, both of which I use on A.J. There are people who would like these training tools to be illegal. The opinions on these tools are very diverse and very strong. I respect the opinions of anyone who has done their research, successfully worked with dogs with varying degrees of issues, and who truly wants the best for the animals. I’ve chosen the tools I use because I want to keep my dog safe, and I want him to be happy. I’ve also chosen a trainer I believe wants the same things. I don’t use these tools to “show my dog who’s boss” or because it’s too hard and takes too much time to use other training methods. I’ve put in whatever time is necessary and a ton of effort in order to use the least amount of force and negative feedback as possible.
A.J. learned “Sit” and “Down” and many tricks through lots of treats, fun exercises, and repetition. He learned to stop crying at me when he wanted something by simply not giving him what he wanted until he stopped. He learned to stop lunging, barking, growling, and throwing an all-out scary tantrum at dogs, bikes, and scooters by getting sharp corrections with a prong collar. And now he’s learning to come to me when I call to him – even if I’m calling him away from something really fun like chasing a squirrel – by getting a quick jolt from the ecollar.
And speaking of the ecollar…things are going really well. A.J. is actually proving to be so smart that it’s hard to practice his training.
We had our final two training sessions with our trainer, Jerry Walbey of Northwest K9. After the first session, A.J. refused to stay when told because he didn’t want to get shocked. So we did our final two training sessions using only the tone function of the collar. Instead of feeling a small electric shock, he just hears a beep. He did great in both sessions, coming immediately at every beep. He quickly calmed down once he knew he wasn’t getting shocked and had fun running around the yard as he was told to “Wait” and “Come.” Quite a bit of time in both training sessions was spent getting A.J. used to listening to Greg since he’s going to be the sole caregiver for the next month while I go off to start a new job. I spent half the session time in the house just watching them. They did great.
Out on our own, we’ve taken A.J. to different locations where he can run free. We’ve adjusted the training based on his sensitivity at each particular location. At the soccer field across the street he’s usually very good at responding, so we use the tone when we call him. He’s been coming back immediately. We took him to the park where he really runs wild and chases squirrels. There I use the lowest shock setting. A quick shock doesn’t do the trick, but if I hold it for a full second as I call to him he comes running.
The last time we took him to the park I intended to use the shock to call him back every time he started to leave the main grassy area and run into the parking lot. He did this once. I called him and shocked him, and he came running back. We were at the park for an hour and that was the last time he went into the parking lot. Before getting the ecollar, the last time I tried to call A.J. to me when it was time to leave the park he went running off to have more fun. This time, he saw us getting ready to leave and he came running over and waited for me to hook the leash on – I didn’t have to say a word. What a smart boy!
There will likely come a day when A.J. is racing after a squirrel or a bird and I need to give him a strong shock to keep him from running into the road or some other danger. But for now he has this figured out and is responding really well. We were even able to take him to the water where he had a great time swimming after sticks. I had kept him away from this area previously because there’s a highway nearby and I was always afraid something would lead him out there. Now I’m comfortable that I can stop him, so he gets to do his very favorite thing: Swim!
Our trainer told us to leave the ecollar on A.J. all day so he wouldn’t start to shy away from it and think of it as that thing that shocks him. This morning I picked up the collar and A.J. came running over, sat right in front of me, and practically begged me to put it on him. The electronic collar means he gets to do really fun things.
Believe what you want about the tools. My dog is happy and my dog is safe.