Hunting dogs don’t come with a manual, and while wonderful, they each have their own set of challenges. Does your dog ignore you, steal food from the table or refuse to come when you’re in the field hunting game? These challenges and others can be addressed with an e-collar and these beginning e-collar training techniques.
What exactly is an e-collar? It’s a remote training system that consists of a wireless remote and wireless receiver that allows you to remotely send signals to your dog to help it understand the difference between good and bad behavior. E-collars are safe and effective training tools, which you can use to make corrections suited to your dog’s temperament and the situation. They can help in creating a happy and willing hunting dog that responds quickly to commands, whether at a distance or when distracted.
What is an e-collar not? It’s not a device that should be used as a form of punishment.
“You can ruin your dog if you don’t know how to properly use an e-collar or if you use it as a punishment,” says Tyler Webster with the Birds, Booze & Buds Podcast. “It should be used to reinforce commands the dog already knows. I’ve seen guys put an e-collar on a dog and use it to punish a dog that hasn’t been trained and doesn’t know what it’s done wrong. The dog needs to understand what you expect and know the commands before you implement an e-collar.”
Webster doesn’t necessarily consider himself an expert on dog training, but does consider himself an authority on hunting dogs and says e-collars offer a multitude of benefits. His beginning e-collar training techniques are also quite valuable.
“Most training collars today have a beeper and vibration function,” Webster said. “You can teach the dogs that the vibration means one thing and the beep means another. I’ve trained my dogs that the beep means they should come back to me, and I use the vibration in a trash-breaking situation, such as when they’re chasing a deer or pointing at a racoon. I also use the vibrate function to get them to stop barking when they’re in their kennels. The functions can have a multitude of uses.”
He said when it comes to training collars, it all starts with conditioning the dog to understand what the correction on the collar means. He starts training his dogs when they are very young, but he doesn’t start them off with an e-collar.
“I start training them using a check cord, which is a length of rope with a snap on it that connects me to the dog. If the dog is doing something it shouldn’t, I can pull back on the cord to stop that behavior. It acts as an extension of my arm. Then, once I’ve completed training with the check cord, I transition to the training collar.”
Webster begins training his puppies when they are approximately 8- to 10-weeks old, and says it’s amazing how fast they learn. He said when you start training one puppy with a cord, the others in the litter will learn as well.
“The cord essentially works as an emergency break,” he said. “By tugging on the cord, I can stop an undesirable behavior. When a puppy pulls on another puppy’s lead, the puppy on the lead will submit and walk alongside the puppy pulling it.”
He says he starts transitioning from the cord to the beginning e-collar training techniques when the puppy gives him a reason to, such as when it’s getting too big and too fast to catch. Use the e-collar just like you used the cord – give the same commands and use the beep or vibrate function to get the dog’s attention.
Once your dog becomes accustomed to the e-collar, it can work as an invaluable tool — both for getting your dog to follow your commands and for keeping it safe. Every dog should know the “stop” and “woah” command.
“When your dog is outside, you never know what can happen,” Webster said. “You can sometimes see a problem before the dog does, and you can prevent that problem from occurring with the collar. For example, if your dog is running toward the road while chasing a bird and it doesn’t see a car coming, you can use the e-collar to stop him before he gets in harm’s way. Or, if your dog is running hard and hunting, it may not be looking at what’s right in front of it, such as a barbed-wire fence. You can use the e-collar to protect your dog in that type of situation as well.”
Webster says one of his favorite features of an e-collar is that you can use it on multiple dogs.
“I like a multiple-dog unit,” he said. “One of my favorite units, the DOGTRA T&B DUAL, which includes two collars that run off the same remote. There are two sets of buttons on that one remote, so I can use it on two dogs. Not having to manage two remotes makes my life a lot simpler. “
Webster said he also likes the wide range of stimulation offered by the Dogtra collars.
“You can dial the stimulation levels from 0 to 127. You want to find a point that the dog feels the stimulation, but it doesn’t hurt it,” Webster pointed out. “It should just feel like a tap on the neck. There’s a perfect number for each dog. My little female dog only takes a 20, while my two bigger males are in the mid 30s.”
“DOGTRA has one that runs off your cell phone called the PATHFINDER. You can use Google Earth to see what your dog is doing,” Webster said. “It will let you know if your bird dog is on point, your coon dog is treed or if your dog gets hung up somewhere. A trainer friend of mine just told me about a guy down in Arizona who’s dog fell in mine trap. Without GPS, he would have never been able to locate and save his dog.”
E-collars have a multitude of benefits and Webster says when it comes down beginning e-collar training techniques, you should always remember one very important point, “Your dog should never cringe when it sees the collar. It should be excited to put one on, because it associates the collar with getting outside and having fun.”