Shock Collar For Your Dog: Training The Recall

Today, here, now, in this Shock Collar For Your Dog series, we will look at an example of how to train a behavior with the shock collar. There has been a lot of preliminary information to get to this point. If you have not digested the prerequisites, I strongly encourage you to do so before you dive in to actual training. Here are all the prior posts relating to the shock collar.

Today's training example will be the recall. Some may disagree, but I find training the recall one of the easiest things to train with a shock collar. One reason recall is well suited to the shock collar is because of the distance involved. I have said in earlier posts that if one is within reach of the dog, there is not a lot of reason to apply the pressure of the shock collar. In the situation where the dog is off leash, he is often outside of your influence.

It is important to me to continue to remind everyone that you do not need a shock collar to train a recall. There are a lot of different ways to train a recall, using a shock collar is just one of many.

If you choose to use the shock collar to train recall, here is one way of doing it:

1) Teach recall to the dog.
2) Reinforce recall with the check cord
3) Overlay the shock collar
4) Phase out the check cord
5) Phase out the stimulus

Teach Recall

First and foremost, teach recall to the dog. Determine how you will get the dog to come. Will it be a whistle blast? Or the word "come"? Up to you... you are teaching the meaning of the signal (also known as a cue).

This stage is easy with treats. Call the dog with your cue and give him a treat. Start close. Do 10 reps at a time. Do this in the house. One thing I like to do is play a game called puppy pong. Two people in the back yard, each with treats. Call the dog back and forth, each person giving a treat when the dog comes.

As the dog get better at this, start varying when you give a treat. Don't give a treat for every response. Make it unpredictable both in distance of recall and when treats are given.

Vary the location as well. When you go out and take your dog for a leashed walk, call the dog in and give a treat periodically. Teach him to understand the cue in a variety of locations.

Reinforce With A Check Cord

Once the dog has a good understanding of the command, start reinforcing with the check cord.

A check cord is nothing more than a long leash. You can buy these or you can make your own with a clip and a piece of rope. Take the dog out to an area where he has demonstrated understanding of the command. Maybe the back yard. Start tugging on the check cord. Give little tugs...don't try to pull the dog in or change his direction. Think of a little kid pulling on his mother's pant leg trying to get her attention. Tug, tug tug...As you are giving the tugs, give the cue to come. When the dog comes in, stop tugging.

By doing this, you are teaching the dog to turn off the annoyance of being tugged on.

Vary the location for this step as well. Sometimes, the situation might be distracting. In those instances, stronger tugging might be in order. If the dog is really glued to a spot, though, don't keep increasing the tugging. Too sharp of tugging can be like a punch. Instead, if the dog is really glued to a spot and the slightly escalated tugs don't do it, then just reel him in. Pull the dog in (while giving the command) with a hand-over-hand on the cord.

  1. Tug...tug...tug...
  2. Command...tug..tug
  3. Stop tugging when the dog heads your way.

Overlay The Shock Collar

Now, once the dog understands that by coming to you, you will stop annoying him with the tugging, you can overlay the shock collar. This is done by tugging on the collar, as you have been doing AND simultaneously stimulating the shock collar at the low operational level you found for your dog. For several repetitions, you will tug and shock the dog. After several repetitions of this, try shocking the dog and not tugging.

The idea here is to apply the stimulation before or at the same time as the command. Much like with the tugging, the dog learns to turn it off by coming to you.

Slowly phase out the tugging. Maybe do 10 repetitions per session. First do 10 recalls with tugging and shocking simultaneously. Then do 8 tugs with 2 shocks only mixed in. Next time, 5 and 5.  Next, 3 tugs and 7 shocks. Then all shocks.

Phase Out The Check Cord

In reality, you did this in the above step. But Fido still needs to be eased into total freedom. The next phase of his training is to allow him some freedom without you hanging onto the leash. Here, I would have the dog dragging the check cord. Take him somewhere open without nearby traffic, in the event he gets drunk with the freedom. Give him some freedom beyond the typical 20 feet of the long check cord. Again, do 10 reps with him dragging the cord, and calling him with the electric tug. Turn off the stimulation when he turns towards you.

Don't let your dog get 3/4 of a mile away and then expect him to come back to you with the 'tug' of the shock collar. You need to ease into the greater distance. With every outing, you are letting the dog more freedom and longer periods of time between being called in.

Phase Out The Stimulation

This isn't a separate step. Rather, this is something you need to start incorporating into the training while the dog is on the check cord. What you are doing with this idea is to not shock the dog every time you want him to come in. While the dog is still on the check cord, start phasing out the shock. Give him the command to come in without shocking him. Start with 3 attempts out of the 10 repetitions. If he does well with 3, then let him try 5.  If ever the performance gets sloppy, go back a step. You try to call him in 5 times without a prior shock, but he ignores you on step 5, then go back to 3 non shock recalls.

Random Picture Of Puppies

"Jack Russell Puppies" by Steve-65 - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jack_Russell_Puppies.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Jack_Russell_Puppies.jpg

"Jack Russell Puppies" by Steve-65 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Conclusion

What are the important things we saw in this example?

  • We saw why recall is a good candidate for reinforcement with a shock collar.
  • We taught the behavior independent of the collar.
  • We used an aversive other than the shock collar to start with.
  • We overlayed the shock collar.
  • We phased out the aversives over time.

These things will be common to just about every behavior we reinforce with the shock collar.

So, let me know...is there some other shock collar training example you would like to see.  Send me an email or put your request in the comments.

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