Beginning Electronic Collar Training

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Beginning Electronic Collar Training

From Tri-Tronics Retriever Training Book, By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs with Alice Woodyard
Reprinted by permission of Tri-Tronics Inc.

Train to develop your dog
At last, it's time to get started with the Tri-Tronics training collar.Your dog has been taught what each command means and already knows the responses that bring it success. Now you will use the Tri-Tronics collar to help the dog learn that there are no alternatives to correct responses.

As you start your dog's collar training, there are six basic principles to remember:

1. Train to Develop Willingness to Obey
To develop your dog's willingness to obey, use a strategy that relies primarily on avoidance training rather than punishment training. There are two steps in avoidance training.

The first step teaches the dog that it can turn off electrical stimulation of an electronic dog collar by responding correctly to a command. To do this, you apply low-level stimulation as you give a command the dog already knows. The command is the cue that tells the dog what to do; it discovers that by complying it stops the stimulation. This stage is called escape training; it is the first step to avoidance training.

As the dog becomes quicker at responding, the required duration of stimulation will become shorter and shorter. When the dog is responding quickly, you can begin giving commands without using electrical stimulation. This lets the dog discover that it can avoid electrical stimulation entirely by complying quickly. This stage is called avoidance training.

With avoidance training the dog becomes tuned in to your commands because it believes that its own quick response enables it to avoid the stimulation. With this mental attitude the dog will be very willing to obey, and is less likely to become distracted or test your authority. The dog learns a strategy which makes sense to it even when advanced training becomes difficult and distractions increase.

Every time that you don't have to correct the avoidance-trained dog, the dog is positively reinforced for its correct response. The result of this approach is that you have manipulated the dog into actually wanting to do things your way; the dog feels like a winner. It has its world figured out because it knows it can avoid discomfort by obeying quickly.

Start with the Three-Action Introduction to teach the dog how to turn off stimulation by moving toward you then by going away from you...and finally by becoming stationary.
The alternative training approach is based on punishment. The trainer relies on the strength of the punishment to subdue the dog, and in a subdued state the dog is easier to control. However, a dog that only complies because it has been subdued still perceives that its trained response is not what it really wanted to do. As a result, the punishment-trained dog's attitude about performing will be much less willing than the dog trained by avoidance training methods.

2. Always Teach the Command First
The dog must have a basic understanding of a command before you use the Tri-Tronics collar to reinforce compliance with that command. If the dog really doesn't know what to do, don't expect it to know any better just because you use the Tri-Tronics training collar.

Be fair to the dog; teach the commands before introducing the electronic collar. For pups, use the food reward method. Then use a leash to reinforce the basic commands in order to introduce the dog to the idea that it can "turn off" mild discomfort. This will give the dog a smooth transition to the electronic collar.
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