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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Stimulating Steps with Rick Smith

by Tony Dolle

In the previous issue, you learned the importance of basic training for your hunting dog. Rick Smith, a professional dog trainer since 1957 and who comes from a long line of famous gun dog trainers, continues that point here with electronic collars.

"The whole idea behind using electronic collars to train gun dogs is to set the dogs up for success when you use the collars," he says. Smith says too many people set their dogs up to fail because they don’t use the collars properly or they don’t instill in the gs the basic training principles of working with electronic collars.

If you train the dogs properly, however, using electronic collars is a piece of cake. "It’s an extension of check cord," Smith says. The tricky part is gauging shock level, because the collars’ stimulation level isn’t necessarily painfully obvious to humans.

Smith, a member of Innotek’s pro staff, cautions dog owners not to expect instant results from their dogs when using electronic collars. "lf you take dogs out and put electronic collars on them without any preparation and you use the stimulation, the dogs won’t understand why they are being shocked," he explains. "You have to make the dogs understand what you want from them before the electronic collars will give you results."

Starter Stimulators

Smith uses a stakeout chain and "whoa" post to teach those basics. He starts young dogs on a stakeout chain, often training several dogs at a time. When the young dogs are collared to a stakeout chain, they fight it as hard as they can before surrendering to the chain, Smith explains. That teaches them to recognize the chain as a form of structured discipline: that they can’t have total freedom, must comply with their master’s wishes and must learn patience.

The pull of the chain on the dogs’ necks teaches these disciplines. "This pre-conditions the dogs to a point of contact on their necks, which is a form of stimulation," Smith explains. "This way, when you put electronic collars on dogs and stimulate them with the collars, the dogs are already accustomed or conditioned to a point of contact on their necks and know that point of contact means they must comply to whatever you want them to do. What you are doing is preparing the dogs for a transfer of that point of contact - from the regular collar to the e-collar."
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