How A Collar Freed A Dog

It’s been a full year since my brother adopted Doc. Doc and James have come so far in the past year. The anxious dog we first met is now a happy and loving pup. James loves Doc and Doc loves James.

Despite how far James and Doc have come in their relationship and training, there was still one major behavioral issue with Doc – off-leash recall. Doc doesn’t run away, but he does have wanderlust, so we were only ever able to take him off-leash when there was plenty of space.

The few times we took Doc to the beach, James and I had to lace up and chase Doc down. In the past year we tried every positive-reinforcement recall method, but Doc was entirely unresponsive. When he’s off-leash it’s like he’s in his own world.

With some trepidation, James bought an e-collar as a last resort. We tested the collar out on ourselves and decided the lowest setting was plenty enough vibration to get Doc’s attention.

The transformation was like magic. Doc must have been trained with an e-collar because James never even needed to use the lowest power setting. Just the “beep” in Doc’s ear would bring him back into a perfect heel. On a cold day last week, we decided to put the collar to its first real test at the beach.
Montrose Dog Beach, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chicago, blog

Once off-leash, Doc took a quick look at his surrounds. Then…

Montrose Dog Beach, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chicago, blog

He led the pack in a wild rumpus 

Montrose Dog Beach, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chicago, blog

Seeing Doc run free was such a joy

Montrose Dog Beach, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chicago, blog

Doc ran with unbridled joy. When Doc inevitably dashed toward the porous edge of the fence, my brother sent a beep to Doc’s ear

Montrose Dog Beach, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chicago, blog

The message was received loud and clear. Doc turned around and made a beeline for my brother

Montrose Dog Beach, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chicago, blog

Doc was a perfect angel! My brother is also working the positive reinforcement angle by giving Doc high-value treats each time he returns at the sound of the beep

Now instead of having to settle for smaller parks, Doc can join us any time for beach jaunts. He’s a free pup! And we’re free of worrying about Doc making a break for it

Montrose Dog Beach, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chicago, blog

Of course, being a free pup means you have Penny (sometimes literally) chewing your ear. But I think Doc is quite happy with the tradeoff

I enthusiastically endorse positive-reinforcement training, and I’m certainly no professional trainer/behaviorist. That said, despite our serious reservations, the e-collar has been an invaluable tool for Doc. The collar is the one thing that set him free.

Doc’s come so far in the past year, and I’m happy to report he’ll now be going even further than ever before as he tears up the sand with Eko and Penny.

33 Comments

Thank you for this post! So many people have a misconception about ecollars and think they are cruel, they are a tool when used properly and look now doc can go have fun and not have to be leashed and looking on from by your side. Good going!

We took in seven former hunting dogs early last year – all trained on e-collars. All but one (including the deaf one!) quickly learned recall using positive reinforcement, but I wonder now if we should not have put our aversion aside and tested the e-collar to help the last one over her hurdles sooner. Special situations demand special approaches…as Doc’s running free proves.

Like you, we were reluctant to even try the collar. But despite practicing all the usual positive reinforcement tricks, attempting to work up to larger spaces, nothing worked. Our options were to never bring Doc to the beach or try the ecollar. All parties are quite glad we tried the collar. Doc can now run free and be safe, the best of both worlds. The experience really helped me realize we need to adapt to our dogs as much as we ask them to adapt to us.

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