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Introduction + Question about my new BC


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Hello Everybody!

 

So, I am the lucky guardian of an 8 year old border collie rescue from Glen Highland farms.

 

He doesn't look like most Border Collies because he is red/white and short haired and also stocky, but he has ABCA papers saying otherwise. I really don't care too much about the papers, but have always loved this breed.

 

Anyways, I live in a suburbia, but have access to local public golf course where lots of dogs convene at night off leash. My problem is recall, and most of the dogs (including a few BC's) use a device called Dogtra.

 

Just curious if anybody has any thoughts about this.

 

Luke (Skywalker) was neglected but was never abused, so he is gentle, and I'm slowly making sure he is going to live a great life. The current issue is his recall is not so amazing, especially when herding/playing. And I'm not so worried about him running away with all the dogs/people as much as I am about him following dogs that want to go home and greeting dogs on leash that happen by (sometimes those owners or dogs are weird).

 

All the other dogs are able to pull back in those situations.

 

I'm constantly training him on recall in the yard and at home otherwise.

 

Any help appreciated!

 

Cheers,

-Willie

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Dear Mr. Willie.

 

Many, perhaps most on these boards will tell you to shun shock collars like DogTra. I think shock collars do have uses but they are so powerful and the consequences of mistaken use so serious that I'd only use one when (a) conventional methods had failed and ( B) it is a matter of life or death.

 

If you aren't experienced with its use, a shock collar can do very real harm to a dog.

 

I'd try conventional recall methods. Many here train with treats and will be more helpful than I can be if that's how you want to go.

 

What I'd try is the light nylon line attached to the collar. Something like parachute cord - the dog won't really feel. Then I'd go into the yard and let Luke get focused on doggy things before calling him. Do use the same recall words every time. Speak mildly, informatively. If he ignores you, repeat more firmly and tug the cord (a reminder/focus breaker, not a jerk or drag). If he comes to your feet, praise and pet. Make it fun to come to you. Repeat three or four times in five/ten minutes.

 

If the tug gets no response. Walk toward him, squat and repeat:Command, then tug. If he still doesn't respond, come closer. You want him to give to your request and if at first that's only a few feet, that's okay. Distance will come.

 

Set him up to succeed, again and again. If it's very likely he'll fail, shorten the distance or don't ask him to come at first. Do NOT teach him that you call and HE gets to decide if he wants to come or not.

 

When he comes every time, repeat with distractions. Have a friend bring a friendly dog to your home and do this exercise. Add distractions. In circumstances that reward his failure to recall keep him on a leash. Don't set him up to fail.

 

You want to build an unvarying, bulletproof pattern: you call/Luke comes. It will be his most important command and may save his life one day.

 

A shock collar can be useful but - particularly for an inexperienced trainer - its safer to train with simple traditional methods. Carol Benjamin's book "Mother Knows Best" is a great book for beginners.

 

Donald McCaig

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Regarding the "weird" dogs and owners that don't appreciate strange dogs running up to them, you may want to take a look at an article called "He just wants to say hi" by Susan Clothier. You can find it on the web.

 

In my opinion, shock collars have become crutches for people who are too lazy or too unskilled to train their dogs. Building a relationship takes time and you need to ask yourself if you want a relationship with your new dog based on compulsion or mutual respect. While many do train recalls with cookies, it is not about bribing or rewarding with a cookie but about you "BECOMING THE COOKIE" (to quote Susan Garrett). In the long run, you would be much better served using the money spent on the "Dogtra" to take Susan Garrett's online Recallers course, which is starting now. This is fundamentally a relationship building activity (and until the relationship is built, you need to manage with long-lines).

 

Finally, are dogs even allowed on this golf course? If not, part of responsible dog ownership is following the rules/laws. And if you are not following the rules/laws and Fido should cause damage or an injury, the consequences may be very severe.

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I am against shock collars unless it is life or death and even then only with the help of a training expert. My dogs have really reliable recall and I trained with a combination of treats and a long line. The big thing is you need to find your dog's jackpot treat (which is the treat they are willing to do anything for whether that is liver, hot dogs, even commercial dog treats, or anything in between; some people have had success with a tug toy for recall as well)

 

Only use that treat for recall right now. You want your recall word to make their mouth water and take immediate priority in their minds to go get that treat. If using a toy make it the most exciting toy in the world, so nothing is more fun then your toy. Also keep in mind there is no such thing as a 'bad come' even if you have to go get the dog, once they acknowledge you it is a success. Never call your dog if you know they won't come in that situation just go get them or it will damage their training. Dogs can learn to tune out words that are used frequently so if you just yell 'come' over and over and over hoping they will come the dog may decide 'come' is a command that can be ignored or just followed when they feel like it. Which is why I also use a long lead at first, you only say come once then follow through and go get your dog and drag them back to where you want them and reward the fact that they got there even if it wasn't voluntary!

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Dear Ms. Cass,

 

I respectfully disagree about dragging the dog which, I believe, changes the lesson you're trying to teach: "Come to me because it's the best place in the world!" into an anti lesson "She calls me but I'm busy sniffing. I'm Dragged./can't remember my name/what's going on/ ouch/why is she making me helpless/what did I do?"

 

Yes, use a line. Yes, tug it to break the dog's focus so it can pay attention to you. But if one tug doesn't get Willie's attention, walk up the line and try again. Tug and walk up again if necessary. On occasion with puppies I've counted it a victory if the pup came twelve inches.

 

When your dog's focus changes from sniffing/other dogs/food scraps/clam shells/whatever to you EVERY TIME on the command "Come" or "here" or "That'll do!" you're well on your way to a bulletproof recall.

 

Donald McCaig

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You say that Luke is newly adopted. Before you even consider such Draconian measures for training a recall, I'd suggest you first allow this dog time to bond with you and for you to work with other more conventional methods of teaching a reliable recall.

 

Start at home at short distances with few distractions. Reward heavily -- make it a real party! -- any time he complies, and if he doesn't go to him and gently bring him back. No scolding, which can teach him that he has good reasons not to come to you.

 

Have him wear a long line or leash for a while to make it easier for you to catch him.

 

Training a reliable recall takes some time and commitment. Your dog deserves that from you. Here are some articles that may help:

 

http://suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/go-say-hi-1-2-3-dog-dog-introductions?mc_cid=ce3ae871fa&mc_eid=f46a3b8d2b

 

http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/5-steps-speedy-recall-even-distance/78044

 

Here are a couple things on shock collars you might want to read:

 

http://k9behavioralgenetics.net/resources/Articles/Why%20electric%20shock%20is%20not%20behavior%20modification.pdf

 

http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2013/06/the-end-for-shock-collars.html

 

http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-behavior-and-training/the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collars.html

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You are right about dragging. That was a poor choice of words what I was trying to get across was putting pressure on the line (not a tug but just stand on the line or hold it tightly so they can't get farther away) to make walking away uncomfortable and force them to come towards you on their own while shortening the line as they get closer, so they cannot run farther away.

 

I hope that makes more sense I wasn't meaning to physically pull them against their will.

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E-collars can be very useful and if you're very careful and remain consciously aware of what the dog is feeling, they can be used effectively.

 

We've worked really hard to make sure that Cal likes her collar and her training has been going really well. She runs to us to get the collar on, we did an extensive amount of research to ensure that the collar won't hurt her in any way, and even though the trainer told us that the collar can't possibly burn or injure her, we check her every night with a neck rub to be on the safe side (and she enjoys her rubs). We always pay attention to her body language when the collar is used because ultimately I don't want a well-trained dog that's unhappy.

 

It's worked incredibly well on her recall because she just gets to distracted by other exciting things happening. I know the collars are generally unpopular on this board and I'm not looking to start a debate, but it has worked out really well for us after we decided that it was the best option for what our family needed.

 

I'll also note that I really don't think the collar is for you if you want a quick or easy solution. We spend a LOT of time on training now and it's mostly centered on building Cal's confidence and teaching her to focus in situations that are really exciting or overwhelming.

 

ETA: Seriously try the collar on (not just in your hand, but experience it on sensitive skin, like where the dog would wear it, right under his/her ears at the base of the throat) before you agree to use it because then you'll know how it really feels.

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I think overall you've gotten an excellent aggregate response here.

 

We had a bone-headed Labrador who I trained for SAR work. After quite a long time working with him, one of the team mentors suggested trying a shock collar. The first time I used it, before meeting up with her to train on and with it, I misused it. A shock collar can be a useful tool IF GENUINELY NECESSARY; but it requires trained, considered use and careful unbroken attention on the handler's part.

 

As already pointed out, there are several ways to teach your dog. A shock collar should be near the bottom of the list; if at all. As already noted, it can become a crutch that is resorted to far too quickly and easily. If you are seeing *many* of them; I can almost assure you that is done as an easy way out of properly bonding with and teaching the dogs. Statistically, it just isn't likely that all those dogs really need an electronic shock collar. (You're sure they're all Dogtra shock collars, and not some brand of tracking/GPS collar or something else?) It also isn't very likely that all those owners know how to use a shock collar appropriately.

 

If these were hunting dogs, I would more likely expect to see many shock collars. Shock collars are (or were, when I was younger) more regularly used in hunting circles. I don't know why. But I don't see very much use for them among suburban pet dogs.

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I use a shock collar for one very specific thing - snake aversion training - and I do it with the help of a professional trainer. We have venemous snakes here, have actually had them come into our house, and live in the woods. I want the sight of them to scare the daylights out of the dogs and make them run the other way. As someone else said; life and death. I might use it for a dog who needs to be off leash but is really difficult to train because it finds the environment more rewarding than the handler (ie: hunting hounds) but I would not expect you to need to resort to that with a border collie.

 

I would absolutely not, under any circumstances, do this with a new dog. You need to build a working relationship, communication and trust, just like you would if he were a puppy. The shock collar is not going to help with that, at all. If you DO use a shock collar it needs to be AFTER that relationship and trust are in place.


Ironically, building those things is ALSO an important part of teaching recall. (And letting your dog tear around and play with other dogs off leash before you've built them is not going to help the recall or the relationship)

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I agree that reading up a lot before even considering a shock collar is a great idea!

 

I was one of those "weird" dog walkers with my "weird" old boy, who was fear-reactive and didn't like being approached by strange dogs. My dog had a very solid recall, and was 100% reliable to stay calm as long as I could keep a little distance between him and strangers. But when other owners let their dogs charge at my dog, they put me in the middle of a dog fight, attached to it by a leash. It's my job to monitor MY dog - no one else's. So, you are absolutely correct to not want your dog approaching those people whose dogs are on a leash.

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I will weigh in here with complete agreement that a shock collar should *only* be used when all else has failed and it is matter of life and death. It certainly has no place in training a new rescue dog.

 

I trained my dogs to stay within the boundaries of my property, not all of which is fenced, and to come when I call them no matter what. (Just to be clear, they are never in the unfenced part unless I am out there with them). My method of training a recall is with a whistle because the whistle can be heard for a longer distance, especially if were were to be out hiking.

 

What I do is associate the whistle (a plastic whistle with a loud high pitched sound) with an extremely yummy treat that the dogs want. When they hear the whistle, to them it doesn't mean "Oh, I have to go to my person", but rather, "Goody! My person is handing out something delicious and the faster I get there the sooner I get it!" I trained them in the fenced yard first, just blowing the whistle and then handing out treats. As soon as they got their treat, they were allowed to go right back to what they were doing every time, so it was a win-win for them; no down side at all. That way, on the rare occasion that I call them with the whistle and do not have food, or it means the end of their freedom for the day, it will not make them not want to come the next time, because 99% of the time it simply means a goody and a release to go back to sniffing, digging, or whatever they were doing. I love this method because it is so simple, so effective.

 

You do need to keep reinforcing it. I would whistle them up several times in a half hour period at first, but now I only reinforce it a couple times a week.

 

Good luck and welcome to the BC Boards.

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Thanks everybody. Going to stay away from it I think and work on trust and building the relationship in the short term.

 

But I wasn't clear in my original post. The e-collar I mentioned has two modes. A shock and a vibration only mode called 'paging' which is not a shock, but similar to a cell phone vibration. That's what I wanted to use, and that's the mode some of the folks in this neighborhood use for successful recall. So they are using the vibration when the dog is at a distance as a reminder to come back and do positive reinforcement training to support that recall with vibration.

 

Is the issue based on the shock or even remote vibration?

 

Thanks,

Willie

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Vibration can be okay, if you pair it with treats and build the relationship between the two (like loading a clicker). I use a vibration collar for my deaf dog. I don't see much use for it in a hearing dog. Pair a whistle with a treat and you've got the same thing for roughly 1/20th of the cost - a dog with normal hearing isn't going to have issue hearing you call or whistle or whatever, unless they are going REALLY far afield and the vibration itself won't teach the dog to come in.

 

It's the same training background (and the vibration collars that JUST vibrate are a lot cheaper than the ones that also shock and take away the risk of accidents, if you really want to do that). Mostly though, since it's the same training method, I dunno. Use your voice, a long line, and a package of hotdogs and you're out maybe 25.00. So... I don't get the point.

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Great points. Just realized today that vibration only devices are way way cheaper - didn't know they existed as the one recommended to me was Dogtra - I think because it can work up to half a mile away versus some of the other brands. But still going to be cautious for now and do the training instead.

 

Also, yes, same method can be applied with a whistle so it does seem like overkill.

 

However, and I don't know this, but my thinking was that a remote vibration might provide a 'stronger' cue to successfully recall because it's local & physical - but that's why I was asking.

 

Thanks,

-Willie

 

 

Vibration can be okay, if you pair it with treats and build the relationship between the two (like loading a clicker). I use a vibration collar for my deaf dog. I don't see much use for it in a hearing dog. Pair a whistle with a treat and you've got the same thing for roughly 1/20th of the cost - a dog with normal hearing isn't going to have issue hearing you call or whistle or whatever, unless they are going REALLY far afield and the vibration itself won't teach the dog to come in.

 

It's the same training background (and the vibration collars that JUST vibrate are a lot cheaper than the ones that also shock and take away the risk of accidents, if you really want to do that). Mostly though, since it's the same training method, I dunno. Use your voice, a long line, and a package of hotdogs and you're out maybe 25.00. So... I don't get the point.

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If it's 'stronger' than the promise of food, it is stronger because the dog has some sort of negative expectation or association. The dog knows you've got the remote - don't doubt that for a second - and knows when you're not there. If the dog goes 'hey, he can MAKE me come!' and that makes them come when 'hey! he has food and praise or a toy and I want to come to him for fun', then something's gone awry somewhere. I suppose it's possible that it could break the dog if it's focused elsewhere and 'not hearing' the way a tap to the shoulder would, but honestly.... so will "HEY!"

 

Like I said, I use one on my deaf dog and all 5 of mine are regularly off leash. I could be missing something somewhere, I just don't really see any benefit to putting them on a dog that can hear and won't be further away than they CAN hear. It certainly doesn't train the recall, just changes the cue of how you recall them to being a vibration via collar instead of a command word or a whistle.

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As already noted, whistles and other items are quite inexpensive. I happen to use whistles from a hunting supply place. The whistle I usually use cost, I think, about $4 or so. It does't need recharging or batteries. It hangs around my neck or in a pocket. It works in all weather conditions. Dogs can definitely hear it for 1/2 mile or more, depending on winds. There hunting whistles with a megaphone sort of thing attached that can be heard very far. I have one, but found I don't need it.

 

Just get to know your dog, get him used to your voice and a cheap whistle, and give it some time. You can always fork over your hard-earned cash later, if you still want to do so.

 

Use the same voice command every time. Use the same whistle every time. I bet it will work with a little intelligent persistence.

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He looks like plenty of border collies, just not the "traditional" type. :) Congratulations on giving Luke a happy and healthy new home. He's a super handsome boy!

EDIT to add: sheesh, I see everyone in the world replied while I was typing this up! :P

Anyhow, you've gotten some great advice here, so I'll just throw in my two cents.

One, if you have come into a local "culture" of dogs where an e-collar is commonly used - don't get pulled into that. Don't use a thing just because everyone else is crutching on it. It's not a question of how much pain an e-collar does or does not cause.

It's the fact that an e-collar can, in inexperienced hands, trigger any number of problems. If your timing is off by even half a second, instead of reinforcing a command, you could teach him to be skittish of people in blue hats, or of trash bins, or of the sound of a pigeon flying up, all because you missed your timing and he was looking at that thing when you hit the control button. I've also seen dogs who twitched and flinched at verbal commands because they'd been trained with a shock collar and had learned to associate their commands with being zapped or buzzed. Like Capt Jack said, I don't see the point when other means are viable.

You've got some good alternatives here, so I'd say pursue those, work with him, carry treats at all times, have him drag a long line - whistle is a great idea! - but avoid the darned collar.

Also, a word of caution: dogs and people who pass by on leash and don't want to be accosted are not "weird." They prefer to keep their space, for whatever reason, and your job is to respect that. Dogs on leash are dogs on the defensive and people warning you and your dog away may be trying to avert a dog fight.

Plus, herding is not playing and playing is not herding. Be careful that your dog's play behaviors don't aggravate other dogs. Border collies don't always play quite like other dogs, and dogs of other, non-herding breeds can be confused by and even upset by the border collie habit of circling, blocking and staring at other dogs. Don't let him be a rude dog. :)

Lastly, I do hope that golf course is okay with the late night dog conventions ....

I hope you'll look into the books and other avenues mentioned here. Best of luck!

~ Gloria

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Thanks again for the good advice.

 

Yes, one of the goals to solve by using the e-collar was to help him become less rude to other dogs and to not approach them via a powerful recall.

 

I misused the word 'weird'. I just to be one of those folks so was just being self-deprecating, but that did not come across well. My previous BC mix was very aggressive on leash - and I always felt like the weird dog owner for avoiding all the other dogs - but I had little choice despite lots of training attempts/schooling to fix the issue. I was the dog walker that would cross streets or turn around to avoid any interaction with other dogs - or only walk the dog during certain hours when others were less likely to be out. Always scanning the horizons and looking back to see what's coming and from where. I'm sure that anxiety made the situation even worse - but was just told over and over by many trainers that he wasn't going to change. I was certainly treated like I was weird by other off leash dog owners when they did approach despite me trying to escape - so I can completely understand their POV and really want to avoid Luke doing the same to others.

 

Based on some advice from Glen Highland and this forum, I'm definitely going to stay away from the e-collar and focus on the basic recall training - and just give it some time. I'll cut back on the off leash time until he has a stronger recall.

 

Thanks everybody!

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All good advice given so far.

 

One other thing: If whatever 'command' you've been using has been "poisoned" (i.e., he doesn't like it, he doesn't respond to it, it has no value), you might consider changing the word. Start from scratch!

Suggestions:

Come!

Here!

C'mere!

Treat!

Best boy!

Home!

Side!

 

You get the idea....

diane

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I would suggest you forego the off leash runs until you spend more time bonding with Luke. One of the best ways to do that, which may just become the best part of your day, would be to take long walks with him, the longer the better. I'd use a leash for now and take him, if you can, where there's not too much other activity. Gradually add in some basic training. Just a simple sit and stay will teach him to focus and listen to words. Then back up, wait one chimpanzee and call him to come in your sweetest voice. Little by little, increase the distance for his recall. Don't rush to have him in a large group of dogs until you become the most important thing in his life. Taking baby steps and working slowly will, in the end, be the fastest way to bond with and train your lovely dog. All the best for this wonderful adventure!

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Great advice from Carol Lea Benjamin! I will add, carry great treats (little pieces-and take the caloric equal from his meals) and whenever throughout the day, give him one whenever he is near your side. Intersperse the treats with just praise/petting or throw the ball a short distance, tug for a few seconds etc and being close to you will be fun and enjoyable.

 

And good idea to skip the shock collar. I have 'repaired' many dogs whose owners thought shock collars (or CM kicks FTM) were the 'right' way to train dogs.

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Just wanted to note, if it hasn't already been said, that some dogs are terrified of vibration! Cal absolutely freaks out at anything that vibrates...Cell phone, my activity band (vibrates with silent alarms and every hour to remind me to walk), her collar (also has a vibe setting), etc.

 

She angry-ate the back massager on my nightstand because she saw it buzz once and hated it every since. I've never seen her destroy something so deliberately as she did that thing.

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