Training with the Remote Training Collar

The subject of using a Remote Training collar, sometimes called a "shock collar", is a very controversial one. It is appallingly easy to do terrible damage to the dog's mind through misuse of this tool. But for a really experienced trainer who has excellent timing and total emotional self-control and who breaks lessons down into tiny easily understood steps for the dog, this tool can be quite valuable and totally humane. This article is NOT written to encourage you to try to use this tool, but rather to give you a more realistic idea of how it can be used. I also describe some situations where electric fencing is the better teaching tool.
To those who think that this tool is evil and inevitably abusive, I say that ANY training tool or technique CAN be misused and CAN do damage. (Even the currently justifiably popular technique of positive reinforcement with food rewards can be misused and have the bad result of rewarding the wrong (undesirable behaviors) or making the dog into a "show me the money" (won't obey unless you bribe him) dog or can have the bad health result of badly unbalanced diet or just plain too many calories leading to obesity.) I am trying in this article to give you an understanding of how to use a remote trainer beneficially and to get you to understand that this is not any kind of short cut. It takes a lot of training skill and you, the handler, must have total emotional self-control. To let a training novice try to use this tool would be like giving a scalpel to a sophmore pre-med student and letting him do brain surgery.

UPDATE NOTE 2019. Notice that I wrote this in 1995. At that time I had been training a lot of rescued Bouviers and I was emphasizing training each one for a reliable off leash recall and off leash walking in a group with my own dogs and other rescues. And at this era, I was also working my own dog in a variety of working trial events, including protection work and herding. So use of corrections (usually mild ones) was definitely part of this.
Currently it's been at least a decade since I had any use of a remote trainer. The technology may have become even more sophisticated since then. I'm no longer training for working trials and with the foster dogs I've emphasized loose leash walking and home behavior rather than off leash walking and off leash recalls. I use a lot more rewards and a lot less corrections and my corrections are mostly the social rebukes of harsh eye contact and harsh-voiced vocal "aach aachh" sounds.



by Pam Green © 1995

This should be read in conjunction with the excellent "Three Action Introduction" booklet from TriTronics, which is sold for $3.95 + $3.75 S&H (Tri-Tronics , PO Box 17660, Tucon, Az 85775-3127 or toll free (800) 456-9494 -- or get thru local TT dealer.) This booklet is essential reading for anyone who intends to use any form of remote trainer: absolutely read it before you attempt to begin to train !!!! TriTronics also sells a video covering these methods, produced since this article was written.
I will describe use of the remote training collar as an extension and follow-up to training by more conventional (and low tech) means in regards to the recall ("come"), the down, and the sendaway, plus problem solving for undesirable behaviors with fencing, doors/gates, livestock, & cats. This article was written in 1995 and there have been some technical advances in collars since then, but the basic methods of use remain essentially the same.

Note : this is about "remote trainers", ie collar on the dog responds to a transmitter held by the handler, the collar being able to deliver a shock and possibly also a warning sound and a "safety" (no shock) sound. It's not about "bark collars", which really should be called "anti-bark collars", which are activated by the dog's own vocalizations. It's also not about "pager collars" which deliver a vibration in response to signal from transmitter held by the handler. (Vibration can be used to alert a deaf dog or hearing-able dog working under conditions where silence is mandatory : the dog then looks to the handler for a visual signal.)


Before I begin to use the remote trainer for the recall or the halt (stand or down or sit) or the sendaway, or any other excercise, I first teach that excercise pretty thoroughly using leash and/or long line (20 to 50 foot leash). This pre-teaching is absolutely essential : the dog must learn the command with ordinary leash corrections, thus learning the meaning of the command and also learning how to turn off or prevent the unpleasantness of the correction by obeying the command promptly --- and learning that obedience also brings the pleasant result of praise and petting .

It is absolutely essential that the remote trainer supply "continuous" stimulation, ie stimulation that continues while you continue to hold the button down (up to a built-in maximum of about 10 seconds -- this is an essential safety feature) rather than "mommentary" stimulation (a pre-set very brief stimulation, regardless of length of time you hold the button down). It is essential to be able to continue stimulating until the dog has obeyed or at least has committed himself into the start of the behavior sequence which you have commanded. THE TRUE POWER OF A REMOTE TRAINER IS THE ABILITY TO GIVE THE DOG RELIEF AT THE VERY MOMMENT HE DOES SOMETHING GOOD. It's like the old joke about hitting yourself on the head with a hammer "because it feels so good when you stop" : the action of the dog that stops the discomfort of the stimulation is the action that he will be motivated to repeat. Yes, it is highly important that your timing of the start of stimulation be accurate, but it is even more important that your timing of the stopping of stimulation be perfect, utterly perfect. In the teaching phases it is essential that the action we command can be performed immediately and that the dog succeed in obeying within only a few seconds, so that he gets his relief/reward easily and before he feels too stressed or becomes frightened. That is why I first pre-train the command well with conventional leash/collar guidence/correction and it is why I continue to use the leash during all the earlier phases of work with the remote collar : the leash is used in same old familiar way to ensure the correct response is made without undue delay. "Momentary" stimulation , like a single leash jerk, has the fault that it is over immediately, usually far before the dog has had chance to begin to obey. Momentary stimulation is useful only for a dog already very well trained, who just occasionally needs a slight "tap on the shoulder" when he hesitates slightly in obeying. It is useful only in the polishing stages of training.

It is important to realize a crucial difference between a correction from conventional collar and leash and one from the remote. A correctly given leash correction in addition to being uncomfortable, also gives the dog a great deal of information as to what he is supposed to be doing. But the correctly given remote correction is totally lacking in this information; it just gives discomfort. Eg for "come", with a leash correction, there is a pull or jerk in the direction of the handler which guides or propells the dog towards the handler --- ie thus guiding/propelling the dog into the very action that you have asked him to do. Eg for "down", the leash is pulled or jerked downwards while (in earliest lessons) your hands slide his legs forewards or push his shoulders downwards --- again the leash gives some direction into the desired response. For "sit" the leash tugs or jerks upward, while (initially) your hand pushes or gooses the rump downwards -- again into the correct response. But for all of these, the stimulation from the remote collar simply gives discomfort in the same place on his neck : there is no difference between come, down , sit, or whatever -- thus no information about what the dog ought to be doing. Now some trainers do initially place the collar into different positions (delivering stimulation to the top of the loin for "sit" , to the back of the neck for "down", and to the tummy for "stand") during the introductory phases of using the remote. This is probably a good idea, as it may help the dog to distinguish the commands and responses. It may also be a bad idea in that moving the remote collar back and forth tends to focus the dog on the collar as the source of the discomfort, ie becomming "collar wise" (= thinks he only will be corrected when the collar is on, ie only obeys when it is on) --- and we really want the remote collar to become totally ignored and taken for granted (just like his ID tag collar) as irrelevant to obeying/disobeying. In any case sooner or later the collar has to come to rest in the ordinary neck position, where it remains for all commands.

The preferred type of remote trainer to use is one which allows you some degree of choice at your fingertips, ie from the transmitter, of the degree of stimulation. The TriTronics 100 series allows choice of 3 different degrees ; the Dog Radartron 500 DT and 77DT allow choice of 6 degrees. When you have a multi-level transmitter, then if the dog should begin to obey but then fail to complete the behavior, you can give a somewhat stronger correction. Or if the dog ignores both the initial command and , being excited or distracted also ignores or "pushes through" the correction, you can give a stronger correction immediately. Or if you can see that the dog is more than ordinarily excited/distracted you can give the first command in a somewhat more emphatic tone of voice (as you are likely to do naturally) and accompany it with a more emphatic correction --- which also tends to cause the dog to associate that sharper tone with more reason to obey. It is also highly important that the remote system provide a substantial total range of different levels of correction, ranging from the extremely mild (too mild for most dogs to percieve at all) to the definately painful. This is usually achieved by a set of "intensity plugs" that go into the collar or by interchanging one of the contact points on the collar. In some systems all the choice of intensity occurs from the transmitter, without fiddling with the collar --- even more convenient and flexible. (Update : since this was written collars are available with wide rqnge of intensity available from the transmitter end; intensity plugs in the collar are obsolete.)

It is crucial that for training use, you select for most of your lessons the very MILDEST level of intensity that the dog will find UNCOMFORTABLE enough to want to make it stop. This could be called the "normal training level" : enough to make the dog feel some relief when it stops, but definately NOT enough to be considered painful or to cause the dog to stop thinking or to panic. For a person this would be equivalent to "pebble in your shoe" discomfort : you aren't in pain or in panic, but you are motivated to take your shoe off and shake it out. For the dog this could be called the "super flea" level. You will also use the next higher level for times when your dog is a bit excited or distracted, and thus would be oblivious to the normal level. I suppose we could call this "super flea on steroids". It is still not a level that would be considered painful by the dog or one that would provoke feelings of fear.

The really painful levels of stimulation are NOT used for any normal training or teaching. These painful levels are useful ONLY when dealing with dog behavior that poses a serious threat to the SAFETY or the LIFE of the dog or of people, ie behavior that absolutely must be stopped cold. For such dangerous behaviors , we use Nature's own way of teaching that something is highly dangerous and must be avoided : serious pain and the feeling of fear that it provokes. This is how children learn not to touch a hot stove or open fire, and it's how dogs learn to leave porcupines completely alone. I call this "making a danger / avoidance imprint." (When referring to breaching the dog from chasing critters you don't want him to chase, most trainers call this "trash-breaking.") I will do it for things like fence-climbing or digging under or pushing through to escape the fence (too many deadly dangers outside the yard, including cars), for trash-can raiding (too many dangerous things in the trash), car chasing, horse chasing, etc., because such behaviors do put the dog's life at risk. I would rather hurt and scare a dog for a second or two on several occassions than to allow the dog to continue behavior that is likely to get it dreadfully injured or killed. I have no problem with this ethically and morally, and I find that even people who are higly unwilling to "hurt" their dog will accept the logic of a few seconds of hurt being much much kinder that the permanence of death.

It is absolutely essential that you make every effort to avoid letting the dog become "collar wise", ie associate presence or absense of the collar with your ability or inability to correct him at a distance. For this reason it is essential that you have the dog wear an indistinguishable "dummy collar" for several hours a day, preferably for most of the day. The very best, most indistinuishable, "dummy" is the actual working remote collar, with the activation plug removed (ie turned off) to conserve the battery when you are not training. TriTronics no longer includes a separate phony dummy in its kit for this reason.

Now the only problem with leaving the real collar on is the slight possibility that it would become unbuckled and lost. I have had an instance where two dogs were playing and one managed to pull free the collar strap off the other's remote collar --- and this happened in a large field and , yes, I never found the collar. Well it was an old model and I replaced it with something much better. To avoid this , you have only to attach a "safety string", ie a string and snap that go from one side of the collar strap, accross the buckle, to snap onto the loop on the other side --- like the little safety chain on a very expensive gold bracelet. (Note that this safety string will not prevent a human being stealing the collar off the dog's neck -- either because the person does not realize that the collar is useless withiout the transmitter or because the person believes that remote trainers are evil and abusive and thus wants to stop you from using yours --- so use sense to avoid this sort of exposure.) Alternatively the safety string could go from the remote collar's D ring to the D ring of the ordinary ID collar your dog wears all the time. I also recomend putting a safety string on the collar's antenna (if it has one) to anchor it to the collar strap (without bending the antenna) and one on the transmitter's antenna to anchor it to the body of the transmitter. I just can't tell you how many antenna replacements this has saved me over the years.

If you will do as I do and put the remote collars onto the dogs at the start of the day's activities, ie just before our morning walk, you will find that the dogs are absolutely EAGER to thrust their necks into the collars so they can go out and have fun. Then I remove the turn on plug when we get home from the walk but leave the collars on until bedtime.

Here is a photo of the collar and antenna with the "safety string" .

remote collar with safety string


I train the recall as if I KNEW that someday I would NEED IT TO SAVE MY DOG'S LIFE !

First I train the recall with leash and with long line. Once the dog is well trained in the recall using the long line, I can begin to phase in mild correction from the remote trainer and phase out the long line. For all the early lessons, the long line remains dragging on the ground or with the end in my hand as is needed. I use the long line as needed to ensure that the dog succeeds in obeying the command to come, thus succeeds in turning off the correction from the remote collar. Without a long line there would be a definite risk that the dog would simply sit down and scratch at his neck (many dogs respond to the very mild stimulation as if it were a "super-flea"), or would respond to stimulation by "locking up" (frozen imobility is natural response of some dogs) or -- if stimulation is too severe -- by panicking and running off untill he has run out of range of the transmitter and thus turns off the stimulation by running away, thus learning that "come" means "run for your life". I always give quite a few lessons with the level of correction so mild that I am not even sure that the dog percieves it at all, and then I go up a level to the level that the dog shows it does percieve as evidenced by a slightly funny facial expression or a slight tension in the dog's neck or some simila faint sign. Most observers would not even notice this reaction, because you really have to be payig attention. The dog is feeling something he would describe as "strange" and also "mildly uncomfortable" or "irritating" or "annoying". That level is just unpleasant enough that the dog feels more comfortable when it ceases, thus cessation is rewarding. The technical term for this is "training with negative reinforcement".

Let me repeat that the long line is used to ensure that the dog succeeds in making the right response and that he does so immediately and so obtains relief right away. That is the essence of any teaching with a remote collar. Only the right response is made possible and the right response brings immediate relief of the mild discomfort. The dog experiences minimal stress and should never expereince fear.

My training method for recall differs slightly from that in TriTronics' "Three Action Introduction" in that during the early teaching phase when I do very short recalls (4 to 10 feet --- or even less for a softer or less stable dog), I continue the very mild (lowest level dog reacts to) stimulation until the dog completes the recall , arriving at my feet (no sit needed), and I praise him in a happy voice as he arrives. I want the dog to learn that it is his arrival at my feet or side that turns off the mildly unpleasant stimulation, and he also associates my happy praise with the feelings of relief . (Three Action advises to end stimulation as soon as the dog turns towards you, but I want his arrival at my feet to be his goal.) Then on slightly longer (12 to 18 foot) recalls, I continue stimulation for only the first several feet of recall ; then if after stimulation ceases the dog slows down, stops, or diverts himself, I re-stimulate (using upper button or even double button on my TriTronics --- ie a stronger stimulation) and continue it until he arrives at my feet --- and use the long line to make sure he does arrive at my feet. Next step is 20 to 30 foot recalls, and initial stimulation then stops as soon as dog turns and takes first step or few steps towards me; again if he interrupts his response, the re-stimulation is at higher level ---- or if using a transmitter that lacks multi-level transmitter choice, for the next recall I would change the collar plug to next level up. Now for all of this the dog is on a long line, with the end of the line in my hand. Next I drop the line to drag on the ground and do recalls of varying lengths but within easy step-on-line distances, and now I begin to give a little "grace period" between the "come" command and the beginning of stimulation --- ie if the dog turns and heads towards me within a heartbeat or two , he prevents me from giving the correction. At this point for some dogs the correction intensity will need to go up one level for the next few lessons; for others it doesn't. This depends on the individual mentality of the dog. By this point in the training sequence, a lot of dogs will start choosing to hang in close to me and not wander off very far. They have decided this is the safest place to be, as the recall and the unpleasant conseqquences of failing to respond quickly enough never happen when the dog is already near me. (For a pet dog that is a pretty good mind set to keep forever; but for a working dog (eg herding) , it can't be allowed to interfere with the dog's freedom to work at far distance from the handler.) When I see this hanging in close behavior, I'm usually pleased. At this point, I reduce the number and frequency of recalls, at times letting the dog go a considrable distance away from me without a recall. I also make the "grace period" several heartbeats long. As the dog comes to realize that prompt obedience totally prevents discomfort and that he is allowed to leave me as long as he keeps his ears ready for any recall, the dog will begin to "free up" about leaving me. The dog comes to have the mind set that he can use and enjoy his nose, eyes, ears, and body, so long as he keeps his ears tuned to my voice. He can have a lot of fun so long as he is willing to break off and obey my "Come" , and once he has done so , he will usually be released to go back to whatever he was doing. Being released again becomes an additional reward for obeying "Come". Pretty soon the dog is coming in a very upbeat and happy frame of mind.

Once the dog is coming well and usually without needing any correction (enforcement) by collar stimulation, I begin seeking temptations and distractions, eg rabbits, squirrels. For many dogs, this will mean going up a collar plug level in stimulation intensity; for some dogs it may even mean going up 2 levels. On the first rabbit chase that offers itself with the higher level plug in place, I let the dog get a good half dozen strides into the chase, ie ean excitement level almost certain to cause him to ignore my command, and then give the command and a single heartbeat later give a double buttoned correction which is sustained until he is running towards me ---- and yiping. The first few rabbit chases are corrected very hard, so that the point is made. (Rabbits are more than just a distraction; they are as much a trashbreaking situation and a dangerous-to-the-dog's -life danger imprint situation as an obedience distraction. Many a dog has died when a running rabbit or cat has drawn the dog running into automobile traffic and under the wheels.) Once these first few rabbit recalls are accomplished, the plug level returns to the earlier milder level, the dog is recalled from varying distances (and asked to down from varying distances) and the drag line can be removed. By this point the dog usually responds promptly and fully so that 95% or more of recalls are made without needing a correction. If frequent corrections still seem to be needed, then it is most likely that the level of stimulation should be higher. Some individuals need this higher level to convince them and some, most, do not.

Most dogs will need to wear the remote collar for at least another 6 months after achieving this level of 95% response without needing correction has been achieved. Some will need twice that or more. During this time you may very rarely need to correct the dog. It is all the recalls that the dog chooses to obey promptly without any correction that make the dog truly reliable. The instant and unhesitating response to the recall command must be as unqustioning and habitual as a good driver's immediate response to a red light ---- without slightest regard for whether there is any other traffic on the road.

The recall , COME, is the one command which more than any other may someday be needed to SAVE YOUR DOG'S LIFE. The second most likely to save his life is the DOWN command. Both should be trained to the highest level of reliablity.


"DOWN" and other immobility commands

My DOWN work is similar to the Tritronics description. First I train the "Down" using a leash in the usual manner, ie with a downward tug, or with hand pressure on the back of the dog's neck or by sliding his front legs out from under him -- whatever will work best for that particular dog. For some the Down is introduced with a bait of toy or food. When he really understands the Down command and usually obeys it on leash, it is time to add the remote stimulation. I usually begin with dog on leash at my side and simultaneously step on leash and begin mild stimulation that continues untill dog is totally down, both elbows on ground. Then I drop the dog when he is further from my side. The TriTronics method of running the line through a ground-anchor (tie-out stake) of some kind is good if you have trouble getting the dog to drop in place without trying to come to you (which is likely if you did a lot of come work before you began the down work). The ground anchor is at the apex of a V of line, with you and the dog at the opposite ends, ie so the line tension is in a direction away from wherever you are standing. With my own dogs, ie for working dogs, I definately do proof the down training with remote corrections. For herding dogs, remote enforcement of the "whoa" or "stand" command (for a standing halt out of motion) can be highly valuable -- I consider it indispensable. With the dogs I rescue, unless the dog is somewhat difficult or unruly and thus needs a very firm and solid training, I don't usually continue the down training into the remote phase.

The Send Away or "Go Out" (going away from the handler)

I don't usually doSEND AWAY work with my rescued dogs with remote enforcement. I do teach them the commands "crate" , "car" ( or "load up") , and "house" for going to and entering these destinations. Since the dogs usually percieve these destinations as pleasant and rewarding (they are fed in the crate), corections are usually not needed. (Initially some dogs must be coerced into the crate by being shoved in bodily, but after a few times they go in willingly.) For my own working dogs, especially herding dogs, I have never needed to teach a compulsory sendaway after thoroughly teaching an inducive sendaway with a visible goal and food or retrieve object. (Ideally the dog should be taught an inducive sendaway while it is still a young puppy.) You could use the TriTronics sendaway method to the crate using a line, or you could use a goalpost and run the line through a pully or around a fence post so as to get the pull going towards where you want the dog to go. Most likely you will find use of a line plus praise for correct response will get a good result, without needing to later add remote enforcement.


For fence fighting (fighting between dogs on opposite sides of a fence --- common problem in kennel runs), I don't use the remote collar. I use a fence charger and hot wire. If it is chain link, just run several hot strands more or less horizontally about 6" to 9" apart with highest strand perhaps 3 feet high and attach the ground to a ground rod and / or to the chain link.The hot wire is held about 6" in front of the fence by stand out insulators. Alternatively use fiberglass rods to support the wire and run parallel pairs of hot wire and ground wire --- ie this creates a complete fence -- and this can be one to several feet in front of the regular fence. This won't stop dogs from running up and down along the fence, but they will stay a distance back of it and they sure as hell won't be grabbing at each other or at the fence. They should learn fast to respect this. If you use some of the bright yellow electric fence tape (about 1/2" wide) , rather than ordinary fence wire, the dogs will learn to respect this material and will retain respect for it even when it is not charged, so you can used uncharged bits to protect trees , bushes, etc. Electric fence is MUCH better than remote collars for fence fighting and other fence problems. Dogs are very quick to make the association of pain with touching the fence --- wereas the collar corrections can be also associated with the other dog (and if this dog thinks the other dog bit him, he can become more aggressive) or with your presence. I would strongly advise you NOT to use remote collar corrections for any kind of dog-to-dog aggression, as the risks of making it much worse are too high.

I likewise use hot wire for fence-climbers but the hot wire goes all the way up to top of fence , ie several parallel strands. Sometimes only the upper 3 feet of fence need to be wired. For fence crawl-unders and digger-unders, just one line about 6" above ground level will do the trick. I've written a whole separate article on fence-escapers and other forms of "escape artist" dogs.

I also use hot-wire to imprint against garbage can raiding, which is a "dangerous behavior imprint" situation . (Remember that garbage can raiding can result in food poisoning or ingestion of indigestible items. It can result in serious illness or death.) Put the metal cans up on top of old tire or plastic jugs or other insulator so that the cans don't ground themselves out. Hook hot line to metal cans. For plastic cans, wrap can in chicken wire and hook hot to it. If the cans are indoors, it will also be essential to create a ground by laying down chicken wire or wire window-screening, attached to the ground end of the charging unit. Indoors, it actually makes more sense to enclose the kitchen garbage behind cabinet doors. And put the more tempting or any dangerous items directily into the outdoor garbage can (with its hot wire booby trap) rather than into the kitchen can.


For dogs who like to bolt out an open door or gate, it is first essential use leash and long line to to teach a sit-stay or down-stay as being standard opperating proceedure at all doors and gates. Ie the dog is put on stay and may not go through the door/gate until commanded through at "heel" or by "come" or else given his general release from command work (eg "OK"). This is covered in detail in my article on "Escape Artist" dogs . Next the dog is simply left to roam the house freely on drag line while someone opens the door/gate, but is not given any command. If he tries to go through the open door/gate, he is corrected hard with the line. Now after this has been accomplished, it would be an excellent follow-up to use the remote collar for enforcement. Because this is a "dangerous behavior imprint" situation, as much or more than an obedience situation, you may well find it appropriate to use more than the normal training level of correction. According to your dog's temperament, use more painful correction. Don't take off the drag line untill you have made sure that the dog will respond by racing back into the house/yard, rather than panicing and bolting fearfully further from your home. (In fact you might want to set up a barrier surrounding the front door so that the dog canNOT bolt further away from the house.)

If your dog is not already a door bolter, but you are doing preventative work of teaching him that he needs your command or permission before going out of the house door, yard gate, or car door, then following up the normal on leash lessons with remote work using merely the normal training level of correction could be appropriate.

See my article on teaching a dog to wait at doors (and gates, car door, etc. For dogs who are not already in habit of bolting through doors these methods should work very well and don't require unusual equipment.


If you have already done your recall work well and your down work well, you should be able prevent or interrupt any form of chasing behavior by use of the "down" command or the "come" command. Because the dog may be highly excited and in the grip of the "prey drive" (which is a strong survival drive, which we have further strengthened in many breeds by selective breeding, eg for coursing hounds towards rabbits, for herding dogs towards sheep & cattle), you will probably have to use a stronger level of remote correction than usual. Don't be afraid to use fairly strong correction. This is a "danger imprint" situation as well as an obedience situation. Once your dog has been interrupted by a strongly enforced recall out of a dozen or so chases, you may well see him change his attitude about chasing. You may well see him start to inhibit the chase right from the start. If not, try the next higher level of correction.

Later on, you can simply switch to the highest level of correction and , without even giving a recall command, administer a strong correction any time the dog actually launches himself into a chase. Wait till he is several strides into the chase, then give him a whammy.


Expecting a dog to leave various backyard livestock unmolested is like expecting a really hungery man to ignore a juicy hot ham sandwich. Quite frankly some dogs can never be taught that these natural prey animals are "treyf" (forbidden food). To expect a courseing hound to ignore rabbits, a bird dog to ignore poultry, or a herding dog to ignore poultry , sheep, goats, cattle, horses, etc is just not realistic. But some of these dogs can be taught to inhibit their natural impulses, at least in your supervising presence.

In all cases, it is absolutely essential to put a really dog-stopping fence between the dog and the livestock. I would strongly recommend putting hot wire on the dog's side of the fence to maximize his respect for it --- and keep that charger plugged in whenever the dog is present. Your fence must be absolutely dog-proof. You must spy on your dog for a long long time to make sure that he will make no further attempts to get under, over , or through the fence, before you trust the safety of the stock to the fence and leave the dog unsupervised loose on the other side. If the stock belong to your neighbor, be aware that all states by law give the livestock owner the right to kill any dog that strays onto their property and poses even the slightest threat to the stock. Most livestock owners are very trigger-happy.

Additionally (unless this dog is of a herding breed and you fully intend him to be trained as a herding dog) I would advise you to do a lot of "LEAVE IT" training and a lot of standard obedience training in the presence of the stock. By "Leave it" training, I mean let the dog wander about in presence of the stock (but with either a fence between them or with a muzzle on the dog if the dog has physical potential to seriously injure the critters) dragging a long line. Any time the dog approaches the stock, you must in a deeply gutteral , growling/snarling tone tell him "Leave it!" or "get outta there!" or "knock it off!" (I especially like "get outta there" because it lends itself so well to a gutteral pronounciation) and give a good strong jerk on the long line. If the dog is approaching the stock fairly calmly and curiously, a fairly strong jerk will suffice. If he is bounding towards the stock or if his manner is excieted or aggressive , then give the very hardest jerk your body can produce --- ladies, run the opposite direction and throw your body into it. Now after you have done some good Leave It training with the long line, you can begin to transfer the correction to the remote collar. Use a high level of correction. Don't be too quick to take both line and muzzle off. Leave one or the other untill the dog seems very proofed against stock aggression


If the dog is intended to be a herding dog, don't do the Leave It work on any type of stock which you intend him to herd -- nor on anything too similar. (You may still want to do it on the bunnies, as they are not a herdable stock. Probably don't do it on the chickens if you might want to herd ducks : too similar.) Instead you must find a really competent stockdog trainer who also is good at teaching human beings to help you train your dog to herd properly.


Your own cats in your own home and yard

Issues involving cats are fairly similar to those involving bunnies, chickens, and other stock. If the cat runs, especially outdoors, the dog will be strongly inspired to chase and grab. From chase to grab, and from grab to crunch : bye bye kittie. It is going against Nature to ask a dog to live in peace with a cat. Don't let the fact that many dogs will do so blind you to the fact that it is unnatural and some dogs will never be cat-safe. If that new dog in your house is showing any kind of intense interest towards the cat, I'd be very careful and very pessimistic about the chances of this dog becoming relaxed and reliably benign towards the cat.

Now additionally there is the dog's prior experience to consider. A dog who has never before had contact with cats is a much different (better) proposition than a dog who has been accustomed to chasing and/or killing cats. The experienced cat killer will almost certainly NEVER become cat safe. A dog who has previously peacefully shared a house with a cat is of course the best prospect for accepting another cat peacefully, but still be careful for quite a while at the start of the relationship. Always be aware that a dog may be peaceful with a cat indoors when the cat is not running, and yet when encountering the very same cat outdoors and ready to run, the dog is likely to give chase vigorously.

The golden rule is "supervise or separate!" When you are not there and ready and able to correct the dog for cat aggression, then make sure there is a really secure barrier between them. I'd recommend a good solid-core door with a reliable latch or even a lock or bolt. If you want or need free airflow through that doorway, use one of the high-security screen-door substitutes, which are solid metal perorated by hundreds of small holes.

When you are present and able to focus attention on the dog and cat , do Leave It training (especially whenever the dog seems on verge of a more forceful approach) and (as the dog seems less bent on a chase) then do lots of down-stays in the presence of the cat. All of this is very similar to the advice above for bunnies, etc. Do this until the dog relaxes completely and accepts the cat. Again, I'd advise that the initial work be done with the dog muzzled. Don't be too quick to take the muzzle off


Until and unless the dog becomes completely relaxed and peaceful around your cats, you MUST continue to supervise or separate. If this cannot be achieved with simple on leash Leave It training, without use of the remote collar, quite frankly I would advise you to give up and accept that separation, living in "a house divided" , is the only way of life that can keep your cat safe. I would NOT rely on an inhibition instilled with the remote or a danger imprint instilled with the remote to sufficiently guarrantee your cat's safety.

I'd better add that I myself have not had much experience with cat related problems. And I really cannot advise you how best to convince the cat not to aggress against the dog. Though a timely squirt of water from a spray bottle is usually recommended as the best correction for a cat, that might not make much impression on a cat who is fighting in self-defense or who has gone on the attact "pre-emptively" to forestall anticipated aggression from the dog.

Other people's cats and feral cats outside your home

The situation here is the same as for any other prey species. Basically follow the same instructions as for livestock chasing and backyard livestock, including use of the remote if needed. Your goal is to inhibit chasing enough that you will be able to walk the dog on leash out in public without getting jerked off your feet if a cat should scoot out of the bushes under the dog's nose. With luck this might also inhibit the dog enough that he hesitates briefly before going after a stray cat entering your fenced yard; such a hesitation may allow the cat a chance to escape. Do remember that the real fault in such situations lies with the cat's owner's irresponsible choice to allow the cat to roam.

Update on methods & my own work (7/3/2010)

There are some much better collars available these days, with much more adjustability available at the transmitter. I really have not kept up with this technology, because I have not been doing remote training for quite a few years, at least 5 years and probably longer than that. I'm just not doing the kinds of training these days that require that level of control at great distance with the dog highly excited. The original batteries on my good Tritronics transmitter and collar quit working years ago, and I never got around to sending the set in for repairs. These days I am doing mostly basic household companion dog training, rather than herding. Having a really obedient "whoa" in herding was the one area where I felt the remote was really useful and then only on some dogs. It's totally irrelevant to Tracking and I can't see any use for it in Agility.

The main changes I'd make would be to include more positive rewards, ie an extrinsic reward coming direct from you, something in addition to the mild rewards of praise and petting. This is especially true when you are not engaged in an activity where as soon as the dog has obeyed your command you can allow him to do something he really really wants to do and greatly enjoys. (Eg in herding, the great reward is that the dog is allowed to fetch the sheep towards you or to move the sheep in some other direction.) The use of food rewards for Come, Down, and Send-away , especially when used on a pattern of rewarding the better responses (ones that did not need any correction) on a variable schedule (like a slot machine schedule but with more frequent pay-offs), will give the dog a lot of incentive to do the right thing and perhaps get a food reward rather than do the wrong thing and get corrected until he changes into the right thing. Also when you include food rewards, you have a warning of when the dog is getting stressed since a stressed dog will usually refuse to eat the offered reward. Of course you should very rarely need this warning, as unless you are very sensitive to even subtle signs of stress in your dog you are not qualified to use a remote trainer.

I repeat again what I have said throughout this article : only the most experienced, careful and methodically correct, totally emotionally calm and self controlled trainers have the qualifications needed to use a remote trainer safely or effectively. It is very easy to do tremendous damage to the dog if your timing is poor or you are the slightest bit impatient or angry. You need to teach everything in very small clear steps and to do so in a way that the dog succeeds the great majority of the time. This is NOT a quick fix for problems. It is not a faster way of training, but really a slower way of ultimately reaching a very reliable result under the most extreme distractions.

I don't use nearly as many tools of any kind these days as I used to. I use more body language, more social communication (ie in the dog's natural language), and more rewards than I used to. A lot of the rewards are those of giving the dog access to an activity he really enjoys (what Ian Dunbar calls "life rewards") but I also use food rewards a lot more than I used to, and especially for timid dogs. The long line is still a very useful tool and the head halter is still a very useful tool. But I am just not doing the kinds of work for which a remote trainer is either necessary or really useful.

And I must add that the remote is only useful at all for a dog who has an extremely sound temperament, very stable, very confident, and very trusting of the trainer. Those dogs are less common than my first Bouvs would have led me to believe. Doing a lot of Rescue has made me familiar with a wider range of temperaments. With a poorly socialized dog or a timid dog, attempting to use a remote is a real shortcut to absolute disaster. In the wrong hands, it's a disaster with any dog.


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 1995 revised 7/10/03, 7/03/10, 2019
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