The Remote Training Collar – An Important Tool in my Training Tool Box

Michigan Dog Trainer - Michael Burkey

Here’s the back story as to how the remote training collar became an important tool in my dog training tool box.  I started professionally training dogs in 1995 (16 years ago) with choke collars, pinch collars and praise as that is how I was trained to handle two police canines.  Although, I quickly began adding treats and toys to the equation so I would have “both sides of the coin”; positive reinforcement and corrections. Rather than expecting the dog to learn from just consequences, I wanted to teach the dog what to do by using a motivational source. After the dog learned what was expected, then it was fair to enforce non compliance with a correction.

Later, as part of my dog training business, MichiganDogTrainer.com; I endorsed primarily positive training and clicker training for my pet dog clients as it was a gentler approach.  Additionally, the pet dog world that I knew was focused on teaching positive training methods almost to the absence of any corrections.  Thus, I switched to the Easy Walk Harness instead of the choke and pinch collars.

However, pure positive reinforcement didn’t provide the results I sought especially with high energized dogs who had trouble focusing and self controlling their impulses.  Therefore, I started using a remote collar with my high drive Malinois, Police K9 Draco (retired): I needed to harness her drive, obtain off leash reliability and remain the “good guy” in her eyes that I was not able to get from just motivational methods or standard corrective collars.  Her performance dramatically improved not only in the field but also in home manners because of the remote collar training system.

I also started using the remote collar with “select clients” (whom I knew really needed the remote collar and would be open to it).  Some of these “select clients” were Feisty Fido clients (clients with dogs who were aggressive toward other dogs) who were not making progress with only positive reinforcement methods.  After the dog learned the foundations of remote training, the owners were able to interrupt their dog’s staring and obtain their dog’s attention without the dog generalizing that dogs and people were con-sequencing him.  Thus, now desensitization and counter conditioning techniques could be successful components of training whereas before we couldn’t get to that point with some of the more reactive feisty fidos.

Due to the “pure positive” culture of some celebrity trainers, I was led to believe that remote collars should not be broadly used by John Q. Public due to their lack of training experience or lack of timing (which can be taught and practiced). The pure positive reinforcement crowd also professed how cruel the remote collar was to the dog, consequently their continual reference to it as a “shock collar.”  Their arguments of such are based upon outdated and poorly done studies. However, I knew their version of a shock collar wasn’t my remote collar based upon my own experience.  A recent study, the Hannover 2008 study, “Comparison of Stress and Learning Effects of Three Different Training Methods:  Electronic Training Collar, Pinch Collar, and Quitting Signal” determined that the Electronic Training Collar and Pinch Collar had higher learning effects than the positively trained Quitting Signal and the Electronic Collar resulted in less stress behaviors than the dogs trained with pinch collars.

I knew the remote collar could be used at a low level that gained the dog’s attention without inflicting pain.  It could improve a person’s timing and offer a strength equalizer for clients who were outmatched by their dog’s size and/or physical strength while enhancing the relationship between the dog and it’s trainer.  I also knew my clients were intelligent people seeking humane, effective and quick results.  Therefore, the argument that they could not learn timing and how to use the remote collar properly did not make sense to me.

After I met my friend and professional colleague Robin MacFarlane of That’s My Dog, Inc.; I realized the responsibility of John Q. Public being able to learn how to use the remote collar properly did not lie with the client but instead with the ability of the trainer to provide good education that would resonate and be easily understood. Being a professional dog trainer, it is my job to teach human and dog clients alike.

At first, it was challenging to speak out on behalf of remote collars (e.g. commenting on The Truth About Shock Collar blog posts) because it was not politically correct to do so.  Additionally, if I became an advocate, I feared not being able to reach pet owners whom may not be open minded at first to learn the truth about remote electronic collars. However, I quickly replaced those thoughts with the realization of two questions:

1.  What is in the best interest of dogs?
2.   How can I best serve my clients’ needs?

Then my hesitation was gone in an instant. Everything we do and stand for should be in the best interest of dogs and to serve our clients’ needs.  Thus, I am proud to be an outspoken advocate for professional remote collar training.  

I teach the dog what to do and during the learning process mistakes are just that, mistakes, not necessarily non compliance.  In the beginning, the mistakes are sometimes ignored and the focus is placed on rewarding correct choices.  The remote collar is a great communication tool which gives the dog information as what not to do as well as what to do (e.g. don’t jump on me and instead sit to greet me or don’t pull on the leash but instead be aware of my position and turn with me when I turn to walk in the other direction). Additionally, I have found the remote collar to be the most effective way to teach the dog to pay attention to their owner, obtain a reliable recall, to leave an item alone as well as many other useful and life saving skills.  It’s a very effective, humane and smart way to train pet and working dogs.

So yes, the remote training collar is an important part of my training toolbox along with praise, food treats, the Easy Walk Harness and sometimes even a clicker. It has allowed countless number of my clients to keep their dog in their home as a loving companion and to enjoy new awesome adventures together.

About Michael Burkey

Michael Burkey is a professional dog trainer, behaviorist and owner of MichiganDogTrainer.com, a highly successful dog training company whose aim is to promote peaceful relationships between pets and families. Additionally, he is an expert trial witness, certified Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluator for the American Kennel Club (AKC), former Police K9 Handler, Search and Rescue (SAR) K9 Training Director and SAR K9 Handler, obedience and rally competitor and social worker. Dog training is a complex science and art requiring knowledge of behavioral science and learning. You can rely on Michael's experience, teaching methods, and integrity. He can be contacted at info@MichiganDogTrainer.com or 734-634-4152.
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5 Responses to The Remote Training Collar – An Important Tool in my Training Tool Box

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on “How to Find a Professional Dog Trainer” | michigandogtraining

  2. Amy McGee says:

    I have a rescue dog who is (I think) fear aggressive. He is wonderful with me and my son, somewhat fearful of my husband, and very protective of our house and yard and his people (us). As soon as I noticed the behavior, I talked with a highly recommended clicker trainer in our area and she recommended group sessions. It was terrible, and we only ended up going to 1 and 1/2 before having to drop out. Everyone warned me against trying any type of dominance training with my dog because it would make him worse. So I asked this trainer to do in home training, and she wouldnt do it unless I had extensive tests done first. I understand looking for medical reasons, maybe testing his thyroid…but she was talking about tumors pressing on his optic nerve causing him to not see well. I knew he had perfect vision, so I kept looking for another trainer. Finally found one, who does use some dominance, and we are now on week 6 and my dog only seems to be getting worse with other people. He is still great with us, but even guests that come over on a regular basis…they are allowed in the house, but if they move suddenly or have an object, he will lunge. I have always been against “shock” collars, but your posts makes sense. And I have tried EVERYTHING, so how do I go about learning how to use one properly? I have spent a small fortune on training so far with no results and I am just so frustrated because I love my dog so much. I have tried vitamins, flower essences, thunder shirt, calming aid gel, and the 2 types of training. Any help would be appreciated, I am ready to write a letter to Victoria from Its me or the dog and beg her for help!! All the positive trainers I talk to have made me feel so guilty for even using a shake can, but it actually did seem to help with one situation I was having.

    • Hi Amy,

      I’m sorry that you have gone through so many avenues that weren’t helpful to you. A group class would not be the appropriate place for your dog to learn to relax around others and unfortunately, many trainers have been taught that medical reasons for aggressive behavior must be ruled out first before working with the dog. While it’s important to be mindful if there is an underlying medical reason, in most cases it is behavioral. That is why it is impractical to screen for every medical possibility first. The behavioral causes should be investigated first or in conjunction with medical screening if there is a reason to suggest screening. And, if someone is too harsh with dominance training they may be focusing too much on correcting aggressive acts of behavior (forcing the dog to comply) and not also focusing on helping the dog become more relaxed around trigger situations. This is why a more “balanced” approach is the best approach. Whether this would involve the use of a remote collar or not, I wpild have to observe you and your dog first. It may be a great tool for the situation or in some cases it may not be. If it is, I’d be happy to help you learn how to teach your dog important fundamental skills of the remote collar. It’s crucial that you don’t just slap one one him and start correcting him for misbehaving as it’s likely the level would be too high and you haven’t taught him what to do instead of just what not to do. Please give my Office Manager, Amy a call so we can get an in home appointment scheduled for you. I look forward to helping you and your dog.

      Thanks for writing,

      Michael
      734-634-4152
      http://www.MichiganDogTrainer.com

  3. Amy McGee says:

    Honestly, at this point, I am just looking for advice. I have already spent over $1000 and cant really do much more, especially since I believe you are not located close to me. If you know of someone close that you can recommend, I may be able to (in the future, I have to save) do it. BUt I am all the way on 9 mile and Gratiot, so drive time alone would be crazy! I wont try a collar until I can do it with help, so I dont make any mistakes. I will just manage, lock him up whenever people come over, and my husband will have to be the dog walker because its just to hard for me. If he sees another person anywhere, he freaks. But he isnt as protective of my hubby, so he will have to do it. Thanks for responding though, I appreciate it.

    • Hi Amy,

      If I could give you simple advice I would. But when you’re talking about fear aggression issues, it is much too complex than to talk about it via email or phone. Just like you don’t want to (and shouldn’t without instruction) try a remote collar without professional guidance (and I applaud you for that) I would be in error to offer advice without seeing your dog and situation. If I can be of help to you in the future, please give us a call. Until then, try pairing your dog’s association with your husband with good things, such as getting tasty food treats from him. Michael

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