We are now up to the third level of our Training Pyramid Program. Up until now it has been all fun and games but now a little pressure will be added to the mix. We will start with the introduction to the e-collar. I was around before the e-collar came into common usage. The methods employed to prevent bank running, staying off points and even the command to “Sit” when the dogs was a long way from the handler were brutal. Judiciously applied it is far easier on the dog and the handler. A few things to remember, never use it in anger, use the lowest setting to accomplish the task and don’t rely on the e-collar as your only tool.
There are several methods written by many accomplished professionals and amateurs on how to collar condition the dog. I start with a walk. I put the collar on the pup and leave the transmitter at home. After the pup is absolutely comfortable do I turn it on to a very low setting. Give the command “Sit” in a moderate tone, not a scream. Simultaneously hit the nick button on the collar. After a few episodes the dogs hearing will begin to improve. Do not use the collar each time you give the command “Sit”, only use it on an intermittent basis. Once the dog responds appropriately to the “Sit” command you may move on to the “Here” command. Remember the e-collar is just one tool you use. Vary the tools you use to get the dog to “Sit”. The heeling stick, the pinch collar, and the e-collar as well as the emphasis in your voice. You have now covered another concept which is e-collar reinforcing obedience. You are teaching the dog to respond to a command he already knows perfectly, you have just added the e-collar to your tool box. Keep your eye on the prize by having your dog respond perfectly to these introductory commands.
To prevent the dog from becoming sour on all this drill work, let’s go back out into the field and do some water marks. I always start out with a few short land marks to warm the dog up and get his retrieving juices flowing. When you start with water marks, go right down to the shore making sure there is no temptation to avoid the water. Throw the bumper a short distance and send the dog just as the splash occurs. You don’t want the dog to think about what is going on, just go. Have your boots on. Meet the dog out in the water while you are wildly encouraging him to come to you. Take the bumper from the pup before he reaches shore. Every dog will drop the bumper as soon as they are on dry land. Let’s not let that habit begin.
As the pup progresses in his water work add some complications. Move back away from the shore so the dog has to run over land before plunging into water. Gradually increase the distance of the mark. If you encounter problems SIMPLIFY. Go back to the level where you had success. Don’t do too many marks in one day. The most common mistake an amateur makes is to over train.
I kept a journal on “Chase” my latest pup. I referred back to the Training Pyramid Program to ensure I have not skipped any steps and each command has been truly taught to perfection before moving up the Pyramid. Each pup has his own time table. I am giving this journal as an example but not to be followed as a timetable.