I’ve had my dog Molly for going on two years now. We brought her home from the SPCA just two weeks after moving into our 400 square foot cottage, and I haven’t regretted it once since.
Whenever I take Molly to the park or any outdoor events, she attracts a lot of attention, because she’s so damn cute! Bystanders always want to pet her, and in the process, ask me questions about her.
I always get the same questions, to which I’ve developed some parroted answers. How old is she? About four. She’s so calm for her age! Yes, we got her from the SPCA and she was the only dog not barking and jumping when we went to look. What breed? Not sure, but we think spaniel beagle cross because she loves to follow her nose.
Run, Run, Molly
And does she ever love following her nose. She was picked up by animal control two years ago as a “stray at large” with no tags or microchips, and subsequently put up for adoption at the SPCA. Her assessment sheet said she is “environmentally oriented” which is code for “will not come when called”. We thought we could work on this, and took her home anyway.
It’s been two years since we brought her home, and she’s come a long way in her all-round training since then. She rides in the car quietly, she walks and runs on a loose leash, and she’s aced three obedience courses. She has a really good sit-stay and does great on recall when we’re actively practicing. One of the skills she has yet to master though, is off-leash recall.
When I say off-leash recall, picture this situation: We’re in a field, or down by the river, at the beach, or just plain old at a friends house with an unfenced yard. If I were to let Molly off her leash, she would trot after whatever smell struck her fancy and, if she was far enough away from me or the smell/sight/cat running/bird taking off was too tempting, she’d completely ignore my calls for her to come back to me. Now picture me chasing her all over hill and dale, calling her name inconsequentially while she does whatever she damn well pleases.
I’ve tried a lot of the classic methods to reinforce her recall. I do drills (which she’s really good at!) of sit-stays where I walk away from her and then call her. I’ve used a long line attached to a harness and called to her, and if she ignores I reel her in. Nothing really seemed to translate to off-leash reliability though. As soon as the harness or leash came off, she did whatever she wanted. While it’s not the worst problem in the world to have, it meant that on hikes, at beaches, or on our regular walks through the woods, I could never let her off-leash. As any of you dog owners know, allowing your dog to run off-leash at the beach is one of the simplest joys in the world, but we couldn’t have that, until now.
Getting Serious With My Recall Training
Enter the Dogtra Hunter Dog Training Collar. Basically it’s a wireless, waterproof remote controlled training collar with a range of a 1/2 mile. It works by vibrating, similar to a vibrating cell phone, or administering a small static charge (and when I say small, I mean so small I can barely feel it on myself). So, when Molly ignores my “Come”, or “No”, or “Whoa” commands, I can back up my request with a little extra nudge. I like to think of it as my handy little remote control enforcer. Now she HAS to listen to me, even when off-leash, or I will nudge her until she does.
How to Train Your Dog With the Dogtra Training Collar
Like any new device, you can’t just slap this collar on your dog, zap them a few times, and call it a day. You have to teach them what it means to be corrected, and most importantly, how to “turn off” the stimulation (“stim”). I started out with Molly on a long line and harness, (you can see it in the pic above) with the collar on as well. I would call to her, administer the tiniest nudge with the collar, and she would have one of two options:
- Come to me immediately, and as soon as she turned towards me I would turn off the stim and she would receive treats and praise.
- Ignore me, at which point I would guide her toward me and as she turned towards me I would turn off the stim and she would receive treats and praise.
The first time she ignored me, I held onto the stimulation button until she realized it wouldn’t go away. Then I let her know what I wanted by reeling her in with the long line. I was basically teaching her that to coming back to me would make the stim stop. It took about four days of 20 minute sessions before it was reliably clicking in her mind that when she feels the stim = come back to me = stim stops.
On the second day, I had her out in a field by our house, in some calf height grass. She was rooting around about 20 feet from me, still with her harness and long line on, when a bird got scared out of the bushes and took off about three feet from her. Normally, this would result in her taking off at full speed after the bird, while I shout “Woah” ineffectively behind her and hold on for dear life at the end of the long line. This time though, I yelled woah and hit the stim button at the same time, and she immediately stopped in her tracks, spun around and came back. Success!
When another bird took off about 20 minutes later, she started to run for it, and all I needed to do was shout “Woah!” and she stopped, spun and came back. No stim needed.
Now, it’s day seven of training and I’ve transitioned to walking her without her harness and long line, with just the collar and she hasn’t put a foot wrong. I haven’t used the stim button in days, but it’s really comforting knowing that I have it in case she sees a squirrel and decides to leave me in her dust.
Resources for Training Your Dog on the Dogtra Training Collar
Like I said, don’t just slap this collar on your dog, zap them a few times and expect results. Do your research. I watched dozens of YouTube videos before using the collar, and it sat on my desk for days before I had time to approach the training properly.
Here are the best resources I found:
If you have more time, here’s a series of 21 videos from the same guy on Ecollar training, it includes videos on fitting the collar, finding the appropriate stim level for your dog, and more.
A PDF explaining how to use an ECollar to train a variety of behaviours, focusing on teaching your dog how to “turn off” the stimulation.
It’s also really important to know when your dog has had enough! If your dog vocalizes, tucks their tail or cowers, you are using too much stim or you are using it too often, or you haven’t taught the dog what you want and they’re confused. Take a few steps back in training. Remember training should always be fun for both of you. Molly gets excited when she sees the Dogtra collar because she knows it means fun outdoor time, your dog should be the same.
The Cost of the Dogtra Training Collar
The collar wasn’t cheap, at $250, it’s the most I’ve spent on Molly this year. There are plenty of lower cost options out there, but I went with this model for a few reasons:
- It’s the most often recommended collar I’ve come across.
- It has 127 levels of stim, so you never over stimulate your dog. This was important to me because Molly is a sensitive pup. She works on about a level 13 of 127 in low distractions, and I can’t even feel the collar on myself until level 11. Collars with only 10 levels would not be able to fine-tune the levels enough. One might not be enough and the next one up might be too much.
- It’s waterproof.
- It has a half mile range.
- I’ve spoken to other owners how have used cheaper products who gave bad reviews.
When it comes to dog training, I don’t mess around. It’s a serious hobby of mine and I want to have good products that I can rely on. That’s why I chose the Dogtra Hunter Dog Training Collar, and I’m happy that I did! Plus, the sight of Molly jogging down a trail off-leash is pretty much priceless.
Does your dog have a habit you wish you could correct? Is $250 too much to spend on a training aid? I want to know!