E collar for dog reactivity - any advice? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-22-2016, 04:50 PM Thread Starter
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E collar for dog reactivity - any advice?

Releasing my latest forum book, I apologize for the length of this post! I was trying to provide enough info to help.

I have ~18mos female GSD that I adopted when she was 7-9mos old. She wanted to chase anything that moved, from leaves to semi trucks, and acted like she wanted to kill every dog within eye contact or earshot. Very fun dog otherwise. She is the most "adventurous" GSD I have yet had. She is my sidekick/shadow. She constantly reminds me of so many reasons why I fell in love with this breed.

I did a shut down when I got her, did NILIF type structure, etc. I use marker training as well.
For the car chasing: I fitted her with a prong, took her out, corrected her once and she has not tried to chase cars since. It was a harsh correction, but it worked. I figured a harsh correction was better than her getting hit by a car

I have read multiple articles and an entire whirlwind of info about dog reactivity, which seemed to say to not correct the dog...that the dog will associate the correction with whatever stimulus they are reacting to and develop real aggression. For this reason, I was admittedly sheepish about correcting her harshly for showing reactive behavior. Does it work?

Most of the info for dog reactivity suggest counter conditioning and confidence building exercises. There is a dog reactivity "support group" on another forum that I read on and off. They are super "possie" about dog training - no corrections, no prong, no e collars, etc. I was oddly intrigued and decided to read through some of it just to learn about it, but...none of those dogs are much better. They are all still reactive. For the ones who get the LAT/BAT stuff down well, all it takes is one instance of them going over threshold to set both dog and handler a LOT. So I kinda junked that idea...the whole walk on eggshells around your dog thing. But it is touted all over the internet and in books by behaviorists and popular trainers - should I disregard it or can I take anything useful from it?

What do you all think about corrections for reactivity "causing" aggression? The idea that in the dogs mind, correcting the dog when it is reacting to something has the dog associate the correction/averse stimulus with the thing they react to, making it worse. From some sources I have read, correcting a dog for reactive behavior with make the outward display stop, but a silent "attack" more likely. Is this true? I don't want to do this to my dog through my own mistakes.

I did use advice from this forum, started walking her in a prong (she is a big girl...too big at 85#, I am 110 lol) and using emergency u turns and counter conditioning for some of her reactivity. I also hired a trainer who uses e collars, and this has helped. Just last week I was ale to walk her past another dog and shake hands with that handler (our trainer). That was the closet she has gotten to a strange dog since I have owned her.

Should I have gone to the e collar sooner? Is it better than a prong for this, or is it a dog-by-dog basis? E collars are a new world to me, and I try to find as much info as I can about using them correctly. Again, she is a nice dog and I don't want to ruin her.

The way we are using the e collar is to nick her (low level) if she looks at another dog. She is also nicked if she even starts to become worked up. We have worked on keeping her focused on me, and using a place command. Once on place, she is commanded to sit facing me and away from the other dog. She does OK if a large dog that is not looking at her walks by. Small dog? Forget about it. They offend her at a new level.
She is doing much better if we work to increase distance from the other dog during loose lead walking - especially if we turn and walk away. She will even "offer" the behavior of breaking her attention from the other dog and looking at me.
We use the low level nicks to try to condition her to relax on place.
Is this a good direction for us? Any suggestions? Is keeping her in one place as a dog passes too much for her right now? Should I increase distance?

Is this the right approach? It seems to be helping but one thing at her last session did bother me...while the trainer was heeling his dog around mine as we were working on place drills on multiple platforms, instead of making any noise she suddenly and quietly lunged at his dog when it got "too close" for her. It was my fault because we were positioned not facing entirely away, she could still see the other dog out of the corner of her eye. I corrected her and put her back on place, he moved his dog away as a reward to her (based on the concept that her discomfort with other dogs is why she acts out, so having the other dog leave is rewarding). We then backed off the distance and set her up to succeed, reward, then did some easier exercises because she was probably stressed out.

She does very well with her obedience when we go to a field by my house. I keep her on a long line, it has a clear line of sight for any other dogs approaching. She does not really react to them there. We practice heeling, sit, down, long stays, recall, etc.

TL;DR I am starting to like ecollars, but I feel like a buffoon and have a million questions. I have asked my trainer many of these but I want some opinions that are not on my payroll lol
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-22-2016, 06:03 PM
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I'm no expert with an e collar by any means.But I do know this about reactive dogs:Timing is crucial.
Whatever means of correction you're using has to be when the dog alerts but before she reacts.Once the adrenaline starts pumping a correction very possibly will stimulate her even more.Watch like a hawk for any subtle signal she's about to go off.
Increasing distance is good,then working up to closer distances.IMO sitting and staring at the object of hatred doesn't help.The point should be not to dwell on it,to look to you for direction or ignore the other dog totally.

Counter conditioning can be added way down the road when things are stable and under control.Treats and toys can create excitement,which you don't need more of right now.

Hope this helps a little!Good luck to you.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-26-2016, 04:44 PM
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When it comes to chasing cars or similar behaviors that are completely unacceptable and/or could easily get her hurt/killed, I agree that one very harsh correction is the best way to go about it. As far as dog aggression/reactivity goes... I am having a similar issue with my 4 yr old. I've heard both arguments: the first one being that correcting for aggression towards other dogs will cause the dog to associate other dogs with being corrected and therefore developing a fear of other dogs or causing the dog to attack without warning, since it's been taught not to growl, bark, or lunge, and the second argument being that by correcting your dog for showing aggression towards other dogs, you are reinforcing to your dog that you are the pack leader and you will decide if and when aggression is necessary. Let me know what seems to work for you and I'll do the same!

EDIT: I have heard that if you do decide to correct for aggression, you want something that takes drive out of her, like a dominant dog collar, as opposed to something that will add to her drive like the prong, btw


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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-26-2016, 05:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulip View Post
When it comes to chasing cars or similar behaviors that are completely unacceptable and/or could easily get her hurt/killed, I agree that one very harsh correction is the best way to go about it. As far as dog aggression/reactivity goes... I am having a similar issue with my 4 yr old. I've heard both arguments: the first one being that correcting for aggression towards other dogs will cause the dog to associate other dogs with being corrected and therefore developing a fear of other dogs or causing the dog to attack without warning, since it's been taught not to growl, bark, or lunge, and the second argument being that by correcting your dog for showing aggression towards other dogs, you are reinforcing to your dog that you are the pack leader and you will decide if and when aggression is necessary. Let me know what seems to work for you and I'll do the same!

EDIT: I have heard that if you do decide to correct for aggression, you want something that takes drive out of her, like a dominant dog collar, as opposed to something that will add to her drive like the prong, btw
Timing is everything.Catching them before they react and giving them something else to do.If you try to correct as the dog is reacting you create more problems.This is why an experienced trainer is invaluable.
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Misty Husky Mix
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Devo Yorkie Mix at the bridge
Dakota Wht GSD at the bridge
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-26-2016, 09:01 PM
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I worked with an experienced GSD trainer with impeccable timing. The trainer had the hand held device. He figured out the level to work my dog and he did the corrections for dog reactivity. One lesson "down" was the preferred command. So my dog was downed with a dog walking by. Another lesson, my dog was corrected for not heeling correctly with another dog as a distraction.

The correction is not for dog reactivity--it is for failing to follow an obedience command. My trainer basically did all the training/correcting with the remote for the e-collar. Afterwards, I did not really need to correct with the e-collar as the dog knew (because of the impeccable timing) what to do. On our off leash walks/runs at the park early in the morning when rarely anyone is there but me, my GSD wears an e-collar, but I have rarely corrected with it. If we see a dog, he stays under control when I leash him up--he does not react.

My advice is find an great trainer who understands working dogs and who has a lot of experience working with e-collars and have the trainer use the remote to train your dog in class. With exact timing, you will really only have to reinforce occasionally. This does not remedy reactivity, it controls it.
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Last edited by Moriah; 09-26-2016 at 09:03 PM.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-26-2016, 11:43 PM
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Simple formula for dog training:

Behaviours that you want to create or make stronger you Reinforce Positively or Negatively.

Behaviours you want to suppress or erradicate you Punish

Punishment does not work if you do not show the dog the contingency that earns that consequence. Punishment does not work if you are inconsistent or the intensity of said punishment is insufficient.

In short, yes the ecollar will work for this but not if you don't know how to use it.

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-27-2016, 06:30 AM
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My 1 year old GSD mix is also reactive to dogs due to insecurity. She is not aggressive: she doesn't show teeth, her fur doesn't raise, but she barks like ****. Prong collars, e collars etc are not an option for me due to the country where I live forbids them. Dogs are really not impressed by her barking, owners look at me as if I had a gun on my hands. What I am doing is, first of all, she goes with a professional walker 3 times per week with a group of dogs. They are all off leash, including her. Surprisingly, she does very well there, she knows the dogs and she feels safe in the pack. That I do to make sure she has positive experiences with other dogs. On the other hand I do counterconditioning: I start giving her food as soon as I see a dog until we pass by with no dramas. She is very food driven I may add. Also, if she decides to go for barking, positive methods advise you to walk away, what I do instead is a put myself in between her and the other dog so she doesnt see it, and I command her to sit first, and lie down afterwards. As soon as she calms down I move away and she is again seing the dog and eating. When I find people who want to help me out, I start slowly making steps towards the other dog with my dog siting and eating after each step. I dont go further than what she can handle, when I feel we are getting close to the limit of what she can take, we simply sit there and I keep feeding her.

I'm working on this for 3-4 weeks now, and now she can handle dogs that pass by on leash, small leashed dogs even if they bark at her, unleashed dogs if they dont come very happy to us to say hi....and with one dog, after they saw each other twice, I managed to make Kiva sit less than 50cm away to the other dog, side by side, both dogs getting treats. Also, when she has drama moments, it takes me a lot less time to take her back to quiet.

Although Kiva is my third GSD mix (with malinois btw) she is the first one having insecurity due to lack of socialization, my other 2 dogs were more dominant type, so this problem is new for me, I see progress in her, but I dont know if this is the best way or not, and I dont know whether she will be one day 100% social, I hope she will though because Im investing a lot of time and energy...
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-27-2016, 08:53 AM
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In May/June I had went to trainer to show me how to use the e collar by recommendation from our sheep herding instructor who recommended the garmin pro sport. I would not learn to use the e collar any other way. First lesson using the e collar-the trainer had Max lying next to a female shepherd- Max would not even look at the dog- it was the fact he seemed not so concerned about it that wowed me. The trainer had great timing. Continuing to work with the e collar the more I do the comfortable I'm using it- It has helped tons controlling drive -our lessons in sheep herding Max actually looking for me to instruction what to do with the sheep - huge huge improvements then blowing me off, recall off leash with huge distractions like not chasing a flock of seagulls down the beach etc.and dog reactivity. Reactivity to dogs is not cured but makes it much easier to manage and him less worried. I like the garmin pro sport - it has less dials easier for me to find a good working number and I like to use the Nick button not the constant unless necessary.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-27-2016, 09:07 AM
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When Max looks away or to me he gets rewarded huge. The more I use the e collar the bigger improvements I see. It took me awhile to even use it after I learned how to use. I'm getting comfortable with it now and I see Max starting to think most of the time before he acts in those dog reactive scenarios.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-27-2016, 01:20 PM
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Find a good trainer to work with, sounds like you need to switch up the trainer you are using now, possibly?

What Blitz said is right.

Punish behaviors you don't want or want to eliminate.

Build (pressure), then reward and then at proofing correct behaviors you create.

I had the proto-typical "reactive" malinois. Barky bark bark at stuff. Friendly dog, actually, loves people, not dog-aggressive, but barking and over-arousal was a problem. So, I hemmed and hawed about correcting because I wanted to try all this other stuff like counter conditioning, and all that other jargon you read online. Finally, we were walking one day and this dog was going off at her on the other side of a fence and she pulled suddenly and almost tripped me and I just clearly and quickly corrected her. Not even with e-collar or prong.

She came up short, looked at me and finally realized, oh, yeah, that's what you don't want.

From then on, it was easy to train her because I finally was willing to punish her for things I didn't want, without feeling guilty, or mean, or what have you.

It's so simple, but it's not really. Because timing is important. Consistency, timing, proper levels of correction. Clarity.

Finding a good trainer to help with all this is usually a good idea.

I think you certainly CAN make a dog more aggressive with improper use of the e-collar. If you do it right, though, you won't.
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