By: John Wick
This subject is discussed and debated wherever dog trainers gather. Like most questions with uncertain answers, it has believers on both sides of its coin. Various trainers have different needs and goals; different backgrounds and strategies; and different mentors and reading materials. They also have vastly different attitudes toward being open-minded about differing opinions coming from proven pros. No wonder so many folks are confused and uncertain about whether or not they should yell at their dogs before they press their E-collar button.
One often repeated theory in some dog training circles is that when a dog is misbehaving the trainer should loudly let the dog know that the misbehavior was seen or heard and now the trainer is about to dish out some discipline in the form of E-collar stimulation. In other words and in plain English, the trainer wants the dog to know it’s about to be punished, and the punishment is coming from the person doing the yelling.
In my mind, many of these people are more dominators than trainers. Most of ’em that I’ve watched seemed to get a little too much glee from correcting their dogs. I often felt they wanted to be boss of something—maybe everything—but for now the dog will do so it will have to pay the price or penalty. That penalty often seemed to be a little stiffer than the offense called for.
There are also other people who believe in the “yell before you press” strategy who are calm, sensible, and consistent and do a pretty fine job of getting their desired results some of the time. It seems that the majority of these folks learned this system from someone else who believes this is the best way to train. Often these people are not aware that there’s another school of thought that is quite different and usually more successful. After they become aware of it and stew on it a bit, many will change their tactics if they give the opposite approach adequate thought and a fair try.
This opposite approach is based on NOT yelling, screaming, or blowing a whistle to send the dog a message that the master is unhappy and about to deliver punishment. Whether it’s chasing deer or cars, harassing the cat or chickens, or jumping on the couch, followers of this quiet theory believe the dog knows what it was doing and thinking at the time of misbehavior. When stimulation is delivered to it at the instant of this wrong misbehavior or thought, the dog quickly and correctly assumes its wrong thought and action caused and delivered the sudden discomfort. For most folks and most of the time, this is simply a better way to reach our goals. And it’s easier on the human and the dog.
While we should be the pack leader, we don’t need to overdo it with most dogs. We certainly want to have a friendly relationship with our dogs in every way possible. When it comes right down to it, isn’t that one of the fabulous advantages of using an E-collar in teaching and training? It allows us to be the best friend that dog ever had while still being able to deliver the exact right amount of punishment at the exact instant it’s needed without the dog suspecting we had anything to do with it.
And there are more reasons for us to keep our mouths shut when we’re about to deliver a message. A primary one is that we all know the importance of being extremely consistent. How can we be consistent if one time we yell at the dog and it’s 50 yards away and can plainly hear us and then tomorrow it’s a quarter-mile away and when we’re looking at the dog the wind is blowing into our face extremely hard and we could yell until we’re purple and that dog cannot hear us?
With most types of hunting dogs, we are often in situations where the brush or leaves are rattling in the wind, or the rain is coming down hard, or the dog is simply too far away to hear our yell. Anything we can’t do ALL the time, we shouldn’t do SOME of the time. Yelling a threat or warning for dogs that can hear it part of the time but not all of the time is certainly inconsistent on our part, and inconsistency from us is the leading cause of our dog training dreams not coming true.
There may be very occasional situations when it’s appropriate and helpful to let the dog know that you know what’s up, and you’re not going to tolerate it. Picking one or two offenses or training lessons you wish to teach that ALWAYS happen when the dog is close enough to you that you can yell and be clearly heard might be appropriate with some harder-headed dogs as a way of reminding them that you are the boss in this relationship, and that you’ll be fair but firm. YOU are the pack leader! Yes, there may be times when a little of that strategy will be helpful. But for the biggest part of successful training, one of the requirements for correct and consistent results is to quietly keep yourself out of the discipline picture whenever possible. Let your E-collar handle rule enforcement all by itself, regardless of what kind of dog owns you!