Fitting the Collar and Selecting the Intensity

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

When introducing the remote trainer, the goal is to make the dog feel in control of the collar. Every time the dog feels stimulation, you want it to know that it can "turn it off." With repetition, the dog will come to feel that it can avoid stimulation entirely by performing quickly.

Our procedure is to teach the dog to turn off the collar by performing three distinctly different actions: (1) coming to the trainer, (2) going away from the trainer, and (3) stopping motion or remaining stationary. This is called the "three-action introduction."

Each of these actions is based on a familiar behavior the dog already does, although not necessarily reliably. (In fact, it's best to introduce remote training before the dog is very reliable at the action. A dog that makes a few mistakes will give you more chances to give it the comparisons necessary for effective collar training.)

Using the three-action introduction to introduce the remote trainer will pay long term dividends. You'll have a dog that understands the collar, and you'll be able to use it throughout training whenever you need to.

If you don't introduce the collar this way, but just bring it out for occasional or one-time problem solving, you run the risk of making the dog collarwise and/or quite uptight about its collar lessons. You might also cause your dog to become "out of balance." In other words, the impressions created by the collar lessons will be so strong that they overwhelm other training.

This article will cover some things you'll need to know in order to get started--ensuring consistent stimulation, selecting the intensity level, and understanding correct timing. In future articles we'll cover teaching the three-action introduction, and how to use the remote trainer in specific exercises and situations.

Procedures for the three-action introduction, and most of the procedures covered, will assume that you have a remote trainer such as the Tri-Tronics 100/LR or 500/LR, which has continuous stimulation and selectable continuous intensity at the transmitter. Continuous stimulation means that the stimulation stays on until you release the button. Selectable intensity means that transmitter controls can be used to increase and decrease intensity.

If you have a remote trainer such as the Tri-Tronics Companiontm or 200 Lite™, which has continuous stimulation that is not selectable at the transmitter, you can still use the three-action introduction, but you'll have a little less flexibility in some situations, especially those involving distractions.

Ensuring consistent contact

Consistent stimulation is essential for effective training. The collar should fit snugly with the contact points touching the dog's skin at all times. A loose-fitting collar will cause erratic stimulation, and can interfere with the dog's learning.

Tighten the collar by holding the buckle with the forefinger and thumb of one hand while you draw the strap tight with the other hand. Don't put any fingers under the collar strap as you tighten it.

If you discover that the dog is not feeling stimulation every time you press the button, try tightening the collar strap one more notch. Do not make the collar so tight that the dog has difficulty breathing. Using long contact points will also increase the chance of good contact if your dog has an undercoat.

Inconsistent stimulation can also be caused by holding the transmitter so close to the collar that the strength of the radio signal causes the receiver to cut on and off (signal overload). The strength of stimulation is not affected, but it turns off when you don't want it to. Escape training cannot be successful under these conditions.

Signal overload can normally be prevented by holding the transmitter more than one foot away from the collar when pressing the button. Use a test light to check that you are holding the transmitter far enough from your collar.

Using a short stubby antenna will reduce the sensitivity of the radio receiver, thereby reducing the possibility of signal overload. It also makes the collar less conspicuous, and is a handy accessory for obedience trainers.

Selecting the correct intensity level

It's important to use the right intensity level when you start training with the remote trainer. A level that is too high can cause the dog to overreact (vocalize) or internalize (freeze up). These reactions will interfere with learning. On the other hand, a level that is too low won't motivate the dog to want to learn how to turn it off.

Dogs, like people, are individuals with varying levels of physical sensitivity. What is "low" for some dogs is not "low" for other dogs. Therefore, you need to test your dog to find the right intensity for that dog's beginning training.

Start by putting the lowest (the #1) variable intensity plug or contact point into the collar. Let the dog walk around until it is ignoring you. Then press the button that produces the lowest level of continuous stimulation. Say nothing to the dog. Look for a reaction in which the dog cocks its ears or quickly moves its head, often with a quizzical expression on its face.

If you don't see this physical reaction from the dog, replace the intensity plug or contact point with the next higher level, and test again. Continue increasing the level until you see the described reaction.

If your transmitter has selectable continuous intensity, it's best to use only the bottom button (the lowest level) when selecting the intensity plug, so that you still have the flexibility to increase the intensity at the transmitter when needed. (If you are using a Companion or 200 Lite, and find that the lowest intensity contact point is still too "hot" for your dog, you may want to try a collar such as the 100/LR or the 500/LR. Collars with selectable intensity at the transmitter allow you to go much lower for each intensity plug used.)

Although you have now selected a low level of intensity for starting your dog's training, remember that higher levels of stimulation should be used if you need to stop a behavior which may threaten a dog's life. For example, higher levels of stimulation are used to stop a dog from chasing cats or livestock, because a high level is needed to counteract the dog's excitement when it is in full prey drive.

Coming in Our Next Article

In our next article, we will get started on the correct timing of stimulation and the three-action introduction.

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