"Hey Rover! Come here boy!
You start by asking nicely, thinking, maybe this time he will listen. But he ignores you, again. Just like the last time. The smells in the yard, barking at the neighbor, chasing a squirrel, just about anything seems more exciting to your dog than coming when you call. And the longer it goes on, the more frustrated you get, and by the time he gets back to you, you're so mad at him you yell at him for taking so long instead of telling him he's a good boy like you'd like to do.
Well, coming from a pro, let me share with you that you're not alone. This is actually a very common problem that dog owners experience.
But, did you know that it doesn't have to be that way? That there is hope, no matter how stubborn your dog is, to turn this story around?
Imagine this : you let your dog outside to do his business while you enjoy your morning coffee. But now you have to go back inside to finish getting ready to leave for work. You say "C'mon Rover, lets go inside, buddy" and he comes running over from the spot in the yard he was checking out and trots happily inside with you.
Maybe you're on a hike. You're on a pretty empty part of the trail and you feel like it's safe to let your dog off leash without promptly running into other people or dogs, and so, you unclip Rover's leash so he can enjoy a little more freedom to explore. You trust in your training. Rover gives you a smile of gratitude and then gallops off to check things out and move at his own pace a little bit. He checks back in with you turning over his shoulder to make sure he can still see you and then goes back to sniffing and peeing on things. You smile knowing how happy your dog is enjoying some freedom. It's great to be outdoors with your best friend. A little while later, you notice some people up ahead on the trail. Out of consideration, you recall your dog, 'Rover, Come!' and Rover turns on a dime (even after seeing the people ahead) and returns to you. He sits patiently while you leash him up. You step off to the side to let the people pass. Rover sits calmly by your side. The passing hikers comment on how beautiful Rover is. And how well behaved. You smile and say thank you. But inside your shaking pom poms "Give me an R! R! Give me an O! O! Give me a V! V!..."
All the dedication you put into your training program has paid off. You're living the life you always dreamed of with your dog.
Yes, you! You can! But, here's the key. It's up to you. You can hire the best dog trainer in the world but you have to be willing to do the work. The actual real day to day work that goes into having a healthy, balanced relationship. All relationships require work, and your relationship with your dog is no different. But if you are willing to be consistent, to communicate with your dog (and that's a two way street by the way, you talk to your dog but your dog talks to you, too, and you have to be willing to listen to them), and you have a good training plan, you WILL continue to improve. Especially when it comes to building off leash reliability with your dog, it takes a lot of trust ; trust in your training process, your training tools, yourself, and your dog. It's important to remember that all training is a learning process. It's a journey. It takes time. It takes mistakes. And it takes recovering from those mistakes and moving on anyway. You may want to quit. You may want to come up with an excuse. And that's ok. We all go through that. When that happens, let it. And then get back up in that saddle...er...uh...pick that leash and treat pouch back up!
The next question is, how? How do I accomplish this with my dog? Well, like anything, the answer is to start with, or revisit the basics. Make sure you understand what motivates your dog to learn and do your homework around that first. Motivation is key to success, both for you and your dog, in any learning process. It's also important to understand what tools to use and how to use them properly. There is a ton of information online and in books - which is both a curse and a blessing. You could google something and get 15 different answers in 2 minutes but still not have a clear idea or plan of how to move forward. Our recommendation is to find someone who puts out educational content that you like. Check out their training style and results and learn from them. Make sure you feel good about the trainer or training plan you are following and working with. Understand what types of results you want and your trainer produces and make sure they are in alignment. Don't be afraid to ask questions and interact with the process. Remember, this will require just as much learning from you as it will from your dog! Having a coach that you trust to help you with this process can be extremely beneficial.
How we get off leash reliability
CAUTION : Hot Topic Alert!
I want to talk about the value of modern day remote collar training.
GASP! The dreaded shock collar!
We don't use that word around here - 'shock collar'. If you were ever to take a class on off leash training with us or do an off leash board and train program, you will hear a lecture from me in the very beginning that goes something like this :
"Please do not refer to your collar or the work you are doing here as a shock collar. The work that we are doing with these remote collars is not going to shock your dog, or cause your dog pain. Can you? Yes, absolutely. Your collar has 127 levels on it. Your dogs will be working anywhere from a level 1 -12, most likely. It is rare we condition dogs on levels higher than that. The point of this training is not to shock your dog into submission and obedience. The point is to build on the foundational work you have already done to have yet another tool to communicate with your dog, only now it is electronically and can be done from a distance. Your remote collar allows you to have an invisible leash on your dog, once they understand what the remote collar pressure means. This training process, like all our processes, should be fun and taught through play and motivation. If you abuse this tool if front of me, you will lose it."
While there are some people, and some trainers, out there with a radical mindset around electronics, we are in fact a huge advocate for them when used properly, to achieve a high level of training. Even my statement above may not convince many people who are opposed to these tools, and that is OK, it's not for everyone. The truth is, off leash reliability IS possible to achieve without the use of electronics for many people and dogs...but in the age of technology, whose purpose is to make our lives easier and better, it's undeniable that electronics make the off leash training process go more quickly and smoothly and does not have to be uncomfortable or painful for your dog.
In fact, it can actually the gentlest form of pressure used in a training process. It's important to understand that learning is pressure and so are ALL TOOLS used in training, whether it's a harness, flat collar, slip collar, food, spacial pressure, voice, tone, or anything else you use in your work with your dog. Many a dog will happily pull on the leash until they are choking and gasping for air. Many of those dogs might learn to work on a remote collar at a level 2 (I feel a level 11, personally). So what is more harsh to your dog, tracheal damage or a low level electronic stimulation? I usually let the dog tell me what they like and don't like. And I have learned to listen.
That being said, if you think you are ready to explore the world of remote collar training and the freedom it can help you achieve, I highly recommend working with a professional. There is a ton of great (and also a ton of not so great) educational content out there, and you don't know what you don't know. Here are some questions to ask a trainer if you are looking into getting involved in remote collar training. I'm also going to give you OUR answers for these questions so you can use it as a base for comparison in your search :
1) What brand of collar do you use?
We use Dogtra and E collar Technology. Both are great companies with great collars. You can finely tune the stimulation to find just the right level for your dog. They are waterproof as well so if you're out in the rain, snow, or like to have water adventures with your dog the collars will stand up to the task.
2) How do you find a dog's working level stimulation?
When finding a dogs working level, meaning their point of perception, or lowest possible level, we start at a level 1 and continue dialing up and tapping. We are looking for any mild indication that the dog perceive the pressure. It can be easily missed because it is often very subtle. The blink of the eyes. A glance in a direction. Gazing down at the ground. Once we see this, we know we have found it and we can begin the training process. If at any point we see a dog getting irritated and shaking their head or showing signs of discomfort, the stimulation is too high and will get turned down. Again, this is not about causing discomfort, just pairing a sensation and an expectation so a dog can learn to turn the pressure off (just like how we teach leash pressure).
3) How long are your remote collar programs and what are the results like?
We offer 2 main avenues for remote collar training. You can either start in one of our entry level obedience programs and work your way up to an Advanced Off Leash Class. This is a great option for people who are not in a rush and have a lot of time to dedicate to the training process. This offers a lot of coaching to teach you how to teach your dog. Having proper timing in marker training is an imperative first step before using electronics on your dog. The second avenue is through a board and train program. We have a 3 week off leash board and train program that young motivated dogs who do not have major behavioral issues do great in. The dogs do daily repetition work starting with the basics and working their way up to learning the remote collar which is introduced in their 3rd week. The dogs that graduate from this program will have a clear understanding of the tool but will need to learn how to work for their owners and will need ongoing generalization work (working through new environments and scenarios) on a consistent basis upon returning home. Because we do not use a ton of pressure or force dogs into doing what we want, you can expect a dog that still wants to be curious and explore, potentially even attempt to push boundaries. Don't worry, we coach you through this process, teach you the proper and fair use of the tool(s), and set you up for success. We have happy clients and very happy dogs coming out of this program every month. I want to caution anyone out there shopping for help, if any trainer 'guarantees a perfectly trained dog in 2 weeks' your dog will likely be trained under a high level of pressure. While some dogs do well with this, many dogs do not. Additionally, the end result (in our opinion) can be a dog who is only motivated to listen out of fear of consequence NOT out of the desire to listen to you. The tool then becomes necessary for ongoing success whereas with our program we can help you wean off the tool as your dog is successful in your training.
Off leash adventures can be your reality!