As a Leave No Trace Master Educator it was a bit embarrassing having an impact monster for a dog, particularly her wildlife chasing habit. People have different opinions on dogs and leashes. My personal opinion is if it is permitted, your dog is legitimately under voice control, and you are respectful of other people – a leash is not necessary.
I tried using a “stay close” command, where my dog, Aspen, was in front of me but close enough I could call her back. This just resulted with me yelling constantly, frustrating me, disrupting other visitors, and wildlife running for the hills.
I tried having her on leash. Between watching my step, her step, making her heel, and trying to enjoy the scenery it’s a miracle I didn’t fall on my face or off a cliff.
The next idea was having Aspen walk behind me and using a “back” command. This worked extremely well, until she spotted a bogie [wildlife] before me. My lab/whippet mix would be gone before I could think of grabbing the handle on her pack. Apparently whippets are the fastest sprinters in the dog kingdom – lucky me. I still use this method, but with the addition of a training collar.
I used to be adamantly against training collars, until I watched in horror as Aspen chased a chipmunk through a bolder field just waiting for her to break a leg. Which got me thinking, what if she chases a deer in front of a car? While historically she has always come back from her “romps” in the forest, she can’t come running back with a broken limb, internal bleeding, or worse.
Some of you may be wondering about my thoughts on wildlife’s health and safety? That is a concern as well – they’re expending energy that needs to be conserved to escape wild predators and survive winter’s cold.
The collar I got her has a few key features. For one, the remote reaches the collar up to 400 yards, for my sprinter that was critical; it does no good if I’m calling her and she is out of range. It has three settings: a tone, a zap, and a continuous zap. The idea being I call Aspen (always with the same, “Aspen, come here”) > no response > tone > call again > no response > zap > call again > no response >continuous zap (which really only needs to be about two seconds). With this series of events she has learned to associate the tone with the action she needs to do; now 99 percent of the time the tone is sufficient. The zap has eight intensity settings; Aspen is rather sensitive so hers is only set at two. I even put the collar on my arm to see how it felt, while it’s not pleasant, it didn’t hurt, but definitely got my attention.
When talking to other dog owners about training collars, I continuously hear that once the collar comes out or the dog sees a remote they are on their best behavior or cower in fear. That’s not what I’m after. The idea is for her to learn not to chase wildlife in general, not to associate pain with the training collar. I avoided Aspen associating the desired behavior with the training collar by putting it on her when we went outside for her morning constitutional and took it off after her last trip out at night. In between those times if she’s in the house or her kennel I loosened the collar so it’s more comfortable for her, but it’s still on so she got used to the collar being there all the time. That was essential when I lived in the mountains without a fence. Now that she spends her days running around with two other dogs that like to play rough the collar only comes out when it’s time for an adventure and she actually gets excited.
I noticed an amazing difference after just a few trips out with the collar. Sure she still tailgates a bit when hiking on the trail and lies on my sleeping bag instead of her blanket, but the wildlife chasing is under control. Every dog is different, but if the situation calls for it and it is used correctly, I would recommend a training collar to rein in those impact monsters.
Side note: I purchased a SportDOG Brand training model, after a few months the collar wouldn’t hold a charge. I registered my collar and called to submit a warranty claim. Customer service was extremely helpful and mailed me a new collar with prepaid postage to mail the malfunctioning collar back, all within a week. If you chose to use a training collar I recommend SportDOG Brand, they have outstanding costumer service and stand behind their product.
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I adopted my pup Osa 6 months ago and we just recently took the plunge on our first off leash hike after much training. She did SO well, it made my heart swell! She didn’t venture more than 100 feet from me, checked in on me, and came back when I called. However, I’m nervous about encountering wildlife. Osa is a greyhound mix, has a strong prey drive and is incredibly fast. I’m not convinced her recall will work in that scenario. I’ve been reading about e-collar training for recall while hiking and backpacking, and would love to hear your perspective 7 years later! My main concern at this point is that Osa is somewhat sensitive – the first time I had to remove several ticks from her she was growling at me and for the next 24 hours was a little nervous around me. We have a strong bond but I worry about her associating the annoying sensation with me… Anyways, I appreciated this article and would appreciate your feedback if you have any!
Thank you 🙂
Congratulations on the new addition! I just read back through my original blog post and stand by the post. Aspen doesn’t wear her collar much anymore. However, she needed a reminder last summer about her listening ears…so I got the collar back out and followed a similar pattern of having it on her for adventures and she hasn’t made the association with behaving and the collar. I think the key for your sensitive doggo is to not let Osa have the chance to associate behaving with the collar aka you putting the collar on her. Put it on her most days or just some days, but get her used to having it on so it’s just another collar. Consistency is also crucial, which means getting the pattern straight in your head of how to use the collar with your commands. That’s my not-professional opinion, hope it was helpful!