Training For The Schutzhund Dog: Part II
By Jim & Phyllis
Dobbs and Alice Woodyard
In the last
article, Part I, we covered selection of equipment and
fitting the collar to the dog; we introduced the "Here"
exercise with the collar, and we listed some important
principles to guide the trainer whenever using electronic
training collars. If you didn't have a chance to read Part
I, go ahead and review that now, before starting your dog
with the collar.
Now we are ready to
add the commands "Heel," "Kennel," and "Sit," and finish
teaching the "Here" command. Remember that the dog must
already know what a command means before you begin teaching
it to understand the collar reinforcement of that command.
The "Heel" command
is next in the logical sequence. By teaching your dog to
have "collar understanding" of the "Here" command with
low-level stimulation as described in Part I of this series,
the dog now knows that by turning toward you when you
command "Here" it can "turn off" the collar. It also knows
that by responding quickly and coming straight to you, no
matter what the distraction, it can prevent the collar from
This process has
built self-confidence in the dog because it feels it can
control the collar through its own action. It has also
strengthened the dog's respect for your commands without
harsh corrections or intimidation.
Since the dog has
learned not to run past you when you call "Here," it will
tend to stay close as you walk around. Take advantage of
this temporary desire to stay close to you. Now is the ideal
time to teach it that obeying the "Heel" command also works
to turn off the collar.
Training the Dog
to Identify the Heel Position
Give your "Heel"
command and start walking. Whenever the dog is more than two
feet out of the heel position, press the button, repeat the
command and, as the dog enters the heel position, release
the button. Be sure to praise the dog when it is in the
correct position. This gives the dog a comparison of
pleasure when it is in the heel position and displeasure
when it leaves the heel position.
Let the dog
concentrate on one thing at a time. Don't enforce any
automatic sit at this stage. You want the dog to feel that
the heel position is a safe spot.
If at first the dog moves up
on your right side, press the button as you turn
into the dog. This will automatically relocate the
dog into the heel position. Release the button and
praise the dog as soon as he is in the right
If the dog forges
ahead, turn in the opposite direction so that the dog is put
in a lagging position and command "Heel." Then, as you
continue walking, let the dog take the responsibility for
positioning itself as you proceed to walk along a straight
If after several
sessions on collar training "Heel", the dog moves up on your
right side, press the button as you make an about turn to
your right (into the dog, which automatically relocates the
dog into heel position). Release the button as soon as the
dog is on your right side again. This procedure gives a
smooth way to put the dog on the correct side and gives the
beginning dog a chance to be successful quickly in locating
the heel (safe) position.
After a few
repetitions, you can stop using your "Heel" command each
time you press the button, and simply use the collar alone.
This reinforces the dog's understanding that once it has
heard the command "Heel," success in maintaining the heel
position is its responsibility, not yours.
Now add changes of
pace, then turns, and then gradually add greater and greater
distractions. Instantly turn 180 degrees away from the
distraction the moment the dog moves out of place. Be
prepared to go up in intensity level if necessary to
counteract the distraction. Give the dog a consistent set of
rules--"Heel" always means "Heel".
Meaning of Praise
As you work the dog
on the "Heel" command, watch for times when you see the dog
start to leave the heel position and then catch itself and
move back into position on its own without collar
reinforcement. Praise it for its correct decision. You can
enhance the significance of praise to the dog by taking
advantage of these moments. Whenever a dog knows that it has
avoided stimulation from the collar by its own act, it has a
strong feeling of success, and it will associate these
natural pleasurable feelings with your verbal praise if you
time things correctly.
Do Not Use the
Collar to Fine-tune Heel
Until the dog is
quite experienced with collar training and has a high
understanding of the correct heel position, you should not
try to use the collar to correct it for minor errors in
maintaining the heel position. It will have too much
difficulty distinguishing what it did that was successful in
turning off the collar. The dog views the heel position as a
"safe place next to your leg." If you make this "safe place"
too small too soon, the dog will become confused, not being
able to clearly identify the heel position as a safe place.
The purpose of
reinforcing this command with the collar is to teach the dog
that it can also turn off the collar by leaving you on
command. Remember that up until now, the dog's collar
lessons have taught it that coming to you or staying with
you is the key to success. The dog will be out of behavioral
balance if you do not give it some work on the opposite
First have the dog enter the
crate on command a few times without using the
collar. An assistant should hold the line as shown.
The Set-Up for
Attach your dog to
a long line and run the line through the back of an open dog
crate or airline-type kennel (a wire crate is best). An
assistant should hold the line. If no assistant is
available, you will need to run the line around something
sturdy behind the crate and back to you so that you can pull
Have the dog enter
the crate on command a few times without using the collar.
Once it is used to going in, use the line to restrain the
dog so that it remains in the crate for a few moments.
Concept: Give the Dog A Comparison
Now leave just
enough slack in the line to allow the dog to step outside
the crate. When the dog steps out, press the button and
command "Kennel." As soon as it gets back in, release the
button. Let it settle and then praise. If the dog leaves the
open crate when you are praising it, press the button and
command "Kennel." The dog must learn that praise isn't a
release from the "Kennel" command.
"Kennel" From Your
The next step is "Kennel" from
your side. Stand beside the dog and press the button
as you command :Kennel." Use the line to guide the
dog into the crate. As soon as he enters, release
the button and praise him.
As soon as the dog
has the idea of staying inside, you know that it views the
crate as a safe place. Now, with the dog about six feet in
front of the crate, stand beside the dog. Press the low
button on the transmitter as you take a step toward the
crate and command "Kennel." Use the line to guide the dog
into the crate. As soon as it enters, release the button and
praise it. Have it stay there a few moments before calling
Now call it out and
throw something it likes to retrieve directly behind you as
soon as it leaves the crate. (Do not use the collar
to reinforce "Here" to get the dog out of the crate. Train
one thing at a time. Use a second line if necessary).
If the dog leaves
the crate before you call it out, use the collar again as
you command it back into the crate. Even if it only steps
out with its front feet (very common), immediately move
towards the dog and use the collar as you command "Kennel."
When the dog is
willingly entering the crate to turn the collar off without
guidance from the line, begin increasing the distance
between the dog and the crate. From now on, release the
button after the dog starts away from your side toward the
crate. You want the dog to be successful in turning off
the stimulus quickly. As distance increases, it would take
too long for the dog to turn off the collar if it had to go
all the way back to the crate.
Teaching of "Kennel"
Do a few
repetitions of the "Kennel" command for several training
sessions in various locations. Use low level stimulation
that the dog turns off by leaving your side to go toward the
crate. Now that the dog is responding quickly give it a
chance to avoid electrical stimulation. Give the command
"Kennel" without electrical stimulation. You should not need
to use the collar unless the dog responds slowly or requires
a second command.
Teaching The Sit
Using the collar to
reinforce the "Sit" command should be done after the "Here",
"Heel" and "Kennel" commands. (Remember that your dog should
already know how to sit on command before you start this
Your first goal
with the "Sit" exercise is to teach the dog that staying put
on command prevents the collar from turning on. We use "Sit"
for this rather than "Down" or "Stand" because "Sit" is the
easiest of the stationary commands for the dog to learn.
Remember that the purpose of this stage of our collar
teaching is to teach the dog to have a strategy: obedience
to known commands turns off the collar. We are not trying to
prove to the dog that we can force it to do things it
doesn't enjoy doing.
Fitting the Collar
for "Sit"- Start With the Point Of Contact Method
Usually, it is
easiest for the dog to succeed if you first put the collar
around the dog's waist with the receiver on top of its rump.
Lower the intensity plug by one level, since many dogs will
be physically more sensitive on the rump than the neck.
(Lower it further or raise it up as warranted by the dog's
responses). For large dogs, you can add another collar strap
so that the collar will fit around the dog's waist.
Occasionally a dog
will overreact to the sensation of the strap around its
waist. (This reaction has nothing to do with the electrical
stimulation-it happens before you press the transmitter
button). If your dog overreacts, firmly command "Sit" and
guide with your leash until the dog stops moving around.
Start With the
Gently tug on the leash from
the front of the dog to tempt it to rise out of the
sit position. You want the dog to learn that
remaining on sit keeps the collar turned off.
With the dog on a
6-foot leash, command "Sit" without stimulation and move to
the end of your leash. Watch the dog's rump. The moment it
rises from the ground, press the low button on the
transmitter and repeat "Sit." The dog will naturally tend to
move away from the stimulation on its rump and sit back
down. However if it doesn't sit, help guide it by pulling up
with your leash. As soon as its butt hits the ground,
release the button. Watch the dog's rump carefully.
Consistent timing will help the dog learn quickly.
Now gently tug on
the leash from in front of the dog to tempt it to move out
of the sit position. You want to give the dog the
opportunity to learn that sitting turns off the collar, and
remaining on a sit keeps it turned off.
"Sit" From Motion
Once the dog is
resisting your leash tugs and other distractions, you should
add the sit out of motion. With the collar on the dog's
rump, begin walking with the dog at heel. Press the button
as you command "Sit" and quickly step in front, turning to
face the dog. This blocks its forward motion. Release the
button as its butt hits the ground and you continue to move
away. Push the button and repeat the command if the dog
tries to follow you.
When you get to the
end of the leash, wait a moment, then give the sitting dog a
few light tugs on the leash. You should see your dog resist
the tugs with some obvious determination. These gentle leash
tugs help the dog to be successful by reminding it of its
previous stationary "Sit" lessons.
Refine the sit out
of motion exercise until the dog sits on command to turn off
the collar as you keep walking at the same pace. When the
dog has a reliable, confident understanding of this motion
without needing your body language or leash assistance, it
is ready to have the collar moved back to its neck. Repeat
the previous lessons with the collar on the neck.
Sometimes it takes
a while for the dog to make the transition from point of
contact stimulation to the neck. It may take a while for the
dog to sit as fast with the collar on its neck as it did
with it on its rump.
training "Sit" with the collar for a week in different
locations before giving the command without using the
Adding Speed To
Your goal is to
teach the dog that speeding up on its way to you after you
command "Here" will cause the collar to turn off. This will
be one of the most useful lessons your Schutzhund
competition dog can learn, because you can use it to add
speed to the send-out, the return on a retrieve, and a host
of other things. Teaching the dog to speed up to turn the
collar off is most easily accomplished in a recall setting.
Leave the dog on a
sit and go at least 80 feet from the dog. Call "Here"
without using the collar. If the dog slows down after it has
started toward you, immediately press the button the
moment the dog starts to slow down and command "Here"
again. Help the dog to speed up by backing up rapidly and
encouraging it with your voice. The instant the dog speeds
up, release the button. The dog will soon understand that
speeding up turns off the collar and maintaining a fast pace
Once you have
reached this stage in training, use the collar every time
the dog slows down when coming to you. If you never accept a
slow recall, the dog will never question how the exercise is
to be performed.
temptation to throw something to speed up the dog during
this procedure, because the dog will be so intent upon the
"prey object" it will have difficulty identifying what it
did that caused the collar to turn off.
The Progression Of
Your Collar Teaching Program
One question people
ask is " How long do I work on the three-action introduction
to the e-collar?" Ideally, work one week on "Here" and
"Heel". The second week introduces "Kennel." And in the
third week start "Sit." Train at least two or three short
sessions a day in five different locations.
In each session,
continue reviewing the commands the dog has already learned
with the collar. The dog will get quicker and quicker at
turning off the low-level electrical stimulation until you
are just tapping the button. At that time you can give the
dog the comparison that quick obedience avoids stimulation
altogether. Give a command without electrical stimulation
and praise its quick obedience.
If your dog
disregards a command at this point, repeat the command with
electrical stimulation. If it still refuses your command, go
to the next higher level. The general rule is: go up in
intensity each time you have to repeat any command that the
dog has already learned with the collar as described
in these articles. Your dog will soon learn not to wait for
a second command.
You now have a dog
that has a strategy for success in all its future collar
work: obeying a known command turns off electrical
stimulation; quick obedience avoids it. You also have a
consistent, reliable and humane method of reinforcing
certain commands off leash: a fast recall, a spirited off
leash heel, and a quick sit from motion. In future articles
we will discuss the remaining obedience commands, and how
and when to use the e-collar effectively during protection
work and tracking.