Electronic Collar Training for the
Schutzhund Dog: Part IV
By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice
In the last three articles, we
covered selection of equipment and fitting the collar to the
dog. We then explained some basic principles that apply
whenever training with the electronic collar, and we covered
the "three action introduction" with the electronic collar.
Lastly, we discussed how to develop a reliable retrieve.
Now that your Schutzhund prospect
has the above foundation you can build on his understanding
to teach a spirited and reliable send out.
The Send Out or Go Out ("Vorhaus")
In all of these exercises, we teach
the exercise before we begin using the e-collar. In this
article, we will first describe how we teach the send out.
We will then cover how to incorporate the electronic collar.
Do not try to incorporate the down
("Platz") in the send out while you are teaching it. Teach
the down from motion separately (covered later in this
article). Trying to teach both actions in the same exercise
will just confuse the beginner and ruin his spirited send
When starting the send out
exercise, you need to keep two things separate in your mind.
First, the dog must have some motivation to go away from you
on command. Second, the dog must have some idea of where you
want him to go. Many handlers confuse these two things
because, in the early teaching stages of the exercise, they
are the same things for the dog. Then later, when the
handler stops using a target (such as a tennis ball, etc.)
to motivate the dog to run, the dog is confused and stops
wanting to go. Furthermore, he no longer knows where he is
supposed to go.
To motivate the dog to leave and
run from the handler on command, we use what the dog already
understands, the retrieving action.
To teach the dog where to run, we
follow several stages. First, we let the dog see the target
(the retrieve objects) either placed or thrown. Second, we
built distance in the send out by repeatedly sending the dog
back to a location he remembers, until he believes that
there will always be something to retrieve. Third, we train
the dog to be obedient to the direction given by sending him
to different locations in a pattern he can identify. At this
final stage, we teach the dog to withstand distractions from
the side while he is being sent. He will need this
understanding when you send him running down the trial field
and the blinds are up or other distractions are present!
Getting Started with the Send Out
We base our send out training on
the retrieve, because it gives us a reliable way to motivate
the dog to leave our side and run out. We recommend the use
of retriever field training bumpers for repetitive
retrieving work. They are easy to throw after attaching a
throwing rope on one end and come in both highly visible
white and less visible colors such as orange and gray
(remember, dogs are color blind so orange is gray to them).
You will need this contrast for later work on the send out.
Purchase at least eight retriever
bumpers. Buy four white plastic ones and four orange plastic
ones. Do not buy the canvas type. As an alternative, you can
use eight of the readily available burlap tug toys that are
about twelve inches long and have a rope at one end.
Ideally, you would use four that are about two inches in
diameter and four that are about four inches in diameter, so
that some will be more easily visible than others.
Begin by leaving your dog sitting
near one end of your training field. (Do not use a field
with blinds set up in it until the dog has worked the "wagon
wheel" drills described later.) Let the dog watch you walk
about ten yards toward the end of the field, and place a
bumper. Now return to the dog, and throw a second bumper to
the one you placed. Send the dog to retrieve, saying first
your send out command "Vorhaus", immediately followed by the
dog's familiar retrieve command.
Now repeat the retrieve by sending
the dog for the remaining bumper.
Now you have established a location
in your field (a "target location") where the dog believes
there are things to retrieve. Take the dog about another
twenty yards farther away from the target location, leave
him sitting, and let him watch you walk out to replace the
bumpers. (He should be positioned so that when you send him,
he is following the same route he took in his earlier send
At this point add several bumpers
to the pile, placing the bumpers 18 inches apart. Now walk
the dog about seven paces toward the pile of bumpers, and
send him from a walk, using your "Vorhaus" command and
signal. Follow with your retrieve command only if the dog
seems confused. Drop the retrieve command just as soon as
you can. Praise the dog for picking up the bumper, and
encourage him to run quickly back to you.
Repeat the procedure moving your
starting point farther and farther back each time. Start
each send from motion after heeling the dog forward anywhere
from five to twenty paces before sending. Make sure you vary
the number of paces each time or the dog will begin to
anticipate the exact moment and start sending himself! Use
the low button on your e-collar to reinforce your heel
command if the dog surges forward before you command him to
The next day, return to the same
field. Place the bumper pile in the same location as before,
but this time; do not let the dog see you place them. Start
him fairly close - about ten yards back - the first time you
send him. Repeat, backing up each time.
Follow this procedure over the
course of several sessions. You should gradually lengthen
the distance until the dog is comfortable running about 100
yards to make the retrieve. Always move the starting point
back from the known location of the bumpers. Do not move the
location of the bumper piles back away from the dog's
starting point, because the dog will tend to slow down at
the old bumper location.
Now you can begin to establish some
other memory locations of bumpers, using the same procedure
you used to establish the first one (dog watches you place
the bumpers, back up with the repetition, etc.). These
locations can be at the other end of the first training
field, and in other fields, schoolyards, etc. Try to develop
at least five such memory locations.
At this stage, if the dog does not
leave on command, or goes only a short distance and acts
confused, do not use the electronic collar. Just go up to
the dog, thus shortening the distance, and try again.
Work the dog until you can send him
from 100 yards away on the first try to any of the locations
and he goes all the way with confidence.
Incorporating the Electronic
Now the dog is ready to learn that
leaving you on command shuts off stimulation.
Begin by reviewing the dog's
retrieve command from twenty feet away, using the e-collar.
Press the low button as you give the command "Bring", and
release it when he leaves your side.
Repeat this procedure in your
training field, incorporating the e-collar in the send out.
Send the dog to make one retrieve from a target location
without using the collar. Then repeat, heeling the dog
toward the target and pressing the low button just as you
give the command "Vorhaus". Release the button the moment
the dog leaves. Repeat this for several sessions in various
Adding Speed for the Send Out
Now re-read the discussion for
adding speed to the recall from Part I of this series, and
give the dog a refresher on the procedure. (In general, if
it has been a while since the dog has received a particular
correction with the e-collar, and you plan to use that
correction in training, it is a good practice to give the
dog a refresher on it. Do this with low levels of
stimulation and give the refresher separate and apart from
the particular training project where you plan to
incorporate the correction.)
Leave your dog sitting in the
training field at your usual starting place. Walk to your
target pile of bumpers, and call the dog to you. If the dog
slows down, immediately press the low button and command
"Here" again. When he speeds up, release the button. Repeat
this a few times.
Now have the dog do a send out over
the same route as the recall. If the dog slows his pace,
press the low button and repeat your "Vorhaus" command.
Release the button as he speeds up. Repeat this sequence for
several sessions in different locations, giving the dog a
comparison: running all the way brings praise and play,
slowing his pace causes the collar to be used.
Teaching Direction - The Wagon
The final stage of teaching the
send out is to teach the dog to take direction accurately
and resist distractions while he is running.
Take four white retrieving bumpers
and, with the dog sitting beside you at heel, throw each one
about fifteen yards from him in the direction of the four
points of an imaginary compass, picturing the dog and you at
the center of the compass. Now send the dog to retrieve each
bumper, rotating in a counter clockwise direction. After
each retrieve, throw the bumper back to its original
location before sending him for the next one. Rotating
counterclockwise helps the dog, because your body blocks the
route to the bumper he just retrieved.
Once the dog is proficient starting
from a sit, try heeling away from and then toward a bumper
before sending him to retrieve it. For example, if you are
going to send for the North bumper, heel the dog toward the
South bumper, make an about turn, and send the dog for the
North bumper from the approximate center of the circle.
If at any time the dog tries to go
for the wrong bumper, do not allow this! Tell the dog "No,
Here." Applying medium level stimulation with your e-collar
as you give the command "Here". After a few sessions, you
can phase out using the stimulation, and the dog will
readily understand that the command "No, Here" means he
should leave the wrong bumper alone and return to you for a
If the dog refuses to go on the
first command, heel him closer to the correct bumper and
apply medium electrical stimulation as you repeat the
When the dog is successful in a
counterclockwise direction, work the exercise in a clockwise
When the dog can be successful at
this level, add four orange or less visible bumpers between
the imaginary compass points, so that you are working an
eight-spoked "wagon wheel," with a bumper at each spoke. (If
you are using the burlap tug toys, use the smaller diameter
ones in the place of the orange bumpers). Work the dog
counterclockwise, then clockwise.
When the dog is correct and
confident at this level, move the orange bumpers so they are
twice as far from the center as the white ones. Alternate
sending the dog for white and orange bumpers, first working
counterclockwise, then clockwise when the dog is successful.
Now the challenge faced by the dog
is considerable. Whenever he is sent for an orange bumper,
he must run between two closer, highly visible white bumpers
to get the correct one. This is a difficult test for the dog
and requires him to concentrate on taking the correct
direction from the direction he is heeling and from your
signal. Use your "No, Here" correction every time he goes
for the wrong bumpers. Move up so that the distance between
the bumpers is widened. This will help him succeed. Give him
a lot of praise for every success. Continue to practice this
drill until the dog makes no mistakes.
Now your dog's understanding of the
send out exercise is highly developed. He knows that
whenever he is sent, there is a right and a wrong direction
to run. He knows that he should be attentive to your
direction in order to be correct. He knows that he must go
on command, and that he must not slow down. He knows to hold
the direction he is given and not to veer off course.
Now he is prepared to train with
the blinds up, so that he will run with speed and confidence
between highly tempting blinds when sent on "Vorhaus" during
The Down Exercise with the
You should be separately training
the down exercise during the period you are teaching the
send out, so that you can incorporate them when the dog is
First of all, our usual warning:
The dog should already know the command "Down" before you
begin teaching him that lying down on command will shut off
stimulation. We're going to assume here that you've already
taught your dog this command with a leash or other method,
and move right into the electronic collar procedure. The
procedure is very similar to what we used for "Sit" in Part
Two of this series.
It is easiest for the dog to
succeed if you temporarily put the collar on the dog with
the receiver on top of the neck. Start with one plug lower
than the plug you normally train with, because the top of a
dog's neck is sometimes more sensitive than the underside.
The use of a tie-out stake pounded
into the ground helps the dog learn. Run a long line through
the ring at the top of the stake and tie it to the dog's
collar. This will give you an easy method to guide the dog
back down to the ground even when the dog is at a distance
With the dog standing next to the
stake, tell him "Down" without using the e-collar, and if
necessary use the line to pull him down. The moment he rises
from the ground without being told, press the low button on
the transmitter and repeat your command, "Down." The dog
will naturally tend to move away from the stimulation on the
top of his neck and lie down. However, if he doesn't, pull
him to the ground with the line. As soon as his elbows hit
the ground, release the button.
Once the dog is doing well, remove
the line and put the dog on a leash. Command "Down" and step
in front of the dog. After the dog is in the down position,
move out to the end of the leash and pull lightly. Be ready
to enforce down with the e-collar if the dog gets up. The
dog should learn to resist the pull on the leash.
Now add the down from motion. With
the collar receiver still on top of the dog's neck, begin
walking with the dog beside you on a leash. Press the button
as you command "Down" and quickly step in front, turning to
block his forward motion. If he doesn't go down immediately,
step towards him. Release the button as his elbows hit the
ground and slowly back away.
Press the button and repeat the
command if he tries to follow you. When you get to the end
of the leash, wait a moment then give the dog a few light
tugs on the leash. Press the button and repeat the command
any time the dog starts to get up. After several
repetitions, you should see your dog resist the tugs with
some obvious determination. This tells you the dog knows
that staying down in place will keep the collar turned off.
Praise him for his good decision whenever he resists the tug
of the leash.
Practice the down from motion until
the dog downs quickly on command. Turn off the collar as you
keep walking forward at the same pace.
Now for the final stage: The dog
will learn that he should down the moment you command, even
if at a distance from you and moving quickly. To introduce
this, go back to the tie-out stake with the dog on the long
line. Set it up so the dog is at one end of the line and
facing you, about forty feet away. The long line runs
through the ring on the stake, which is about ten feet in
front of the dog. You might want to wear gloves.
Call the dog, and as he passes over
the top of the stake, command "Down" and snub him to a stop.
Do not use stimulation this first time. You are just getting
him used to the action and the rope. Give him a second
command "Down" if he is confused about obeying the long
Repeat the procedure a few times to
get the dog comfortable. Now repeat again, but this time
press the low button on the transmitter as you command
"Down". Use the long line to snub the dog to a stop, and the
moment he is in the down position, release the button. You
may have to help the dog with a second command; just be sure
to keep the button down all the time until the elbows
meet the ground, and let the line help the dog succeed
The purpose of using the long line
and stake is to teach the dog that he cannot succeed in
turning off the collar by running all the way to you.
Rather, he must lie down to turn the collar off whenever he
hears the down command. If you do not use the long line and
tie-out stake to control the dog, most dogs will just run
into you and will never make the connection that they must
lie down immediately to stop the electrical stimulation.
When the dog is dropping on command
and leaving slack in the line, you know he understands, and
you can take the line off. Work the down with the collar for
several sessions in different locations and with the dog at
various distances from you.
Now, move the collar back to where
it belongs underneath the dog's neck, increasing the
intensity plug by one level if you lowered it earlier.
Repeat all the steps above to make sure the dog understands
that lying down turns off the sensation, and isn't dependent
on the downward push of the electrical stimulation to give
you the right response.
Once the dog is responding quickly,
give him a chance to down without stimulation. If he doesn't
down quickly, repeat the command as you push the button on
the transmitter. Let the dog make the comparison that quick
obedience avoids stimulation.
When the dog has a reliable,
confident understanding of the "Down" command with the
e-collar, you are ready to incorporate it with the send out.
Putting it Together
When you put the two exercises
together, at first start the dog close to his send out
target (the pile of bumpers). About fifteen yards is a good
Review "Down" once while moving at
heel, using mild electrical stimulation. Then send the dog,
and when he is half way to the pile, down him, using low
level stimulation as you give the command. Praise him when
he is down, walk up to him, and send him on ahead to make
If after several repetitions, the
dog still downs slowly, or not at all, despite the low
stimulation, do not increase the level. Rather, put him on a
long line for a few repetitions and use it to restrict him
from running farther ahead as you use the e-collar. Release
the button when his elbows hit the ground. In this way, he
can make the discovery of "what works" to turn off the
collar even when he is moving away from you.
After a successful down, send him
again but without downing him. Then repeat again, with a
down. This time, praise him when he is down and call him
back to you with enthusiasm, praising him when he
arrives. Then send him again and let him retrieve without a
Alternate the four possible
actions, sometimes sending the dog all the way without a
down, sometimes downing him and then walking out to him,
sometimes downing him and then sending him on to complete a
retrieve, and occasionally calling him back to you.
Vary the percentage of each
according to what you read in your dog. If he is hesitant as
he goes out, down him rarely. If he tends not to look back
at you after downing but rather stares forward at the
bumpers, you should call him back to you instead of sending
him on ahead to retrieve. If he recalls reluctantly, throw
another retrieving bumper behind you for him to retrieve on
his the way back to you. This will speed him up and add to
Give the dog a lot of praise with
each action, and frequently break the drill with a play
retrieve behind you (away from the bumper pile).
Any time the dog fails to perform a
command, whether "Vorhaus", "Down" or "Here", reinforce a
second command with a higher level.
Any time the dog slows down or
downs early, without a command, press the low button and
repeat the command "Vorhaus" with your send out signal.
Release the button when the dog speeds up toward the
If the dog is slowing down, taking
a few extra steps before actually lying down, make a note of
it. The most effective correction for this problem is to
press the low button when you first give the next three "Down"
This "automatic correction"
procedure will speed up the dog's downing action. If you
continue to see a slow down, heel the dog away and down him
out of motion several times using higher levels with every
down command. (He may be a dog that needs a high intensity
for the down during a send out, but first introduce the
stronger correction apart from the send out, itself).
As the dog's performance becomes
smooth, increase the distance of the send out, until you can
send him the full 100 yards at a confident gallop, quickly
"Down" him anywhere along the way, and either go to him in
or send him on to complete the retrieve.
Read your dog. With some dogs, the
majority of your send outs should end with uninterrupted
retrieves, rather than downs. This keeps up a nice, spirited
send out. However, if you are experiencing control problems
with your dog, "Down" him more frequently.
In the Next Article
In our next article, we will cover
jumping and incorporating the retrieve with the jump. We
will also cover the blind search.