Adding Speed to the Finish

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

For many dogs, the e-collar can be a good tool to add speed to the finish. Use it after the dog knows the exercise and can give you the accuracy you want.

Your dog should already be familiar with the idea of "turning off the collar" by performing at least one, or preferably two, other commands. Now you'll teach him that he can also turn off the collar by responding to the finish command.

Once he knows this, he'll move quickly so that he can "turn off" the collar as soon as possible. Then you can phase out using stimulation with the command, and he will think he "beat the correction" by moving quickly when he hears your command to finish.

Again, we emphasize that this knowledge needs to be based on his prior understanding of how to respond to the collar with other commands. The finish shouldn't be the first command you train with the remote trainer.

Adding a command to a dog's "e-collar vocabulary"

Generally speaking, whenever you plan to add a command to a collar-trained dog's "e-collar vocabulary," you should follow the steps below, using a remote trainer with low-level continuous stimulation. Of course, the dog must already know the command. You are just adding the idea of "turning off" the collar by performing that command.

  1. Remind the dog of the exercise by first having him do two repetitions of it without stimulation.
  2. Then repeat, this time pressing the button just as you give the command. The moment he moves to respond to the command, release the button.
  3. Repeat step # 2 several times in a row, then end the collar session and do something else with him.
  4. Repeat the sequence (steps # 1 through # 3) in at least two more sessions on at least two different days and in at least two different places. Keep each collar session very short.
  5. When you see the dog moving quickly in response to the command, stop using stimulation with each command. Let him think he "beat" the collar by moving quickly. (If you don't see his response speed up by the end of the second session, increase the intensity by one level.)

After the dog has completed this program, you usually can, if you prefer, use momentary instead of continuous stimulation to reinforce the command that you have added to the dog's e-collar vocabulary.

Limiting options and maintaining a pattern

As the dog speeds up his finish in response to the motivation to turn off the collar, you may lose precision. So our familiar advice of "limit the dog's options" applies here just as it does when starting out a beginning dog on the e-collar with his very first command.

By "limiting the dog's options," we mean rig it up so that the dog will do the exercise the way you want, and can't become patterned into a mistake.

What you rig up should vary according to the mistake. For example, let's say your dog finishes by going around behind you, and you notice that he's starting to end up crooked with his rump out because he's moving faster than he used to. In this case, do your e-collar practice on the finish close to a fence or a curb so that he can't end up wide.

If he's starting to crowd too close behind you as he goes around (this style of finishing will cause a large or long-backed dog to end up crooked with his rump in), then place something right behind your feet, or stand with one foot behind you, so that the dog maintains the habit of leaving this area clear as he starts around.

Coming in the Next Article

In the next article, we will give you some tips on solving problems with the finish by using the training platform you saw in Parts 7 through 9 of this series.

First Appeared in:
Front & Finish

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