Chief's Brittanys

July, 2004

I was just wrote an e-mail to a gentleman who asked me for advice.  Writing that e-mail made me want to share some thoughts.


The subject of the e-mail was e-collars.  'What brand should I get and how old should the dog be before I use an e-collar?'


That made me think about another question I get.  'How old should my pup be before I start training?'


With regard to the e-collar brand, it's up to you.  We prefer D.T. systems SPT 7302.  It has the humane vibration feature as well as an outstanding lifetime warranty.  It also has 50 stimulation levels so you can fine tune the correct level for your dog as well has boasting a beeper.   D.T. also makes a nice 'end loading' launcher that is much safer to use than other manufacturers whose launchers inevitably blow up in your face.


Choose a collar/beeper/training system based on what your long term goals are with regard to training and hunting.  If you see yourself getting a second dog at sometime, get a transmitter that will handle a second collar (like the D.T. systems 7302).  If you like the idea of a beeper to locate your dog, make sure the collar has a beeper feature.  If you don't want your beeper to be a part of your collar, then consider buying a stand alone beeper.


If you are a one dog person and you don't see yourself as a trainer, say, more of an enforcer, then just get a one dog system.


If your dog hunts very close, chances are you don't need a beeper, maybe an inexpensive bell will do if you hunt heavy cover.


If your dog is a far ranging dog and your idea of a good hunt is to drive up on your dog standing point, consider a one to two mile range collar and a beeper.  Possibly consider a radio tracking collar for your dog as they have come way down on price in recent years.


When considering collars/beeper/trackers, ask yourself this question "Is this device rechargeable or do I need to stock batteries?" 


If your answer is 'rechargeable', keep in mind that your a.c. plug-in charger isn't worth a hoot in the middle of Kansas at 2:00 p.m. in the middle of nowhere on a pheasant hunt.  Most brands do not offer a 12 volt plug in charger so that means a trip to Wal-Mart to get an inverter.  I strongly recommend an inverter for all folks who use rechargeable electronic hunting devices.  You can get a good one for about 40 bucks.


If your answer is 'batteries', then make sure you keep a few extra in the glove box.


Now lets talk about 'What age should I start training or using an e-collar on my dog?'


I really dislike this question because it is often followed to the letter which is many times a big mistake.


I use to say, start them at 6 months of age.  Now I like 8 months of age.  Has anything changed?  Absolutely not.  So why the change?


I changed because some folks are too literal.  Folks read that their dog can begin training in earnest at age 6 months so they start the day the dog turns 6 months old!  The problem with that is that the 6 month old estimate is simply that, an estimateTraining should begin when the dog is showing signs of being ready, not because it reached an arbitrary age.


Many dogs can start a repetitive conditioning training program at 6 months but there are just as many that simply aren't ready.  They are too immature to comprehend what is going.


So when I get asked the 'age' question, I usually reply with a long answer that includes words/phrases like 'maturation', 'exposure to birds', 'playing fetch', 'basic commands', 'birdiness'.  All of this has to do with the dog being ready because he IS ready, NOT because he reached a certain age.


If your dog is not ready and needs to be made ready, then allow extra time for yourself or your trainer to give your puppy the necessary exposure it requires.  Many trainers refer to this as puppy training.  Notice I didn't write 'started' or 'finished' as those two words imply a higher level of training.  Puppy training involves exposure (not starting or finishing) to birds and gun fire, jaunts afield to learn about creeks, trees, skunks, wild birds, etc...  Puppy training is part of the environment you provide to your puppy prior to 'starting' it (started = dog that knows the basic of bird hunting, as in a juvenile dog).


I also noticed that folks will take a 'recommended age' and move it forward.  How American is that?  'If one pill is good, then two are better!' sort of mentality. They figure, "Hey, my dog is smart, he is ready now".  So the poor pup is asked to do things it isn't ready for.  Worse yet, some folks use training programs that employ e-collars from day one.


My standard answer for someone that has already trained their dog and is now experiencing field obedience issues, is "Get a start-of-the-art e-collar, blend it in with the lead and check cord then go back to the field and use the e-collar as an enforcement tool.


Blending is another issue that novice trainers don't understand so they end up not doing the job right and confusing/ruining their bird dog.  I'll write about that in another commentary...


I hope I answered 'What brand of e-collar should I get and what age should I start....?'


OBTW, if you are reading this and thinking, Well what should I be doing and when?'  Click here!


Thanks for dropping by and Y'all take care and give your dog a fancy treat for me!

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