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Discussion Starter #1
I was asked my opinion on my friends dog this week while vacationing with her. Her boyfriend was interested in getting an e collar and she wasn't so sure. After spending 2 days with them, I gave my opinion that they need to work on and perfect the basics first before going with an e collar. I also explained that if they decide to go that route, they will need to find an experienced trainer to show them how to properly use the tool.

What are your opinions?

Oscar is a 1.5 year old NM Lab/Pointer X. First of all, he has a lot of energy. I took him for a 90 minute walk on the beach where he was able to run free and swim and he was still ready to run and run some more after.

He is destructive. He is still not to be trusted outside of his crate unless someone is supervising 100% of the time. He seemingly has no understanding of 'people things' and 'my things'. He has destroyed thousands of dollars worth of belongings. He also has a serious resource guarding problem, where the owners have to remove all toys if their other dog is around.

He is okay with his 'sister', a senior Golden Retriever, but not okay with other dogs. I was told that his behavior is different when at 'home' (we were in a vacation rental property). However, Oscar attacked my dog three separate times. I was told he also attacked other guests dogs the day before and last year at the same property.

What I got from my observations was that Oscar has no frustration tolerance. If he is restrained, he lashes out. If he can't get something he wants, he becomes destructive. I learnt this fully on the last day when Oscar (on leash) saw my dog, couldn't get to him, and then bit me. I have two puncture wounds on my forearm. He also grazed me on two other occasions when he was reacting to some outside stimulus and was not able to control himself.

I spent some time doing some fun training sessions with him and he is incredibly bright, attentive and eager. Using 'look at that!' worked really well with him, and it was relatively easy to maintain his focus, even under heavy distractions. I was able to have him walk nicely next to my dog (handled by another person) with no negative reaction. He seemed to only become aggressive when he became frustrated or agitated.

I recommended a lot of different things to the owners, but they were physically unable. One is wheelchair bound with no dexterity in her arms or legs and the other is able to walk only short distances assisted and cannot grasp a leash. I tried various things but because of mobility issues, the owners were unable to perform them.

They do their best to manage his behavior by utilizing a daycare during weekdays and having PCAs take him for short walks. He is also able to run and play ball in a nearby field at home, but has an unreliable recall with his owners so cannot be trusted for longer off leash play. He knows basic behaviors and completed a basic obedience class.

Although IMHO this home is not a good fit for Oscar, rehoming is not an option. The owners truly love and care for him and want to work with him and would not consider rehoming.

Do you think an e collar would be an appropriate tool for the owners to use? What other options can I suggest to them? Does anyone have experience working with disabled owners and their dogs?

Can anyone in the DC/Virginia area recommend a behaviorist? and a good trainer?


(I should mention that I had Oscar at my house for a week last year and he showed none of the aggressive behaviors I saw this week. Last year, he did wonderfully with my two dogs and really seemed to bond with Ozzie. I was not told of his aggression before bringing my dog, or I would not have put him in that situation.)
 

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I am not a pro and I feel for the people and the dog. The dog seems to need a behaviorist and a private trainer who can shape him into what these people can handle if at all possible. I cannot say a whole lot about the dog not being in a suitable home. I have a health issue that will eventually put me in a similar position and am training my dog before it takes place. Even then I will hire someone to walk and exercise my dog if need be. I honestly hope it works out for all of them. Sometimes a pet is all a person has left in this world to make their final days good ones. :)
 

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What do they even want to use an ecollar for?

Seems like a disaster waiting to happen for a reactive, bored and under stimulated dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
What do they even want to use an ecollar for?

Seems like a disaster waiting to happen for a reactive, bored and under stimulated dog.
I think the BF is thinking that he will be able to control Oscar better. Because of mobility issues, if Oscar grabs something he isn't suppose to, the owners aren't able to correct him or get the object away. Also, I think the hope is that it will also help to train a better recall. The main issue (or what I got out of it anyways) is that if Oscar reacts, they have no way of controlling him. When he does react, he comes with teeth flashing, so ignoring him is not really an option.

I went out and bought them a tug-a-jug. I also showed them an interactive game that I use with Ozzie. I explained that boredom is a big factor with him, and anything they could give him to keep him busy would help. While I was there, I kept him busy with stuffed bones and kongs, the tug a jug and toys. However, as soon as he finished the bone/kong, he immediately became frustrated again and destructive.

I am thinking that teaching a solid 'leave it' and a 'touch' cue would work wonders for him. Unfortunately, they live rather far away from me so I am unable to help them directly.
 

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You're right, the home is not the right fit for him. He cannot receive the exercise and stimulation he needs. An e-collar won't solve that problem. Sadly this happens with a lot of dogs. People get a high energy dog but as a puppy they are manageable. Then they grow into adults and they realize what they have on their hands.

Oscar needs a home with people who are physically able to meet his needs. Your friends need a dog who can meet their needs.
 

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Honestly, I've never seen a situation where an e-collar resolved aggression. Usually, it teaches them that whatever is freaking them out and causing them to aggress causes pain and is something they need to be freaked out about.

The absolute best thing would be to rehome this dog, but since you said it's not an option they are willing to consider, is there anyone close to them (both geographically and emotionally) who would be interested in adopting him but still letting his original people stay involved in his life? This situation makes me sad because I'm sure that this would be my dog Brody if he was in a home that couldn't meet his needs. Brody is possibly the best dog I have ever had the pleasure of being around, but he is a VERY "difficult" dog to keep stimulated and happy. Once his needs are met, he is an exemplary canine citizen (and has the title to prove it :) ) I would love for this dog to have the potential to be an awesome dog.
 

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I really like Lindbert's idea. The dog will have its needs met and the people will still have their needs met as well. :) It is too bad they could not consider an adoptable senior dog who is looking for a loving home? I would think some senior dogs would enjoy a short walk if their health is not an issue.
 

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I agree on the rehoming it needs to be explained that that would be the best option for all parties involved. But unfortunately its also the hardest option, perhaps what someone said about a home that would still allow them to see him regularly would be best.
 

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Tough situation. Honestly, there are some dogs who are so mismatched to the people they live with that it's never going to be a happy ending sort of thing. This sounds like a challenging dog for an experienced able-bodied person, but it sounds like things that could be dealt with (in a better situation where the owners are physically able to really work with the dog). A dog who is already so reactive that he's redirecting on humans is likely to become much more over-the-top if you are shocking him when he's in that state. His dog aggression is likely to get worse, not better, and he's going to be more anxious and reactive. There are some people who do positive-based board and train (though there are many more of the other kind) and that might be an option. But you know, it is a big, high energy adolescent with people who aren't likely to be able to handle more than a very sedate couch potato. There are some combinations which just have such a slim chance of working, and this sounds like one of them.

Most here know I am not a fan of ecollars. But the biggest part of the problem is that they are readily available to people who are desperate because they are incapable of training. It's equipment that can be MORE damaging when used by someone with poor timing/poor understanding of training. In the hands of people who are skilled in their use, they can be a subtle tool. IMO still a coercive tool, and not one I'd use. But they can be used scientifically, and in a way that increases wanted behavior and decreases unwanted behavior. But, the majority of desperate people who go down to Petsmart and buy the cheapest one available are NOT people who are suddenly going to grasp the nuances of dog training. And they just end up torturing their dogs and probably making them worse.

Personally, it wouldn't break my heart if this device was almost impossible (or illegal) to own. But at any rate, I don't think they should be able to be purchased over the counter or on line by desperate people who have no idea how to use them. They have that much potential for harm.
 

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An e-collar program could work well, but it is by no means the only way to address the problem of physical disability. Any successful e-collar program would have to be custom tailored to the dog and owners. Just buying a unit and winging it makes it more likely than not that someone gets hurt.

Dog doesn't sound like a genuine thug, and all the problems described are probably owner-created. Any problem the owner creates can be reversed with a bit of thoughtful remediation. The trick is to avoid making things worse. You can't dig your way out of a hole.
 

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I will say I have used a collar on one dog that I surely would not have wanted to be sitting in a wheel chair unless it was jet powered. From OP's description the dog does not sound like an outlaw.
 

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I really don't think (from what you have told us +two) that an e-collar is the best way to go for these two. I am not anti-ecollar at all. I have never used one, but have researched heavily. They can be subtle tools (as someone else mentioned) and reasonably humane. My concern is rooted in the fact you mention a lack of dexterity and an inability to grasp a leash. Would they both have the dexterity necessary to use an e-collar well? What I have read suggests that lots of dexterity would be necessary! Of course I don't have first hand knowledge of their abilities so I could be wrong about what they could do.
The only way I think that it could be used for this couple is if the dog was trained to the ecollar very carefully by someone else and then maybe (and only maybe) it could be used by them at a very low setting for corrections.
I hate to suggest rehoming....especially since they say it isn't an option. I really hope you can find a solution!!!
 

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i used the e-collar many times and it worked seamless! i do recommend at your case talking to a professional trainer advice on how to use this collars, if the behavior to correct is very bad, just turning the collar stimulation to its top level won't get you the results you are looking for... that's the kind of things you have to build around the collar training from bottom up.
 

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Wait.. are you saying that if a behavior isn't "very bad" just turning the stim to the top level will get you good results? I recommend talking to a professional trainer for ANY case where you want to get an e-collar involved.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Agreed... an ecollar requires a professional. No doubt in my mind about that.

I am now on the hunt for a trainer in the DC area who hopefully has an accessible location, or would be willing to do house visits for not a huge sum. I am hoping this trainer can talk my friends out of an ecollar, as I dont see it going well.

After talking more to the owners, it seems that Oscars aggression is very male/male. Though he does go to daycare, so it is not 'severe'. I think the combination of being in a new place, being unsure, and then having a large male dog appear, was too much for him.
 

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An e collar alone is not going to address the issue of him needing to burn off energy - they'd be better off to find someone to take him jogging for a few miles every morning to do that. Not a dogwalker who walks, but a runner or biker who can get him good and tired. That would likely help with the distruction issues. Would they be able to do something like carting or have him pull the wheelchair? Is that an option? I've seen carts that you sit in and the dog is hitched up and off you go, that might work too, with training of course.

They may want to consider a different food, if the food has a lot of questionable ingredients it could be adding to the hyper behavior. A trainer who can work with them to teach him household manners would be good too, and a raw diet or lots of bones in an xpen would keep him amused for longer.

If they do go for an e collar, they should consult an experienced trainer who can do most of the training for them and then help them through the process. My collars have beepers on them, and at the most I use the beep to remind them they need to listen. It's mainly a recall thing (if we go to an off leash park with people tossing the ball, they are not shy about joining in and going home with someone who has a ball) or a barking thing with the one dog who likes to bark a lot some days. I would never use it to stop aggression though as it just adds to that if done wrong. There are too many horror stories of the collar being tossed on an untrained dog and them flipping out and attacking whatever is closest - one guy figured he'd teach his GSD to be gentle around the kids by zapping him and the dog just attacked the kid assuming the kid had caused the pain.

Lana
 

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They need to find a trainer FIRST and THEN decide if an e-collar is needed.

I don't know how internet savvy they are, but if they are interested in clicker training, the Training Levels yahoo group has a lot of people training their own service dogs so they're pretty good at figuring out how to train the dog despite a physical disability.
 

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I think the issue with this dog goes way beyond exercise requirements.

What I see from the description above isn't a bored dog, it's a dog who believes that it is the leader of it's "pack" because it's never been taught otherwise. That's why it doesn't come when called. It doesn't feel like it has to. That's why he has no understanding of "people things". In his mind, EVERYTHING is "his stuff". That's why he has problems with resource guarding. In his opinion, that stuff is his and he's telling everyone else to get away from his stuff.

The issues with other dogs sound to me like the result of insufficient socialization, which is understandable given that his owners apparently have mobility issues.

An e-collar is not going to magically fix any of those things. At 18 months of age, the dog v dog aggression is going to be very difficult to overcome, and may not even be possible.

What I think needs to be done with this dog is to immediately implement a NILIF approach (explained here: http://www.dogforums.com/dog-training-forum/6856-nilif-nothing-life-free.html ) but honestly I'm not sure that your friends are going to be able to adhere to it.

If they can't train the dog the way it needs to be trained, then these issue are never going to get any better. I don't have any experience with dogs being trained solely by outside trainers, but the track record of service dogs is a clear indication that it can be done. I would assume that it would be quite expensive.
 
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