Can I Use an E-Collar on My Small Dog?
by Robin MacFarlane
"You can't use an e-collar on this breed!"
Breed specific references regarding training tools and methodology are one of the common concerns trainers in the pet world often hear. Statements like "You can't teach a Greyhound to sit." "Never let a Siberian Husky off leash." and "Don't put any type of collar on a Yorkie because it will cause a collapsed trachea." are pretty common. Occasionally these myths come direct from the breeder, but most often they come from well intentioned, but misinformed friends doling out advice to new puppy owners.
I've also heard a fair share of "you can't put an e-collar on a (insert breed of choice) because it will ruin them!" Like most other myths, this one is also false and got its steam from people who needed to find excuses for the limitations of their knowledge.
Your dog's breed certainly can play into the development of a training plan, but it does not dictate the tools or techniques you can use.
Now there may be a rare exception with a dog that is too small to fit into a certain tool, or actually does have a health problem that creates some limitation, but beyond that, most any tool can be used with most any breed.
In the case of the e-collar, I've personally used them on breeds from every AKC group and on dogs ranging in size as small as 5 pounds (a saucy little Dachshund!) up to an English Mastiff who tipped the scales at 267 pounds.
When it comes to training your dog I want you to be less concerned with what tool is right for your breed and more concerned about the nuances that will help you on the road to success.
Here is a bit of food for thought regarding tips based on breed:
Retrievers: They LOVE to carry stuff. Use that as a reward system. Toss, fetch, carry -- put the love of retrieving to good use rather than fighting it. Teach your dog to bring all the way too you and to release things on command.
Sighthounds: They chase stuff. It is what they were developed to do. You can use that as a reward too, just be sure to build a rock solid recall. Sighthounds are wicked fast and get out of range quickly if in pursuit of prey. Practice your recalls with the aid of an e-collar AND long line until you know the dog is solid and ready to be off the long line.
Hounds: These guys will test your resolve if you expect obedience when there is something worthy of being sniffed in the area. And there is always something worthy of being sniffed for a hound! Be prepared to do more practice than you might with other breeds. It is a matter of repetition, but hounds can do fabulously well with obedience. Use permission based freedom to sniff as a reward that will quicken the process to successful training.
Terriers: Keep your sense of humor. Terriers are tenacious and have a tendency toward barking and digging because that is what most of them were breed to do! Terriers love to be kept busy, so challenge their minds with obedience mixed with tricks and games. They don't do "down time" very well unless they are tired out. Lots of exercise and a solid "Place" or "on your bed" command will help you get some quiet time.
Nordic Breeds: Recall, recall, recall. Teach a solid one (and yes, I do recommend an e-collar as the easiest and most efficient way to do so). Most of the Nordic dogs are breed to pull, exude a good amount of independence and have the endurance to go long distances. It takes a bit of work to tune them into your desires, but it can absolutely be done.
Toy Breeds: Need training too. Don't waste their talent on only allowing them to be purse pals. These little guys are fabulous at just about any type of training; tricks, agility, obedience, you name it. They may be small, but they have a big capacity to learn. Despite what you generally see, they can walk just fine on a leash and don't need to be constantly carried. In fact, it will build much more confidence in them and prevent some of the 'don't touch me' issues if you allow them to experience the world from the level of four paws on the ground.
Herding Breeds: They chase and use their teeth to move stuff! That includes other animals, bikes, people, skateboards, kids -- basically anything that moves. When you are working on your obedience be sure to include a "leave it" or "off" command. This is probably the number one reason potential clients seek help using their e-collars with their herding breeds, and I'm happy to say there is almost immediate improvement when incorporated properly. Herding breeds train quickly as long as you can think faster than they can!
Breed matters, but it doesn't dictate what is possible. Keep learning more, and if you are incorporating the e-collar into your training reach out for help if you get stuck.
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.