Roma's Story - Ecollars
Here's a story about a severely fearful aggressive GSD that belonged to a SAR worker in Colorado, Jen Mackler. BTW Jen was a trainer who used positive methods exclusively. Please notice the steps she had taken before writing to me. Here's her first post to me.
"Roma is a fear driven dog (unknown history - was a stray, VERY head shy and submissive with people). We have mostly conquered the head-shyness with strangers through positive reinforcement with clickers and treats. I feel I have built her confidence as much as I can at this point (I have had her almost two years). Her major problem as I see it now is too much prey/protection drive. Within our yard/house she is WAY confident. She has lunged at and tried to bite (got a pantleg!) one person who came to the door. She puts on HUGE displays of aggression at squirrels, dogs, and people who walk within 10 yards of our house (this includes lunging, stomping, full hackles, growling/snarling, "kill-shaking" toys or *anything* that is nearby). I'm concerned that these aggressive displays will turn into an attack if she accidentally gets out or off leash. She did attack my other dog over a toy a year ago, after which she went into daycare once a week and became better socialized with other dogs. Under the right conditions, after she has been introduced properly, she plays perfectly with other dogs and puppies without getting out of control. It's just that the sight of another dog (from the house or a leash) causes a complete snarling, lunging meltdown to where she has occassionally bitten MY leg because it was the closest thing she could get her mouth on."
A few months later Jen brought Roma to one of my seminars. While I was talking with Jen about the dog, Roma was on a leash a few feet away from me. Someone nearby closed, not slammed, just "closed" a car door. Roma responded by coming up at my face in an all out attempt to bite me.
I fully expected to get bitten during the next few minutes when I took Roma's leash.
I led her away from the group and spent a few minutes finding her working level. I then let her wander out to the end of the Flexi leash. I pressed the button and pulled her towards me. After she began to walk towards me on her own, I released the button. This continued for about 20 minutes or so. I then knelt down and Roma climbed into my lap and began licking my face. The group who had been watching and knew Roma and her history, jokingly accused me of having switched dogs on them when they weren't looking.
The next day we went to a park and I worked on the sit and sit at a distance with Roma.
Jen purchased an Ecollar from me and I went home, leaving her with instructions to keep working on the recall and the sit.
Jen was a trainer who use positive methods mainly. In the next post please notice the steps she had taken before writing to me. A short time later during yet another Ecollar Great Debate on another list she wrote , " my dog is the fearful GSD rescue he mentions in his last post.
"After having personally felt the extremely low levels of stimulation necessary to get a response from my very sensitive dog, I believe this is far more humane than any choke collar. I have tried everything with this dog -- standard obedience classes, prong collars, Halti/Gentle Leaders, clicker training, Tellington Touch, and even herbal sedatives. While her basic obedience around the house improved significantly with these methods, nothing really addressed her fear based aggression around strangers, cars or other dogs. I've been working with Lou's collar now for only a few days and the changes he has described are all true. I have been continually puzzled at how or why this method has improved her confidence in fearful or emotionally charged situations. I can't explain it, but it works.
"I should also say that in addition to being a SAR dog handler in my free time, I'm a veterinary student and am simultaneously working on a PhD. in Neurobiology. If I were AT ALL concerned about negative neurological or behavioral consequences of Lou's methods, or his Ecollars, I would not use it on my own dog. Be aware that not all Ecollars are alike and not all Ecollar trainers are the same. In my case, with a dog prone to bite and chase cars, this is the safest thing I could be doing for her."
About ten days later Jen wrote to me. "Roma is doing spectacularly, by the way. She was VERY friendly to a "stranger" who came to the door at home while she was wearing her ecollar. James called her back from the door with her "here" command, I let the person in, Roma was released, greeted her in a very friendly manner - no growling or snapping, she sniffed, then the person said her name and Roma sat in front of her, looked right up at her and let her pet her head. Remarkable. She seems to completely forget about being aggressive when she's wearing the collar."
About a week later she wrote, "
Hi Lou. Roma is doing SUPER. I've taken her to the dog park for the last two weekends and she was under superb control the whole time. I had to stop bringing her a year ago when she began the dog aggression-losing her mind barking-growling thing. Now, with Mr. ecollar, she is an angel. People were oohing and ahhing at her obedience and she had a great time - let people pet her and everything. So, Roma has a new life!
Please read that last sentence again. "Roma has a new life!"
My theory on why this stuff works to give dogs confidence is that the dog is forced by an unseen force, the Ecollar, to stay in one place. The penalty for going into fight or flight as Roma was is the discomfort of a stim. Please note that I'm still working at the level where the dog first feels the stim.
The dog wants to avoid that penalty and so holds her position. A child rides by on a bike and where the dog used to chase and try to bite that child, she's forced to hold her sit. SHE's doing this work; she's not being restrained by a leash. And lo and behold nothing bad happens to the dog.
A few minutes later some children playing nearby start screaming and laughing. Roma used to run in abject terror when this occurred, but now the consequences of a stim make her do the work and she holds her position. And lo and behold nothing bad happens to the dog.
A few minutes later a car passes by. This used to terrify Roma who would run until she ran out of strength. But now, she holds her position AND SHE DOESN'T DIE!!!
She's learned that not going into fight of flight brings pleasant consequences, that is, nothing bad happens to her.
The last time I spoke to Jen she told me that she still brings Roma out to SAR training. (She's not a SAR dog but Jen like to socialize her.) Roma has become a pest. She runs from person to person, nuzzling their hands, asking to be petted.