The Primal Blog

E-collar, Prong Collars & Muzzles

E-collars are such a taboo topic among many animal lovers, along with prong collars and muzzles. My stance is that it is your job as your dog’s owner to know what tools and methods are best for you and your dog. Every tool can be abused and misused. Dogs have sustained injuries from the improper use of e-collars, prong collars, nylon collars, leather collars, harnesses, head halters and the list goes on. Realize that abuse with training tools occurs when an owner decides to be neglectful and abusive. Lobster does in fact wear an e-collar, he is the only one of my dogs who does and he is by far the best behaved and best trained dog I have. And honestly, I have a better relationship with him because of the e-collar. So here is the story of how I have arrived at e-collar training with Lobster and why I refuse to let anyone tell me what is best for my dog just because they do not understand or it makes them feel uncomfortable.  

 

When I first adopted Lobster it was clear that either in his previous home or in his time at the shelter, he was the boss. Don’t get me wrong, Lobster was and always has been very affectionate and sweet and playful, but, when it came time to be crated or told to not chew on this, or get down from there – basically any effort by me to deviate his behavior away from something he was not supposed to be doing, he would snap at me. His issue appeared to be only with establishing dominance with me, with my dogs and my cats he is a total push over and constantly submissive and avoidant at the first sign of conflict. Of course, I was surprised when I first tried to crate him by putting his food in his crate then slowly trying to guide him in with his collar, as soon as I would touch his collar and attempt to navigate him he would snap at my hand/arm/wrist. So naturally being taken a bit back by the situation, I backed down and backed away from him, figuring he was probably stressed out from everything that had transpired in the last few days. Going from the rescue in New York, to being transported from NY to Philly by one person, then from Philly to Michigan by another person, then driven from Michigan to Minnesota with me. In the following weeks I began to realize that Lobster had some deeper issues with aggression in relation to feeling any form of dominance from a person. To be put plainly; Lobster thought he was tough shit and in charge.

 

Over the next few weeks it was clear some proactive steps would have to be taken to ensure I was going to be able to manage Lobster and be safe in the process. I refuse to have a dog in my home that thinks he can do whatever he wants, that is not behavior I support and it is also behavior I cannot have with four bully breed dogs. As Mike (head trainer of Primal Canine) has put it, dogs quickly and easily pick up bad habits and bad behavior from other dogs. Adding Lobster to my pack has added another dimension of dynamic, making it even more essential that I establish rules and boundries – crate rotation, crating when I am not home, crating my dogs while I sleep, not allowing them on furniture etc. Initially I said I did not want to do e-collar training with Lobster, I wanted to try everything else possible and spend some more time forming a bond with him in hopes he would be more responsive to direction from me when we had a solid relationship. So we tried multiple things to ease then tension of crating like treats, and kongs and chew dogs and lots of praise, and instead grabbing his collar to direct him or pull him off the couch I tried having him use a drag leash so I could direct him that way. Lobster eventually became wise to bribery with treats, toys, food and would persist with whatever undesirable thing he was doing. Same with the drag leash, at first it helped to not directly grab him by his collar but then if I was across the room, coming over and grabbing the leash became as tense. He started becoming more confident in trying to bite me and small snaps at my hand eventually manifested into harder bites, and even a few attempts to get at my face that thankfully I was able to move away from in time. But I wasn’t ready to give up and knew no matter what I was going to keep Lobster and find a way to make this work.

 

The day before Thanksgiving, Lobster was perched up on the gate leading into my kitchen because he was super anxious to get into the car and head to my parent’s house for the holiday. I attempted to lead him away from the gate so I could continue to get things packed in the car but he refused to get down. I was finally able to push him off the gate so I could get into my living but as soon as I got on the other side of the gate I was frustrated and was going to crate him so I could finish packing in peace but tensions rose and he wound up biting me a handful of times on both hands and arms and on my left leg. Thankfully I was wearing a winter coat and mid-calf height boots so the physical damage was minimal but it was at that point I decided that if I was going to keep Lobster, we were doing e-collar training.

 

Over the next few weeks, Lobster did a board and train with Primal Canine and we started him on e-collar. Three weeks later, Lobster had transformed from a dog that had reached a point of being unmanageable for me, to a dog that I now have such an amazing relationship with. His recall is amazing, his off leash training and his ability to listen and focus on me is something I never thought was possible. Everything has been great with Lobster since December, we have had no incidents and I barely even think about or remember the issues him and I first had. He was meant to be here with me and I am so glad I never gave up on him. Gone is the tension between him and I, there is no longer a vying for dominance, there is no more frustration of trying to crate him or direct him away from chewing up a dog bed or climbing on things he is not supposed to. Because of his training I can now take him anywhere, around anyone and anything with confidence knowing that he understands that he needs to listen to me. Above all, I now have a dog that I trust, and a dog that trusts me.

 

We get dirty looks when we are out walking because people assume that Lobster is some unhinged, wild animal and that’s why he has the e-collar. It bothered me at first, worrying about what people thought of him especially because of his breed and what people thought of me…probably assuming that I am some monster torturing her dog with an e-collar. But the now I just laugh when people act judgmental about it. Usually the people who are giving me dirty looks are the people who have a dog hauling them down the street, barking and lunging at other dogs, while the owner is tugging on them yelling the same command over and over as their dog doesn’t listen with this growing look of frustration on their face. If you don’t want to have control over your dog, that’s fine. If you want to use other tools or methods to train and manage your dog, that’s great. Just respect what each person has decided what is best for their dog and realize that one method of training and one tool is not going to work for every dog. If someone has to muzzle their dog to keep you and others and their dog safe, let them. Because if a muzzle, or e-collar or prong collar is the reason that owner can control that dog and keep others safe – that’s sure a hell of a lot better than an incident occurring, and the price being paid by that dog because that owner was more concerned about what others think. I would rather see a dog with a prong collar being controlled by an owner, than a wild dog wearing a nylon harness. 

Becoming Primal Canine | Episode 11: Intro Omar

Becoming Primal Canine is a series based on Primal Canine the company. We look into the day to day practices of one of the leading dog training companies in the industry. We have an exclusive look into who they are and what they do to pursue to be the best.

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Our Dogs Are Not Perfect and That's Okay

I will be a bully breed fanatic until the end without a doubt, and promoting this breed in a positive light will always be a priority for me. I realize as pit bull/ bully breed owners we will defend and protect our dogs to no end because of the already unfair and ridiculous myths and stereotypes that exist about them. We feel the need to shield them from these accusations and at all costs promote the best breed image possible. I have noticed that while in the midst of this noble effort, there are many people (non-bully breed owners as well) who deny…even lie to themselves, that their dog is in dire need of training.

Whether this comes from a disproportionate outlook on what behavior is acceptable from a dog, or from our willingness to make excuses for the animals we love so much. Maybe it is because we feel that rescued dogs or pit bulls as a breed have had such a tough life until this point, they should be allowed more freedom. Personally, I have thought maybe this can be my way of saying I was sorry for someone abusing or neglecting my dogs in the past and this will right those past wrongs in some cosmic karma sort of way. That is about as far as I have gotten with my introspection on that topic, but it seems to be applicable to the way that I hear many people speak about their reasoning for managing their dogs in the way that they do. Allowing bad behaviors to manifest for whatever reason is not helping yourself or your dog or the general image of the pit bull breed.

I guess getting back to my point, we as pit bull owners seem to be scared to admit that often our dogs do have issues like food aggression, dog aggression, people aggression. jumping, barking, biting, high prey drive etc. We tend to think if we are open about a pit bull having one or more of these issues, we are supporting the time old traditional stereotypes about pit bulls. But lets not forget that foremost, pit bulls are dogs. Dogs have these issues, whether we have adopted an adult dog or puppy, or even purchased one from a breeder. It is okay to admit that pit bulls will carry some natural “breed” (obviously that word is being used as a loose term before somebody tells me that pit bulls are not technically a breed) traits and characteristics. Some of those being a high prey drive, being highly aware and alert of their surroundings and being sensitive or aggressive towards other dogs if not properly socialized or correctly introduced to another dog.

Another facet to this issue is added by people who lie to themselves and others on social media about their dog(s) being better behaved than they really are in real life. This bothers me to no end because nothing about this is truly helping the breed image. All these people are doing is hiding a problem with their dog, while promoting their dog to be a model citizen of the breed to the public. While on a surface level, yes, cute and well selected photos of a pit bull will look good for everybody to see, but what’s the point of that if off camera this dog is at the dog park attacking other dogs, yanking you around while on leash and barking non-stop at your neighbors? Good breed image, bully breed advocacy and legitimate responsible dog ownership transcends social media posts and cute, well posed photos. Anybody on Instagram and Facebook can pose their dogs for pictures and talk about what it means to be a responsible pit bull owner. That only means something to me if in real life you are open to truly assessing your dog’s behavior; good and bad. It is simple to focus on all the positive things our dogs do. What I truly respect is if somebody can admit that they are dealing with issues with their dog, especially a pit bull. Because deep down we all know that announcing the good all over social media takes no effort, but to announce the at times ugly side of dog ownership is hard.

My dogs are not perfect and I am still learning everyday about what it takes to be a better dog owner. All in all, being a responsible dog owner and pit bull advocate starts with being able to realize our dogs are not perfect, neither are we, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is trying to save face with your family, friends, followers or even yourself when it comes to assessing and dealing with a dog’s behavioral issues. We all want people to love pit bulls as much as we all do, and see them for the sweet, loving babies we know they are. This starts with accepting that there is a constant need for proper structure, management and training, especially being under the microscope as a pit bull owner and lover. 

 

-@Murdapolis