How long will my dog need the e-collar?
When people start training their dog, they often have questions about how long the training process will take. It is a difficult question to answer because how long will depend on a variety of variables. There simply is not a one size fits all answer.
When it comes to the question of “How long will my dog have to wear the e-collar?”, there isn’t a formula solution for that either. Some dogs will be reliable without the collar far sooner than others and how quickly you can trust your “naked” dog depends on several factors.
Before we dig into those details, let me state that there is no reason to put your dog in an unsafe situation. Why limit your ability to have control by not having the collar on whenever you feel you might need it? It is certainly important that you don’t create a dependency on the e-collar, but even after your dog is trained, it is fine to have it on and accessible as a backup. Using the e-collar as an invisible leash if you are going to run the dog in an unconfined area or subject him to an environment filled with high distractions is simply a smart way to help insure safety and peace of mind.
In my opinion, the more important factors are learning to use the tool properly and teaching the dog how to respond to e-collar pressure so you can avoid any undue stress.
But, if you still want to formulate an idea of when you’ll feel confident running your dog off of the e-collar, answer the following questions:
How consistent are you and how much work are you willing to put into the training?
What are you starting with in terms of your dog’s temperament and breed?
Let me break down these questions so you can draw some conclusions about your dog’s ability to be highly reliable, off leash, with no e-collar on.
1. What is your long-term goal?
If you are looking to have a dog that performs at a high level on a competition field, or reliably in the field, you can expect the training to take considerably longer than someone whose desire is to have a pet that listens around the house and yard under normal, everyday circumstances.
Running your dog off leash in open areas is a different experience than calling your dog in from the backyard.
The less distraction that is present and the more familiar the environment, the easier it is to gain and maintain a dog's attention. Most dogs are quick to listen when there aren’t other options competing for their attention. But when levels of distraction go up, so does the likelihood of the dog ignoring you in favor of paying attention to the more exciting options. Working to gain a high level of control around high levels of distraction is going to take some work.
2. How consistent are you and how much work are you willing to put into the training?
Reliability is significantly impacted by how much effort you are (or aren’t) putting into the training. You have to put in the time to teach your dog what you want and how to respond properly to your expectations. You also have to be consistent about those expectations.
The adage of “Never give a command you can’t enforce" has been around for a long time because it is absolutely true. If your follow through is iffy, based on your mood, your energy level, or the tools you have in your hand… your dog’s reliability will be iffy as well.
3. What is the starting point for your dog’s training?
It is also important to take into account the dog's breed, individual temperament, and age. There are breeds that will be more challenging to gain off leash reliability with. Many of the Nordic and Hound breeds have a higher propensity to roam. Those in the Terrier and Herding groups generally have an increased desire to chase prey. The training has to be diligent if you expect trustworthiness in the great wide-open sans wearing an e-collar. If you start the training young you are also in a better position to gain reliability rather than starting with an older dog that may have established bad habits. Dogs that have a history of problem behaviors have had plenty of practice time doing the wrong thing so you can expect it to take time to build new and improved habits.
The timeframe it takes to develop a trustworthy and dependable dog isn’t something anyone can provide you an absolute number of hours about. However, I feel confident telling most dog owners that within six to twelve months of training (assuming you are being consistent) you should have good reliability and not feel compelled to have your dog wear the e-collar in your normal everyday circumstances. Plus, unless you plan to walk onto a competition field where regulations will govern your choices, there is no rule that you can’t have the e-collar on your dog if you feel it will provide extra security and peace of mind.