You recently acquired a new puppy and other than the middle of the night potty breaks, the first few weeks were pretty easy. The pup mostly ate, slept, gently gnawed on his toys, and waddled along a few feet behind you, never getting too far from sight.
But a few weeks have gone by and that devoted pup has suddenly developed a mind of his own. He is going into the street to chase cats, chewing on the corner of the furniture, and using those sharp incisors to clamp down on your hands when you try to pet or brush him.
You’re thinking about using an e-collar (or remote dog training collar, dog bark collar, even electric dog fence system) to start teaching better manners but someone who has trained a few of his own dogs has told you he is too young. In fact, the more people you ask, the more conflicting opinions you get!
It is fairly common knowledge that you should start training your puppy as soon as he comes into your home. Our dogs are taking in information all the time. Each interaction with them is a learning opportunity and basic manners like housebreaking, learning to inhibit play biting and control of nuisance whining, barking and jumping up should start young. It is ideal if the pup grows up never really having learned and ingrained bad behaviors to begin with.
But when it comes to the question of how old is “old enough” to start using an e-collar to train a dog, the truth is, there isn’t a one size fits all answer. Some pups are ready to go around 14 or 15 weeks of age, others should be close to the typically standard prescribed 6 month old time frame before you start.
If your pup is large enough to fit the collar properly AND has an outgoing, boisterous type of personality, you can very likely add an e-collar to the training tool kit and get started earlier than you would if you have a quiet, reserved pup. The more withdrawn puppies should have extra attention paid to exploring the world and experiencing a spectrum of positive adventures rather than focusing on reining them in too soon and creating potential hesitancy.
My personal belief is that the decision about e-collar training should depend on a factor far more important than the age of the dog. A factor that is even more important than the dog’s overall temperament.
In my opinion, the decision should be weighted heavily on you as the operator, your knowledge of the tool, and very importantly, your willingness to put in the needed training time. If you’re a patient person, willing to learn to use the collar properly (or you’re already experienced) you can get started. On the other hand, if you’re only looking for a quick fix to punish nuisance behavior (and not take the time to teach the dog what to do) you should reassess your motivation and the relationship you have with your dog.
If both you and your dog are ready, then go for it and get busy with the collar conditioning protocols and do the work. Put in the practice sessions because collar conditioning teaches your dog HOW to properly respond and have control over the sensation. That understanding will bring a happy working attitude rather than a sullen or deflated one and you’ll end up improving the relationship you have with your dog and more thoroughly enjoying your time together.
The thing that will vary based on your dog’s age, is how much work you can do in a given session and for how long. Pay attention and honor the limitations of your dog’s attention span when you start. And on the side of caution and keep your sessions short, rather than too long. You will build your dog’s mental endurance as you practice together. And focus on what is going right; help your young dog get it right. Don’t be stingy with the use of rewards and praise.
Once the dog understands how to respond and do as you ask, everything else will begin to fall in line. You will have a well-mannered, happy dog and you will be able to enjoy more adventures together.