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Collar training problems

jillybeanrocks
May 8th, 2008, 03:16 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm a new member here and I figured this would be the best place to ask my question because everyone seems so knowledgable. We have a new puppy, a 4 month old yorkie, named Cooper. Cooper HATES his collar and freaks out whenever we put it on him. He runs around whimpering and rubbing himself against whatever he can find, works himself all up and starts breathing heavily and then just lays there, he wont even get up for a treat or his squeaky toys. When we put the collars on him he has always been supervised and there has always been enough room to put 2 fingers in.

We've tried several methods to get him used to wearing it but everything we have tried has ended in the same way.

- The vet recommended using a piece of fabric tied around his neck so he gets used to something soft on his fur. We started out with 5 minutes and lots of praise, toys and treats. The next day we tried 10 mintues with the praise and Cooper still freaked out the whole time.

- We've tried a small cat harness, a soft fabric harness and a flat nylon collar, all of these produced the same result.

- We've also tried ignoring him while he was freaking out and just letting him get used to it. We've gone for up to 5 hours, under supervision, and he still just lays there. Nothing will get him up from laying flat on the floor.

Does anyone have any suggestions that we haven't tried?

Thanks so much

Jill

BeagleMum
May 8th, 2008, 03:24 PM
When Spencer was a puppy, he hated his collar as well. My vet told me to put one on him and don't take it off no matter what. Within a couple days, he was used to it and we never had a problem after that.

Lissa
May 8th, 2008, 04:20 PM
Well it looks like have tried lots of different collar materials so that's good! I would have also tried to find the lightest collar-type material to start desensitization (however, I wouldn't have made a big-deal about it - that is a big mistake but entirely fixable!)... Since this has obviously been going on for a while, you should be prepared for a mini-battle:D

Obviously, your Yorkie has been getting exactly what he wants - no collar. It could just be a mini-tantrum but I always prefer to treat things conservatively so we will assume that this is completely fear based and start with desensitization. First if you have all those collars still, leave them around the house, especially where your dog is likely to frequent and is calm (ie: crate, furniture, water/food bowls, when you cuddle etc..). I would also sprinkle high-value treats in the middle of the collars, so your dog is getting rewarding immediately for being in proximity to them.
At the same time, choose the collar you want your dog to wear daily and bring it out when good things are happening (food, playing, tugging, backyard time, around other dogs etc..). Play with it yourself, act like its amazing but play keep away (when dogs think they can't see/have something you'd be amazed at how quickly they want it). You can also bring it out when your dog is sleepy or when you are grooming so he gets used to feeling it on his body (having treats at this point are good). Don't put the collar on, just let him feel it all over his body and treat him for remaining calm.
I would also teach him to target his collar... When you give a dog a job to do around something that he is unsure about, they generally get over things pretty easily.
If you really keep up with this and don't force the collar on your dog, you should only need a few sessions to get him over this (certainly no more than a few days to start walking him on-leash).
When Cooper gets to the point that he is either actively looking for the collar (in hopes of a reward) OR acting indifferent to them, you can start putting the collar on... BUT since you are making things harder, you need to bring out some good rewards AND you need to have the collar on and off QUICKLY. The last thing you want to do is leave the collar on too long and have Cooper freak out (then you will have to start from the beginning again). You want Cooper to WANT to see/have the collar on because it means WONDERFUL things.
You also need to understand about extinction bursts... If you do the desensitization properly you shouldn't have a problem with getting the collar on for longer and longer periods of time... But you often still have an extinction burst - where the behaviour returns (ie: not moving when wearing the collar) and seems to get worse... Each time you give in, the extinction burst will get longer/more intense so its extremely important that you "stick to your guns"...

In looks like a lot to do but you should breeze through this - applying all this is much easier than it seems :-P

Good Luck!

Lissa
May 8th, 2008, 04:46 PM
When Spencer was a puppy, he hated his collar as well. My vet told me to put one on him and don't take it off no matter what. Within a couple days, he was used to it and we never had a problem after that.


This is called flooding and its not something I support because you are forcing the dog to deal with something it is fearful of until it stops reacting... Generally nobody learns when they are frightened... Sure, most will eventually succumb but you will always have those who do not succumb or who have lasting negative effects...

Of course, its unlikely that with this particular fear, flooding would have permanent negative effects and of course Cooper must get over this in order to live a normal life. However, before owners try flooding, they should ask themselves:
Do I really want to use force and fear when I don't have to?
Am I prepared to deal with negative fallout if my dog does/doesn't succumb flooding?
Do I understand when to apply flooding and when not to?
Am I ready to watch my dog react (aggressively, fearfully, shut down) for however long it takes him to submit to the flooding?

I could support using a toned down version of flooding if this was the first or second time a collar was going on Cooper and his reactions would be minimal and short lived ... But obviously this is not the case so I would always do some desensitization and counter-conditioning instead of relying on force.

BeagleMum
May 8th, 2008, 05:20 PM
This is called flooding and its not something I support because you are forcing the dog to deal with something it is fearful of until it stops reacting... Generally nobody learns when they are frightened... Sure, most will eventually succumb but you will always have those who do not succumb or who have lasting negative effects...

Of course, its unlikely that with this particular fear, flooding would have permanent negative effects and of course Cooper must get over this in order to live a normal life. However, before owners try flooding, they should ask themselves:
Do I really want to use force and fear when I don't have to?
Am I prepared to deal with negative fallout if my dog does/doesn't succumb flooding?
Do I understand when to apply flooding and when not to?
Am I ready to watch my dog react (aggressively, fearfully, shut down) for however long it takes him to submit to the flooding?

I could support using a toned down version of flooding if this was the first or second time a collar was going on Cooper and his reactions would be minimal and short lived ... But obviously this is not the case so I would always do some desensitization and counter-conditioning instead of relying on force.


The difference is probably that Spencer wasn't so much afraid of it, he just found it annoying. He just scratched at it a lot and when we were in puppy classes, he just sat there scratching it the whole time. It was hard to try to train a puppy when he was constantly scratching. He got over it very quickly and once he got used to it, he never wants it to be taken off.

jillybeanrocks
May 9th, 2008, 12:15 PM
Thank you for your responses Beaglemum and Lissa.

I'm not so sure Cooper is fearful of the collar(s) I think he's more throwing a temper tantrum. He is very stubborn. I tried the collars on the floor with some treats last night, he went over and ate the treats and took the collar to his bed to chew on it for a bit, then left it and went on to something a little more "interesting". Tonight, when we are relaxing, I will try having the collar around while we have our cuddle time and see if he's ok with that.

We are puppy-sitting my parent's Shih Tzu (4 years old, named Suki-ann) until next week so it's been a little bit harder to get his attention to be focused on us instead of her. We are trying to use Suki-ann as an example because she is trained quite well and listens to us whenever we ask her to do something. She loves her harness because it means she's going for a long walk, we want Cooper to get just as excited about his collar.

Lissa
May 9th, 2008, 03:58 PM
I'm not so sure Cooper is fearful of the collar(s) I think he's more throwing a temper tantrum. He is very stubborn.

If that is what you think, then there shouldn't be any harm in following BM's advice... If he's throwing tantrums, this is a human problem and not Cooper's - you've taught him that tantrums get him what he wants! Remember, dogs do what works and they learn what works from us!:)

BTW - densensitization/counter-conditioning needs to be more intense than leaving treats out a couple of times... It's not going to cause any harm but you won't see dramatic changes in his behaviour - it takes more work than that.

Using well-mannered/social/experienced dogs to teach your puppy is an excellent idea - hopefully he will learn from Suki-ann and love his collar in no time!