Most of the week was spent on AKC stuff. We’re only about two weeks out from our Rally/Obedience trial, so we’ve been working to get all of that stuff solid.
I also spent most of the week really focusing on my timing and consistency, having been inspired by what I learned at the Ivan seminar last week.
So, things were going well.
And then club training yesterday went horribly wrong. And it wasn’t even anyone’s fault, really.
Let me start at the beginning.
We tracked on some short turf-y grass again. Brody tracked really well, especially considering that it hasn’t been a focus for us lately. He did have a sneezing fit at the first article, but he nailed the articles. One search-y corner. But really, pretty good.
Obedience went well as well.
I had a lightbulb moment with our send out – I hooked Brody up to a long line and had someone hold the other end at the edge of the field, right about where I was downing him. The idea was that I’d send Brody, down him, and then the person handling the long line would reel in the slack in preparation of giving Brody a collar correction should he go to get up.
I thought I was so smart.
Brody is smarter, though. He didn’t move a muscle. He also appeared to roll his eyes at us. Like, no kidding he wouldn’t move, he was on a long line. How dumb do we think he is?
But whatever, I got my perfect send out.
Then came protection. The first session actually went well. But trouble was brewing.
Let me explain.
I use a Dogtra Arc when we work protection ( well, used. I’ll get to that.). It’s less than a year old and I’ve only been really using it for the past six months, about once a week. Grand total, it has maybe 15 hours of use on it. Really.
During the first protection session, we were working on developing some better secondary obedience. Basically, heel around the helper and when Brody gave me a few steps of nice, focused heeling, I’d send him for a grip.
Brody started out a little frustrated, but once he figured out the rules to the game, settled right in and got really nice.
The trouble was, my e-collar didn’t appear to be working?
No worries, I thought – I’ll check it out later.
Put Brody up, messed with my e-collar a bit, and discovered that my hot button had somehow changed from the button on the side to the button on the front. Interesting, but I wasn’t alarmed yet. I figured (probably erroneously) that I had somehow reprogrammed it. I tested it on my arm a few times and it seemed to be working fine, excepting that the hot button had changed.
I should have been more concerned than I was.
Went out for our second session in which we were going to run the routine, then work on our transport issues.
Started out really well. Brody has made such huge progress in the last few months.
In the bark and hold, he jumped up into the helper’s face a couple of times, which was kind of fun to see. Heeled away, set up for the escape – all good.
I hadn’t touched the collar yet.
The first half of the escape was good. Out was good. Drive was good.
Then, it all went wrong.
I went to do a low level stim (level 8 out of 127) on the out command after the drive, since Brody can get sticky after stick hits.
(For reference, I use it up to level 25 with no vocalization or other indications from Brody).
He outed. And started screaming.
The collar absolutely fried him for several seconds. I wasn’t pressing any buttons. My transmitter still said it was set to a level 8 and “nick”. No way it should have been doing what it was doing.
It stopped. The whole thing lasted maybe 3 seconds? An eternity. I was horrified. The helper yelled that he didn’t know if he should reach down and yank the collar off or not.
We gave Brody a grip and carry while we reevaluated.
I’m not lying when I say that I was close to tears. I may do IPO, but deep down, I’m a total fur-mom that buys her dogs Pupocinnos from Starbucks on their birthdays. Such an egregiously unfair correction is so far from what I want for my dog, particularly on the training field, that I can barely comprehend it.
Thankfully, Brody seemed pretty much unaffected. He carried on with the session – did lots of grip-out-grips with no stim to hopefully mitigate any damage. He was happy and tail wagging throughout, thank god.
I put him up, then turned my attention to my e-collar. I tested it on my arm and it was only working intermittently now. It didn’t fry me like it had Brody, but it was only actually stimming on one out of five or so button pushes.
Regardless, it’s going in the trash.
And I’ll never buy another Dogtra as long as live. I promised Brody I’d let him chew up the one we have.
I have this incident on video, but I’m not going to share it. It’s honestly too painful for me. I cut it out of the video I have up on social media, though I’ll keep an intact copy on my hard drive.
I share this because I’m hoping it can serve as a warning to others?
If your e-collar is acting up, don’t just assume that it will be okay. Stop using it until you can be sure that it won’t freak out and fry your dog like mine did.
I’m not going to wholesale condemn the Dogtra Arc, but I’ll certainly never use one again.
Right now, I’m debating between Martin Systems and Educator collars.
I still believe that e-collars have a purpose, and Brody and I had been having a lot of success with ours up until yesterday. I won’t let one collar malfunction turn me away from e-collars completely, but I am going to be much more diligent going forward about checking that the collar is functioning properly every time.
So, let my horror and mortification serve as a warning to others. Check your e-collars. And hug your dogs.
I let Brody sleep in the bed with me last night. He thought that was pretty great.