MemberDecember 20, 2017 at 5:24 am360
The point of the E collar, prong collar, and any other tool (food, toy, halti, etc) for that matter is to TEACH the dog.
So yes, once you have successfully (correctly) taught your dog a behavior/command, they should technically be able to do it without reliance on the tool, assuming you are using the command in an environment with competing motivators (other distractions, such as being in public, people, squirrels, other dogs, food, etc) that your dog can handle and have been trained for already.
With that said, all formally taught behavior, do require a level of maintenance in order to preserve the integrity of the command through out the dog’s life. All behavior must be reinforced one way or the other (other wise, it would lose meaning to your dog). Your dog is either reinforced positively for compliance or corrected for non compliance, either way the behavior must be reinforced in order to maintain it’s integrity. The ideal balance to maintaining a behavior is what we refer to here as the dog training “Trinity” which is a balance of: variable reward schedule (rewarding your dog randomly for complying), continuous punishment schedule(consistently holding your dog accountable for non compliance), and premack principle.
This is why a lot of us keep the e collar and prong collar or other tools on our dog even after training. Most of the time they won’t need it to perform the behavior, but having it on allows us to hold them accountable if they choose not to ( it can also be available to us in sudden teaching moments when our dog are in new environment with different competing motivators they have not been exposed to before).
To answer your question more specifically though:
Will the dog revert if you no longer use the e-collar/prong/etc?
Yes and NO.
Yes because If you do not reinforce the behavior, it eventually loses meaning to the dog and they’ll have no reason to do it. Imagine you going to work and never getting a pay check (you are not being positively reinforced). You would lose interest and stop after a while. Or, imagine yourself NEVER getting in trouble for not showing up to work (no punishment/correction), you would eventually see no reason to show up.
Same goes for our dog. If they never get rewarded for their behavior, and/or never get corrected and held accountable for complying, why would they?
This is where the Trinity chart comes in. Though it is definitely ideal to maintain a balance between the 3 areas, if you choose to NOT fulfill one, then you must compensate for it in the other 2 areas in order to maintain the behavior.
Example: if you choose to no longer use the prong/ecollar/etc and decide to never correct your dog for non compliance again, in order to make up for this, you would REALLY need to pump up the quality and quantity of your reward to your dog in order to compensate and maintain his behavior (This is why I said “no” because you CAN maintain a behavior to a certain degree without needing the e collar/prong). Vice versa, if you choose not to ever reward your dog again, then you would need to rely on more frequent and heavier corrections in order to maintain the behavior.
Another helpful concept to think about which is more related to your question is the battery concept. Think of each taught behavior as having a “battery status” of 100%. With each repetition that it is performed WITHOUT it being reinforced, it loses a few percentage. If you never reinforce the command, eventually the battery goes to 0% and the dog don’t do it anymore. However, if you reinforce it, it gets recharged a bit with each reinforcement. So you do have some “in between” time to get away with not being able to always reinforce your dog. The battery can drain a bit, but you can always recharge it later.
SO, in your case, If you make sure your dog is being rewarded and held accountable the day before the test for his obedience or during your warm up session of that day before the event. Then on your CGC test, your “battery” should be “fully charged” and your dog would be fine in performing his/her obedience without the need of the collars.
Plus, don’t forget, I don’t believe there is any rules against praising your dog and telling them they are a good/boy girl during the test. This is also a form of positive reinforcement and you can use it to help reassure your dog during the test to maintain and reinforce the behavior.
Another thing to factor in is each individual dog’s temperament. A highly food/toy motivated dog for example will require much less reinforcement frequency because it’s already meeting you half way and is actively trying to get the reward, even if the chance is slim, his drive will push him to keep doing the behavior and not lose motivation.
On the other hand, a dog with low food/toy drive that just likes to lay around for example, will quit easily if not reinforced frequently. This kind of dog would need either a lot more frequent positive reinforcement or much more frequent corrections and reminders in order to keep him motivated to perform.
I apologize for the lengthy answer. It’s better to answer your question more generally to help others in the future understand as well. But I hope I also answered your specific question and hopefully it made things more clear 🙂