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    1. #1
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      Bill Hillmann's e-collar method

      Well, I bought a half-hour phone consult with Bill Hillmann. (BTW, seems like a very nice guy. Doesn't talk down to you or anything. And his wife Mary is as sweet as she can be.) I got some specific questions answered. He confirmed some of my thoughts but also gave me a lot of new things to think about.

      Let me say up front that this whole journey with Ram Jet Rocket Dog has taught me that there isn't just one way to skin a cat. There are a thousand. And the dog you had in front of you a month ago is not the same one you have now and your dog's learning needs will be different a month from now.

      My challenge right now is pretty darned specific. I need to teach RD to be incredibly excited, but absolutely under control. I've been working with the dog-behaviorist on some of this. What Bill and I talked about is totally consistent with what the behaviorist and I have worked out. Bill uses the e-collar, the other doesn't. But the dog is learning the same thing. The concept is... When you see that thing you want most in the whole world (retrieve, food, toy, going for a ride...) you quickly turn your full attention to your handler because she is the one that will let you have it. The behaviorist's angle is to keep the dog from going over threshold. Bill's angle is grabbing the dog's full attention while they're up and excited and getting them to fully attend to you. His is more specifically about the retrieve. (He calls it "the game.")

      So, Bill uses the e-collar. That's reasonable for field training because so much of it happens hundreds of yards away. Not the only way to train, but certainly a helpful tool. But he does NOT use the heat, he basically uses it to touch the dog, to tell the dog "Yes, that's it. You're doing it RIGHT. Keep doing that." That is a radical departure from the way we imagine the tool being used. Not... STOP, BAD DOG. But YES... GOOD DOG. In his method, you use a setting that is perceptible to the dog, that's all. He says use a 2 (on a tritronix/garmin) I'm finding that's a bit much for RD, I think she needs a 1 high.

      So, while I'm out sick, unable to get into the field and train on birds with my group (and this asthma may hang on for quite a while... not going to be a quick fix) we are relearning "the game" and working on calm, focus and productive excitement.

      Most of the controversy over e-collars (much of it caused by groups with an agenda) revolves around the notion that there is only one way to use it, and that's punitively. That's why they call it a "shock collar." But in this clip he addresses his alternative method. I'm starting to employ his method and finding it very interesting to watch RD's response to it.

      The electric collar used as Positive Reinforcement = Magic - YouTube

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    3. #2
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      Makes sense to me. In Obedience, we sometimes use what we call “motivational” collar pops, which are very light collar pops that keep the dog up and excited and focused - not meant as a correction at all, just reinforcing the connection between handler and dog.
      Annette

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    4. #3
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      very very interesting! having a pup who is the polar opposite of Scout, i am having to really stretch my mind around training and methods and perception from the dogs point of view.
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    5. #4
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      That's very interesting to use the e-collar as positive reinforcement. Is it similar to the clicker training? You teach your dog the clicker sound is good why not teach your dog the slight vibration is good. Interesting.

    6. #5
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      I don't think it's quite the same, but I'm not fully conversant with clicker training. So I don't know. The stimulus is repeated "SIT"- (nick), "SIT" - (nick), "SIT" - (nick), etc. as the dog is doing the SIT. (Or, HERE if that's what you're working on or whatever.) It is like an affirmation... YES, that's right. Good dog. "SIT" - (nick). Then the dog is brought back to excitement with happy sounds and the waving the bumper, and then right back to "SIT" - (nick). A bumper is thrown perhaps for a free retrieve to promote the excitement... or the bumper might be tossed after the dog is sitting (while the handler is repeating the SIT-nick action) The handler picks up the bumper 3 times out of 4 so the dog doesn't think that each retrieve is his. He has to be patient.

      Speaking of the mixed-methods of training... I needed to clean up RD's KENNEL command. It's been fine for most of the things you'd normally use it for. But for following Hillmann's methods, you have to be able to sent the dog to "home-plate". Having fun with - YouTube

      She showed me she didn't quite get KENNEL in that context. So, hey! We used cookies! Works terrific. Now she goes charging back to the half-crate, turning around and waiting for the bumper game to begin again.

      So, I can absolutely say that there is nothing subduing about this method. The purpose of it is to make them function while excited. (Which is what I was working with the behaviorist on. I think there is great synergy in the two methods.)

      It's just really interesting the way the dog responds to the tool as a totally non-punitive, non-pressure reinforcment. It brings them UP. Doesn't pressure them down.

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    8. #6
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      My lab pup finally gets to come home in 2 weeks, and meanwhile I've been trying to make the time pass by gathering as much training knowledge as possible. This will be my first time training a hunting dog. While waiting for Sound Beginnings to come in the mail, I've been watching lots of Bill Hillmann videos on YouTube, and I like him a lot. I really like the way he uses e-collars, but it's taking a while to fully wrap my brain around it! I haven't found anywhere where Bill fully explains his method yet. I'd love to hear as much feedback about this method as possible here though!

      Thanks TuMicks for your explanation, I found it very helpful

    9. #7
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      Quote Originally Posted by Annette47 View Post
      Makes sense to me. In Obedience, we sometimes use what we call “motivational” collar pops, which are very light collar pops that keep the dog up and excited and focused - not meant as a correction at all, just reinforcing the connection between handler and dog.
      Yeah. That sounds about right. It says, YES... 'at-a dog... I'm watchin, I'm pleased. I would imagine you are giving positive verbal cues as well. I have imagined that the field bred dogs doing field work is in some ways easier than doing obedience with any smart dog, because it would be easy to bore them, for the work to become drudgery. (I'm sure I'm seeing this is a total outsider.) It's not easy to bore a field bred dog when there are ducks flying through the air and guns going off. It's easy (depending upon the dog) to cow them, but not easy to bore them.

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    11. #8
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      Quote Originally Posted by TuMicks View Post
      Most of the controversy over e-collars (much of it caused by groups with an agenda) revolves around the notion that there is only one way to use it, and that's punitively. That's why they call it a "shock collar."
      TuMicks,
      I fully concur that Bill is a nice guy and a highly motivational trainer - "DEET DEET C'MON BOY DEET DEET". Bill is also innovative and knows how to think outside the box o' convention and how to flex when meeting the individual needs of individual dogs, something I find as a common thread in many of the trainers I consider as exemplary. I fully agree that the e-collar is a useful tool in the right hands and with those that are proficient in using the tool correctly. I also concur that the e-collar can be used motivationally. When retrievers I work with see the e-collar come out they run over to me in excitement so I can strap it on, they are highly motivated in knowing through association that the e-collar means they will be getting to work, not "SHOCKED" into submission. The dogs have come to welcome it and not fear it. Conversely, I also am adamant that there are those that should NEVER pick up an e-collar for the damage they will inflict upon a K9 based on their ignorance, temperament, or both.

      I might suggest that overwhelmingly the "they" that refer to the e-collar as a "SHOCK" collar are anti-collar in their own personal philosophy and in their perfect world the e-collar would be banned across the board including to those of us that use the tool safely, competently, and responsibly. Make NO mistake, the reference to e-collars, a valid tool of the trainer by the misnomer of "SHOCK" collar is intentionally negative in connotation and points to the agenda of those that make it a standard label for this valid tool. Mind ye, I have an open mind with regard to those that choose to train using other methods and say to each their own. I do not support the "one size fits all" school of thought with regard to training methods and in fact incorporate edible rewards and the clicker into early stages o' training for foundational obedience in the preparation of gun dog and HT prospects.

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    12. #9
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      When I began this dog, 3 and a half years ago, I knew I would need a training group and a pro who would teach me the HT game, dog handling and so on. And for a dog with all the genetic steam this dog has, I thought I could really screw her up when it came to steadying, force-fetching, and getting her through transition. I didn't have equipment and grounds and birds that I could use and I figured I would outsource it to the pro. I'm not sorry I did it that way and though I know they use the collar in the Mike Lardy-Rex Carr-etc. method, that's OK with me. (The collar is a tool. That's all.)

      It is hard, looking at this dog now, to remember that she would SCREAM like a tortured soul in the 9th circle of hell and jerk me off my feet and even buck like a wild horse, front feet off the ground, if she was on lead when she saw a mark go down. If anyone is a connoisseur of pedigrees, she is a Chopper grand-daughter and has heavy Cosmo line-breeding in both sire and dam. I am told that a soupçon of Cosmo makes for a fine marking dog and she certainly is that.

      Anyhow... now I'm having fun with her. Discovering a lot of new things and new ways of doing things. We'll get through this, and by next spring... she'll be a rock on the line.

      Now, in regard to the anti-"shock" collar crowd. I am prepared to sympathize and support anyone who wants to train their dog in any way they want as long as it's humane. But the organizations trying to use the political system to regulate the interactions between people and their dogs... these people are dangerous to society. These are the same pressure groups that want to do away with purpose-bred dogs altogether.

      It is some sort of sickness. As a retired nurse/pharmacologist/researcher... I disgusts me how these people are basically anti-science as well. Their arguments are fact-free, emotion-laced, anti-intellectual, and strategically aimed at accusing others of hateful behaviors. You aren't just wrong if you disagree with them... you are evil.

      Bill Hillmann did a good job in that first video of using their quotes against them, quietly demolishing their arguments and demonstrating how wrong they are with a charming young dog.

    13. #10
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      Quote Originally Posted by TuMicks View Post
      When I began this dog, 3 and a half years ago, I knew I would need a training group and a pro who would teach me the HT game, dog handling and so on. And for a dog with all the genetic steam this dog has, I thought I could really screw her up when it came to steadying, force-fetching, and getting her through transition. I didn't have equipment and grounds and birds that I could use and I figured I would outsource it to the pro. I'm not sorry I did it that way and though I know they use the collar in the Mike Lardy-Rex Carr-etc. method, that's OK with me. (The collar is a tool. That's all.)

      It is hard, looking at this dog now, to remember that she would SCREAM like a tortured soul in the 9th circle of hell and jerk me off my feet and even buck like a wild horse, front feet off the ground, if she was on lead when she saw a mark go down. If anyone is a connoisseur of pedigrees, she is a Chopper grand-daughter and has heavy Cosmo line-breeding in both sire and dam. I am told that a soupçon of Cosmo makes for a fine marking dog and she certainly is that.

      Anyhow... now I'm having fun with her. Discovering a lot of new things and new ways of doing things. We'll get through this, and by next spring... she'll be a rock on the line.

      Now, in regard to the anti-"shock" collar crowd. I am prepared to sympathize and support anyone who wants to train their dog in any way they want as long as it's humane. But the organizations trying to use the political system to regulate the interactions between people and their dogs... these people are dangerous to society. These are the same pressure groups that want to do away with purpose-bred dogs altogether.

      It is some sort of sickness. As a retired nurse/pharmacologist/researcher... I disgusts me how these people are basically anti-science as well. Their arguments are fact-free, emotion-laced, anti-intellectual, and strategically aimed at accusing others of hateful behaviors. You aren't just wrong if you disagree with them... you are evil.

      Bill Hillmann did a good job in that first video of using their quotes against them, quietly demolishing their arguments and demonstrating how wrong they are with a charming young dog.
      Aye Mate,
      We are totally on the same page. Good on ye TuMicks, and continued good work with RD.

      Mikey

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