Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Training?...oh, THAT's what it's called. Big Bad Collars.

You see there is this amazing concept out there...some people really swear by it even.  It's called training.  I even hear that if you try it, it can work!  Very well, even!

Over this past year I have gotten the chance to meet a really great group of people in the Phoenix Schutzhund Club.  Schutzhund, for those who may not know...like me a year ago...is the title for the kind of work Police Dogs do:  tracking, catching bad guys, patrolling (I know I have caused many heads to bow and shake in shame for me but I do not wish to describe something in depth beyond my own shallow knowledge.  I do know for a fact that it is amazing to watch these dogs work!  I highly recommend attending a competition sometime; it is especially great for kids to appreciate the vital roles dogs play in our lives...and exciting.)  Active members range from police to college students to tradesmen to professional trainers.

One of the guys from the club designed a beautiful custom collar for his Dobie little girl, Marcella.  But for her training, there are situations where an e-collar (electronic collar) is used.  (I learned you even do "snake training"...a necessity here in the desert...where a professional handler brings a defanged rattle snake to teach the dogs to not engage snakes when tracking...or any other time...back home I had a high school teacher who I think could have used this kind of training.  That woman was smaller than many of the dogs I work with; she was all of 5'2" and maybe 100 lbs on a high carb day.  She would sweep rattle snakes off her back porch with a broom each morning so she could enjoy her coffee overlooking the lake...never underestimate tiny elegant English teachers...)

So, John looked at this e-collar and knew there had to be a better way for the dog to wear it.  It looks terrible and is held in place by just a 3/4 inch plastic strap that cinches into the dog's neck.  I love learning how peoples' brains work...John clearly has an engineer's brain.  John brought the e-collar unit for me to mount inside a latigo collar.

The big decision in the first planning session was where to locate the electronic unit:  center it; next to the buckle and so on.  We decided to nest it next to the buckle as close as possible.  John was good enough to leave the unit with me for a week.  I am the kind of person that if I can stare at a problem long enough, then I can answer it.  Perseverance slays the dragon.

But the problem was I just wasn't happy with the design.  The fact is I just didn't feel the unit was secure nor did it fit well. Then, while messing with templates and scraps on the work table, it occurred to me to fit the unit into the buckle.  With that hurdle passed, it became possible to cinch a strap securely and make the mount removable too...in case the unit broke or just wasn't needed anymore.

To say John is a nice guy is an understatement.  He patiently ...and bravely... came back out to the house to face my mongrel untrained dogs, then the mongrel untrained children and then to put up with me chatting his ear off (In my pre-children life, I was a college and high school teacher...with a captive audience of 150 students per day.  Now my audience is reduced to just 3 under the age of 10.  Woe is the person who makes eye contact with me!).  We needed to size Marcella and check that the mount would be secure.  It was then that it was decided to punch 1/2 in sizing holes as well in order to get a precise fit.

Now the e-collar is secured by 1 1/2 inches of latigo leather.

And Voila:  the Modern Working Dog...and looking good doing it!

Thanks John...for an awesome idea and the patience for me to get it done!