You want to work the dog at the lowest level of stimulation that he can just perceive. Put the dog on a leash and take him outside. Let him settle down so he’s not fixated on anything or highly distracted by anything. With some dogs it may take a few minutes for him to settle down. If he’s sniffing the ground, he’s distracted. If he’s looking at something and his ears are standing up (for dogs whose ears do this) he’s distracted. When his ears relax and stick out to the side rather than straight up, he’s ready to check his level.

For the Dogtra Ecollars which have the continuously variable stimulation, set the dial on “0” and press the button. Hold it down and very slowly turn it up. After about 5-6 seconds release the button then press and hold it again. Continue to SLOWLY turn the dial up until you see some sign that the dog is feeling the stimulation. There are many such signs. One of the most common is that the dog will sit down and scratch as if a flea is biting him. Some signs are subtler than that though. They include an ear flick, a quick look at the ground directly in front of the dog, a pulling back as if a grasshopper landed on the dog, a rearing up, moving to another place, locking up (rigidity of the legs). Sometimes all that is noticeable is a furrowing of the dog’s brow.

The technique is just a little bit different for any other brand of Ecollar because of the different way that the stimulation level is set. For the TriTronics series of collars that offer continuous stimulation set it on the lowest level available. Press the button and check for a result. For those Ecollars that have three buttons that give you a low for one button, medium for the other and high for both together, press the “low button.” If the dog doesn’t respond, go to the next level on the dial and press the “low button.” Use only the “low” button until you find the dog’s level. This allows you to use the medium and high buttons when the dog ignores you later in the training.

If you use another brand or model of Ecollar you’ll have to adapt how they work to this philosophy and method. The idea is to be able to stimulate the dog at a very low level, where he just feels it.

You may find that your dog vocalizes and rears up when he gets a stimulation. There are two reasons that a dog will vocalize with an Ecollar stimulation. One is that he’s in pain. Since I’m using the continuous mode, if this is the reason that a dog is vocalizing, he’ll continue to vocalize as long as I hold down the button. If this is occurring YOU’RE TOO HIGH. Another reason that a dog may vocalize is from surprise. Think of yourself sitting in a theater watching a scary movie. Someone taps you on the shoulder and you jump and involuntarily make a noise. This is not from being hurt; it’s from being startled. I think that the first reason given for a dog to vocalize is unfair, especially at the teaching phase of using the Ecollar but the second reason is acceptable. The dog isn’t being hurt; he’s just being surprised.

One giveaway that the dog is surprised is that he only vocalizes for an instant, even though continuous stimulation is being applied. If he was being hurt, he’d continue to vocalize as long as the button was being held down because it would continue to hurt. If you’re using the nick or tap mode and the dog vocalizes each time the button is pressed, YOU’RE TOO HIGH.

Be aware that some dogs are just plain vocal and will make noise, “just because.” These dogs will make noise before the Ecollar is put on, while it’s on and after it’s taken off. Their noise has nothing to do with the stimulation since it’s not coupled with it. But if the dog starts vocalizing ONLY when the button is pressed, you may be too high. Keep a close eye on the dog and if this is happening, back off a bit. You can always go back up. But also be aware that if you’re using the continuous mode he’s vocalize continuously as long as the button is held down as described above.

When the dog shows you that he just perceives the stimulation level, you’ve found his working level. This may change slightly up or down. Some dogs become used to that level and it will need to be shifted up a touch. Some dogs become sensitized to that level and it will need to be turned down.

You may find that the continuous stimulation button is too intense for your dog, even just a slight movement from the “off” position of the rheostat. It’s rare but it does happen. If your dog reacts very strongly, usually shown by constant vocalization and rearing up, you may have to go to the nick button to work him. This can be done but the communication isn’t as effective. AND you’ll have to keep pressing the Nick button while others are just holding down the Continuous button.

Your dog’s working level may change from day to day. You should verify that it hasn’t changed by checking it every time you take him out to work him. Start out just a bit lower than where you normally work him. Wait till he’s not distracted and press the button. You might find that today, he’s working at that lower level. If he makes no sign that he feels it; you can go back to his usual level. If he’s ignoring you completely, you might need to go a touch higher.