Electronic Dog Training Collars - A Controversial Dog Training Method

Infamous electronic dog training collars may cause brief discomfort when the dog owner pushes a button on a remote device, but they can be an effective training tool. They should be only a small part of a comprehensive training routine, though.

An electronic dog training collar is intended for use as a correction delivery system, like a quick tug on a leash.

Disclaimer: this article does not endorse or disprove the use of dog training collars. The purpose of this post is to familiarize dog owners with the use of training collars for dogs, how they work and how to use them safely in case you do decide to opt for this dog training method.

Remember to NEVER use a dog training collar before receiving a professional's opinion on how it may affect your specific dog. And before we dig into the article on the use of electronic dog training collars, there are a few things all dog owners absolutely MUST keep in mind:

  • Learning about the subject. Dog training collars remain a controversial product, and thus every pet owner must first familiarize themselves with the pros and cons of using this device. Do consult with multiple experts, vets and trainers to receive an objective, science-based view on the matter.
  • Ensuring product quality. There are a lot of poorly made electronic dog training collars available for purchase today. It is absolutely VITAL to use only the high-quality made, very best dog training collars that have been tested and proven to work exactly like they're supposed to.
  • Training yourself first. Similarly to many other dog training methods, when using electronic dog training collars improperly, there's always a chance to harm your pet. All dog owners must be well educated on how these devices work, as well as how to use them, when and for exactly what purpose during the training procedure.
  • It's not the only option. Despite the popular opinion, not all dogs are the same and there are many variables such as their breed, DNA and temperament that will have an impact on their ability to learn and be trained. Always remember that there are other training methods dog owners can explore before using dog shock collars.

Training Dogs with Electronic Collars

On top of what is said above, we highly recommend for all pet parents to read our recent interview with a well-known professional dog trainer James Hamm on how to safely train canines using training collars for dogs. In this article, James provides a detailed explanation as to why the product remains controversial, and how professionals use dog training collars to train canines in a safe manner.

Electronic Dog Training Collars: How to Use Them Safely

How to use shock dog collars

The type of shock delivered by an electronic dog training collar (also known as e-collar, dog shock collar, etc.) is similar to the static shock given off by a house lamp when you touch it after rubbing your feet across a new carpet. That is what they are designed to do.

They are not like a taser that drops the dog to the ground, although some of them can deliver a very strong shock. They should never be set so high that the dog cries out in pain when given a correction. Electronic dog training collars should NEVER be used as a punishment.

Multi-functional e-collars are an electronic training collar that delivers positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. They are preferable to one that only shocks the dog. This type of electronic collar delivers beeping tones that can be used for positive reinforcement, vibrations that get the dog’s attention and static shock for corrections.

RELATED: No More Pain: Best Alternatives to Dog Shock Collars

You'll want to use an electronic collar that is range-appropriate for the dog and the situation. Hunting dogs and dogs that are often allowed to run loose on large plots of land will need an e-collar with a long-distance range.

“A good dog trainer never needs to punish dogs, because they have taught the dog what to do, taught the dog how to do it, held the dog accountable, and, if necessary, corrected it when it made the wrong decision. Punishment is never involved.” – James Hamm, certified dog trainer [source]

An e-collar and remote with a range of 500 to 1,500 yards is best for such long-distance communication. Dogs that are being trained in the house or yard where they are never further than 400 feet away do not need the more expensive, long-range system.

You'll also need to get a size-appropriate electronic collar. A large German Shephard or Rottweiler will, of course, require a larger e-collar than a little Cocker Spaniel or Beagle. A wider collar will be more sturdy and long-lasting for a large-breed dog. A collar that is only .5 to 1 inch wide will be much more comfortable for a smaller dog.

Keep in mind that most electronic collars are waterproof. However, if the e-collar will be put on a dog that will wear it outdoors in the rain, while hunting or while running on land with ponds and streams, make absolutely certain the collar is waterproof before buying it. There are some e-collars that are not only waterproof, they are completely submersible up to a certain depth.

Dog e-collar settings

How to use electronic Dog Training CollarsMany electronic collars have intensity settings. The intensity should be set at a level that gives the dog a noticeably uncomfortable sensation but does not cause him to cry out in pain. Because sensitivity levels vary from dog to dog, the level must be set according to the dog’s tolerance before using the electronic collar for training.

RELATED: Top 10 Best Premium Quality Dog Training Collars

Here are the steps to finding the correct setting for your dog:

  • Place the collar on the dog.
  • Adjust the size until the collar is snug but loose enough to easily slip 1 or 2 fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck.
  • Turn the system on with the settings at the lowest possible correction level.
  • Use the remote to send a quick correction to the dog and watch his reaction.
  • Adjust the intensity until you know the dog feels it.

Your dog should show a small response to the sensation by flicking an ear, scratching like he would if a flea was biting him, furrowing the skin on his head or turning his head as if something startled him. The sensation should not be any more intense than that. Never set the shock intensity level so high that the dog yelps when given a correction.

Getting started with dog training collars

Take the time to put the different sensations in context for your dog. If you just put the collar on him and start pushing buttons, he will not understand. He will only be confused and frightened. You need to show him what the beeping tones, vibrations and shocks mean.

To do this, follow these guidelines:

1Use the beeping tones as positive reinforcement similar to clicker training. When the dog is near you, give him a simple command like “sit” or “down.” Reward him when he follows the command with a favorite treat at the same time as a beeping tone. This way, when he is far from you, the beeping tone will be interpreted as a positive reinforcement. He will know he is doing the right thing.

2Use the vibration signals to get the dog’s attention when he is far from you. Show him that this is what the vibration means while you have him on a leash. Give him a slight attention-getting correction with the leash while he is sniffing at something on the ground or looking away from you. Give him the vibration signal when you tug the leash so he associates the sensation with the leash correction. Reward him with a treat when he looks at you.

3The meaning of shock corrections also needs to be clarified. Reinforce the shock with a vocal correction given at the same time. This way he will connect the bad sensation with a correction from you.

RELATED: Top 5 Best Electric Collars for Dogs

Timing is everything

Look at using the best dog training collars for dogs

Dogs live in the moment. When the dog gets a signal or shock from a shock collar, he will associate that reinforcement or correction with what is on his mind at that instant. If he is looking for a place to go potty in the back of the yard and you give him a shock because you think he is getting too close to the edge of the yard, he will think he shouldn’t be going potty there.

Basic training with the use of shock collars

Electronic dog training collars should be used as a very small part of a comprehensive dog-training routine. They will never take the place of good, basic training using positive vocal reinforcements and treats or corrections utilizing “bad dog” in a stern voice with a disapproving look.

There are no short cuts in dog training. A well-trained dog takes time and effort. You cannot simply put a remote-controlled collar on a dog and control him from your favorite couch or lawn chair.

Studies have shown that electronic dog collars often cause serious problems in dogs. You must always remember that the shock delivered by an e-collar is painful, even when it is properly set at a very low level. Pain has certain physiological responses that often impede rather than enhance training.

The pain frightens the dog and all he can think of is getting away from it. The thing causing the pain is on his neck and he cannot get it off of him. Before you know it, he is panicked and his mind locks up. Nothing good can come from a dog in this mental state.

Using an e-collar has been shown to cause aggression in dogs. A dog trained with pain basically becomes mean. If you do choose to use one of these collars, this must be kept in mind. You could be turning a dog with behavioral problems into a ticking time bomb.

If you do not have experience using electronic collars on dogs, be sure to seek the advice and guidance of a trained professional. With help from a knowledgeable expert, you can have a well trained dog in no time. If you take matters into your own hands, you may end up with a highly damaged dog that will take months, if not years, to repair.

Reannan has enjoyed the companionship of dogs her whole life. She bred, raised and showed cocker spaniels for a while but has owned a variety of different types of dogs, ranging from bulldogs to mutts. She worked in the private sector for 30 years. Now she devotes her time to writing and sharing knowledge about dog ownership and care.