There are many misconceptions when it comes to dog training and electronic collars. I’ve covered a lot of information on e-collar training with my clients but realized it may be beneficial to have a post where anyone on the web can get accurate information on their use. It’s likely as time goes on I will continue to add more and more information to this article.
How do you properly introduce an e-collar to your dog?
I have found in my years training dogs that many people use e-collars in a completely incorrect and faulty way, often causing the very reason why some people think they are cruel. Rule #1 NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER just put the collar on your dog and as soon as they start doing something wrong start pushing buttons. This is just confusing, frightening, and sometimes even painful to your dog. Think about it. If you were just minding your own business and suddenly started to feel this tickle on your neck you would have no idea what it meant. Then as the tickle started to get stronger and stronger until it got to the point it was painful would you suddenly know what it meant then? No.
When you introduce the e-collar properly it becomes and amazing communication and educational tool between you and your dog. You need to understand that the stimulation from the collar does not magically do anything itself. You need to teach your dog what that tickle means, how he’s expected to respond to it, and reward him for making the correct decisions. This is how you properly train with an e-collar. Again you NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER just buy an e-collar, put it on your dog, and start pushing buttons. That’s not how this works.
What about aggression cases? Don’t they just make dogs more aggressive?
This is a very valid concern and one not to be taken lightly. With all the improper use of e-collars one could very easily make their dog’s aggression worse.
However, we utilize e-collars very successfully in aggression cases and are our favorite tool. One of the main things here is you have to get the idea out of your head that we are shocking or zapping the dog. With the collars and levels we use many people can’t even feel the stimulation. On those that can, there is a universal “Oh” moment. It’s not like a static shock from a door knob or maybe you’ve touched an electric cow fence at some point and remember how awful it was. That’s not the sensation one gets from our collars at all. It is a very different feeling and not the slightest bit painful.
This often leads to at least 40% of people then going, “That’s not going to work with my dog. Have you seen how stubborn he is? There’s no way he’s going to respond to that.” When used properly your e-collar is a communicative tool used to elicit a previously trained response from your dog. We are not putting the collar on your dog then “zapping” them when they do something wrong. Again, that’s not how any of this works.
So, yes, when used improperly an e-collar can cause an already aggressive dog to get worse. If you just start pushing buttons willy-nilly or whenever you are upset with your dog then it can definitely lead to confusion, pain, and aggression. However that’s just not how we train dogs. Used correctly e-collars are one of the best tools possible to help rehabilitate aggressive and anxious dogs.
Is it humane to train my dog with an e-collar?
No, I mean yes. I mean sometimes…this is a very complicated question. It can be humane or it can be very brutal. It all comes back to how it is utilized that we talked about before. When an e-collar is used the way most people use e-collars it is very cruel. In no way is it humane to just strap a collar on a dog and start pressing buttons then just expecting them to magically understand what on earth that feeling is and respond appropriately to it.
When an e-collar is used appropriately and on the levels we use, yes it is one of the most humane and effective methods that are available today. It is the absolute best way to communicate with your dog at a distance and when used appropriately it does not cause any harm to the dog at all. Like we said before, many owners can’t even feel the levels we use and it certainly isn’t used to cause pain.
Here is a quote from the owner of E-Collar Technologies that I think describes things very well-
“Some twenty years ago, e-collars were used to stop problem behaviors such as chasing animals, excessive barking, digging, etc. using high levels of stimulation commonly referred to as aversion training. With the advent of newer technologies a modern e-collar produces a precision stimulation adjustable to levels that create a sensation that are just perceivable to the dog and not aversive. These equipment advances have allowed trainers to adjust their techniques to allow for conditioning the dog to the sensation of the stimulation and eliminate the discomfort and improve the learning process. The combination of positive reinforcement techniques and the proper use of a modern e-collar have brought about a new era of humane and effective dog training with unsurpassed results in a timely manner required in our fast paced society.” – Greg Van Curen – March 2015
Can’t you accomplish all of this without an e-collar though? Why use one if you don’t need to?
I have had many other trainers tell me that they don’t understand why I use an e-collar when you can accomplish the same thing without one. I have to politely disagree here. We often train dogs that are not your everyday happy-go-lucky pooch. Many of these dogs would not be able to reach the levels of training we are able to deliver without an e-collar.
Some trainers have different definitions of having a dog trained and different definitions of success. I’m okay with that. However when I am looking to accomplish a goal with a dog I don’t want to “manage a behavior” or “medicate away a behavior” I address the behavior itself.
There are many trainers that will have you just keep your dog-aggressive dog away from other dogs. By having the owner change their behavior and limit many of the dog’s activities they think they have solved a problem and addressed the behavior. That’s not how I train. Many trainers will have you place your anxious dog on different medications to try and remedy their anxiety. Again, that’s not how I train. If the owners are okay with that, great, but that’s not what I consider a success story.
Can a dog be happy with an e-collar?
Of course! If you have made it to this point in this article you probably have an idea by now that old thoughts about e-collars and their use is just not the way we train. E-collar trained dogs can often have the joy of off-leash freedom. Their owners can trust them in so many more environments and the dogs know how to respond appropriately to so many different situations.
When training is done right an e-collar trained dog is one of the happiest dogs you will ever meet. They have the most effective method of communication available and therefore never have to second guess whether or not they are right. I’ve trained everything from an 8 week old Havanese puppy to a 10 year old Cane Corso with an e-collar and they are all more than happy dogs. Their training is taught and proofed with an e-collar and lots of positive reinforcement and they absolutely love it!
There is no tool that in and of itself can’t be used for good or bad. Our modern training methods are the best possible ways to communicate effectively and quickly with your dog.