Updated: Jul 17, 2021
Why yes I do! I use them for my own dogs, and I also offer an off leash obedience program to my clients, which relies on the use of E-collars as part of a balanced method of training. Let’s talk about E-collars, the history of their development, and the myths surrounding them.
In the 1960’s when e-collars first arrived on the scene, they were used for hunting dogs. As we talk about e-collars and their evolution, remember dog training in general at that time was not very gentle in the first place. E-collars, at that time, came with one button and one stimulation setting, and that stimulation setting was high. We know today that a one size does not fit all in training. What works for one dog will cause another to shut down, or what cause one dog to shut down another dog barely notices. The collars were also known to respond to other devices in their area causing collars to activate spontaneously.
As we moved into the 70’s, e-collars started to change. The ability for trainers to adjust stimulation settings became available. This was not a simple adjustment. Trainers would have to exchange plug in the collars that regulated the electric flow, a type of resistor if you will. Every time a setting needed to be altered, a new plug had to be inserted. An unfortunate down side to this was plugs often getting lost in the field. Also due to this, trainers often found themselves using setting that were still too high or too low for the dogs. The size of the collars also began to shrink, and the worry of the collars being activated by outside frequencies was eliminated. A safety feature was also introduced during this time. Collars began to come with an automatic time out. This feature would stop the stimulation after about 10 seconds.
The 80’s brought about the audible tones, which consisted of a very high and a very low tone. Companies began to commission research on canine behavior and e-collar safety. They found it was important to begin to educate the public on how to appropriately use e-collars.
The 90’s brought about the next big innovation in e-collar technology. Rather than having to change plugs in the collars to adjust the stimulation levels, trainers could now adjust it from the remote itself. This technological advancement helped trainers realize they could quickly train dogs by using lower stimulation settings.
Today, E-collars have around 127 stimulation settings as well as vibration settings. This gives trainers the ability to hone in exactly the level of stimulation right for every dog. Collars are anywhere from water resistant to water proof as well, and the collars have much sleeker design.
Now just as with anything we buy, you get what you pay for. Personally, as a trainer, I refuse to use just any old E-collar. Please do you and your dog a favor. Do not purchase the cheap models from your local pet store. I personally have found them unreliable. They do not keep a consistent level of correct, which goes completely against the purpose of an E-collar. When I use the collars, I am trying to provide a clear, consistent level of correction to the dog. Look into brands such as Dogtra or even Garmin. Yes, you will pay more, but the quality is unmatched.
Let’s discuss the myths surrounding modern day E-collars.
Myth #1: I’m electrocuting my dog.
You are not electrocuting your dog. The shock is a static shock. You have probably felt it yourself on a cold morning when you grabbed your door handle. That little jolt you get, well that’s similar to what your dog feels. Some of you have used those TENS units for physical therapy. That’s very similar to the feeling as well.
Myth #2: E-collars will burn my dogs neck.
No. It will not burn your dog’s neck. When sores do occur, it is due to either someone leaving the collar on too tightly for too long and it has rubbed a sore on the neck, or some dogs have an allergy to the metal on the contact points. In the instance of an allergy, there are replacement parts for the contacts that eliminate that issue. My dogs get their collars on first thing every morning, and they are removed last thing every night.
Myth #3: E-collars will hurt my dog.
When used properly, the collar does not hurt your dog, it annoys your dog. Ideally, you should use the lowest setting your dog will respond to. Someone who uses the E-collar to hurt a dog for discipline will hurt a dog in discipline no matter what method they use. It's about the person and how they choose to use the equipment they have on their dogs.
Myth #4: E-collars will make your dog fearful of you.
When used properly, the e-collar gives the owner the ability for quick, well timed corrections, which helps your dog understand immediately what they did wrong and not to do it again. The collar is not set to hurt the dog, but to get their attention. Dogs thrive off a very clear pack order. They like knowing who is in charge. If there is no clear leader, then the dog will take that place themselves or become extremely insecure and act out accordingly with inappropriate behaviors. Properly using an e-collar creates a secure environment for your dog, and it can strengthen the bond between owner and dog.
Myth #5: E-collars are only for hunting dogs.
While this is ideal for hunting dogs and regularly used for them, this is a very good method of training for pet owners as well. Every client who has had me train their dogs on E-collars, has later told me they can’t imagine ever owning a dog again without them.
E-collars are the most humane method of correcting your dog. I would rather a little stimulation on their neck, than running around smacking my dog with my hand or whatever I got my hands on. I want my dogs to see my hands and not flinch. My hands moving towards them is a reward, not a punishment. Pair the use of E-collars with some treats, affection, or toys and you have the perfect training method.
Take a look at the video posted below and see what working with a dog on an E-collar looks like when done the correct way. This video was taken a few days into her off leash training. You can tell when this little Golden Retriever breaks or doesn’t respond right away. Those moments are when a correction is given. You can also see she is rewarded for listening by getting affection. I even found her "spot" at one point and got that leg going! Her name is Kai. She never appears scared or unhappy. She is happy, playful, and very much into interacting with me.