Have you been thinking about getting an e-collar for your dog? While electronic dog training collars (often referred to as shock collars) are controversial, they can be an excellent training tool in the right circumstances. That’s especially true now that modern shock collars may use beeps or vibrations instead of just shocks.
There are many things you should know before e-collar training your dog, though. Improper use can cause more problems than it creates, for example.
E-Collar Training Tips
Here are the top 5 things to know before training your dog with an electronic dog collar.
# 1 – Learn How to Use an E-Collar
If used incorrectly, an e-collar for dogs can cause more problems than it solves. Here are some tips on how to correctly use this training tool for the best results.
Start with Obedience Training Without an E-Collar
Your dog first needs to understand the behavior you want before you introduce the e-collar. That’s why you need to start with basic obedience training. Positive reinforcement is usually the best method for training a dog.
Once your dog understands what you want, an electronic collar can be used to get their attention when they’re distracted. A good example would be an off-leash walk through the woods. Your dog chases a squirrel and won’t come when called, so you use a gentle shock to get their attention.
Think about it this way. Say somebody asked you to build a rocket without giving you any instructions. Then, every time you made a mistake, they shocked you. You wouldn’t build the rocket any faster – you would just get more frustrated.
A dog training collar only helps reinforce commands that a dog already knows. It won’t help teach them new things.
Show Your Dog the Behavior You Want Before Using Electronic Dog Training Collars
This goes along with the previous advice. Using positive reinforcement training, teach your dog to come when called, for example. Once the dog understands what you want, the shock collar merely reminds them to do what you ask.
This works for more than just a dog who won’t come when called. You may want to train your dog not to jump on strangers or bark at other dogs. You must first give them an acceptable behavior – like sitting quietly – before enforcing it with the shock collar.
Try a Different Aversive Training Method
Positive reinforcement is usually the most effective dog training method. However, if you need to use aversive training tools, there are other methods you can try before an e-collar.
One method that can work is using a spray bottle filled with water. Some dogs may ignore the water, but some dogs will be sufficiently deterred and won’t need a shock collar.
Use Other Methods Along with a Dog E-Collar
Dogs want to please their owners, so you should reinforce good behavior with treats, praise, or a favorite toy. A dog that only receives negative reinforcement, like from a shock collar, may become fearful or aggressive.
Ideally, you should have several different methods for training your dog. The more ways you have to communicate with them, the more successful your training methods will be.
# 2 – Understand When to Use an Electronic Shock Collar for Training
You should only use an e-collar after you have tried other training methods. Once your dog understands the behavior you want, an electronic collar can be used sparingly to enforce that behavior. Here are some effective uses of electronic dog training collars:
- Encouraging your dog to come when called
- Reminding them not to jump on strangers
- Asking them to stop barking at other dogs
- Showing them how to walk calmly on a leash
E-collars for dogs should NOT be used to punish a dog for bad behavior. Without other types of training, your dog won’t understand why they are being punished. This can lead to aggressive behavior.
# 3 – Realize More Voltage Does Not Equal More Understanding
The goal of shock collar training is to use the least correction necessary to get your dog to listen. If your dog has not yet learned what behavior you expect, using higher voltage won’t help them understand better.
Increase Shock Collar Voltage Slowly
Introduce your dog to the shock collar with the lowest correction levels first. Depending on the model of an e-collar, that may be a beep, a vibration, or a low shock. Your dog may respond to lower correction levels than you would expect.
There is also the chance that your dog will get used to the current voltage and stop listening. By starting with the lowest effective shock, you have room to increase the voltage if necessary. If you start your dog on the highest level and they ignore it, you have no way to correct them.
# 4 – Work Toward Not Using a Dog E-Collar When Training
The goal of using a dog e-collar is to teach them to listen to you despite distractions. With consistent use, you should find yourself correcting your dog less frequently.
An electronic dog training collar with multiple functions allows you to step down your corrections to a vibration or a beep. This allows you to save shocks for emergencies, like if your dog runs into traffic.
# 5 – Determine Which E-Collar Features Are Most Important
With the variety of electronic training collars on the market, it can be hard to know which one is best. Since not all e-collars have every feature, let’s talk about which features you may find.
Multiple and Adjustable Correction Types
Dog shock collars that offer vibrations or beeps allow you to train your dog with a minimum of electric shocks. For example, you can teach your dog to come when they hear a beep. Or, a simple vibration could remind them not to jump on people.
If you’re hesitant about shocking your dog into submission, a dog training collar with extra features can ease your mind.
It’s also beneficial to use a dog shock collar with varying levels of intensity. While most shock collars have this feature, cheap ones may not.
The range of an electronic dog training collar is often shorter than what’s listed, so overestimate what range you need.
If your dog is rarely more than 30 feet away, the range may not matter. However, if you go hunting with your dog or have a large property, you may need a longer range.
Water-Resistant Vs. Waterproof Housing
An e-collar should at least be water-resistant to avoid malfunctioning in a surprise rainstorm. However, if your dog swims or is often wet, you should invest in a waterproof e-collar. The last thing you want is to buy a collar that will die after a hike in torrential rain.
Keep in mind that both the collar and the transmitter need batteries. With frequent use, the batteries may last no longer than a week. To avoid constantly buying new batteries, make sure the collar and transmitter both have rechargeable batteries.
Some electric dog training collars even come with a splitter so that the collar and transmitter can charge simultaneously.
You don’t want a dog shock collar to irritate your dog’s neck. Therefore, you should make sure you get the right size in a non-irritating material.
Keep in mind that the collar will have two prongs that must come in contact with your dog’s neck. These prongs are what deliver the electric shock or vibration.
Sometimes, dogs with long or thick hair benefit from having a patch on their neck shaved. This helps the prongs come in contact with the dog’s skin.
Sadly, on-off buttons on transmitters are rare. The buttons on a transmitter can be pushed accidentally, especially when carried in a pocket. These accidental shocks can confuse and stress your dog and set back training.
If you can find an e-collar with an on-off button, it is likely worth the extra money.
What is the Difference Between an Electric Shock Collar and a Bark Collar?
Many people use the terms shock collar, e-collar, and bark collar interchangeably. However, bark collars and shock collars (e-collars) are actually different things.
Bark collars work by sensing when your dog is barking. Then they automatically deliver a shock, vibration, or another deterrent (like citronella) to get your dog to stop barking. They don’t usually come with a remote for other types of training.
An e-collar, on the other hand, is a training tool that can help give your dog commands with the help of a remote. One common use of an electronic collar is to recall your dog when they wander too far away off-leash.
You should clarify the primary reason you want an electronic or bark collar for your dog before buying one. That will help you pick the best one for your needs.
Final Thoughts on Dog Training With an E-Collar
While electric dog collars aren’t the right solution for every dog, they can be the perfect training tool in some cases. Hopefully, we’ve given you enough information to start training your dog with an e-collar effectively and safely.
Want our picks for the best dog training collars? Check out our article on the 7 Best Shock Collars for Large Dogs.