I’m not sure if any other training tool stirs a debate like e-collars. Some people love them and others think they were made by the devil himself. This leaves many novices confused about what they’re getting into with an e-collar. After years of training and experience, I can officially tell you, it’s a training tool. It’s not magic, it’s not torture, and it’s not going to make an under-trained dog into a grand champion. It’s a tool that needs to be understood and appropriately utilized.
I have been training dogs for over 30 years and I say the e-collar is a great training tool if used correctly. Used correctly is the operative phrase here. Your dog has to be trained to the collar. You should never put the collar on the dog and start pushing buttons. Your dog will not understand this correction and I have seen plenty of dogs ruined by this method.
I use pressure training methods to train all the dogs that I work with. I start with a nylon or chain collar according to the dog and its age. I teach them correction on these collars doing basic obedience. I apply the amount of pressure/correction it takes through the collar for them to give me the desired result I am looking for along with voice commands. After they understand correction I will then transition over to an e-collar.
Another important step in collar conditioning is the dog wears the collar a week before I turn it on. This gets the dog used to the new weight and feel of the e-collar. When the collar is turned on I begin at a very low stimulus and do basic obedience to teach them the new correction. Using the e-collar in this manner assures that my dog and I are communicating in training. We have learned how to speak to each other because that’s what an e-collar is: a communication tool. Once you’ve used the tool correctly in training, you’ll be ready to use it appropriately in the field.
Another often over-looked aspect of e-collar training is making sure you purchase the right tool for the job. You don’t need a long-range, multifunction, practically indestructible e-collar for a well-trained house dog any more than you need a screwdriver to hammer a nail.
I can tell you from experience, you need to purchase the collar that will fit your needs now and in the future. If you are training your dog to hunt or do hunt test and see that you will be using your e-collar for years, purchase one that will allows you more customization options and ruggedness. This might mean spending a little extra up front, but will save in the long run from having to upgrade as your and your dog’s skill level increases. I personally love the rechargeable e-collars that are waterproof. My dog is in water constantly and when I am away from home or on a hunt being able to recharge the collar by simply plugging it up is a bonus. There is not always a store close by to purchase batteries if I did not pack a spare.
Today SportDOG Brand® e-collars are the best on the market in my book. They make everything from collars with 1 mile transmission radius all the way down to e-collars specifically for yard training sessions. The collars have multiple levels of stimulation as well as tone and vibration and let’s not forget those invaluable NoBark collars. SportDOG Brand makes a collar to fit every need. My collar of preference is the SportDOG™ WetlandHunter® 1825; it’s waterproof, rechargeable, has a 1 mile radius and comes in Real Tree Max-4 Camo. It can also control up to 6 dogs with the Add-A-Dog collars.
The e-collar is a great training tool but not a miracle worker. You have to put in the training time to get pup to the finish line. With the proper use of the e-collar and the right e-collar for the job, this can easily be achieved no matter if you want pup to be your best hunting companion or the next National Field Champion. Just remember the e-collar is not a substitute for solid training but a great tool to help you achieve your goals.
Owning Labrador Retrievers since I was 9 has given me a rare opportunity. I learned to listen to my dogs. When I was young I did not have access to training manuals, videos and other trainers. My dogs have taught me more than I have taught them and to think any different would be an error on my part. I compete in obedience and Hunting Retriever Test sactioned by AKC (American Kennel Club) and HRC (Hunting Retriever club).