Opinions on the right way to choose and use a remote electronic collar for retriever training are as varied as the countless training methods used to create a top-notch waterfowl dog. I’ve been fortunate that my time and experience in retriever training have allowed me to experiment with a lot of different gear. This has helped me formulate some solid opinions about what features are important in an e-collar.
SportDOG Brand® recently asked me to explain the features and benefits I believed were most important in an all-around retriever-training system. The company already had a number of hunting-compatible units on the market, but now they wanted to go after a market for which we both share a passion – waterfowling! Let me share some of what I told that company, and maybe it will help you decide which e-collar is right for your situation. Keep in mind that I tried to make my points with the idea that the ideal retriever-training unit could be used for day-to-day training exercises as well as for actual waterfowl hunting.
The first thing I asked (demanded, actually) was that the transmitter be waterproof. If you’re going to hunt and train in wet areas, sooner or later your transmitter is going to take a dip. “Water-resistant” isn’t good enough for me, and if you’ve done any duck hunting at all, you know what I’m talking about.
I then detailed features of actual function. My wants list in this area included a choice of continuous and momentary (nick) settings via buttons that I can easily feel, even when I’m wearing gloves; the ability to control more than one collar, which cuts down on the amount of gear I have to buy and maintain; and at least 10 stimulation levels across a wide range to give me versatility in how I train.
Another area of consideration I mentioned was that the transmitter unit be small enough to easily carry in a wader pocket or on a lanyard around my neck. I also wanted it to fit my hand well. These two factors, along with the easy-feel buttons, would mean that once I got used to the transmitter, I would rarely, if ever, need to look down to operate it.
I had already used SportDOG® collars, so I wasn’t concerned about that part of the system holding up to the hard knocks that a retriever can dish out. However, I did mention that it should be available in collar-strap colors other than orange, a color that’s helpful for long-distance training exercises but not so helpful when you’re waterfowl hunting.
When I saw the first prototype of the unit they named the “WetlandHunter® 2000,” I knew the company was on the right track. They had met my criteria, and even added a few things I hadn’t thought of. Continuous and momentary abilities were there, along with not 10, but 16 stimulation levels. The SportDOG® folks had added a few more nice touches, one of them being that the transmitter, collar receiver and collar strap were all camouflaged in the Advantage MAX-4 pattern. Frankly, any dull color would have been fine, but I appreciated that they had gone the extra step of showing that they understood hunters’ preference for anything camo!
I hate buying batteries, so I was also glad to see that both the transmitter and collar were rechargeable. But I did have some reservations about not being able to replace batteries, if necessary, on a moment’s notice. Needless to say, every hunter wants an e-collar unit that doesn’t require you to constantly wonder whether you’re about to run out of juice in the middle of a hunt. However, this wasn’t a problem. My prototype collar unit consistently provided me with more than 75 hours of “on” time. That meant I could go on a long weekend trip and not have to think about charging. I never did find out how long the transmitter worked between charges – it always outlasted the collar. So, now I simply charge them both at the same time and don’t worry about it.
If I sound biased toward this new retriever-specific e-collar system, I guess I am. But I should be. It’s the first time a company has taken everything on my e-collar “wish” list and put it all together. That’s my story about how I arrived at my decision on which e-collar to use. For you, the bottom line is this: Outline the factors you believe are most important in a retriever-training system, like I did, and then go shopping. And don’t forget to consider price and warranty. Altogether, you’ll have the information you need to make the right decision.
Of course, even though I’m excited about using this e-collar, it’s only one means to the end goal: a finished retriever. You need sound training techniques to get the most from your dog. If you’d like to learn more, read the other articles we have posted in this section. Be sure to visit often, because we’ll continue to add more.
Always check your local and state regulations related to dog training and the use of game birds on private and public property.