Introducing an e-collar to your dog
E-collars are a very useful and effective tool for dog training, but it's essential to introduce them properly to ensure the experience is positive for your furry friend. If you’re considering using an e-collar for your dog, this blog will provide a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about e-collars for dogs.
What is an e-collar for dog training?
An e-collar, also known as a remote training collar or a shock collar, is a device that uses an static stimulation to communicate with your dog. The collar consists of two main components — a receiver worn around your dog's neck and a transmitter the trainer holds. When the trainer activates the transmitter, the receiver on the collar receives a signal that delivers a mild static stimulation to the dog. This sensation gets the dog's attention and can be used to reinforce commands or discourage unwanted behaviours.
It's important to note that modern training e-collars are designed with safety features to prevent over-stimulation or injury to your dog. Many e-collars also offer a range of stimulation levels, from a mild vibration to a more intense shock, so you can find the best intensity level for your dog. There are also options with GPS tracking and bark control.
Common misconceptions about e-collars
Below, we debunk the most common misconceptions about e-collars.
Myth #1 — E-collars are harmful to dogs
Truth — E-collars, when appropriately used, are designed to provide mild stimulation to get a dog's attention, similar to a tap on the shoulder. They are not intended to cause harm or pain to the dog.
Myth #2 — E-collars are a shortcut for lazy trainers
Truth — E-collars are a training tool that can be used with other positive reinforcement methods and require proper training and skill to use effectively. They are not a shortcut or an easy way out for lazy trainers. Responsible and knowledgeable use of e-collars can enhance communication and improve training outcomes.
Myth #3 — E-collars are only for aggressive or stubborn dogs
Truth — Dogs of all breeds, sizes and temperaments can be trained using e-collars. E-collars can teach basic obedience commands effectively, address behavioural issues and improve off-leash reliability.
How to use an e-collar for recall or to properly train your dog
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure you introduce an e-collar to your dog in the most humane way possible.
1. Let them get used to wearing the collar
A good first step is to put the collar on your dog for a period without turning it on. Let them get their scent on the collar strap and this will help them establish ownership of the new collar in the same way they have done (or will do) with other collars. This could take longer if your dog has never worn a collar, but it’s worthwhile if you intend to use an e-collar.
It is not recommended that the contacts of the electric collar touch the dog’s skin for more than 8-12 hours at a time. Still, it can be helpful to let the dog wear the collar with contacts on and off for a week or two before using its features, especially if you intend to phase out the use of the collar in the future.
2. Take your time with the stimulation
You can start introducing the electric stimulation once your dog is comfortable wearing the collar. Start with the lowest stimulation level and gradually increase it until you find the level that gets your dog's attention without causing discomfort. Take note of your dog's reaction to each stimulation level so you can adjust it accordingly.
People have often asked if dogs may revert to the same unwanted behaviours after removing the e-collar. The short answer is yes.
E-collars can work very well to curb unwanted behaviours. However, if an owner rushes to achieve a quick solution, this has the potential for the dog to become ‘collar aware’. This means the dog learns to behave while wearing the collar but will revert to old habits once it is removed. With older e-collar models, owners would often use a dummy collar for the dog to wear if this occurred.
The truth is that a minority of dogs will still become aware regardless of how you introduce the collar — we are talking about intelligent and instinctive animals, after all. In this scenario, you can treat the e-collar like a pair of work boots — you put the collar on the dog when they ‘go to work’ and take it off once the job is done.
3. Use rewards
From the outset, you need to make wearing the collar a positive experience. Ideally, you’ll want the dog lining up to put the collar on, eliminating any uncertainty you may be projecting onto them from not wearing a training e-collar. Upon placing the collar around your dog’s neck, it’s essential to reward them immediately by allowing them to do something they like. These can be food-based rewards, a game with their favourite toy, verbal praise or petting them for a job well done.
A good reward is to base the activity on their breed and intended purpose — for example, with a kelpie, you could let them round up sheep while wearing the collar. Once you start using the features of the e-collar, it’s equally important to continue rewarding the dog for good behaviour, as this will reinforce the good behaviour you’re trying to achieve while continuing to discourage unwanted behaviour.
Also, rewarding your dog immediately after they respond to commands while wearing the collar will encourage them to continue responding to commands.
Safety considerations when using an e-collar
Here are some things to keep in mind when using an e-collar for your dog:
- Choose a well-fitting e-collar appropriate for your dog's size and weight.
- Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to ensure proper use.
- Start with the lowest stimulation level necessary for effective training and avoid excessive or prolonged stimulation.
- Regularly check your dog's skin for any signs of irritation or discomfort caused by the e-collar.
- Never leave the e-collar on your dog for extended periods or while unsupervised.
- Always prioritise your dog's comfort and well-being and discontinue use if your dog shows signs of distress or discomfort.
E-collar training tips and best practices
Using an e-collar with other training methods, such as positive reinforcement and leash training, can help reinforce a command or discourage unwanted behaviour. To ensure that you use this tool safely and effectively, here are some training tips and best practices:
- Gradually introduce your dog to the e-collar, starting with short sessions and positive reinforcement.
- Use the e-collar to supplement positive reinforcement training methods, not as a replacement.
- Always use the e-collar as a tool for communication and not as a form of punishment.
- Avoid using the e-collar during high-stress situations or when your dog is overly excited.
- Regularly check the fit of the e-collar to prevent discomfort or skin irritation.
- Practise proper timing and consistency in using the e-collar to reinforce desired behaviours.
- Seek guidance from a professional dog trainer or behaviourist if you are new to using e-collars or have any concerns about their use.
Training considerations for different dog breeds and personalities
Tailoring your training approach to your dog's needs and personality is important. Different dog breeds and personalities may require different approaches to e-collar training. For example, breeds such as Border Collies or Shelties are known for their sensitivity and may require lower levels of stimulation to respond effectively. On the other hand, breeds like German Shepherds or Rottweilers may have a higher tolerance for stimulation and require higher levels to elicit a response.
Additionally, considering your dog's personality is crucial, as some dogs may be more timid or sensitive, while others may be more bold or stubborn. Always monitor their reactions to the e-collar to ensure their comfort and well-being. Seeking guidance from a professional dog trainer or behaviourist can also be beneficial in determining the most appropriate training approach for your dog's breed and personality.
Get the support you need for successful e-collar training today
If you're interested in beginning e-collar training or exploring other quality dog training products, consider DogMaster Trainers. As NZ's largest independent distributor of quality dog training products, we have over 20 years of experience in developing and providing expert advice on training dogs. Our family-owned business values quality products and unmatched service. Plus, we ship orders before midday, the same day.
For any questions about e-collars or other dog training-related matters, please don’t hesitate to call us on 1800 300 364 or jump over to our blog and resource centre for more handy hints!
What are the benefits of using an e-collar in dog training?
E-collars can be an effective tool for reinforcing commands and discouraging unwanted behaviour. They can also be helpful for training dogs in off-leash environments, such as hiking trails or parks.
Can e-collars be used for all breeds and sizes of dogs?
Yes, e-collars can be used for all breeds and sizes of dogs. However, choosing your dog's appropriate collar size and finding the right stimulation level are important.
What should I consider before introducing my dog to an e-collar?
Before introducing your dog to an e-collar, it's essential to consult with a professional trainer and choose a high-quality collar from a reputable manufacturer like DogMaster Trainers. You should also ensure your dog is comfortable wearing the collar before using it for training.
How do I know which level of stimulation to use on my dog?
Always start with the lowest level of stimulation and gradually increase it as needed. Watch your dog's reaction and adjust accordingly. It's also important to only use the stimulation level necessary to reinforce commands and discourage unwanted behaviour.