One of the most controversial tools in the world of dog training and dog behavior is the e-collar also known as the remote collar. If you bring this tool up to a trainer or behaviorist you will most likely get one of two responses:
- They are dangerous, abusive and cause pain to the dog, or
- They are fantastic tools that should be used on every dog.
Answer 1 is by far the most common response I have heard. There rarely seems to be a middle ground on this tool and from my experience, unfortunately, there is a huge lack of education and knowledge on this tool.
I tend to be the type of person who wants to be completely informed on anything that I decide to have an opinion on. When I first started in the world of dog training and dog psychology years ago, I admit that I was unsure about the use of the e-collar. I fell victim to thinking this may be a dangerous tool after going online and reading articles about how e-collars used pain by shocking and zapping dogs into obeying.
These articles seemed to be a little over the top to me and I felt like they weren’t giving me the full picture so I decided to really learn about this tool. I watched tons of videos and went to workshops of world renown trainers who were using this tool the right way. After gaining as much knowledge as I possibly could, I realized that this tool can be a very effective and powerful tool if used the proper way.
Think about it. Tools can be used either the right way or the wrong way. A hammer should be used to build a beautiful home and a knife should be used to slice food or open a box. However, if used the wrong way both tools could be used as dangerous weapons against another person. I know those examples are a little drastic but I think it can really applied to this tool in dog training. Can they be used the wrong way and be dangerous? Absolutely! That being said they can also be used humanely and efficiently to be fantastic tools.
We use an e-collar called the Einstein Mini-Educator to teach dogs 100% off leash reliability. It ranges from levels 0-100 on the dial. By learning the proper way to use the tool, we use the lowest possible level that the dog can feel which is usually between the levels of 3 to 8. This feeling is not a shock or a zap! I’ve put the collar on my neck to know exactly what it feels like. It is a very subtle sensation when used at the low levels that we use. Almost every time I explain to a client the benefits of using an e-collar, I get the response, “you mean a shock collar!” We always make our clients feel the collar to see what the sensation feels like. The reaction is always the same, “oh that’s it?” Personally I can not even feel the sensation until the dial is set to at least 12 or 13. Almost every dog we work has a working level under 10. In other words, they barely feel it.
How does it work then? In the past trainers used this tool as a corrective tool only. Basically, they would put on an e-collar that ranged from levels 1-5. 1 on these old collars was like a 20 on the new technologically advanced collars. When a dog would misbehave, the trainer would blast the dog on a 3, 4 or 5 (60, 80 or 100 on the new collars) any time they misbehaved. Because of this old way of training, e-collars got a really bad reputation, rightfully so. Instead, now what we do is find the dogs working level by starting in an environment of zero distractions. We start at 1 and increase by 1 until the dog recognizes the sensation by raising their ears, turning their head, looking up, etc. Once we know the working level, we can now layer commands onto this. What I mean by that is we start with the dog on leash, say “come” or “here,” press the button while simultaneously using leash pressure to guide the dog back to us with praise. We do tons of repetitions until the dog starts to realize that the sensation they feel just means to return to the owner. By the end of this process, dogs are able to have complete off leash reliability at long distances with major distractions at tremendously low levels on the e-collar.
Off leash reliability is just the beginning of what this tool can be used for. In my opinion this is an excellent tool to empower owners to feel confident with their dog. Because it is a powerful tool, it should only be used after instruction from either videos or in person from a professional who has experience using the tool in the correct way. Anyone who would like more information on the proper use of e-collars or would like to have their dog off leash trained can contact us directly.
The next time you hear somebody say that e-collars shock dogs, are abusive or inhumane, ask that person or trainer what type of experience they have with that tool. Most likely they will describe collars of the past or will not have any experience or education on the tool. I firmly believe that we as a society need to do a better job of making decisions and opinions based on knowledge instead of emotions or personal agendas.
We will be posting videos on our YouTube channel in the near future about the proper use of e-collars and invite you all to subscribe to our page: YouTube – Pack Leader Dogs
We hope everyone has a Happy New Year’s and wish you all the best in 2015! Remember to always stay calm and assertive!!