How to Choose
Before you run out and buy a remote training collar, it’s important to have a plan, objectives, and expectations for both you and your dog. Do you need to contain him in one area or deter him from some areas or away from livestock or wildlife? Will you be doing off-the-leash training or preparing him for a sport? Do you need to track where he is or his activity levels?
A short period of training with an electronic training collar paired with positive reinforcement and consistency can make the difference for dogs who have reached the limits of positive reinforcement training. This can address behaviors that threaten the dog’s well-being or safety or might lead to them being surrendered by their owners. In addition to a shock or electric impulse feature, most have a vibration/haptic signal function and a beeper (auditory) signal. The use of a haptic or auditory collar can facilitate off-leash learning. A dog’s senses are so fine-tuned that a barely perceptible haptic signal through a collar can communicate with them. And for a special-needs dog that may not have all of his senses, such as hearing or sight, a haptic collar can help you let him know if he is in danger. Persons with service dogs can use a remote training collar to send a haptic signal to their dog for help.
If you intend to use the electric impulse/stim/shock function on a collar, you should test the collar frequently and on an ongoing basis on your own hand to understand if it’s appropriate for your dog.
Remember how keen your dog’s senses are, and keep in mind that for most dogs, an auditory or haptic (vibration) cue may be all that you need to help communicate what you need him to do. Dings, songs, and haptic buzzing on our mobile devices can program humans pretty effectively, and can do the same with dogs. But remember that just like that generic, but familiar ringtone you hear occasionally in a crowd that triggers you, a dog can also form very negative associations to certain stimuli. There is misinformation out there about these types of collars being a one-stop fix for poor behavior. Do not fall for that.
If you are seeking to correct behaviors in your dog, the use of a remote training collar should not be reactive, impulsive, or inconsistent. You should only consider this after consulting with a professional trainer who can train you first about a dog’s behavioral responses to commands, rewards, and corrections.
Many of the remote training collars on the market are considered aversive, or shock collars. These collars have metal contact points that deliver an electric pulse to your dog, with most collars offering various levels of electrical impulses. These are sold as a collar that is controlled via remote control or triggered by an “electric fence” are designed to contain a dog, and will administer a shock to a dog if it attempts to cross out of a designated area.
Remote training collars should be made out of tough yet flexible material. Most of the time, these types of collars may be made out of similar materials to your typical collar. Make sure this is not chafing or uncomfortable for your dog, especially if he is wearing it in conjunction with another collar or a harness. Large, clunky units won’t be appropriate for smaller dogs and are uncomfortable for bigger dogs at best.
- Contact Points:
The contact points that come in contact with your dog’s skin should be as short as possible but still make it through his fur. Cheaper collars often use nickel in their contact points which cause so much of the irritation, redness, and other issues seen with e-collars. If you’ve ever worn cheap earrings that made your earlobes swell up and hurt- it’s the same concept. That’s what cheap contacts containing nickel will do to your dog’s neck. You want to try and avoid nickel on your dog’s skin as much as possible.
A true remote training collar should have various modes to give you flexibility on training. These modes typically are beeping, vibration, and shock. Some other collars will but their features are centered on one of these modes while offering lesser versions of the others. Shock, sadly, is becoming increasingly popular so be mindful of that when shopping for a remote training collar.
The whole point of a remote training collar is to be able to use it at great lengths. Most only suited for short ranges, with some flexibility for medium distances (over 200 feet). However, there are some that excel at long-range and could be used long-term for outdoor/hunting dogs that need cues over great distances.
Knowing your remote training collar is going to work and hold a charge is vital. It’s really what keeps the whole thing running!
Types of Remote Training Collar Modes
The best collars will have a combination of functions to allow the dog owner to customize their training and communication with their dog.
- Beeping/Vibration/Haptic Mode(s)
Some training collars come with different modes and these are the most common! Beeping and vibration can become a trained cue for your dog to assist in training. Unlike the shock collars, collars that only beep or cause a vibration do not cause any pain. So you’ll need to train your dog what these sounds and vibrations mean. These are a much more favorable method with trainers than just shock.
- Shock Mode
These types of collars emit a small electric impulse/static shock to your dog through metal prongs to distract him from a bad behavior or get his attention. This is called negative reinforcement training and isn’t the best method to use to get good/proper results. It is extremely important to test the shock-levels on yourself before putting them on your dog. The objective of the shock is to distract, not cause serious or lasting pain.
- Spraying Mode
This is probably the most uncommon remote training collar mode. It’s fairly straightforward, while you’re training when your dog performs an undesired behavior, you’re able to spray them with water to correct it. This is personally my favorite but it’s again still negative reinforcement which is not the best way to ensure positive behavior long term.
Training Collars Require Training
Remote training collars are great for training, but not a substitute for it.
If you use a remote training collar only as a means to discipline your dog for poor behavior, you’re probably only causing your dog harm. Instead, you should consult a professional canine trainer to help you understand the reason for the behavior and develop a plan centered on positive reinforcement to address the problems. You may even find that you don’t even need a remote training collar.
Here are some resources for you to find a dog trainer near you!
– American Kennel Club
We hope that with our help, that you’ll be able to pick the training collar that will meet your needs. Let us know what you chose! We’d love to hear about how your dog is coming along with their training!