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By Pete Eromenok

Nothing can be more controversial in the dog training realm than the electric collar.   Thoughts of mid-evil torture run through the mind of many as this subject comes up.

Our society is always looking for the quick fix. Check out the fast food joints at lunch time.  People who brown bag it anymore are far and few between. It just too much work to open the fridge and prepare a healthy lunch. This sometimes can take up to 5 minutes. The e-collar should never be viewed as a quick fix.

Many popular retail stores project the idea that all you have to do is strap one of these babies on and all is well, but in the hands of the wrong person this is by far the worst training tool on the market. It can cause many problems including an aggressive response. However with proper training in the use of the e-collar it is very effective and very humane. I would consider it by far the best tool available.

During the inception of the electric collar it did not have very many intensity levels and the levels were cumbersome to change.  Modern models have a rheostat on the transmitter so the user can determine the proper level for the proper use. They are also equipped with tones and vibrations.  These tones can be used as a negative or a positive. When you choose for the tone to be used for positive re- enforcement, then it must be used that way for the rest of the dog’s life.  The same holds true if you want the tone to be used for a cue that a correction might be coming.   The vibration works well for hearing impaired dogs. These dogs can be taught to look at the handler with a vibration so the handler can direct the dog with a hand signal.  When using it for obedience the stimulation is usually very low.  The dog must be able to think if you are going to teach and enforce.  Many people when they observe a pet in training never even realize that the dog was stimulated.

The e-collar utilizes 3 of the 4 categories of operant conditioning. They are:

  • Positive reinforcement
  •  Positive punishment
  • negative reinforcement.

(check website for the definition article.   The only category it doesn’t address is negative punishment which is mostly a useless procedure anyway. )

If you are thinking about purchasing one of these I would highly recommend talking to a professional who uses them extensively and has great references. Find out where to get one which is usable.  I have never seen any pet store carry a good usable e-collar.  You will pay almost as much for a worthless training collar as you would a good solid usable collar that will last for years and is serviceable.

No matter what training tool you use there will be a learning curve before you actually see the benefits.   As with any product, you must first learn how to use it before it can benefit you.  I still think computers are worthless and take more time than doing it by hand, but that’s because I do not want to invest my time into learning how to effectively use one; likewise,  E-collars take effort, but they are definitely worth the time.