Dog E-Collars: The Ultimate Dog Trainer's Guide
Everything Dog Trainers & Owners Need to Know
Using an electronic collar (or E-Collar for short) is one of the most controversial dog training methods out there. But when used correctly by an experienced K9 handler, an E-Collar can be one of the most effective pieces in a K9 trainer's tool kit.
As industry leaders in dog collars and all other types of working dog gear, our team of experts at Ray Allen Manufacturing is here to teach you everything you've ever wanted to know about E-Collars.
What Are E-Collars?
An E-Collar is a type of dog training collar consisting of a remote-controlled receiver worn close to the dog’s neck and a wireless transmitter held by the K9 trainer.
These collars have gone by a few names over the years, including shock collars and zap collars. But, as we’ll see below, those names are misleading.
E-Collars were invented by houndsmen Dale Lee and Frank Hoover back in the 1950s. These rudimentary devices were used to correct hunting dogs’ behavior from afar as they tracked mountain lions throughout the Southwestern United States.
Unfortunately, each receiver was essentially a bulky wood or metal box with a long antenna sticking out of one side, and the transmitters only had a single button to help correct the dogs’ actions. While these E-Collars were effective for technology at the time, they weren’t exactly what today’s K9 trainer would look for in a dog collar.
Thankfully, E-collar transmitter technology today is far more advanced than in the past. They now feature multiple buttons for different stimulation levels, a longer battery life, and work hundreds (or even thousands) of yards away from the receivers.
The receivers have come a long way, too. Today, manufacturers like Garmin include GPS tracking systems in their products, so K9 handlers always know where their working dogs are.
How Do E-Collars Work?
Remote E-Collars are used to correct unwanted behavior from long distances. When the K9 acts in a less-than-desirable way, the handler presses a button on the transmitter to induce a small stimulation like a TENS unit (not a shock!) or a beeping noise in the collar.
The mild stimulus produced by the collar quickly grabs the dog’s attention, allowing handlers to issue a command that refocuses their dogs on their task.
These stimulations can be compared to pulses used in Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units to treat muscle pain. We can’t overstate enough that the sensation is not painful or harmful in any way; it simply gives the dog a slight reminder that they’re not performing the desired action.
Each transmitter has several different levels of stimulation that can be used to help correct different poor behaviors.
For example, if your puppy jumps up on a stranger, you could use the lowest stim setting to tell your dog that is unacceptable behavior. But, if your dog starts running towards moving cars in the street, you could use the highest setting to stop them in their tracks. The question is easy: would you rather use an E-Collar and stop your dog, or would you rather have your dog get hit by a car?
When used properly, E-Collars are fantastic obedience training tools for regular people training young puppies not to nip as well as K9 handlers working on bite training with full-grown police K9s.
Benefits of Using E-Collars
While the number of trainers using E-Collars has gone down over the years, they’re still a popular K9 training method for these reasons:
Perhaps the top benefit of using an E-Collar is the ability to correct your dog’s behavior from far away. As we mentioned above, transmitters for modern E-Collars and the corresponding receivers can stay connected for anywhere from a few hundred yards to up to several miles away.
Many E-Collars, like the Dogtra ARC Handsfree Plus and Dogtra 1900S Handsfree Plus, allow for hands-free control over working dogs. Without the need to hold onto a leash, trainers can use their free hands to hold and carry any other necessary K9 training equipment.
You don’t have to be a professional dog trainer to know that dogs love their freedom. And, unfortunately, all leashes (even Ray Allen Biothane Long Lines) restrict your dog’s ability to run freely to a certain extent. Since they’re wirelessly connected to the transmitter, E-Collars provide the freedom dogs crave along with the control trainers need.
E-Collars are a non-emotional response to something non-emotional at a distance. If your K9 doesn't follow the desired command, you can correct the behavior without having to raise your voice or get upset with your dog. You can communicate that you didn't like that behavior instantly and effectively in a way the dog understands.
E-Collar Do’s and Don’ts
We’ve already covered how to avoid E-Collar mistakes before. But it’s worth noting that information again, as misuse of E-Collars is part of the reason they’re a hot-button issue in the dog training community. By following these guidelines, you can rest easy knowing E-Collar training will be effective:
- Do conduct department-wide E-Collar training: E-Collar training is a completely unique form of K9 training. Before buying E-Collars for your K9 department, conduct a few handler-only training sessions to ensure every K9 handler understands the proper techniques. Failing this step sets both your trainers and their K9s up for failure.
- Do use the E-Collar routinely: E-Collar training is just that - training! Neglecting to use it routinely or only using it for a few days before giving up won’t yield successful results.
- Don’t use the E-Collar as punishment: Though the stimulation isn’t harmful and is meant to be a training tool, it can be bothersome and unpleasant when used improperly. Never use the stim as a punishment for poor behavior, as this can make your dog resent their E-Collar.
- Don’t train the dog to be collar dependent: There’s nothing worse than having a dog that behaves just fine with E-Collar on only to go berserk as soon as it’s removed. This is known as becoming “collar dependant” and typically happens when K9s aren’t used to the unique weight and feel of the E-Collar. To prevent this, have your dog wear the collar for a few weeks or even months before turning it on and using the E-Collar technology.
What to Look for in an E-Collar
Like any piece of dog training equipment, all E-Collars aren’t created equal. And buying an inferior E-collar can be an expensive mistake. Here’s a quick overview of the different features to consider when selecting your E-Collar:
Range: You should start by looking at the receiver’s range if you’re performing detection dog training or any other training that requires dogs to be a long distance from their handler. With a 9-mile radius, the Garmin Astro 430 is one of the leading E-Collars in terms of receiver range.
Stimulation levels: As we noted above, the original E-Collars only had one button to send a stimulation to the dog’s collar. Nowadays, many E-Collars have varying levels of stimulation to grab a dog’s attention. The Dogtra 1900S and Dogtra 1900S - Black Edition lead the pack with 127 levels of continuous or nick (momentary) stimulation.
Rheostat intensity dial: Increasing or decreasing the stimulation intensity level couldn’t be easier thanks to a rheostat intensity dial. Most of our transmitters have these dials, including the Dogtra ARC Collar, which also has 127 levels of stimulation.
Expandability: Another benefit of some E-Collars is the ability to expand your control to more than one K9 with a single transmitter. With the ability to control up to 21 dogs, the Dogtra Pathfinder has the greatest expandability on the market. If you’ve already purchased the ARC Collar, consider buying the Dogtra ARC Additional Receiver to control up to 2 dogs at once.
Display: A display on the transmitter makes E-Collar training a bit easier while in the field. The Garmin Pro 550 is one of the many products we carry with a backlit LCD screen. Consider purchasing the Garmin PRO 550 Plus Training and Tracking Bundle.
Tone option: Trainers who prefer their E-Collars to alert their dogs with a beeping noise instead of stimulation have that option with select E-Collar models. Most of our Garmin E-Collars feature a tonal option in addition to stimulation
Bark correction: While there are collars specifically designed to teach your dog not to bark, several E-Collar models offer bark control. The Garmin Delta Sport XC senses when your dog barks and provides a subtle stimulation when your dog makes a noise, alerting them to quiet down.
Beacon light: If you’re doing any nighttime K9 training or training in poor conditions, a beacon light on the receiver can help you see your dog from long distances. The Dogra Edge and Garmin Pro 70 both boast high-visibility LED beacon lights.
Must-Have E-Collar Accessories
An E-Collar works just fine on its own as a dog training tool. But, if you’re a serious K9 trainer, you’ll want to be prepared with the right accessories to ensure successful dog training sessions.
Trainers who want hands-free control need one of our transmitter holsters. These slim holsters can either clip onto your pants or slide onto your belt loop and fit many of our E-Collar transmitters.
Be sure to consider one of our E-Lusive 2.0 ID Collar or Mini E-Lusive Collars. These nylon collars are designed to cover the E-Collar receiver, so your dog doesn’t need to wear multiple collars. They also easily slip on and off when you need to recharge the receiver. We also carry the Dogtra 1900S with E-Lusive 2.0 Collar for trainers who need a receiver and a spare collar.
For a more affordable alternative, choose a sleek E-Collar Strap that holds any brand E-Collar. The ¾” strap fits Garmin products, and the 1” strap is perfect for Dogtra brand E-Collars.
Buy Your E-Collars from Ray Allen Manufacturing
Regardless of which E-Collar model or E-Collar accessory you’re interested in, Ray Allen has it. We’ve been manufacturing and selling the highest-quality, military-grade dog equipment for over 70 years, and we’re proud to be the most trusted brand for law enforcement agencies across the country.
Still not sure which E-Collar is for you? Make sure you review our handy E-Collar Comparison Chart, or contact us and we'll be happy to assist you!